The Rise of Not-Networking

To my mind networking has always been somewhat of a mixed term, often muttered with either dread (introverts) or with overbearing purpose (salespeople). Obviously I’m generalising and some people have always been good at and enjoyed networking, but for many others it’s been a necessary evil.

For me, the word used to conjure up negative images of half-empty conference rooms with scratchy blue nylon carpets and matching chairs. Brash, arrogant men & women, suited and booted, scanning name stickers then pressing a business card into a hand, any hand, before striding on to their next victim (with no interest in the other people in the room beyond pound signs). Or, at the other extreme, nervous, sweaty-palmed attendees awkwardly shuffling around the edges of the room, wishing they were somewhere (anywhere) else.

Let’s face it, networking has been long overdue an image overhaul.

So I’m delighted that there’s a new wave of, let’s call them ‘events’, shaking up the UK business scene right now. Networking is out and true connections are in.

It would be easy to put this down to the rise in female-focused events, and the fact that, many would argue, women form connections in different ways to men. However, from what I’ve seen, this extends beyond purely female events and the majority of business events are now less obviously sales-y with far more effort being placed on real connections, sharing and learning than ever before. However, as I work with female founders, I’ll share the female-focused events I’ve enjoyed recently.

Today I attended my first Southwood Social Hub event and this absolutely lived up to my expectations. Held at Calm on Canning Street, a beautiful new yoga studio in Edinburgh’s west end, the event drew women from all of the main Scottish cities and the vibe was incredibly friendly and supportive. By the time I left my cheeks hurt from smiling and I promptly signed up as a member. I’d encourage any UK-based female founders to check out these events which run in Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and London throughout the year.

Right now it feels like Edinburgh is bursting at the seams with brilliant events for women in business. Last week, I went along to the first EGG Breakfast Club. Held at Candy Bar in the city centre, I  loved it so much I wrote a review for the EGG online magazine.

I also run my own monthly business club Simply Connect in Edinburgh (I’m purposefully training myself out of referring to it as a networking event) and recently switched up the format to include two inspirational female founders sharing their story each month. Run from a quirky, cool bistro Finn & Bear in Leith, I wanted to create something that was completely removed from my networking nightmares. I’m welcoming along women who would run a mile if approached business-card first. Women who are looking for business insights and are keen to learn from female founders sharing honest stories about how they got where they are and ideas on how to build better businesses.

Making real friends is the new networking.

It’s out with old style of networking and in with these new events where instagram is the new business card, support and genuine interest have replaced sales tactics and making real friends, for business and for life, is the new focus. And not a nylon carpet in sight.

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