We had a wonderful morning of networking last Friday at The Racing Centre in Newmarket. This was our 10th South African Chamber of Commerce UK meeting since the #EastofEngland group’s inception last year. We have grown and we have now regular attendees as well as new visitors every time. If you have never been and wanted to know how a typical networking morning runs, well let me tell you about last Friday..
The morning starts at 08:30 with a little informal networking. Right from the start, this is not the awkward and daunting experience that it often can be. We are all mostly (yes we have a few Zimbabweans too!) South African, so there is a whole range of common topics to discuss like “Where in South Africa are you from?” – We seem to attract a lot of Durbanites!
After informal networking, we get our breakfast, top-up our coffee (free thanks to Ashtons Legal) and take a seat. Now it is time for introductions! Scared? No need. It is a quick and friendly introduction to briefly say who we are and what we do. It is also an opportunity to ask for help or a specific contact.
This is then followed by our 10-minute speaker. The opportunity for someone in the room to share their experience with the room. We had an excellent talk by Natalie King about presentation skills. Natalie spoke from her personal experience about being completely unable to speak in public to overcoming this and working with Toastmasters to reach their highest accolade and able to offer training herself. It seems breathing and practice are really important!
We finish with our Ubuntu (I am because we are) section. This is the chance to say something positive about the meeting. It is probably the most revealing section as it indicates why we are all there in the first place. We have had had people recommend one another, recommend outside the group and we have had many, many kind words. More importantly, we have had themes around being human and trust:
“Feels like you are with family and friends”
“I love hearing our lovely accent”
“I can use words like bakkie, tekkies and stoep.”
“It is so fun”
Now, this is first and foremost a business network. It is for South(ern) African businesses to promote themselves and their business BUT people tend to do business with people that they know, like and trust. This group has that in abundance!! And if the occasional friendship develops, is that such a bad thing? You might even meet your 2nd cousin (like I did!)
Our next meeting will be taking place on the 27th of March in Norwich (Venue TBC). If you know any South African business folk in the East of England, please send them our way.