I yesterday had the pleasure of being taken to Miller's Academy of Art and Science for a seminar on 'The Art of Networking'. As soon as you step over the threshold it's rather an assault on the senses. The rooms overflow with antique furniture, candle-stick holders, ornaments, gold frames, chandeliers, taxidermy, model ships and er, skulls. The whole effect was slightly reminiscent of Sarastro. Although I do like this style of interior design, the dusting along would drive me loopy.
We first arranged ourselves on the haphazard chairs, before deciding clamber up to perch on the cushioned pews which towered almost to the ceiling for a better view. The speaker to educate us on networking was the former producer of Radio 4's 'Any Questions' and 'Woman's Hour', Carole Stone. Not being an avid radio-listener or politics buff, I knew little of her but it seems she also holds 'salons' which aim to bring together various members of her vast contact database for enlightened chat and mutual brain-picking.
Although her networking pointers were not exactly groundbreaking, her lively and slightly waspy energy reminded me that the best way to engage is to show enthusiasm and genuine interest in people. Oops, was that a cliche?
She also rammed home, through various hand-gestures, the importance of simply 'having a go'. Hm, maybe I should make that my new mantra and not be quite so afraid of things not turning out perfectly..
After the talk, we retired to the dining rooms upstairs and hid in the corner with our food - feeling slightly like rebellious teenagers and refusing to make small talk with the other attendees. It was all rather too exhausting to put on my networking face, and I was more than happy to discuss the seminar within our trio.
Carole did do the rounds before she left and commented in particular that M 'looked very stylish and must have a very stylish job'. We weren't quite sure what to make of that either.. All in all a very interesting experience and I did come away with the email address of possibly the best connected lady in London town.