Meetups: Giving Networking Events the shake up they so sorely need

Pulling back the black wooden blinds I let the sun stream in on my dusty desk. I drag a brush through my recently-brunette’d hair and set about finding a suitable outfit to wear. Make-up. God yes, I suppose I have to do make-up today too?! Clothes adorned with zips, buttons or anything remotely limiting have been relegated to the back of the wardrobe and I have entered a world of all-day-comfies and uggs; as standard. Like Smeagol emerging from his dark cave I step out of the house, blinking into the morning light. Today, the freelancer has left the home office and is out in the wilds of Dublin.

As I write today, I am coming to you from the heart of Dublin City in the perfectly-simple Mind The Step Cafe. The music is glistening in the background, covering all ground from Fleetwood Mac to The Tallest Man on Earth and everything in between. I have just finished a stellar lunch of sourdough toasty and devilish peanut butter slice (of heaven)

I’ve been compelled to drag myself from self-imposed solitude by the monthly meeting from the Women Who Co-Work group, which I found on the now-beloved Meetup site. Meetup is self-described as a “service used to organise online groups who host in-person events for people with similar interests.” This particular group is geared towards freelancers / self-employed creatives / entrepreneurs and quite frankly, it is networking like I’ve never seen it before. I’ve spoken here before about networking events, and how they can strike clammy, white-knuckle terror into the heart of most who are forced to attend. I have worked rooms (ugh) in some of the most hostile environments and in all manner of dress codes too. You haven’t lived until you have tried to network in heels at a black tie event while drunk suits poke sweaty, drunk fingers at your tattoos; personally I believe that particular method of torture originated from some malign intern in Guantanamo Bay. 

Today is different. We are a crew of women perched on a large table at the back of the quiet cafe. Laptops are our weapons, coffee and tea our fuel and together we are ready to take on the world. The stream of attendees wakes and shifts as people come and go in this informal setting. These repeat introductions serve as perfect opportunities to refine that all-important elevator pitch. Conversations lull when we naturally fall back into our workflow, but an air of celebration bursts open as Laura gets another order and when Clare gets confirmation of an exciting opportunity coming her way. You won’t find the hard sell here either, there is a subtle tone of support, information sharing and opportunity. In general we all are exhausted by bombarding advertisements and messaging as our society gets shouted at by companies who don’t have our interests at heart. There is a changing face to how businesses are being run and how relationships are being made. 

The gig economy has shone a light on an alternative way of making a living and there are hives of industry popping up, just like this one, all over the city. 
Once upon a time we would open a copy of the Golden Pages, fluttering through the dusty pages A-Z until we located the required service. The conversation has moved home as the dusty golden pages are replaced by grid views on Instagram or timelines on Facebook. We are online and in person; sharing, listening and learning. If you look closely you may just find us in your local cafe, laughing and celebrating each other’s successes and hatching plans for world domination.

Where there’s wifi, there’s a world of possibility and people finding unique ways of making it work. The world outside the horizon of the corporate environment is thrilling and terrifying, but if you stumble carefully you might just land in a crew of people who want to see you succeed.

Tamara is the self-proclaimed Unqualified Blogger. She is a freelance Copywriter and Marketing Communications / Brand Strategist and Creative Generalist. She is available for speech writing, tattoo conventions and karaoke parties or would love to work with you on your latest marketing or creative challenges. Stay in touch on InstagramFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter or Contact her directly.

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