Tag Archives: networking

Wise words from StartUp 2019 

Last Saturday I was in London for StartUp 2019 – a wonderful diverse gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages in their business start-up journeys (it seems we all have to be on a ‘journey’ these days). I’d been so impressed by StartUp 2018 I just had to return; I wasn’t disappointed…  

On getting started

“You have to ask a lot of favours at the start. Talk to as many people as possible and you may get lucky.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Don’t start promoting your new business too early; people get bored. 6 – 8 weeks before you launch is enough time to build interest and excitement.”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

 “At the start I was vomiting every day through stress. Stress is a function of uncertainty and when you start a business everything is uncertain. I didn’t understand all the elements [of starting a business] – all start-ups go through this at some stage.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“ Startup is the hardest you’ll ever work; forget work-life balance. For success it will be all-consuming – it takes a lot, it’s not for the faint-hearted.“ Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Don’t jump too soon [from your paid employment] … when you go fulltime so much more will happen. I took a sabbatical when our business started.”  Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

 “There’s no point in turning up unless you’re going to do quality. It costs the same to do a bad job badly as a good job well.”  Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“Hold off getting your first employee as long as possible. You’ll know when the time is right – for me it was starting to do a bad job, I was reducing my face-to-face contact [with clients and other stakeholders]” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On funding your start-up

“Don’t raise money until you have to (and don’t listen to people that tell you otherwise)” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “I told my first investors (43 friends) – ‘whatever you invest, expect to lose it’.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“It was eight months before we got our first investment – through cold-calling but via connections… You need to be clear about your ambitions and risk tolerances. With money you can make mistakes but blowing your life-savings is best avoided!” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

On choosing an investor… “There’s a real difference between a ‘cash provider’ and a ‘passionate partner’… If you have the right partner it doesn’t feel like you’re giving away part of your business; more like you’re gaining.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

The importance of other people

“Employing the right people is almost the hardest part of any business – if you get it right everything else falls into place, bit it takes time and mistakes.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“You can be a lone wolf, but if you want to scale your business you need to establish relationships you can trust early on. Draw on your past experience and contacts – you can’t be an expert at everything!” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Have a strong business partner or someone else you can share your bad days with.”

“Your support network is incredibly important. You need people around you to remind you it’s not good for your health to immerse yourself in your business.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

“Have someone to whom you’re ‘accountable’ – it could be someone in a different business.”

“When you’re feeling down, go back to your clients and users [why you’re in business] it will give you a lot of energy.” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

Marketing – what works?

“It’s important you’ve got a point of difference. Imagine you’re opening a magazine of your choice – could it feature your product/ brand; is it newsworthy?   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Building credibility, trust, face-to-face relationships, and referrals” Tugce Bulut @tugcebulut Streetbees

 “Find influencers who believe in what you’re doing – not necessarily the people with the biggest following, it’s important they are the right sort of person’”  Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Three mistakes with PR [press/public relations]: a fear of self-promotion; having no press hook [for your approach to media outlets]; going in cold [so do your research before approaching a journalist]” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

On PR on a budget… “Don’t ‘say and spray’ – personalise your message to journalists, get to know them, understand their work and interests. Get on their radar in a good way (don’t stalk them!) help them to help you. Pitch to the right editor in the right publication. Get into the head of the magazine’s readers (and the editor).” Amanda Ruiz @amandaruizuk

How to succeed

“I like the uncomfortable times, big challenges, building stuff, constructing a business.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Protecting my intellectual property was really important for me. I recommend you protect it and then stand up for yourself. I was supported by my online customers – whom I regard as friends more than followers – sharing [the infringements] and getting angry.” Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“If you go into a business with a plan to sell it, it’ll never work.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Ask yourself – will you still love what you’re doing in 5- 10 years? Your heart and soul should be in it when you start your business.”   Jo Tutchener-Sharp @scampanddudejo Scamp & Dude

“Base your price on the market, not your costs.” Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

“Not everyone is going to invent Facebook. Ideas are overrated – it’s the execution that matters.” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“If you’re a good leader, it’s because you can make decisions, quickly, with limited data. Some will be good decisions, some bad…. Decision-making to a businessman is like clay to a sculptor.” Mike Soutar @mikesoutar

