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I’ve never been a great fan of formal dinners, networking events or after dinner speakers. But this week I was fortunate to be on the delegate end of a great …

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13th January 2008 at 6:12 pm

I’ve never been a great fan of formal dinners, networking events or after dinner speakers. But this week I was fortunate to be on the delegate end of a great event which caused me to think again about my personal cringe issues with the whole business events concept.

I was invited along to a client conference and as well as getting to meet a whole load of previously ‘virtual’ peers and colleagues from around the globe, I was also to be subjected to a formal networking dinner, complete with after dinner speaker, as well as some team building (in a muddy field), the following morning. To say I was suffering anticipation deficit disorder would be a grave under-exaggeration.

However, to put the whole thing in context one of the ‘working sessions’ involved a presentation from a jolly nice chap whose business is arranging events and suchlike for big UK corporates. His talk hit a nerve, as he reminded me that you tend to do business with people you like. And frankly the sterility of the modern office environment doesn’t present enough opportunities to bond with your prospects. (I would say ‘make corporate friends’ with them, but for me it’s taking things a bit far. Creating a rapport, sharing a laugh and understanding what makes someone tick outside of a work context will take you a long way. Becoming ‘good buddies’, for me sets the bar too high and could involve overstepping the mark with your intended customer).

According to Mr Harvey Thorneycroft, the holy trinity of a good event is this: great hospitality (and this should be a given), a great experience (doing something that strikes a chord with your intended’s out of work passion, be it sport, arts or whatever), and the bit that a lot of events lack is the final piece of the jigsaw – some work relevant value-add (a golden egg that gives the intended something resonant and memorable that they can benefit from in the moment, or apply at a later date).

For our crew, (marketeers the lot), the value add came in the shape of a speaker, name of BJ Cunningham. He was the chap behind the marketing of ‘Death’ cigarettes a few years ago. Despite being pre-disposed to despise the guy, he was absolutely captivating, totally inspiring and I’m sure by no happy accident, his brief talk provided the ‘cement’ that glued together two days full of brainstorms, workshops and think tanks for the delegates. I’d recommend a visit to his site – as he has a unique and provocative take on what good marketing is and does. It’s refreshingly simple and just slightly left field, but a philosophy that got this cynic sitting up and listening.

As for running around ‘teambuilding’ in a muddy field, I can’t lie to you. I ducked out. In my sorry defence, as a consultant I didn’t truly qualify as part of the team and was attempting to consolidate a huge amount of workshop outputs for the team. BUT, I did feel like a heel. AND very left out when everyone returned, covered in mud and crying with laughter. . .

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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  1. Benjamin says:

    Shame on you for ducking out on the team building :). However, you made up for it with a very good bit of inspiration for anyone planning an event with or for their company. If every one wove those it, business events would be much, much better.

  2. Sara, great post. I’m really enjoying your contributions so far in 2008!
    Quite a long while ago I interviewed BJ Cunningham on the podcast. Well worth checking out for those who haven’t had the chance to meet him in the flesh yet.

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