This was the question I asked myself repeatedly last Friday.
It was this time last week that I was feeling more than a little bit fragile but also extremely energised because it had been our summer party held at Sexy Fish in Mayfair the night before.
As someone who loves being in an actual room with real people I have found online networking hard and often came away less energised than when I went in… the total opposite (hangover, sore feet and sore throat included) from last Friday.
The pandemic landed on us at breakneck, terrifying speed and changed our lives in ways we’d never expected and for much longer than we’d have liked or thought it would.
Suddenly, parties were out of the question. Face-to-face meetings became Zoom and Teams calls. Personal contact was limited to your own home, bubble and then slowly, work colleagues as offices re-opened.
And so, several times last Thursday I allowed myself a few moments to drink it all in – and no, I don’t mean the champagne or the fish tank. Well maybe the champagne but definitely not the fish tank, even though it was a massive heatwave.
There we all were. In one room, together, mingling, laughing, hugging (a lot), sharing stories and most of all, enjoying each other’s company… building relationships… while nibbling on sushi and drinking fizz… and when the DJ turned the music up we danced (it wasn’t just me).
We need human contact
It’s strange how quickly we adapt. It had been more than two and a half years since we’d last hosted an event like this. Unthinkable as 2019 drew to a close.
For someone like me who thrives on company and whose business relies on building relationships and new connections, my professional life changed enormously. Of course it wasn’t all bad as many international clients enjoyed the video calls and perhaps we all enjoyed not jumping on a plane every week or so.
Many of the people at the party last week I hadn’t seen in the flesh since 2019. Some I hadn’t ever met in person as we built our friendships online over the last two years or so.
But that feeling – the energy – the high – after only a few moments back together – in the same room – was priceless. The guests came from far and wide, from Cornwall to London to Poland and Singapore.
So, for those of you lucky/unlucky enough (delete where applicable) to witness my exuberant/astonishing/reckless dancing to the MD Communications DJ for the night, I am just pleased that it’s me who gets the final say on the professional photos!
Our photo booth got some serious use. Who knew that a flamingo could be so flexible? And yes, sorry folks, some of the photos survived and are right here. Well, you did smile for the camera…
The night also proved that, no matter how far technology advances, meeting people in person will always be one of the best ways to network. The sector thrives on relationships and these cannot be built online alone.
I love being able to introduce people to each other and as I buzzed round the party doing this I recalled an online networking event where every time I changed virtual rooms I ended up with all the same people – the awkwardness of not knowing whether to leave again or stay and find more to chat about wasn’t just felt by me alone and I am sure we all left feeling a little deflated.
As a business we thrive on sharing our networks with our clients and it was hugely satisfying to get many of them in a room together with a party list of engaging and fun characters from the sector, media and business. Standing back to watch the chatter and smiles shone a lovely spotlight on my purpose.There it was: my ‘why’, my reason for doing what I do. Why I enjoy what I do so much.
Hopefully those introductions will develop further and we’ll have also helped one or two businesses find new clients, partnerships or even investors. At the end of the day people want to work with (and spend time with) people they like. Who might have a laugh with them. Might even dance more wildly than they do… and you wouldn’t find that out on a Zoom call or even a meeting in the office.
It’s not impossible to network and build relationships on Zoom but somehow it’s so much easier to turn from one conversation, welcome someone else to the chat and watch how it develops.
Of course, networking events returning to the social calendar mean some colleagues may need a refresher on network training – or for some, who joined firms during lockdown and haven’t yet been able to hone their skills, some early pointers. Just give us a call or drop us a line if we can help.
Onto the next one
But for now, enjoy the photos, enjoy the next event you attend and, if you’re wondering why you didn’t get an invite to this one, then don’t worry. We have more planned later in the year. And if you couldn’t make it this time, then let’s hope we see you at our next one.
Covid hasn’t gone away. We all still need to be alert and stay safe. But I for one have had a smile on my face writing this and remembering things – not quite as big as the one I was wearing last week but still up there.
So, a big thank you to each and everyone who joined us last Thursday and hope you enjoyed it as I did. Now back to the photos to ensure all evidence of that dancing is destroyed…