GM Business Connect have always been prolific networkers within the regional business community. So, when lockdown was brought in on 23 March we were hit pretty hard. After all, there is a difference between not wanting to go out to meet people and being told you cannot! We had partnership agreements in place with many Expos and Conferences in Greater Manchester to exhibit and meet more of the business community during 2020. Unfortunately, this year looks like usual activity within this sector has either been postponed or simply been cancelled – many businesses are writing this year off. We believe the future of face-to-face networking in public places will be both restrictive and very slow to re-establish, so for the immediate future of networking we will continue to meet online.
As a business magazine we were hosting two regular monthly events before Covid-19 – First Friday ConnectWorking (in aid of charity Forever Manchester) at sites across the city centre, and ConnectWorking Breakfast in Trafford. Along with many other networking groups we decided to hold our events online on Zoom.
We started off with our First Friday Virtual ConnectWorking – normally held at a city centre hostelry at the end of a working week (4 – 6pm on a Friday). This time we got Steve Frehley from Jeffrey’s Tonic to mix up some cocktails while we sat in our own homes and talked about possible frustrations we were encountering. We also shared our experiences we were having with Susan Leigh of Lifestyle Therapy which did help the conversation as we didn’t want to sweep it under the carpet. We made sure everyone got the chance to do an intro, so we knew who was in the room.
We knew if we were suffering, others in business would also be feeling frustrated and followed up with ConnectWorking Breakfast which normally takes place at The Belmore in Sale. This time we asked Edwina Currie Ex Junior Health Minister, Writer, Celebrity and Broadcaster to speak at the event in May. Edwina spoke about the disruption to business and implications and solutions we should adopt. Plus, we did a Q & A on how the government was handing Covid-19.
These were two networking events with a difference. We charge only £5 plus Eventbrite fees and all the money goes to charity – you automatically get entered into the next Forever Manchester’s Tombola draw with a chance to win either £500,£250 or £100 drawn by the Charity. We’ll continue to host the online events as they are still connecting businesses. We’re finding that giving individuals the chance to pitch to everyone massively helped in the creation of new business opportunities and relationships.
The development of the virtual zoom-based networking model has helped those businesses who work remotely from home develop and retain their business networks, and although it’s now ‘screen-to-screen’ and not ‘face-to-face’, there is still a huge endorsement for taking part.