On a Friday at the start of July I attended a networking evening run by thebestof Guildford, at the Tony Purslow Mercedes Benz showroom, just down the road from Vines BMW.
Rather than sticking around for an additional hour and a half after work, I decided to go home and get changed for the 6:30pm start. I changed into the same navy blue dress I’d bought for the networking event in London, then went out to catch my bus. For the first time since moving to Guildford, the public transport failed me. I ended up half an hour late. Nevertheless, I was greeted with smiles from host Paul Bridgland, one half of the charismatic thebestof Guildford team. He introduced me to Neal Page, Manager of Fleet Sales at Mercedes, whom other guests referred to as “the competition” when speaking with me.
Shortly after I arrived, there was a brief introductory speech by Paul, who then introduced Sally Castro Gouveia, the other half of thebestof Guildford, who has been incredibly helpful introducing us to contacts for our Best of British event (more on that in a later blog post). She introduced the evening’s sponsors from Crystal Clear Financial Services and GW Osteopathy. They each gave a short talk about their businesses, and then Paul took the floor again. He encouraged us to feel 100% fine about butting into other people’s conversations, and moving on when we felt the conversation stagnating. This advice gave me a lot more confidence for the evening, as the networking began.
Now, as you may have noticed from my previous blog posts on networking, I’m not the most confident person in foreign situations. Nevertheless, this event I really got into my stride. I must have spoken with a dozen people, nearly all of whom provided either myself, my job search, Vines BMW or Vines’ Best of British event with something useful.
There was one notable exception. One lady came up to myself and another person in the middle of a conversation, gave us her one minute elevator pitch and business card, then walked on to the next group. It definitely wasn’t in the tone of the evening, and I cannot remember a single word she said: not the point of networking at all. Luckily with the rest of the guests, conversation flowed easily.
The event was catered by Balaka, an Indian restaurant and takeaway based in Woking, who provided tasty onion bhajis and samosas with a range of sauces. I had taken my own advice, and eaten before I arrived, so even though it took me half an hour to meander over to the serving area, I wasn’t too distracted by the food, and was able to speak with a large number of people. Among the guests were photographer Gavin Thorn, magician Ian Gray and “Party Pianos” pianist/singer Joe Lee, all of whom we had hired for our Best of British Event. Joe was performing that evening, and serenaded the room with Take That and my personal request of Katy Perry.
All too soon, it was time to leave. Once again, a fantastic event from thebestof Guildford, a great chance to meet people, good food, good music: exactly what I was looking for in the evening. I’d like to thank Paul for his encouraging words at the start of the evening, and I think I’m now a slightly better networker because of them.
My only criticism of the event? It should have been at Vines!
(Photos used with kind permission of photographer Sarah Aires.)