On the afternoon of Tuesday 30th June 2015 our flight descended into London Heathrow airport after six years living and working abroad as an expat in the Middle East and Australia. Once the initial flurry of move related administration and excitement of a quick trip over to Germany to race Challenge Roth; the biggest global long-distance triathlon, a rather daunting realisation hit home.
After an extended period of time overseas returning to the United Kingdom meant my British based network displayed several similarities to a blank sheet of paper. This initially overwhelming recognition kick started a frantic whirlwind of “networking” that with hindsight was relatively disorganised, unsystematic and frankly rather haphazard. Taking some time to reflect back on the last two years of time and money invested in endless cups of mediocre coffee, plates of over-cooked fried breakfasts and glasses of warm white wine which seem to serve as the main backdrop for British networking events revealed a multitude of lessons learnt.
Networking successfully requires a long-term commitment with a substantial amount of focus, energy and a healthy dose of inner confidence and I shared some of my ideas with the Officers’ Association in this interview. In retrospect, the last couple of years have been an interesting journey and I’ve inevitably learnt something from every networking breakfast, lunch, drinks, coffee, conference, meetup and passing conversation.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t” - Bill Nye
My greatest networking revelation has been stepping outside to create a series of netwalks with fellow outdoor enthusiast Wafaa Powell, owner of “Dancing Flavours” who combines her passions of cooking and belly dancing in her own business. Through our netwalks I’ve given myself permission to take networking away from our accepted cultural norms where the concept of “work” is often confined within four walls and carried out by suit attired individuals.
By heading outdoors and combining networking with walking I find the dynamic shifts to generate a more relaxed atmosphere where deeper conversations naturally unfold tapping into our authentic human nature. Over 2,500 years ago the ancient Greeks regularly adopted this walking into their intellectual deliberations; aptly illustrated by the well-known philosopher Aristotle who walked and talked around the Lyceum in Athens with members of his Peripatetic philosophical school. More recent advocates of taking conversations outdoors include Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, Friedrich Nietzsche and Steve Jobs.
Looking back on my first meeting with Wafaa one early autumnal Friday morning in 2015 sparks fond memories of our subsequent netwalking project collaboration that evolved. Our shared connection to the Arabic culture sparked our initial conversation at the Hot Breakfast Networking event (now renamed Rooster Talks) at the Glove Factory in Holt, Wiltshire and further discussions revealed a mutual love of the great outdoors, walking and talking. These key factors shaped the conception of netwalking aimed to bring like-minded business owners together to share ideas, concepts, support and laughter.
Now in July 2017, we’re approaching our 11th netwalk in Wiltshire and over the last eighteen months we’ve been joined by over seventy different individuals, several of whom kindly show their support on a regular basis. Every netwalk has a dedicated theme and some of our previous themes include:
Money Makes the World Go Around. Or Does It?
Behind the Scenes - Looking Beyond Your Business Core Service
Bridging the Gap - Exploring Annual Business Development Fluctuations
Each theme is explored through a series of coaching-esque questions designed to foster conversation and share ideas. We’re continually looking for new ideas so if there’s an area within business you believe is worth exploring we’re always grateful for suggestions.
It’s encouraging to see the expansion of netwalking spread further into the networking arena. Tapping the word “netwalking” into Google yields more results than twelve months ago and the promotion of walking by high profile individuals such as Adriana Huffington means the message is beginning to percolate into the mainstream business world.
Looking ahead in your diary how can you encourage taking networking or any other work related activities outdoors?
We currently hold netwalking events in the Bath, Bradford-on-Avon and Devizes area on a monthly basis. If you’re interested in joining us check out www.rfmcoaching.com/events or book through Eventbrite.