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Posts tagged ‘networking’

Putting your heart into networking

Regular readers of my blog, or those who know me in person through the business network circuit in and around South Yorkshire, won’t be surprised to learn I found myself at another opportunity to meet some new professional contacts earlier this month.

What might be an eye-opener though, is that this all-female group not only announced a new name change, but also ended up being lined up for a completely impromptu photo shoot!

Say hello to the Women Inspiring Women group, in the photograph above by Jackie Clitheroe [Yours truly is 8th from the left].

During the meet Carol Denton, fundraiser for South Yorkshire Heart Appeal, also gave an enlightening presentation about her work and the challenges of raising awareness about heart disease in our region, especially amongst women.

Women Inspiring Women [WIW], organised by Jan Roebuck and Kay Jepson, meet the second Thursday of every month, 10am-12.30pm, at Tankersley Manor Hotel.

Our right Royal networking knees-up!

Madame Zucchini's Kate & Wills. Photo by Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

On the eve of the recent Royal nuptials – last Thursday, 28 April 2011 – we were delighted to swing into celebration mode for an altogether different reason. That’s right, it was time to host another of our informal business socials we arrange in collaboration with Sheffield-based illustrator Richard Smith.

Back for a third round of business buzz, for Network Hub 3 we decided to choose a different location yet again – an independent bar in the heart of Leopold Square in the city’s centre, the rather swish La Foret. With a smart outside terrace area to enjoy, we also virtually had the run of the contemporary space inside, thanks to the generosity of La Foret’s owner, Sam Cooper. Cheers Sam!

Photo credit: Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

From the positive feedback I had on the night – and have received since – the 70-odd strong crowd who came along not only relished the informal, relaxed atmosphere but also cemented existing connections & made fresh contacts on the night – and I’m pleased to say so did I.

Dr Rob Speranza, left, Head of Operations at South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network, with, right, crowdfunding enterprise Sponduly.com founder Jon Covey Photo credit Richard Bolam http://richardbolam.net/

While we didn’t have a strict policy of ‘no talking shop’ the pressure I think many people feel at networking events – the idea of ‘selling’ yourself – tended not to rear its pushy head at this Network Hub, or at the previous two nights we’ve hosted.

Perhaps that’s because I’m a great believer in finding out about the person behind a business, not simply the business itself.

As for Will and Kate, they weren’t entirely forgotten. Instead the couple were especially honoured on the night by Sheffield’s wonderful vegetable theatre performer, Madame Zucchini, who brought her own delectable edible version of the duo along for the networking ride.

So three cheers to Network Hub 3. Long live Network Hub!

Mum’s The Boss talk: How businesses can harness the power of traditional print media

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you can’t have not heard the increasing buzz over businesses building their public profile through engaging their existing customers and potential new ones through social media.

Underneath all this new-fangled noise and bluster though, if you listen very carefully you can still hear a constant older hum and it’s one which often provides the original content these digital channels so sorely need and consumers still rate surprisingly highly in terms of trust.

This older ‘hum’ was the subject of an informal talk – ‘How to harness the power of traditional media’ – I delivered to a 15-strong child-friendly networking group Mum’s The Boss, in Sheffield this Tuesday. As I explained to the group, even though social media is grabbing everyone’s attention, it’s the editorial content of traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, which still tend to set the news agenda and are likely to carry on doing so for some time to come.

I talked everyone through three simple steps towards gaining editorial coverage for their businesses: Step 1: Focus on your target media, Step 2: Uncracking the print media code (what makes titles tick & how consumers regard editorial) and in Step 3 I showed everyone a couple of articles I’d placed as a journalist and asked them to start thinking like editors…

Special mention goes to the ‘honourary’ female at the meeting, Jon Hilton, MD of Pulse Rate Training Ltd – and the first ever male attendee of Mum’s The Boss South Yorkshire!