“We look at four areas of risk: financial (mainly cashflow); people (having good staff); operational (coping with growth, including space); change (limiting your ‘operational debt’).”  Steve Moore @flightclubdarts Flight Club Social Darts

On embracing change…

“Be brave, your business plan will change, go with it – be open to change, consider the implications of each new step.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

“Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know – find out, learn, it will get sorted.” Hayley McClelland, The Fairy Dogmothers

“Back yourself – talk to others in a similar position” Ross Jones @brandfarmfilms Brand Farm Films

“Be willing to accept change and reflect on making the most of it. Make time to step back from the day-to-day – let the thinking part of your brain take over from the execution part – to be strategic.” Amber Fraser, @Bravefoods Brave Foods

“Learn how to ‘chunk down’. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so break down [your challenges] into parts, small milestones. Change your perspective – if you have a ‘freeze moment’ go away, re-think, take a chance, learn from failure.” Carly Menken, Head of SME Trading, Direct Line for Business

And finally…

A new word: Brexhaustion. Two new abbreviations: EIS – Enterprise Investment Scheme (‘like Giftaid for investors’) and UGC – User Generated Content. A career-change website with an emphasis on business start-up https://www.escapethecity.org A book recommendation: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jamie-Waller/Unsexy-Business–How-12-entrepreneurs-in-ordinary-busines/22722516

What I learned at StartUp 2018  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018 

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Investing in business success

In my work with young people wanting to set up their own enterprises, I take a particular interest in the insights of others similarly placed to provide support to business start-ups. In Milton Keynes, my meetings with young would-be entrepreneurs are held at the NatWest Accelerator Hub. Below I chat with two women who manage the Hub – Sharon Rai and Debbie Lewis – to find out more about them, their support roles, and their vision for the Accelerator Hub itself.

Sharon and Debbie are both steeped in business with combined experience in running a chain of hair and beauty salons, training, coaching, and other business development roles. Sharon grew up with family businesses around her – she describes her grandmother as a “serial hustler entrepreneur” so business is in her blood.

The role of ‘critical friend’ to entrepreneurs excited both women and it was the diversity and number of businesses being supported by the Accelerator Hub that attracted them – the scope for making a practical difference to the business development of over 120 would-be entrepreneurs each year.

“It’s about everyone in the Hub pulling in the same direction to achieve more than simply working 9 – 5 and getting an income; they want to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world around them.” Both also appreciate the freedom the backing of a major high street bank gives them to work out what’s best for the clients – without an agenda, hidden or otherwise.

I wonder how far Sharon and Debbie can stand back and put the emphasis on clients ‘doing it for themselves’? Both are clear about their role… “At the interview stage [for admission to the Hub] self-motivation is an important assessment criterion. It’s not our role to enthuse them; we’re there to pick them up when they are down, slow them down when their heads are in the clouds, and reflect back their comments when they need a dose of reality.”    

Support for Hub clients

There are two programmes on offer to would-be business owners; Debbie and Sharon makes the distinction between the two…

“The Pre-Accelerator Programme is for early-stage, or what may simply be ideas-stage businesses” explains Debbie “It’s an eight week predominantly digital [so arm’s length] offer to help with client discovery, validation of the business idea, and basic steps to assess whether the business has legs. After further reflection and work on the business idea (which might result in big changes to the original concept), entrepreneurs may then be able to apply for the Accelerator Programme.”

Sharon explains the sort of entrepreneurs coming on to the Accelerator Programme. “We may have people who are not yet trading, but may have secured investment, may have built a prototype or MVP [Minimum Viable Product], and have enough early interest to warrant the support the Hub can give them. In contrast, we may have businesses that have been trading for a number of years but want to make a step change. The critical element on the Accelerator Programme is that we’re looking at scaleable businesses. They have access to up to 18 months of support (reviewed every 6 months) but it may not be best for businesses stay for the full 18 months in one go. For some it’s a matter of getting out into the business world, or fixing a part of the business that’s not going well, and then coming back for the next step.”   

What’s in it for the bank?

