What can you learn at one of Cambridge's top networking events if you don't particularly like networking? Lots, it turns out.
I’m the first to admit that networking in general is something I struggle with. I’m a copywriter and we’re a grizzly, cynical breed. Opening the curtains and finding a clean shirt is hard enough for us. Actually leaving the house to talk to people about work? Tall order.
If you’re anything like me (you poor soul), may I heartily recommend the Cambridge B2B Exhibition. I went, I saw, I had a blast.
Along with Director Sue (who give a standing-room-only seminar on the latest changes at Facebook) and our video partner, Colin of Little Dragon Films, we formed the Sookio contingent, one of dozens of exhibitors strutting their stuff at the broadest display of business know-how you’re likely to find all year.
Here’s what I learned:
Cambridge is buzzing!
The sheer scope of businesses represented and the variety of people we met was incredible. Everything from skincare products and health spas to rotating tables and juice makers.
Even for those outside the tech bubble that seems to define much of Cambridge’s startup scene, it’s an incredibly exciting time for entrepreneurs to be getting out there and sharing ideas with like-minded people.
For us, it was as great to catch up with past clients and see how they’ve progressed since we worked with them as it was to hook up with those we might potentially work with in the future. With such a tight-knit business community, you can’t neglect your roots.
Speed networking is a hoot
For those who aren’t natural networkers, it can be tough to stand in a room full of people who all seem to have known each other since milk money days and find a way to strike up a conversation. The two speed networking sessions run at the exhibition were the ideal remedy.
It’s more challenging than you might think to cram everything you do into a 60-second outburst that doesn’t sound like a sales pitch. Of course, it is a sales pitch, but you have to make people care, don't you?
The structure of the format, the challenge of making it work and the huge reduction in social awkwardness makes it a great laugh and a fantastic way to meet people on an equal footing. It may well have been my personal highlight of the day, but I’d advise you bring some water to avoid your voice turning croaky on you.
People need content
It was interesting to see things from a digital content perspective. By that, I mean that while certain businesses have a narrow scope of who they might be able to work with, we can create (and have created) content for more or less any sector you care to name.
Whether it was startups who were just pulling their first marketing teams together, or established businesses who have been muddling through on social media so far, we were lucky enough to sow the seeds of many a strong working connection.
Content needs people
That being said, it was interesting to see how many people still had a bit of a shaky grasp of content in general, and social media in particular. The most important message I kept repeating was that it’s no good just throwing resources at the internet and hoping something sticks.
Rather than spending six straight hours touting for work, I had more fun chatting to people about how they were putting themselves across right now, and how big the gulf was (if any) between their ideal audience and their current actual audience online. Of course, our door is always open for strategy and training sessions.
Most of my day was spent in a lab coat (until the heat got too much, those things are warm), toting a stethoscope and presenting myself as a doctor of copywriting. There were quite a few takers for my drop-in copywriting clinic, but more than anything else it was a fantastic ice-breaker.
On the same note, special mention must go to our gracious neighbours, Cambridge Plants, whose floral selfie board brought a steady stream of networkers over to our little corner of the exhibition.
If you’re off to one of these events and feel like you need a little hook to get you noticed; dress up as a wizard or a spaceman or something. You’ll stand out in a room full of suits.
Were you at the 2016 Cambridge B2B Exhibition? Have any networking observations of your own to share? Leave us a comment, or if working with Sookio sounds like your cup of tea; contact us today and let’s talk!