Here’s a fun fact for you: All distances to and from London are measured from Charing Cross. The reasons for this date back over seven centuries, or the equivalent wait for a delayed train departure to Sevenoaks. Yet whenever you see a road sign stating how far it is to the capital, that is the point of reference.
It is suitable then that the centre of British business leadership is located just the other side of Trafalgar Square. Since 1903, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has represented and supported businesses across the country, encouraging active entrepreneurialism and responsible practices for its members and the wider business community. While located at offices across the UK, the epicentre of the IoD is the stunning Georgian building at 116 Pall Mall. Opened in 1828, it has not only played host to royalty but also featured in movies and TV shows, such as Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman sequel, The Dark Knight.
It is also the location for regular business events, such as those hosted by the IoD 99. As a community designed specifically for start-ups and enterprises looking to scale, the IoD 99 provides a home for business leaders with the ambition to grow and learn from like-minded people. Often the best way to bring such individuals together is with networking events.
Once a month, they host a free social evening for members and non-members alike. I attended their February gathering, having been to a couple of other events during the previous summer. Once there, I recognised some familiar faces as well as meeting some first-time attendees, all of whom were impressed with the turn out for a Thursday evening.
At the start of proceedings, people are encouraged to sign-up to deliver a 30 second ‘micro pitch’, allowing you to speak to the room en masse. Having come along for precisely this purpose, I duly completed a form hoping the three words “Delicious Ice Cream” would secure me a spot. Before the formal proceedings begin, there’s plenty of time for networking.
Aided by the initially free bar, there was plenty of people to meet from all kinds of business sectors, including IT support, financial management and learning and development. The room buzzed with conversation, and the atmosphere was always welcoming. By a plate of cheeky cocktail sausages, I was greeted by a friendly introduction from Blondell Shaw.
As a confident woman with a varied and exciting professional background, Blondell was the ideal person for me to meet. Through her uniquely named company Perfect Fossicking, Blondell provides development solutions aimed at helping companies reach their new business goals. At Jellyfielders, we help others with their digital marketing and communications content, so there are many possibilities for collaboration.
Indeed, the wide variety of businesses represented at the event was quite remarkable, which became more evident during the micro pitches. With a (very) loose time limit of 30 seconds, pitchers spoke about what they do and how we could help them do it. For me, it was an opportunity to find out how many folks in the room were not already using video as a vital tool in their marketing output.
The post-pitch adrenaline certainly helped towards the end of the evening. I was out of practice with networking, and the extra energy boost was appreciated. The people who took the time to speak to me at that stage had kind words, and also listened when I explained how our Ice Cream Model of Video Marketing could relate to their business.
After some final business card exchanges, it was time to leave. On my way out, fortunately, I was stopped by an eager chap named Alf. He spoke briefly about his social mobility agency, ConnecMe2, specifically regarding their vocational networking platform for young people aspiring towards careers in the film industry. After checking out their website the following day, we are eager to meet with founders Alf and Diane, to learn how our own film production company can help them.
My overall experience of the IoD 99 social event was undoubtedly positive, and the connections and opportunities that have developed since only confirm that feeling. I’ll definitely be returning to meet more passionate business founders and directors.
These evenings happen once a month in cities across the country. To find one near you, visit https://www.iod.com/99hub/events