The Hub in Milton Keynes occupies the second floor or a large building occupied on the ground and first floors by staff involved in commercial banking activities. It offers free facilities and programme support to Hub clients with a team led by Debbie and Sharon. I wonder about the commercial rationale behind this philanthropy and both are quick to answer…

While we’d obviously like clients to bank with NatWest there’s no obligation to do so. Indeed, if you looked at the cost per acquisition it would look like a very expensive way to get business customers! Ways in which the bank benefits from the Hub include an Entrepreneurial Development Academy where the Hub team are training ‘entrepreneurial thinking and doing’ in banking staff. Intrapreneurship is how they describe it. Fintech [technology specifically relevant to financial services] businesses and entrepreneurs may also be able to help the bank – through a healthy two-way exchange of ideas and insights.

A third potential benefit for NatWest is innovation, as Sharon explains “Being at the forefront of innovative technologies and solutions, we can feed that thinking and behaviour back into the bank.” And Debbie believes that the inter-change of ideas does effect change…

In the relatively short time I’ve been in post I’ve seen continual review and feedback and I haven’t found the frustrations of slow progress that other organisations experience. What we’ve reported gets considered, though obviously, it’s not always acted on.”

I learn that NatWest wants to be seen as the number one bank for entrepreneurs, so anything the Hub can do to turn clients into advocates must be good for business and brand. This also fits neatly with the vision for the Hub, which is to be a household name and first-choice provider when it comes to talk about ‘tools for entrepreneurs’ in and around Milton Keynes.

Defining success

I find it hard to believe that a business support facility backed by a major bank wouldn’t want some hard facts and figures to show the return on their investment. Sharon confirms that they’re working to certain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess the productivity of the Accelerator Hub. “For me, the really important measurement is the percentage success rate, and our 87% success rate compares very favourably with the 50% success [or 50% failure rate] of unsupported businesses. We also measure investment attracted, jobs created, and number of entrepreneurs supported.”

Alongside these ‘hard outputs’ are the ‘soft outcomes’ that result from bringing entrepreneurs together under one roof. These include the connections being made – between entrepreneur and mentor, or at a peer-to-peer mutual support level – to create a local community and support ecosystem that is invaluable. “The stories behind the figures are what drives the magic – creating something that is sustainable, long lasting, and with a significant local impact.” 

Sharon also identifies what she describes as a ‘fluffier element’ when defining what success looks like. “At the Hub we talk a lot about having a growth mindset – this is about supporting and enabling people to take ownership of their decisions. Success is when those same entrepreneurs hire their team and use those same principles.

Another measure of success is our ability to get entrepreneurs out into schools to inspire the next generation, to give them a sense of purpose and the heightened sense of self-worth that comes from surviving the highs and lows of starting and running a business.”

Debbie continues… “For young people, having someone coming in to school as a non-parent and non-teacher, and showing interest in them can give them a real buzz and a sense of importance. And it can be particularly powerful when the entrepreneurs are of a similar age to the students.

Having a vision for the next generation seems appropriately forward-looking for a sector like banking and financial services that has been transformed in less than a generation, let alone between generations. As we finish, I reflect that ‘banking on the future’ summarises our conversation quite neatly.

For further information about the Milton Keynes Accelerator Hub, e-mail miltonkeynesaccelerator@natwest.com, go online at www.natwest.com/accelerator and you can book onto one of the Natwest Entrepreneur Milton Keynes events via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Getting hands on

Profiling a Prince’s Trust supported entrepreneur

Hannah Stobbs knows all about the stresses and strains we inflict on our bodies – she plays rugby and cricket. It was a back injury playing cricket aged 17 that first introduced her to the magic of massage that has now become the core of her business – Hannah Stobbs Holistic Health.

Putting elite athletes and overworked employees back together again is Hannah’s passion – developed through studies at Loughborough University and ‘hands on’ experience working on the bruised bodies of fellow sports enthusiasts – including friends who would go on to be World-Cup-winning cricketers.

For a job which seems to be essentially about physical manipulation, Hannah’s description of the traits of a skilled massage therapist is perhaps surprising. “They are people who can be fairly relaxed – who know how to switch off the parts of their brains that cause anxiety. You need to have a flexible mind; to be able to do your best work even if you don’t feel at your best.”  

As the name of her business suggests, Hannah’s approach is very much about getting a 360-degree understanding of her client’s situation – to look beyond the immediate injury at the bigger picture. As Hannah explains, “I aim to get a fairly extensive client history at the start. I also ask what they would like to get from the massage session and this can raise a host of other issues – often related to stress at work.”