Here’s 5 more top tips to help businesses create positive headlines:
• Great stories are media gold dust! Brands who understand the power of personal stories have more success connecting with their audience, being remembered and creating brand loyalty.
• If you don’t already know your target media, research it! Buy the title & study it or look at their online offer. If they have website, look on advertisers section as will have details about their audience demographic, official circulation figures and other useful info.
• When you’re ready to approach a title with your story, write a short, well-written and informative press release, include a photo & always email to a named journalist/section editor. Build connections with these journalists – you might not strike lucky at first but learn to understand what they’re looking for as they are the gatekeepers to unlocking great editorial coverage.
• In many national female consumer magazines (and some newspapers or trade titles) if you are talking about your personal story to highlight your business it’s often acceptable for your website details to be featured in the article. Many womens’ magazines also permit copy approval to interviewees (this will mean final version of the article will be read to you over the phone) – if in doubt, ask.
• Once your story is out in local press, be aware there is a good chance it will get picked up by national media – (this is how many national stories are still sourced by journalists).

So don’t believe the hype. Print isn’t dead (not quite yet anyway). And great editorial coverage still has immense value.

http://www.mumstheboss.co.uk/syorkshire/index

Welcome to 2011: Time for a virtual facelift & Network Hub night!


There’s nothing like seeing in another year to make us reflect on the past – and look to the future. If we’re lucky, we learn a few handy lessons along the way too.

It’s a year since the launch of the copywriting side of the business kicked off, which I proclaimed in my first blog post of 2010 (in the midst of deep snow, just like recent weeks!)

So what was my big professional lesson of last year? Network, network, and network! That’s how I connected with my first copywriting clients and I’ve found face-to-face networking to be fruitful, as well as fun. Some events are more ‘me’ than others, but building business relationships and my company profile this way is something that’s become vital to my working week.

Which brings me to…drum roll please, ladies & gents…Network Hub – the new name for the business social events I put together with another creative professional and friend, Richard Smith. Last Thursday evening, we held our first do of 2011 at the Showroom Cinema Cafe, in Sheffield.

Just like our launch event in October, we were thrilled with the turnout – about 70 proactive guests! By the amount of chatter that hardly seemed to let up, many new connections and re-connections were made over a few drinks, in a relaxed atmosphere, which is exactly what our evenings are all about.

The snapper (yours truly) gets snapped @ Network Hub, Showroom Cinema Cafe, 20/1/11. Photo credit: Elizabeth Birks

Check out a couple of the much-appreciated positive comments received after our big night:

‘I haven’t been to a formal networking event for a long time and to be honest, I was concerned and a bit fearful. My fears were assuaged, however, as I began to meet so many lovely people. As a group worker, I know that a good event reflects the people who set it up and this was an evening of warmth and genuine interest in other people. I found it an atmosphere conducive to meeting people and making connections.’ Valerie Monti Holland, www.leftluggagetraining.co.uk

‘Thanks for the invite & hospitality again last night. There seemed to be a good mix/good buzz/plenty of conversations and connections. Well done, you are a star!’ Jim Lawson, www.be-sy.co.uk

Our next night’s coming in April so watch this space! In the meantime, our fresh website look’s now live and loud. Any thoughts about the revamp would be most welcome….

Here’s to a fabulous 2011 one & all!

http://www.richsmithillustration.com/

http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/

Holy Smoke! Why I thank Sheffield for my divine DIY events trinity

Are you familiar with the idea of the power of three? Don’t worry, I’m not getting all mathematical on you.

I’m talking about the generally well-accepted principle that when it comes to effective communications, our brains are best at grasping information as a trio.

Of course, most of the time we aren’t conscious of the fact that many of the most inspirational speeches and phrases of our age are peppered with examples of this oral ‘trick’; ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’, ‘hook, line & sinker’ and (here comes that crucial third point) ‘signed, sealed, delivered.’  You get the idea…

Well over the last three weeks, my calendar’s certainly been shaken up (in a fantastic way) by three great events, which have definitely left their mark in my thinking.

The first one was self-generated, born out of a casual chat a few months ago, over a drink with my self-employed illustrator friend Richard Smith. ‘Why don’t we hold an evening business social, inviting contacts from the creative and commercial sector?’ we asked ourselves.

Before you can say ‘How hard can it be?’, the venue was booked, invites sent and the night was upon us. Held at Henry’s bar in Sheffield city centre, the 130-something guests we’d invited duly turned up in their droves and created an incredible buzz, no doubt buoyed by a free glass of bubbly and some complimentary nibbles.

