I don’t use timers at Winning Women networking meetings.   Here’s why!

I was ill for a week after my first networking experience which was nothing short of traumatic!  It was HUGE BNI meeting, there were maybe fifty people there. It was around 1996 and early on in my complementary therapy practice which I started in 1993.

It was a dark morning at Garons in Southend. I remember being greeted by a woman who was a psychologist.

I never planned to start my own business but when I qualified as a Registered Nurse in the summer of 1997, I had eczema on my hands, developed during my three years training.  I was offered three nursing jobs at the hospital but the Occupational Health doctor told me I was not fit to nurse in any clinical area.

I was devastated, angry, my career was over as soon as it had begun and twenty minutes into the BNI meeting I realised that the woman who had welcomed me was the same person who had been sitting at a big desk, a few years earlier while I was crying.  She was telling me I was ungrateful because the hospital had tried to help by creating a job for me but I was a glorified theatre porter, not the nurse I had trained to be and try as I might, I was struggling to be grateful!

I struggled through a full English.

Back to my first networking meeting.  I struggled through a cooked breakfast while listening to fifty other people talked for a timed minute about their business before I had to do the talk about mine.

Shocked to the core by two almost equally traumatic experiences before 9am, the following day my body went into shock.  I turned bright red with a painful rash from head to toe and needed a week off work to recover!

I dipped in and out of other networking over the years but it wasn’t until I went to a London Coaches group, led by Catherine Watkin in 2013 that I felt so at home that I could really be myself.  So I started my own group that helped me feel the same way.  The first meeting was in  April 2013, with just two other women in my lounge at home and it gradually grew.

Winning Women developed from that experience, we created the group I wanted for ourselves where we could relax and enjoy meeting other business owners without the pressure.

Stress closes the creative pathways in our brain.

When we are in stress, the creative pathways in our brain shut down.   We stumble and don’t speak fluently, we don’t present ourselves well.   Being put on the spot to speak about your new business, or god forbid yourself, can be absolutely terrifying, especially for women.

Add to that a timer so you’re focussing on speaking fast so you can say everything before the beeper goes off.  Some groups even have a countdown clock on a big screen.  Terrifying, and that’s from an experienced networker.  Give me a timer and I’m always nervous.

Please don’t wave a timer in my face!

Today in the lovely London group I attend, someone rather enthusiastic was doing the timings.  I was speaking and she waved the timer at me so I could see how I had just a few seconds remaining.   I lost my flow, stopped speaking, was totally distracted and then had to recoup and finish up. Consequently I forgot to mention an important event I was hosting and the opportunity to mention it had gone until the next meeting, four weeks away.

Networking groups give valuable training for new members to be able to express ourselves clearly and say what’s important in sixty seconds.   However, even after twenty plus years of networking, I still feel under pressure.

So, in Winning Women, I don’t use timers.

I like new guests to have a little longer so invite them to speak first.

I also ask permission at the beginning of the meeting to interrupt when it’s time to move on.

It’s not perfect but it works for us.   After six years of running the groups, we have a good working formula and it gives me joy that women new to networking always tell me they enjoyed their experience and they are more confident the next time.  They feel safe to network which means they can speak freely, enjoy listening to the other women and really tell us a little more about themselves instead of just a sixty second potted version.

Timers work well in large groups but I’m so happy that I’ve not needed to bring them to Winning Women.

We aren’t perfect but at Winning Women we do help women feel safe to have a business, to really be heard and to have time to hear what others are doing and get the reassurance they need.

If the whole networking things makes you nervous, come and join us.

We will help you feel safe to network and maybe, like many others you’ll then go off and join BNI or another group where you’ll have to face the dreaded timer!

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