For Hannah, the relationship between massage therapist and client is best when there’s a shared understanding of what lies behind the problems being presented. “I aim to build a rapport – to focus attention and treatment on the most pressing issues and explain what I’m planning before I begin. Most people want to know this – it’s what they’re paying for!”

It’s clear that Hannah’s approach works – she has an impressively high return rate and has built up a solid base of regular clients, with 95% first coming to her through referrals – word-of-mouth recommendations. This is the core strength of any business and one on which Hannah is keen to build. That said, she sees part of her role as educating her clients so they don’t need to return for further treatment as regularly as other therapists might advise.

Reflecting on the first eight years of a career putting broken bodies back together, Hannah sees it as a play in three acts. The first was to gain experience – for which she was well-placed at Loughborough University, renowned for its specialism in sports science.

The next act was moving from Loughborough for post-graduate study, working on sports massage alongside other jobs, and wondering whether it could ever become a fulltime occupation. This was a testing time, as Hannah explains “I’d come away from Loughborough where it was very easy to get clients. From 60 – 70 clients, I went down to three. It felt like a big step backwards, but it taught me how to re-build my client base – through networking. I’ve made great friends through playing rugby and cricket, so I never need to massage a stranger!”

It was the third stage when, with the support of The Prince’s Trust, Hannah decided to focus on developing her business as a massage therapist. She credits that support with helping her to make better use of her time – to think more entrepreneurially. “I’m now thinking more about how to reduce time-wasting – less driving and more massaging – and generally structuring my days better. It’s also about better use of the resources I already have – working on my strengths more than weaknesses. For me, that’s my networks for developing the business through word-of-mouth.

It’s interesting how often professionals don’t practice what they preach. Hannah admits that she has had to learn to look after herself better – through mentoring and acquiring the skills to achieve a better work-life balance. For Hannah, this is a combination of playing sport, making new friends at home and abroad, and never stopping learning – three passions that should take her far, both personally and professionally.

For further information about Hannah Stobbs Holistic Health, go to  https://www.hannahstobbssportsmassage.co.uk

What makes an entrepreneur?

Recent research by Innovate UK and YouGov asked 18-30 year olds that were not in employment, education or training about their attitudes to innovation and entrepreneurship. One of many findings suggested that young people have problems with the word ‘entrepreneur’ and only 8% of those interviewed said they would describe themselves as ‘entrepreneurial’.

This got me thinking about the images conjured up by the word ‘entrepreneur’ and why young ‘disadvantaged’ young people might distance themselves from that image.

I think mass media has a lot to answer for here. TV programmes (or ‘shows’ as Lord Sugar once described his) like The Apprentice and, to a lesser extent, Dragon’s Den have long since given up on pretending to reflect real business and typical business people – no doubt in the scramble for viewing figures and the need to edit hours of filming down to a few handpicked moments of high drama, however contrived they may appear in the final cut.

The confrontational format of both those TV programmes probably does nothing to encourage more thoughtful and less gobby would-be entrepreneurs to consider starting their own businesses. This may also explain why 82% of those young people that YouGov consulted viewed the business sector as ‘difficult to access’ (whatever that really means).

But I also think the contrasting portrayal of entrepreneurs – as super-cool, edgy, risk-takers – is equally unhelpful. I assume this portrayal is intended to make entrepreneurship more attractive to younger people, but giving entrepreneurs super-hero qualities can also be off-putting if you’re perfectly capable but low on self-confidence.

Maybe the potentially confusing terminology is also to blame. I’m not sure I could clearly describe the difference between an innovator, an inventor, and an entrepreneur. And that’s just in a business context; as far as I’m concerned all three individuals might have no plans to invest their particular talents in setting up a business, but still aspire to make a difference and change the world.

There are any number of articles defining ‘what makes an entrepreneur’. A Google search with this question gets you 30.7m results and I myself have written about this in the past, in relation to ‘social entrepreneurs’ in particular. There’s a mind-boggling array of arguments about whether entrepreneurship is about having the right mindset, relevant practical skills, or suitable character traits – in reality it’s probably a mix of all those elements.

