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I’ve just returned from leading a deep networking session at the Creative Bedfordshire event tonight. Creative Bedfordshire describes itself as the hub of creative enterprise in Bedfordshire, which responds to the needs of individuals and businesses, an up to date resource, valuable to the creative sector and the wider business community countywide, a link to local support, promoting Bedfordshire’s creative sector locally, nationally and globally.

They meet once a month and I decided it was time for me to put myself out there to try out some new creative facilitation techniques. I seem to have moved in the past year from group facilitation work into consultancy. I love both. But I get a kick out of the group-stuff. I like immersing myself in a situation, and orchestrating conversation and dialogue. I love the fact that you can plan all you like but you cannot control. Two years ago I would turn up to group sessions with a full bag of tricks, juggling balls, ropes, playing cards, play doh, a rubber chicken (you get the picture). But slowly and surely I have found myself whittling the toolkit down to one set of cards. These are now my tools; a deck of mixed images, or metaphors. They are a fast track to communication. They are also a prototype for something else, but I’ll tell you about that another day.

So I offered to run a short taster session for the network, and I thought I could use the cards to ask people to share what they could offer the network and what they would like from the network.

But, we were in a pub. The Bear, on Bedford high street to be exact. Now, The Bear is a bloody good pub. And they have just opened a shiny new art gallery called The Bear Pit. And they have a very LOUD jukebox. But I had to run a networking activity. And there were people in the pub who weren’t networking, they were just drinking, as you do, in a pub.

It worked out. People joined in. They didn’t answer the question, but who cares about that. They picked pictures that they liked, that reminded them of their daughter, that ‘looked like despair’, that reminded them of their cat, because they liked zebras (it was a picture of two cats riding a bike). Two women had a little spat over a picture of a moustache.

I’m not sure this will have won me any clients, and I think I may be a few postcards lighter, but i think people got to know each other a little better, in unexpected ways.