Norfolk Network stories

Connect, discover, participate and succeed in 2021

Rachel Buck
Digital Marketing Consultant

Face-to-face networking may still be on pause, but Norfolk Network is ready to take on 2021 with renewed purpose, rigour, and events. Lucy Marks is the driving force, whose passionate determination has burned at its brightest this year.

As Heloise Finch wrapped-up her presentation to members in March no-one knew it would be the last face-to-face speaker event of the year.

“After lockdown, the first thing I felt was bewilderment,” admits Lucy. “The other part of me felt that this was a challenge. I went for it. I needed to get the network galvanised and participating quickly. Speaker events were a really good vehicle for that.”

Zoom in on Norfolk Network

Lucy launched ‘Zoom in on Norfolk Network’, a series of six webinars. The flexibility of the technology meant she could invite speakers from further afield, including Australia and California. The webinars also attracted attendees from outside the region.

“The experience was very different from face-to-face events,” said Lucy. “I wouldn’t have believed I was broadcasting from my home. It was extraordinary. I had to develop technical and broadcast skills. It was really good fun.”

Communication was key during this period. In addition to interactive webinars Lucy focused on developing social media and email. “I began emailing members weekly and adopted a more personal tone. I shared positive member stories, information, offers and advice.”

As the year progressed, Lucy discovered that members wanted to connect with each other on a deeper level. “They needed to share skills, raise their profile and connect for wellbeing and mental health. Norfolk Network was ideal for that.”

Deeper, more meaningful conversations

Lucy launched a monthly mixer event for up to 12 members, which became an important environment for sharing challenges, opportunities, and positive and negative emotions. Members were also given five-minute slots so they could share their work and gain instant feedback.

By October it became clear that the more personal touch was proving beneficial to members, but zoom fatigue was setting in. It was time to get out in the fresh air and engage in deeper, more meaningful Walks and Talks with members.

After six laps of Norwich’s Eaton Park, I’d certainly got a lot off my chest and left feeling energised. Judging by the social media posts it seems others have also benefitted from Lucy’s Walk and Talks. “They’re a good opportunity for me to listen to what members are doing and to mutually share ideas in a healthy way,” said Lucy. “I don’t think I’ll go back to meeting in rooms.”

From adversity comes new opportunities

At the core of Norfolk Network is community, connecting people, and discovery. Despite the challenges of 2020, Norfolk Network found opportunity. This included partnering with Spacewalk, a Melbourne-based tech start-up.

Spacewalk is a talent sharing platform where participating businesses can lend out or hire in personnel. The platform is free for companies looking to bring in talent, including no recruitment fees or role posting fees.

Norfolk Network has connected people at a time when they’ve needed support, new connections and exposure. “We’ve seen people start businesses who’ve connected with people and found new leads,” said Lucy.

“We had somebody made redundant, who then met someone through the network and made a fantastic new career move. One of our members joined just before lockdown. He came on one of the mixers, we made some connections for him and amplified his social media. He subsequently won work with another member.”

A renewed purpose for 2021

Lucy has exciting plans for Norfolk Network next year. She hopes this will include face-to-face events but thinks this unlikely in 2021.

“It’s about taking everything we’ve learnt this year and building on it. In addition to webinars, mixers and walks and talks, I anticipate running two public member showcases per year.”

Partnerships will also continue to be important going forward. “I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration with Spacewalk this year and of course the UEA and City College. The continued support of these educational institutes is really important to us.”

Among the ups and downs of 2020 Lucy has had more time for reflection, to talk with members, and to reimagine the role of Norfolk Network. As a result, Lucy is taking the Network into 2021 with a renewed purpose.

“Norfolk Network unites people to grow and succeed in business together. We promise that you’ll be connected, discover, participate and succeed however that looks for you.”