Networking in Chelmsford and why I suck at it
I went to the Spire Specialist Care Centre BBQ recently and was surrounded by lots of people all well-versed in cancer and cancer therapy. I wasn’t using it as an opportunity to go networking in Chelmsford, but it’s funny how these things work out.
Talking with strangers about subjects that I know little about has always been hard, but after seeing what a great job Spire do, I was always going to do my best to get along and support them.
The BBQ was in honour of their six-month anniversary of being in Chelmsford.
I turned up early, as I so often do in life, and sat by a couple of women I’d never seen before. Introductions were made and names exchanged. Sophie and Jacqui worked in the industry and were the only two that seemed to get there before I had.
We chatted along fairly freely before two older gents arrived and sat down at our table. They introduced themselves and it was soon evident that both of them were pretty much self-taught experts in terms of cancer-related knowledge.
One of them was Clive and he must have been close to 80 years of age. He had that old man way of speaking where everything is ever-so-slightly muffled as though his tongue actively refuses to co-operate with every fifth syllable he tries to say.
His sprightly mate was John and he looked a few years younger, probably in his early 70s. Clive and John introduced themselves to Sophie, who revealed that she was 28-years-old, from Cambridge who had worked for Spire at another location before moving to another company earlier this year.
No sooner had they exchanged pleasantries with Jacqui, she disappeared to catch up with others who had started appearing through the doors.
Clive was a lovely guy. But as lovely as he was, his habit of mumbling was frustrating for someone like me who has trouble understanding even the clearest of speakers most of the time.
He was a serial cancer-meeting-goer, attending events all around the country. Each meeting was co-ordinated by some organisation or another, all of which have different acronyms which Clive was throwing into the conversation like they were free bottles of water at a cracker-eating convention.
As rude as it is to admit, I started to tune out.
Then he asked me what I did. (I caught that bit quite clearly)
“I’m a mortgage consultant.” I said to him
“Where are you based?”
“I work in Chelmsford” I replied. So far so good. Maybe he hadn’t been mumbling. Perhaps I had just not paid sufficient attention. By now, I was transfixed and fully focussed on what he was saying.
“Do you have a car?” he asked.
Oh. I wasn’t expecting that. Where was this conversation going? What an odd thing to ask. Did he need a lift?
More importantly, did I look like a taxi driver?! It was a tongue-in-cheek thought, if I’m honest, and I was already mentally preparing to give him and John a lift home later.
“Yes… Yes, I have a car…” I said, as nicely as I could.
“Could I have it?” he asked.
My look must have said it all. I can only imagine my face was stuck, frozen solid as I processed his request.
“I’m not taking the mickey!” he said.
You bloody are, I thought - though didn’t say. Instead, I spluttered the only reply that I could think of.
“You want my car?!” I exclaimed, no doubt with a hint of incredulity at the end of the sentence.
To which Sophie - in a move that I will forever be grateful for - interrupted and said to me…
“Your card, Dan. He wants your business card.”
I don’t know if Clive caught on to the fact that I’d misheard him, but he happily took my business card and I never heard from him again.
That’s why I suck at networking, and now I’m scared that by networking in Chelmsford I’ll end up making a fool of myself too often in my home city!
The night continued as we were even treated to Sir Simon Burns MP give a short speech, though I admit that I was disappointed that no-one asked this question about Simon Burns.