Sometimes I work in the Entrepreneurial Spark incubator in Milton Keynes – a business start-up-and-grow facility (‘powered by NatWest’ it says on the publicity) and there I’ve seen a large poster with E-Spark’s interpretation of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur. The poster’s list of 22 ingredients in their recipe for success [with my own commentary in brackets] are below:

I focus, focus, focus [yes – procrastination and being all over the place is rarely helpful]

I re-imagine daily [whatever that means… could it be about constantly monitoring progress?]

Outcomes rule my day [being effective as opposed to efficient (which is about outputs) makes sense – ‘results-focused’ is another way of putting this]

I am self-aware ALWAYS [if this means knowing what you’re not good at, knowing your limits and how to plug the gaps, that a good thing]

I know my numbers [yes – whether you like or loathe them, you need to understand figures]

I engage my customers [Engage is one of my red-rag words because it’s so vague – so is this ingredient]

I am constantly curious [although they say the best entrepreneurs are not too bright – so they don’t always think about what could go wrong and focus instead on the destination]

My business has vision [I suppose as long as your vision and that of the business are complementary…]

I am humbly confident [yep – I think that strikes about the right balance]

I inspire my team to excel [leading by example is clever, leading from behind is even smarter]

Uncomfortable? I’m comfortable with that [the ability to take yourself out of your much-talked-about comfort zone is an essential requirement when starting a business – be prepared to do it]

I love to collaborate [yes – I believe collaboration (rather than competition) is the future for businesses that matter]

I am aware… Always on [I hope this doesn’t mean you never switch off from being an entrepreneur – that is not a healthy habit]

I make decisions intuitively [gut feeling is important for some people and, if you’re wrong, they also say ‘fail early, fail fast’ to make you feel better about your mistakes]

I take action – ALWAYS [cue old joke – I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure]

I am constantly selling and pitching [interestingly there’s a current backlash against pitching. And a tip – don’t sell and pitch to your friends and family]

I wake up ready to communicate [as long as this doesn’t keep you or your partner awake at night!]

I have a lean work ethic [makes sense for some businesses – particularly those with low start-up costs, as does the concept of a ‘minimal viable product’]

I develop a relevant network [love or loathe networking, it can get you further faster]

I value working with mentors [never stop learning and never think you know it all]

I am opportunity hungry [I think this means being able to spot opportunities and take them]

The buck stops with me [exciting and scary – as is much of ‘going it alone’ in business]

Further reading:

Slowing the spin about social entrepreneurs https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/slowing-the-spin-about-social-entrepreneurs

Age and social entrepreneurship https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/age-and-social-entrepreneurship

Has pitching had its day? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/15/the-apprentice-pitch-pitching-productive?

The power of networking

Many years ago I went to a talk in Cambridge by Hilton Catt, co-author of The Power of Networking. I don’t know whether the publicity was ambiguous or what but, it being Cambridge, there was a digital divide within the audience – one half thought it would be about virtual networks, the other half thought it would be about ‘real’ human networks.

I’m pleased to say it was about the power of the face-to-face – in Hilton Catt’s case, for job-hunting. I was unemployed at the time and, while the evening didn’t result in my immediate employment, it reinforced what I’d been told by other jobhunters and confirmed my belief in the benefit of seeking and nurturing contacts for both professional and personal progression.

To this day, I still think you can’t beat close encounters of the personal kind – even in our tech-rich, time-poor working lives – and more so in an age of faux online friends, false news, and reality TV shows that suggest that, in business, someone has to lose for you to win.

Call me old-fashioned, but my experience of working with small business start-ups for more than a decade is that they have far more to gain by sharing their ideas (rather than protecting them) and seeking partners for mutually beneficial relationships. I’m not starry-eyed about collaboration and co-operation (as opposed to competition) but I recommend it daily, and will do so until someone convinces me there’s a better way.

In my day-job I support young people in their efforts to turn business ideas into viable and hopefully sustainable enterprises. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road to take, so I encourage then to seek out like-minded people – even the competition – for advice about mistakes made, lessons learnt, and what works well.

The young entrepreneurs are constantly astonished and delighted by the helpfulness of others (people who remember when they were starting out maybe) with no expectation of a payback. I also pull in my own personal and professional contacts when I can. In the last six months, I’ve fixed a fence erector up with a van, I’ve arranged a would-be photographer’s night at a music awards ceremony in London as professional snapper’s assistant, I’ve unearthed (pun intended) a garden designer to pass judgement on a newbie designer’s work, and I’ve steered others towards potential collaborators, including business networks.

