Ironically the original purpose of having a combined meeting was to provide a place for people who wanted a little bit more networking at the end of the week. So my goal was to setup a non-industry group that anyone could go to and it would be run a little bit different to other groups. The point of difference would be, I would do all the presentations instead of a member from the group, lucky me.
Initially I started running workshops, on how to manage your Facebook account, blog writing and basically anything that I thought could help support the small to medium size businesses.
I noticed a trend, many of our workshops would turn into open discussions and at the end of the week I would ask the group what they would like to learn next week.
These groups grew and it quickly became our biggest networking group of the week. To my surprise people weren’t concerned about having somebody else in their own industry in the same group. They were very open about sharing their knowledge, experience and skills even with their direct opposition sitting right in front of them.
I decided to break out of the confines of the regular business networking format and the Think Tank was born. We now had a focused discussion group, it is designed for brainstorming and problem-solving, ideal for entrepreneurs, startups or jobseekers. Think Tankers were free to discuss their successes, goals and problems, like the old saying a problem halved is a problem solved. Our discussions are often unpredictable but they always evoke lots of laughs and pearls of wisdom. To keep the conversation on target I set a theme for each meeting.
To give the meeting more structure we appointed a scribe who takes notes in real time using an active Mind Map (MindNode), which is projected onto a large screen for all to see. If you are not familiar with Mind Maps, they are a brilliant communication tool that improve brainstorming and collaboration sessions. As well as a highly organised diagram that work in line with your brain’s natural way of doing things. The Mind Map is shared after the meeting on social media along with next weeks theme.
To be honest, facilitating the group was a little bit challenging at the start, so we introduced blue stress balls which are very similar to having a talking-stick. Unlike most men, I would have three balls, one ball for the speaker and as the facilitator I would hand out the other balls to other people who wanted to speak. Rather than advising people to keep the conversation to a minimum and to the point, I would politely take the ball away from them and pass it on. This allowed me to stop people from dominating the conversation or getting carried away with the excitement of the moment. As silly as it may sound, it worked!
One day I had moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation (Non-Christian epiphany), I thought these groups were so good and of great value to everyone attending. Now I wanted to share what was happening so I decided to start asking a few people along. Such as Jacinda Ardern, Helen Clark, Richie McCaw and even Mr John Chow, basically anyone I could think of who is an influencer. My philosophy is if you don’t ask you don’t get and to date not all have been, but we live in hope.
I was very excited when our first influencer Michael Mayell (the former Cookie Time founder and now CEO of Nutrient Rescue) came to share his experience, knowledge and skills, what a pleasant surprise! Michael shared how he started his company and grew it into an empire. He shared things like his successes and failures in business and the big takeaway was, he said you’ve got to have failures, saying they are the compost for your next business venture! We have been privileged to have many influencers join in our Think Tanks.
I truly believe this is the best networking available and I sometimes get overwhelmed with the privilege of running it. People like to talk, people like to help others and sometimes when you feel you’re just pushing shit up-hill it’s nice to be able to talk in an open forum with other like-minded people who can empathise and give you a vision and inspire you.
These days if people want to come along to Elite6 Business Networking as a visitor I recommend they come and join in a Think Tank session as it is a lovely way to be introduced to Elite6. As philanthropist, entrepreneur and all round good guy, Richard Branson says “Succeeding in business is all about building connections.” If you are reading this Richard, please come to our Think Tank meeting and share your experience, knowledge and skills.