Why am I writing this blog? It’s not a trick question. The plain and simple answer is because I was asked to. I was asked to write it by the marvellously well-connected Dawn Newton, a woman who manages to bring a passionate zeal to a subject that many of us find…well a bit toe-curling. Yes, I speak of the dreaded networking.
Whilst I am no shrinking violet, I’ll happily admit that before I attended the first Charity Meetup, a little over a year ago now, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers to talk shop after a long day at work was not necessarily top of my list of priorities. In fact it kind of sat somewhere low-down the pecking order, sandwiched between defrosting the freezer and getting the boiler serviced. You know it’s got to be done but it’s the getting round to it that’s the problem.
And yet – here I am a fully-fledged networking convert! How did this transformation come about? Well to some extent it was borne out of need. Whilst I have been knocking about in charity press offices for a decade and a half and a member of the Facebook Third Sector PR and Comms Network for a good deal of that time, I only really knew the people I had worked with directly.
The Charity Meetups began at a time when I was looking to shift the direction of my work, expand my portfolio of communications skills and move from a comfortable position of working in large or medium sized comms teams to a small charity as the sole in-house communications resource. For the first time not only did I not have a team to bounce ideas off of – I was also straying into areas I had not much experience in. Clearly I needed back-up!
And of course there are plenty of places online that you can look up the answer to specific problems, and call on your social network for advice and opinion but really there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction – particularly if you are a communicator. So there it was, the toe-curling had to be done. I girded my loins (always an uncomfortable business) and stepped into a bar in King’s Cross.
Within 30 seconds I was deep in conversation with one person after another and so it went on all night. Everyone there had not just the common ground of working in the same sector but also an openness of attitude that made me feel like I had known them all for donkey’s years.
But it didn’t stop there. I certainly went home that evening with a warm fuzzy feeling which only increased the day after this first networking session when I received a steady stream of emails and twitter follows from fellow attendees who had no-doubt walked into that bar at the start of the evening with their toes a little bit curled up.
So I’ll be there at the next Charity Meetup on Thursday 14 July – and am very much looking forward to catching up with familiar faces and making connections for the first time with new people.
I didn’t know Dawn before I started going to Charity Meetups. But I do now. Why did I write this blog? Because she asked me to.
Lizzie Clark is a third sector communications professional with over 15 years experience working in a variety of press, public affairs, marketing and strategic roles across the sector. She has brought her experience to a broad spectrum of charities covering health, military welfare, the arts and sciences. She is currently Communications Manager for Weizmann UK.