You may be wondering why I'm blogging about networking events when this is a place to learn how to make and do things. That is precisely why. Networking and building a business work better with a creative mindset, and this post explains how to use creative activities and learning to improve your events.
This week I hosted a networking event for a local Cleveland women’s marketing group at the studio. The women generally network and share ideas online, but once a month, they hold live networking events. This month they met at the studio, and we created a custom event for the networking group that incorporated branding exercises with fun watercolor painting.
The women started with casual discussion about their businesses, general marketing topics and issues on their minds. They enjoyed a selection of wine and cheese and talked details about branding and how best to describe their business personality in just three words. They had some word prompts and simple exercises to get them started. Then, they created images with their words and watercolors to display in their work space and help their branding efforts daily.
It sounds so simple. But in the process, they all relaxed and started to dig deeper when they realized that no one really knew how to describe herself immediately. Then came the painting. In general, adults are disarmed when presented with a creative arts project in a group. There is a sense of “I don’t know how to paint or draw” or “I’m not good at painting.” This collective discomfort is where the magic happens. The playing field is leveled when everyone is brought to a task possessing the same experience level. The women look around, realize they’re all a little uncertain about what to do, and they start to see each other as partners in learning this new skill to complete a task. It gets their brains working differently and creative thoughts related to their businesses start flowing. They discuss things in greater detail - their visions for their businesses, areas in which they need help, things that are going well for them. And then the part I am most inspired by, they start coming up with amazing ideas about how to help each other, build collaborations, and work together outside of the event. All over some paint, wine and cheese.
So often, networking events can be stuffy, boring, and less than fruitful for those attending. Back in my corporate days, networking events seemed to consist of simply passing out business cards, reciting your elevator pitch, pretending to be interested in what other people are saying, and wondering if what I was saying had any benefit to anyone at the event. Not very effective. However, introducing an activity to the event that is slightly unexpected, and something people don’t regularly do, can really get people to relax, think about themselves and their business in new ways, and find ways to connect with each other at the event and beyond.
If you are in a position to plan a networking event or team-building event within your own company, I highly recommend you add a component that seems totally unrelated. The results will surprise you.