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Networking one step at a time with Netwalking Southwest
by Startacus Admin
If you have ever been to a networking event you will know that they can be, shall we say, a little trying. It is a fairly universal truth we reckon, that whenever human beings are brought together to converse in a well structured environment at a predetermined time, the potential for awkwardness to ensue is so high that it becomes something of a foregone conclusion.
Thankfully for those of us predisposed to social ineptness, recent times have seen a dilution of the networking notion, with many such events taking a more relaxed and informal approach in an attempt to create a more friendly and conversation inducing environment.
Bristol based Netwalking South West is one such group of folks, who (as you have probably guessed from their name), combine walking and networking. Since we are currently in the middle of our Bristol startup month, and Bristol is currently in the middle of its Big Green Week, we thought it was the optimum time to catch up with Rosalind from Netwalking to hear a bit more about this intriguing idea.
What are the benefits of Netwalking over a traditional business networking event?
There are many benefits to netwalking whichever model you use during the walk. As a trained facilitator I provide not only a guided walk at a steady pace, these netwalks have both structure and facilitated content, thus enabling participants to 'walk and talk' with several people and have conversations that go deeper than the traditional networking models offer. I have often observed as Northern Europeans, and I accept this is a very broad sweep of the brush, that we are often not entirely comfortable in our skin and therefore whilst we recognise the value of networking, we often seem to find it challenging. Netwalking can offer a way of being more at ease both with oneself and others, as the moment we are both side by side, moving and of course, travelling in the same direction, we are naturally more at ease. This then enables us to speak both more confidently and with more of a natural flow about our work than, what can sometimes feel like the more forced exchanges that occur in an traditional networking setting.
We have attended a lot of networking events in our time, and we have certainly noticed an attempt to make them more sociable and less formal in recent times. Do you think that there has been a shift in people’s expectations of such events?
I have definitely noticed that there seems to be an increasing number of networking events, offering everything from breakfast, brunch, lunch and early evening drinks, speakers and topics, some events more social, some fuelled by alcohol, and some more formal with the customary round table routine of each person giving their elevator pitch for 60 seconds. Having attended various events with a range of styles and spoken to many people about networking over the last 18 months or so, what I have noticed is that when one speaks about networking people’s faces often contort into some strange and sometimes slightly pained expression. What I have found is that there is definitely a thirst for doing it differently. My sense is that many people are tired of the more traditional format of networking, they recognise the need for meeting other people in business but don't necessarily want to be sold to, if that makes sense. I also think the more traditional model of networking doesn't work so well for women whereas a well facilitated netwalk is easier and more comfortable.
Obviously Bristol is a very beautiful place with many lovely walks to enjoy but do you think that Netwalking could be transferred to other more heavily urbanised and perhaps less obviously attractive cities?
Yes, I personally think that its a model that can be used in most locations however with the caveat that it's always helpful in the process to include some green space in a walk. That could easily be a small patch of park, or a canal side - there are usually some green spaces to be found in the most heavily urbanised cities.
One of the things that we have really noticed about Bristol is that people seem to be much more open to new and unusual ideas and unique ways of doing things. In your opinion do you think that is the case and could people in other cities have something to learn from the people of Bristol ?
Hmmmm interesting question . . certainly Bristol is considered by some to be a lead particularly around the Green agenda, hence Bristol being the Green Capital of Europe for 2015. What I like about Bristol is that combination of old and new, a sense of openness and a strong feeling of possibilities that perhaps some places don't embody in quite the same way. I personally feel very excited to be contributing to the greening of the city by offering my facilitated 'walking & talking' model to increasing range of sectors.
Cheers for the chat Rosalind!
If you reckon you can walk the walk and talk the talk then pop over to Netwalking South West to get involved. Also, don't forget to check out some of the other stuff we have featured so far in our Bristol startup month.
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