Sometimes I get the feeling that things are meant to happen to me, that I am destined to meet certain people and have particular conversations. For work I am a member of a networking group and we meet monthly to promote our businesses, to win new work and to hopefully buy from other companies who belong. It is a sociable event, based around a lunch in a nice location. Walking into a room of 100+ strangers for the first time is pretty daunting, but you tend to pick off a friendly looking soul and start talking to them and then it snowballs, and everyone seems very friendly.I have been attending this particular group for almost a year now and now it no longer seems daunting as there are always familiar faces amongst the strangers.
There are a wide range of businesses there, including some charities. On my first event, I attended the seminar before the lunch and it was about PR and media interviews and it was fascinating. Afterwards I chatted to the lady sitting next to me and discovered that she, by coincidence, worked for a disability charity so of course, it was not long before I mentioned Joshua, even though I was there with my work hat on and not my Joshua’s mum uniform. We kept meaning to meet up for more in depth chats but have not managed to get around to it. But she sent me an email this week, explaining about some information gathering that she wanted to do and as I work in market research, I spoke to her colleague yesterday at length trying giving her some tips for her telephone research project and then I made some changes to her questionnaire. This network is about helping others with the skills that you have got, not necessarily for a fee, but for free if you can spare the time. Clearly their charity is for a subject close to my heart and so I will do what I can to assist them.
Last week, again I attended the pre-lunch workshop, which was looking at how to improve our websites this time and again, I learnt some useful ideas. After the presentation, I turned again to the lady next to me to find out what she did and she was a sleep specialist, giving advice about achieving better sleep patterns. So of course I shared with her my experience of broken sleep for the last 17 years and explained that it was a key problem among many special needs Mums that I know. I told her about the coffee mornings and mental health sessions that I organised at school and very kindly, she offered to come and talk to us, free of charge, if I thought it would be useful, simply because she said that she was passionate about her subject.
A few months ago I sat down at the lunch table, where you are joined by another 9 businesses to talk to over lunch. We each have 3 minutes to introduce our business in turn, while we eat, and then there is the opportunity for one to one chats or questions shared by the whole table. I found that I was sitting next to another fascinating charity who training epilepsy alert dogs and so I had an in-depth conversation with him about how they train such clever and essential animals. Again I declared my personal interest in his business immediately and once again Joshua was raised in this environment.
I know that the owner of the Network works hard to ensure that we sit with a variety of businesses each month and that we do not keep meeting the same people, but I am not sure if she is also being smart enough to match me , on occasions, with people who might have a special relevance to our family situation, or is that just my good fortune. The fact that I am sharing things about Joshua’s situation means that I am showing a different side to myself as I am not just there as a Director of a market research agency, but in every situation, first and foremost I am there as Joshua’s Mum and I will serve his interests as best I can.