If like me you’ve generally eyed women-only networking events with suspicion, I’ve got a nice surprise for you. Last week I went to one that completely changed my mind.
My take on events that are specifically for women has always been from a feminist perspective. If there’s a networking event, everyone should be able to go, on equal terms. And in fact, I’ve felt that a women-only group seemed patronising, like we’re not allowed to play with the big boys.
But I’ve been missing the point. Which is that actually, once you get a roomful of decent, supportive women together, some kind of voodoo magic happens. And this is what I experienced last week.
TELL US ABOUT MINDS MATTER NOW
I bet if you asked most people what their biggest challenge in their work/life balance is, they’d tell you that not having enough time, or having too much stress would be top of the list. Minds Matter Now is all about helping facilitate a route through that to achieve a better life, using mindfulness practice, management development, and occasionally, live events.
Minds Matter Now is the brainchild of Paula Seabourne – it’s an organisation dedicated to supporting stress management, and ‘committed to implementing ways for people to find balance and a sense of freedom in both their work and home lives.’
So to the events. Firstly, it’s worth saying that this is an invitation or recommendation-only membership group, which might sound exclusive, but it’s important for a good reason. It means that every woman in that room has had somebody vouch for them.
The group feels like a safe space, which is a huge thing for many women. The whole ethos of the group is based around supportiveness
This in turn ensures that the group feels like a safe space, which is a huge thing for many women. The whole ethos of the group is based around supportiveness – and by having a kind of vetting process, Paula has achieved something I’ve not really seen before. Which is a group of women who seem genuinely non-judgemental and honestly supportive of each other.
The lack of bitchiness was refreshing, if I’m honest. Because let’s face it, women can be – and often are – very good at tearing each other down (WHY? Stop that stuff!!).
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE EVENTS?
Firstly, let’s be clear. Although the MMN events are centred around wellness practice, they are still networking opportunities. And when I went, I could see how the net worked.
Most of the women in the group had worked with each other in some way or another, and others were swapping cards and talking about work. Because hey, we don’t all just think about cats and our kids all the time. Some of us actually have careers and businesses. And how nice to be ‘heard’ – not be talked over or across, and not to have to fight your corner in a room dominated by men.
The events are all a little different depending on who is speaking, but at all of them you’ll experience a yoga session – with the legendary Anna Sugarman leading, meditation session with Paula herself, an exercise session, and half hour massage (not necessarily in that order). You’ll also get a delicious two course lunch with a glass of vino held in the Grand’s lovely conservatory, and with the final speaker at the end of the event, a glass of bubbly and a chance to carry on hanging out with the gang.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it. Well, it really was. Having a chance to relax into the space through the classes made me realise how tense I am most of the time during working hours – and as my shoulders started to gently drop down from round my ears to where they’re supposed to be, I found myself able to chat to the other women.
SO THE NETWORKING WORKS?
Here’s the thing. Anyone who has ever been to any networking event ever knows that they’re excruciating, but this is completely different. You do the networking thing because you know it works, right? Meeting new people opens new doors, we all know that. But screwing up the courage to talk to strangers? Well that’s just scary, and I don’t know anyone (male or female) who doesn’t feel like that to some degree.
Anyone who has ever been to any networking event ever knows that they’re excruciating, but this is completely different
But once you’ve had a cup of something warm, a fat pastry, a yoga class and meditation group with some people, and you’re sitting there in a dressing gown drinking wine – well, it’s just much easier to talk. And that’s what I think makes this such a winner.
Instead of being herded into a space with heaps of other nervous people, and given around an hour or two to try and make contact with another human being to make it all worthwhile, not only are you given a chance to get to know people, you’re also taking care of yourself.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENS AT THE EVENTS?
So it’s not all relaxing and having fun. Well, okay it is, but there is also business to be had going on. And through the day we had a variety of practitioners and speakers. I’d like to say that although each of them were there to talk about their own business or schtick, at no point did I feel any kind of hard sell. Which actually makes it easier to want to do business with these people.
WHO WERE THE SPEAKERS?
So, it changes each time (the event is bi-monthly) and I had the privilege of hearing:-
Livia Francis from Fit Freedom, who is a personal trainer, pro athlete, weight loss and nutrition specialist, and menopause wellness expert. She’s also really funny, and instead of banging on about her own thing, had one of her converted clients tell us all about how life-changing her input had been. She also held our exercise class – I’ve never worked my glutes so hard.
Over lunch, we had a short talk from Jackie Knight, principal consultant at A New You, which specialises in skin, laser and surgical treatments. I now know all there is to know about platelets and the ‘vampire facial’. Definitely tempted to talk to her about a facelift now too. And we also heard from Marina at Zest for Life, whose key message I’ve taken with me ever since; “If not now, WHEN?!”
Our final speaker, who I fell a bit in love with, was Karen Davis, author of Amazon bestseller The Time of Your Life – The Ultimate Women’s Guide to Living Midlife Brilliantly. Those of you who know me know that we also publish Silver Magazine and hearing Karen speak about women in midlife regeneration was honestly music to my ears. She talked briefly about her book, but also about her TOYL skincare box subscription. Which is a gorgeous beauty box packed each month with goodies specifically for women – and for women specifically over 40. And we got to take home a little bag of goodies that I’m still playing with. Gorgeous.
As well as the speakers, Nicky Hooper of Glam Life brought along her AW19 clothing and accessories collection for sale, meaning we could give our plastic a thrashing at the same time. Could there be a better selection of activities in a day? I’m not sure there could.
The Minds Matter Now movement is vital. Thankfully in this day and age we are more open to discussing mental health and owning our fears, so this kind of event is a breath of fresh air, particularly anyone who gets the cold sweats at standard networking events!
If you’d like to know more about the Minds Matter Now events or indeed what they do, you can reach out to Paula via the site – www.mindsmatternow.com/home – where you can also see a drop down section all about the events.