On a serious note though, both myself and Richard were completely blown away by the response we had from our guests – and judging by the string of enthusiastic comments I had on the night and since (‘You got exactly the right vibe going – it felt friendly and inclusive which is a rare thing indeed. Best networking bash I’ve ever been to!’ Justine Gaubert, founder of social enterprise Silent Cities) it looks as though another one may well on the cards…so watch this space!

Yours truly at our event at Henry's. Photo credit: Justine Gaubert

Roll call of special thanks goes out to AV events firm CVC Event Services, who provided the PA equipment FOC, and the following local businesses who kindly donated a prize to our raffle and helped us raise £61 in ticket proceeds, in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity – We Love Sleep, Integrate Nutrition, Richard Smith Illustration, The Heavenly Cheesecake Company, PJ Taste, Tender Loving Care (TLC) and Fix-my-PC.net. Check out their links at the bottom of this post…

Back to that trinity again and the following week, I was invited to another free Sheffield event, which perfectly encapsulates the DIY ‘can do’ spirit of the city’s business and creative community – the launch of The Blue Shed, a 1,500 sqm arts venue (with performance space and fully-licensed bar), which has been converted from an old workshop by engineering firm Ekspan.

Paul Scriven Sheffield Council leader with Ekspan CEO Matthew Dronfield

Sheffield Council leader Paul Scriven officially did the honours with the unveiling of this new brand – the space was previously up-and-running under the name of the Brightside Project – and again I found myself with bubbly in hand and an unexpected spring in my step.

I was struck by the energy and goodwill – and dare I say it excitement – palpable in the air in respect to this forward-thinking enterprise. Here’s a video snapshot of the night, created by Richard Bolam Digital Media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioBKhqNX2Dc

My trio of positive experiences – in the very same weeks when the deep government cuts were slowly trickled out – ended this Friday morning, at a fantastic networking event, organised by Time2Network (http://twitter.com/time2network), held at probably the most famous eaterie in Sheffield right now (thanks to their well-deserved success in becoming semi-finalists in Gordan Ramsey’s Best Restaurant TV show), The Milestone.

Three elements (of course!) made the meet work well in my eyes – there was a diverse mix of proactive people, the venue suited the informal format and as you’d expect the breakfast was spot on. Hats off to organisers Alan Fenn, of Compass Distribution and Jon Covey of Sponduly.

So…

yes, the cuts are here

yes, our financial belts are set to get pinched like nobody’s business

YET there’s still spirit to the power of three in this city I’m proud to call my home.

Links:

We Love Sleep: http://www.welovesleep.co.uk/

Integrate Nutrition: http://www.integratenutrition.co.uk/

PJ Taste: http://www.pjtaste.co.uk/

Fix-my-PC.net: http://www.fix-my-pc.net/

Richard Smith Illustration: http://www.richsmithillustration.com/

The Heavenly Cheesecake Company: http://www.heavenlycheesecakes.co.uk/

Tender Loving Care (TLC): http://www.tlc-childcare.co.uk/

CVC Event Services: http://www.cvceventservices.co.uk/

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity: http://www.wphcancercharity.org.uk/

Silent Cities: http://www.silentcities.org.uk/

Henry’s bar: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=364882495011

Richard Bolam Digital Media: http://richardbolam.net

The Milestone: http://www.the-milestone.co.uk/

Compass Distribution: http://www.compassdistribution.co.uk/

Sponduly: http://sponduly.com/

Telling it straight from the dragon’s mouth


Maybe it’s down to my Greek-Cypriot heritage, but I’m not the kind of person who’s scared of the notion of spinning plates. As a ‘bubble’ I suppose I choose to take the traditional view about smashed crockery – it’s less an unfortunate accident, more an omen of good fortune!

Lately, my metaphorical plates have increased in number and speed when it comes to making a name for myself as a copywriter. There’s been endless networking events, ad hoc meetings with new contacts, a whirlwind flurry of swapped business cards, handshakes, doors opening, opportunities beckoning, coffee conflabs….Basically, picture some random 1980s made-for-TV film about a lone creative-type making it in a ‘corporate’ world and you’ll pretty much get the idea. Minus the shoulder pads and pastel shades.