The day that ‘who you know’ becomes less important than ‘what you know’ and online communications make face-to-face connections unnecessary, I think I’ll pack up and head for the hills (preferably somewhere there’s no broadband).

An A – Z of social entrepreneurship: A – D

As a contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week (17 – 23 November) Chris Lee blogs his personal and highly selective reflections on what increases the effectiveness of social entrepreneurship to mobilise resources of all kinds for positive change and social impact in and beyond local communities.

A – Accountability

Even when you’re spending your own money you’re not truly free to behave as you might wish. You have a responsibility to guard against your actions having a negative impact and to be aware that a poorly executed plan may harm the credibility of those who follow you. When you’re working with vulnerable people, as clients or employees, their welfare should also be your concern.

 B – Balance

Rarely are there right and wrong ways of doings things, even when applying a proven model in a new situation. For all the online advice and training manuals, social entrepreneurship is about testing new and different ways to bring positive change in society and seeing ever obstacle as a new opportunity. Ultimately the ‘right way’ is likely to be a compromise – balancing conflicting needs and interests.

 C – Collaboration

It’s too easy to stereotype entrepreneurship as being competitive (and aggressive if you believe ‘The Apprentice’…) and social entrepreneurship as being about collaboration. In reality, entrepreneurs of all varieties know the value of networking and building mutually-beneficial alliances with others. Indeed, with growing need and shrinking resources, partnership may be the only answer in some cases!

 D – Decision-making and democracy

When asked, four years on, why he’d not consulted the community when setting up a (very successful) social enterprise, the entrepreneur replied “They’d still be trying to decide what to call it if I had.”  

Consultation and involvement are our watchwords, but they can make decision-making more cumbersome. Business decision-making tends to be more streamlined. But, ultimately, which brings better decisions?

My top tip for live tweeting – don’t do it

No live tweeting

It all started with an invitation on Twitter to share my top tips for live-tweeting. I had only the one. I can’t see any value in having people tweeting comments and photos from a public event as it happens, unless it really is news, and even then…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a twitter convert – it’s changed my life almost entirely for the better – but I’m proud of the fact that all 5,300+ tweets I’ve sent over the past couple of years have come from a PC. My mobile phone is too old to tweet, so I couldn’t ‘live tweet’ from an event even if I wanted to. So I can’t, but I won’t.

I admit I haven’t asked others about this but, when I’ve been presenting, the sight of people playing with their phones is off-putting, bordering on insulting. I don’t know whether they’re tweeting and, if so, whether it relates to anything I’m saying. My self-pride prevents me from acknowledging they might be so thoroughly bored that they’re e-mailing their friends to arrange a trip to the pub.

Eye contact is so important if you’re presenting to a live audience which makes the loss of it so unnerving. I don’t particularly like the nodding dog type on the front row, but that’s much preferable to ‘The Voice-like’ grip of live tweeting where your audience might as well be sitting with their backs to you on swivel chairs for all the positive body language they’re communicating.

And if presenters suspect tweeters are even half listening to what they have to say (I don’t believe anyone – apart from a UN interpreter maybe – can really listen to one person while communicating with another) will they start to speak in 140 character sound-bites?

As someone who has also been on the receiving end of a torrent of tweets from different people at the same event, I’m equally against live tweeting as a recipient. If the incoming photos and quotes from the speakers were useful that might justify all the time and effort (of me reading, as well as the twits tweeting) but in my experience they don’t. The different messages are often repeated, re-tweeted and dis-jointed, the photos are next to useless. I certainly don’t feel I’m part of the event or wish I was there!

So what’s the point? Can anyone explain what effective live-tweeting looks like and what it’s meant to achieve?

In the meantime, I’m off to blow the dust off my Buzzword Bingo Kit. Now there’s some really worthwhile low-tech audience participation…

For less grumpy guidance on using Twitter before, during, and after events, try  http://www.charitydigitalnews.co.uk/2014/02/19/top-tips-for-charities-live-tweeting-an-event/  and http://www.seee.co.uk/blog/how-to-tweet-your-way-to-event-success/