If you’re in business, you’re bound to have experienced networking at some point. The word means something different to everyone. Often it conjures up images of stuffy conference rooms, after-work canapes, or breakfast meetings at the crack of dawn. Tried and tested methods – though not always very inspiring!
So, is there a better way to make contacts and build business relationships? Tom Garland and Richard Freke, founders of ‘Met Walking’, think so. And after experiencing a different way of doing things first hand, I’m here to give my take on the group billed as ‘the south west’s healthiest networking event’.

Met Walking: from humble beginnings to month on month growth
While completing the Three Peaks Challenge in September 2017 an idea was born: what if there was a way to bring businesses together, while walking, to form long-lasting relationships that work?

In February 2018, that’s exactly what happened as Met Walking launched with nine committed networkers and walking enthusiasts. Fast forward a year and the events are going strong. Tom and Richard are joined each month by twenty or more businesses, who walk the walk and talk the talk.

My experience of Met Walking
Arriving at a park on a chilly January morning, the air full of New Year’s resolutions, I steeled myself to ramp up my networking efforts in 2019. I was ready for my Met Walking debut. Greeted enthusiastically by Tom, I was introduced to Richard, who took the time to say hello to everyone as they arrived. So far, so impressive.
The enthusiasm was catching. Each business owner I spoke to seemed to be thinking the same as me: what a great idea this was. Jeans and walking boots don’t immediately suggest ‘professional business person’! Yet the balance between a relaxed atmosphere and overarching professionalism was just right. A round of introductions at the start, and another opportunity at the end to ask for business help, maintained focus in a friendly, professional way.

As someone who was previously a reluctant networker, I was delighted to discover Met Walking. It’s something I like to do in my spare time; long walks at the weekend are great but personally, I try to take at least a short walk every day. I find it helps to focus my mind and provides inspiration and perspective.
The ease of thought that comes from a short stroll easily transfers into a networking scenario. Ideas appear a little more easily. Conversation flows. And the four-legged friends that come along help to break the ice if there’s a little shyness at the start!

It’s reassuring to know that there’s not only one way to ‘do’ networking; the venue, the clothes, all of that is superficial. The most important things are the relationships. And with a mix of regulars and new faces, the group provides a warm welcome while offering ample opportunity to form meaningful business connections.

Wait! What if I’m not a dedicated hillwalker? Does that mean Met Walking isn’t for me?
Absolutely not. If you can manage a stroll in the woods, if you don’t mind a bit of drizzle, and if you enjoy being surrounded by positive, committed professionals, then Met Walking is for you. And if you’re a mum or dad to a furry baby, then you’re more than welcome to bring the dog along for a bit of networking too!

Sounds like a nice idea – what do people really get out of it?
Judging by the familiar faces each month, the answer must be quite a lot! Listening to people speak, there’s a genuine appreciation for the chance to get away from desks, close laptops, and connect with professionals in a natural environment.

And let’s face it, in work and in life, we all tend to gravitate to people that are somewhat like ourselves. So getting a bunch of people together who enjoy walking has positive business outcomes too. After all, we already know that we’re on a similar wavelength, because we’re both here – let’s do business together!
Speaking from my own experience, I was overwhelmed with responses when I asked for a recommendation for a videographer, proving the power of your business really is in your network. Likeminded people working together to help each other out. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?
For an insight into how Met Walking came about, including a behind-the-scenes look at the boys’ Three Peaks adventure, visit the website, where you can also book your place on the next event: www.metwalking.co.uk.
Blog author Laura Summerhayes runs Great Copy Matters and is a fully-fledged Met Walking convert.