First time networking that is (what did you think we were talking about?!)
Networking nerves can really get in the way of growing your business. At Opendoorz we do things a bit differently so that everyone – new and seasoned members – have a truly positive experience.
Your heart is beating faster, your palms are a little bit sweaty, and your tummy’s doing summersaults… you’re about to walk into a new networking group.
As you look hopefully around the room, for a face you recognise or the warmth of a smile from someone who might be open to a chat, you wonder why these things are always so damn nerve wracking!
We’ve all been there and can recall the feelings well. But what can we do to help others and to ensure they don’t feel the fear that’s akin to being the new kid in the playground?
Let’s be completely honest – we can all get a little absorbed in the conversation we’re having but it doesn’t stop us noticing that person wandering slightly aimlessly or looking awkward in a corner. And when we do notice them, can we put our hand up and truthfully say that we’re keen to help them out? That we make a concerted effort to make space for them in our conversation, to welcome them into the fold, to help alleviate their fears and out them at ease? Probably not, if we’re being brutally honest.
At Opendoorz, a warm and welcoming atmosphere is at the very heart of our ethos, in fact we’re pretty renowned across Oxfordshire for our friendliness and inclusivity. However, we haven’t always got it spot on and that bothered us. So, we sat down and thought long and hard about how we can put kindness at the forefront of all our meetings.
First we defined what it meant to us to be kind and the definition below really resonated.
“Kindness is a type of behaviour marked by acts of generosity, consideration, rendering assistance or concern for others”
Then we thought about how we could demonstrate those behaviours in our meetings and through all our interactions with members and guests alike.
Below we’ve shared our learnings and the actions we’ve implemented. We’re not perfect (we are only human!) but with a room full of people working together with the same aims we’re pretty much getting things right most of the time!
Every month each group hosts a guest event and here’s a run down of the actions we’ve implemented to ensure everyone receives the best possible Opendoorz experience.
To avoid confusion or ambiguity, the invitee (our members) email their guest a formal invitation once they’ve confirmed they can attend. This contains all the important information needed – venue, date, times, etc – so they don’t get lost enroute or turn up on the wrong day!
48 hours reminder
Two days before the guest event we send all the guests a reminder note. This is a great tool to act as a little nudge and it also means there’s time for the guest to cancel if workloads have risen.
‘Hello – I’m looking forward to meeting you!’
The Associate Director leading the group will drop each guest an email with a quick hello and/or connects on LinkedIn. Likewise, each group has a Guest Host allocated to do the same – they also ping a bit of info on the meeting agenda. This means each guest has a couple of friendly faces to greet them when they arrive at the event and they know what to expect.
Our Guest Hosts are also primed to greet guests as they arrive at the venue. It means the guest is immediately reassured because they know they are expected, and the host can point them in the right direction so no queuing at reception – result!
But first coffee
We know what the important things in life are, so on arrival in the room our members make sure every guest gets a cup of tea or coffee in their hand and then pro-actively introduces them to other members and guests. It’s a great time to identify synergies!
We allocate our guests seats. This means they know they will be sitting next to an Opendoorz member who can answer any questions and ensure they feel ‘looked after’.
Everyone gets to contribute
We actively encourage our guests to participate in discussions and debates around the table – the fact that most are comfortable and very happy to contribute always puts a smile on our faces!
A post meeting drink at the bar
There’s nothing like a bit of informal networking after the meeting to build a great relationship; both professionally and as friends. That’s why we encourage all our members and guests to join together for a drink in the bar after the meeting – on us, of course!
There’s undoubtedly something quite ‘exposing’ about going to a new networking group. For many, those feelings are enough to put them off networking altogether. And that’s a real shame because being part of a professional networking group can be incredibly empowering and an amazing source of confidence, personal development and powerful connections.
So, if you’re a business owner who’s never heard of Opendoorz or normally shies away from attending events because you won’t know anyone then please be reassured that at Opendoorz you’ll very much get a warm welcome – we’re a pretty kind bunch! And, like all our guests you’ll be very glad you decided to come along. Yes, you’ll make new connections and new contacts but you’ll also have a unique and uplifting experience too.
Why not come along and experience the Opendoorz difference for yourself?
K is for kindness! It’s a simple word, it’s true, but it’s amazing what a word can do!