Some of you are aware by now that I have become a bit of a fan of an Afternoon in the Pub (AitP). According to the website:
“an Afternoon in the Pub was conceived as a ‘business social’ event to bring together local businesses to chat and have a drink in an informal, friendly setting with no rules … it is most certainly NOT a business meeting, nor is it a networking group. It’s a place where you can feel relaxed in the company of like-minded local businesspeople in an informal environment with no pressures at all. You won’t see a name badge or hear an ‘elevator pitch’, nor will anyone thrust their business card into your face for no apparent reason whatsoever”.
Thanks to Si, Matt, Tom and Chrissie for coming up with a simple but great idea. I have become so much a fan of AitP that I have offered to help organise their first Berkhamsted event. So what drew me to AitP?
After being made redundant and spending six months getting fitter, and enjoying time out of the corporate grind, I realised it was time to get back to work. I decided to set up my own business and I began exploring the marketing opportunities of twitter and that is where, by accident, I first discovered the AitP group. At the time I was either working from home (well my shed) or out pitching my services. This way of working can feel quite isolated for some people, including myself. As a psychologist I do believe we are social animals and the extroverts amongst us particularly seek out and thrive on social interaction, see one of my old papers for evidence. Anyhow, I had tried other networking and social events but always found them either a bit contrived, too formal, at unsociable hours, plus mostly based in London. The idea of an informal and local group therefore appealed, not to mention the opportunity to take a break from "work" (whatever work is) in a pub on weekday afternoon.
I was a little apprehensive of the first meeting but those attending all seemed quite approachable and willing to either chat about their work, my work or life in general. At the first few meetings the most useful element for me was talking to other start-up businesses about how they were managing their own marketing, technology and finances. It was also good to share and test new ideas with people outside of my usual work community. It is not only beneficial to get an outside view and to practice explaining succinctly what you do in a friendly arena, but it is more likely to lead to new ideas (as you are not thinking within the confines of your own expertise). The informal atmosphere, as well as the alcohol, certainly seems conducive to the generation of creative and alternative ideas.
As I got to know the AitP regulars, I also found new contacts in related areas of work and this has now started to generate leads. I am convinced that getting to know potential associates through an informal event is far more useful than sounding them out in a formal business environment. Once the level of experience and skills are established, it is the personalities and trust that make for a good solid team. Using local associates also has the advantage of easier logistics for face to face meetings. I also have the AitP to thank for helping me find a friendly and willing accountant. Whereas others could not be bothered to answer my queries, this guy gave me free advice and followed up when he got back to the office. I also like the fact that he has also just started up his own business so is keen for work and able to offer me the fresh advice.
I don’t want to underplay the local aspect of an Afternoon in the Pub. I have spent the last 20 years living in Berkhamsted but have spent most of that time working away from it, in London or overseas. As a consequence I feel slightly detached from the community in my adopted hometown. AitP provides an opportunity to build a more sustainable local network by understanding more about what services are on offer within the community.
So come and join us at the Rising Sun on the 8 June 2012. The worst that can happen is that you spend an afternoon having a cheeky drink on a school/work day. But it is more likely that you will meet like-minded people willing to share ideas and help solve work-related problems.