‘Do you fancy this networking event?’ The very words often send a shiver down the spine of anyone who is not a natural raconteur. We sent our Richard Fidler out for a mingle… 

We all know the type – at ease in any social situation, the life and soul of the gathering of many people in suits – and wonder how they do it.

But attending a networking event needn’t be an internal referendum on whether you can hold a conversation with a stranger while balancing a coffee in one hand and a plate stacked from the buffet with another and at the same time trying to reach for a business card.

There’s also the issue of trying to explain what the heck you do without lapsing into comfy soundbites that make you cringe every time you say them.

Networking should be something you look forward to and get the most out for you and your business.

I have been to several events over the past year and here’s my favourite ones…

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce – Anthony Joshua 

Any event that has the heavyweight champion of the world at it is sure to be a knockout (sorry). However, what Sheffield Chamber did well was to use it to promote the city’s sporting offer.

Taking place in April before Joshua fought Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium the event was well-timed and made people feel they had an insight into a world-class athlete’s preparations.

Joshua spoke to people from his training base at the English Institute of Sport in Attercliffe and was happy to pose for selfies and sign autographs.

The networking then occurred naturally with people from a variety of business backgrounds coming together around a shared interest.

Business people often use sporting analogies in the way they communicate so there is a clear relationship between Joshua’s goal of being world champion and his audience’s desire to be as successful as they possible can be.

Connect Yorkshire – Masterclass with David Grey, chairman of the OSL Group and chairman of Sheffield City Trust

Who better to explain what Connect Yorkshire hopes to achieve with their masterclasses than Sophie Patton who is their Operations Director.

She said: “At Connect Yorkshire’s monthly Masterclasses, not only do you get to meet the business owners/directors of companies across the Yorkshire region, you also get to listen to some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs giving their thoughts and advice on topics and subjects that affect every business.” 

And this was true of David Grey’s masterclass. David, who had recently taken up the chairmanship of Sheffield City Trust, when he gave his presentation, is known as a straight-talker and he didn’t disappoint.

Hosted by the Mercure Hotel on the Parkway the event was well attended and in a good location for people to reach from across the city region.

David challenged people’s preconceived ideas and there was plenty of discussion both during and after his talk. It was good to hear first hand from someone who has been hugely successful about the trials and tribulations he encountered along the way.

Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce – Barnsley MPs forum

A breakfast networking event succeeds or fails, in my opinion, on the quality of food and drink it is offering.

Just a day after the Chamber’s AGM this forum of Barnsley MPs at the town’s Digital Media Campus passed the breakfast test with flying colours thanks to the piles of bacon and sausage sandwiches on offer!

It also enabled businesses to directly question their local MPs – Angela Smith MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, John Healey MP for Wentworth and Dearne and Dan Jarvis MP for Barnsley Central – at a time when there are serious topics, (cough devolution), still to be resolved.

The panel had very differing views over devolution which provided an insight into how difficult an issue this is to resolve. All three spoke passionately about their constituencies and didn’t duck any of the questions thrown at them by the audience.

I mentioned earlier about this forum taking place just a day after the AGM. I thought this was good as it immediately cemented relationships between those who had attended both.

Ardent networkers will see the same faces time and again around the region and perhaps that is why they seem so self-assured.

Looking back the three events are all very different in format but enjoyable for the same reasons – compelling speakers, accessible venues and good quality catering.

It’s not as easy as it sounds to host a successful networking event but follow these requirements and you won’t go far wrong!