And.. drum roll please! After a good while of feeling like I’ve been walking through mud and speaking in a foreign language few seemed to understand, I am making real progress. Last week, I met my first potential client and agreed to work with a web design company as a sub-contracted copywriter. Two days ago, I chose a fantastic bespoke logo – from a wealth of brilliant ones created by innovative full design agency 10th Planet – for my new website (Watch this space!) http://10thpla.net/

These signitficant steps all seem like giant leaps considering I only boldly set off on this new business path in January. Call it habit, but I now seem to be addicted to attending every business event I can fit into my diary. Last week’s experience, had a title which I couldn’t help gently sniggering over. ‘The BigSmall Event’ (surely it wasn’t just me who conjured up a certain departed and overweight rapper at hearing this?) http://www.bigsmallevent.co.uk/ organised by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, www.scci.org.uk/was designed to steer those interested in starting their own business, start-ups and suchlike on the course to success.

Once I’d connected with some exhibitors I drifted into the speaker’s hall to catch the expert talk. Sitting down, I braced myself to swallow a large, heavy dollop of dull ‘business speak.’ But I was in for lighter, more appetising, surprise. The speaker was Doug Richard, of ‘Dragon’s Den’ fame and the subject was ‘The biggest mistake I ever made in business.’

Richard wasn’t just entertaining in his fresh, no-nonsense and relaxed delivery but he touched on a subject which I connected with. Wouldn’t life be boring if you succeeded all the time? Where would the fun be in that? I couldn’t agree more. Failure and struggle isn’t something to be scared of – it’s only by experiencing these ‘mistakes’ we grow in confidence, determination and ability.

In case you’re wondering, Richard’s biggest mistake was on rather a grand scale. At one point in his career, he woke up one day to find he was financially completely wiped out, thanks to a business deal having turned monumentally sour. Whoops!

Up until that moment, Richard explained how he’d lived with a slightly anxious feeling all the time. That morning though, this worry disappeared as fast as his assets had.

You could say his plates had stopped spinning and crashed round at his feet. And the world hadn’t ended. In a way, it had just begun. I admire anyone who sees this enforced clean slate not as a disaster, but as an opportunity.

Sometimes life’s about picking up the pieces and starting all over again.

And that’s not just my philosophy. It comes straight from the dragon’s mouth.

Have a smashing week!

Mother, I won’t be in the cold for long

After all the whizz and clatter which revolved around my last post – chronicling my latest momentous decision to jettison myself from my professional comfy slippers of journalism into the sharp-heeled world of corporate communications – I was then inadvertently but temporarily tripped up good and proper by one female I wouldn’t dream of messing with.

That’s right, Mother Nature got the boot in. Or should that be industrial-sized wellies?

Along came the Big Freeze and suddenly all my carefully-crafted emails to contacts old, new and yet-to-be, as well as my lovingly-prepared elevator pitch for my first networking event of the year(forced to be postponed due to ‘inclement weather’), went the same way as poor Jack Frost under a cheap sun bed.

Shaking off my frustration, I’m pleased to say I haven’t been left with any lasting ‘I’m out in the cold’ feeling, despite the fact my car still resembles a mammoth marshmallow.

Besides, whoever said being snow-marooned means you’re necessarily starved of stories or interesting subjects? Here’s my pick of three hot topics of debate I’ve enjoyed over the past seven sub-zero days:

R4’s Women’s Hour looks inside the Pandora’s Box of mother and daughter relationships
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/04/2010_01_wed.shtml

Do portraits of family life raise difficult questions about children and photography?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/jan/11/elinor-carucci-children-photography

Forget the election soap box, research suggests Cameron and Brown are neglecting to step up to the social networking plate
http://www.mediaweek.co.uk/news/976385/Tories-Labour-failing-protect-digital-reputations/

With a reputed thaw round the icy corner, it seems, at least when it comes to Twitter(http://twitter.com/stellamedia) I’m streets ahead of the two political big-hitters mentioned in the last above link, as I’m off to my first ever tweetup tomorrow evening, happening in the city I’m proud to call home, Sheffield.

Here’s the details:
http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/5175055/SY/Sheffield/syorkstweetup-2/Showroom-BarCaf

Blow me down, but life’s still rather tweet.