I started Oxted Netwalking after my circumstances changed. Sadly last August we lost our lovely border collie Sparkie to cancer. He was an amazing dog, well trained and would walk by your side without a lead. Sparkie was my motivation to get out of the house to take him for a walk and for both of us to get some exercise.
My work also changed, from a part-time employed events organiser, to a full time self-employed business owner. I was spending more and more time behind the computer screen with no excuse to get outside into the wide world.
Then I thought, ‘what could I do to make me get out, to be sociable, to talk business, to help others and that was also a business event?’ The seed of Oxted Netwalking was sown.
I wanted Oxted Netwalking to be different, but how? Having other leaders assist me to guide people on the route would really help and if they were experts in a particular field, they could help others in the group with their knowledge. With a source of good contacts from another group I set up called Oxted Networking it was easy to find professional helpers.
When I spoke to Oxted Networking attendees, fitness instructor Alexandra Merisolu, The Body Engineer, Founder of The Merisoiu Technique and Sandra Hermitage from Hermitage Learning, Development and Coaching they were keen to help out. After a meeting of thrashing out my ideas and adding some really useful contributions, we set a date for the website to be completed.
With the bluebells in full flower we couldn’t miss the opportunity to hold our first walk in a bluebell wood. Walking through a carpet of blue would surely fire up the minds of the participants and provide a perfect backdrop for photographs. Our first netwalk was set for the 27th April in the beautiful bluebell covered Staffhurst Woods.
After a week of April snow, hail and rain the sunshine actually made an appearance for the 12 walkers coming from Oxted to Croydon and places in between. Within minutes everyone was chatting as if they had known each other for years.
Along with Alex, Sandra and myself we had a really good mix of sole traders and large company representatives including:
The most powerful outcomes were that walking in a casual non-business environment broke down barriers straight away and made people feel at ease. Without the suited and booted dressed up appearance and just welly boots there was a relaxed and natural feel to networking. Walking and talking side by side is non-confrontational, making it easy to hold a comfortable conversation. Oxted Netwalkers said the 2 mile walk went so quickly as they spent the whole time talking with everyone.
Over lunch in the Royal Oak pub chat covered a diverse range of subject including Facebook, cyber crime, mentoring adults with temperamental teenagers! The conversation gave us ideas to incorporate a learning element to each netwalk.
From this event we will build on the meaningful relationships that we have formed. I’ve already arranged meetings with two of businesses that were there.
The feedback was really positive:
“Now here's a really original idea”, Tony Pennery
“Stunning walk in the wood in Oxted part of Oxted networking”, Fiona Coppard
“A truly enjoyable walk over lunchtime at Oxted Netwalking's inaugural meeting. Thanks all. Looking forward to the next one”. Sue Corrance
“Great day, meeting wonderful people. Looking forward to the next meeting” Alexandra Merisolu
“Oxted Netwalking gave me a justifiable reason to take a break and go out walking. With networking and walking you can have a guilt free break without feeling that really you should be back at the office”. Lee Pegrum
“When given the opportunity I often like to take things a step further – literally, with a walking meeting. I sometimes even set myself a personal challenge of trying to come up with a plan of attack in the time it takes to walk around the block… five minutes, go!"
Richard Branson, Virgin (sadly he couldn’t make it to the Oxted Netwalk)!