Oar-some 4N Oxford is just too successful!


Wow, what a morning we had in Oxford today! I recently took over this group as Area Leader and it was only my fourth visit to 4N Oxford since I joined in 2008 but today’s meeting really was great fun, despite the problems that the venue posed by just being too small! We had 22 people in the room including five visitors – sometimes it feels like a struggle to get one new person along so to have five come all at once was remarkable. I hope they all enjoyed the meeting and got a good feel for what 4Networking is all about – fun as well as business!

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4N Oxfordshire Cash4Pash auction!


Long time 4N member Sarah ‘Pash’ Howells was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. During her chemotherapy she organised a massive party which loads of 4Networkers attended and raised over £6000 for a cancer charity. She had a breast removed in December and, very sadly, was told on Boxing Day that the cancer had spread to her brain and is no longer curable. Pash is 35 and we, her friends, would like to raise enough money in Feb through ‘CASH4PASH’ so that Sarah  and her boyfriend can have an amazing holiday this year.

I met Pash at the 4Networking Xmas party in 2008 and was completely enthralled by this beautiful, bubbly, warm woman. She was also instrumental in helping me start up my business, The Proof Fairy, and passed on information and contacts who were already working in the publishing industry. I was devastated to hear about her cancer and really can’t believe something like that is happening to such a lovely person.

When the Cash4Pash appeal was launched I immediately made a donation but that wasn’t really enough … so I decided, with my 4N Area Leader’s hat on, to organise an auction across the 4 Oxon groups to raise more money. Two days in we already have nearly 20 lots including business services, a 4Networking passport, Pilates lessons, personalised mugs and an original work of art.

The auction will take place during the 4Networking meeting at Abingdon on 5th March but everyone is welcome, not just 4N members. The full auction catalogue is available here and if you would like to donate, book in or make a postal/email bid you know who to contact!

Standing room only at Oxford 4Networking today!


It literally was standing room only at 4Networking Oxford this morning as 18 people crammed into a space that would have been tight for the 16 it was laid out for! Still, it was fabulous to have so many people there and everyone seemed to have a great morning. Pity poor group leader John Batch (The Flying Doctor), who had the difficult task of breaking up all those 121s … seems there was a lot of business going on!

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A poetic morning's networking!


4Networking Abingdon decide to celebrate Burns Night a couple of days early today, and encouraged everyone to come wearing tartan and to write a poetic 40 second introduction. Everyone embraced the idea and though most people didn’t go as far as group leader Phil Strachan in the tartan department there were plenty of tartan ties, tartan scarves, homemade tartan badges and also, rather bizarrely, a pair of boy’s tartan pyjama bottoms!

However, it was in the 40 seconds round that everyone really excelled. There were some fantastic poems and it was very entertaining – but better still, everyone actually listened rather than switching off! What a very creative bunch of people 4Networkers are. Here are a few of the poems we enjoyed.

If you struggle with words,
Don’t know pronouns from verbs,
Then you need to call The Proof Fairy.

I’ll pick up your errors
and badly spelled terrors
and grammar that makes clients wary.

Perhaps it’s your website
That looks like a right sight
I’ll rewrite it, fully or barely.

With a wave of my wand
Your typos are gone
And the bill isn’t even too scary.

So just pick up the phone
When words make you groan.
You know who you need … The Proof Fairy!

Alison Neale, The Proof Fairy

Click here to read more of this morning’s poetry!

Fame …. but not quite what I wanted!


Because I’m now 4Networking Area Leader for all of Oxfordshire I decided last week to send out a press release to the local papers about the groups. I had to have an angle for the story – that there are four successful groups already isn’t newsworthy enough – so I adapted one of the official 4N press releases to suit the purpose, changing “New group leader” to “New area leader” – but essentially the bulk of the article was about how fab 4Networking is.

Well, see for yourselves, this is what I sent:

Business networking organisation appoints new local area leader

National business networking organisation 4Networking has appointed a new Area Leader to grow and develop its breakfast groups in Oxfordshire.

Alison Neale, of Proof Fairy Publishing, says: “I’ve been a member of 4Networking for a while now and the unique format and style just suit me so well that when this opportunity came along I leapt at it.

Read the rest of my press release and see the final web article here

First Oxfordshire Tweetup


I went to my first ever “tweetup” last night, at Fallowfields Hotel near Abingdon. And it was fun, even if I did end up spending most of my time talking to people I already knew!

There were around 40 Twitter people from all over the county and we were a fairly random mix of folk. Obviously there were the IT people, often (but not always) the first to take up a new internet craze, but there were also several photographers, a dentist, a (rather fabulous!) eco mum, some marketing guys, a gardener, my 15 year old daughter and lots of other people I didn’t get to meet.

We started the evening with some open networking. We’d all been given name stickers but the handwriting was rather small and difficult to read without a lot of peering at people’s chests, so I chatted with some people I know through 4Networking, looked out for people I knew through Twitter and wanted to meet, but didn’t do a very good job of circulating! Many of us then had dinner, it’s Pie Night at Fallowfieds on Monday so we sat down and waited (quite a while, unfortunately) for pies …. but they were well worth the weight, individual pies (pork, beef or vegetable) from Fallowfields’ own farm, with delicious creamy mash and veg.

I left at about 9pm having met some lovely people and developed friendships with people I already know. After all, that’s what Twitter is all about, isn’t it, relationships.

I hope there will be another Tweetup locally and perhaps I’ll be brave enough to make some new friends next time!

Promotion within 4Networking!


I’ve been promoted!! I can now proudly say that I am the Area Leader for 4Networking Oxfordshire!

I first joined 4Networking in the autumn of 2007. At the time I was publishing a local magazine and after making contact with a neighbouring magazine editor, Stefan Thomas, he pointed me in the direction of 4N. It was my first experience of business networking and I was a little wary about going along, but took myself out of my comfort zone, made the effort and loved it. Since then I’ve continued to visit groups regularly as a member but also became Marketing Assistant (spreading the 4N word to get new members along), then Operations Assistant (confirming bookings and ensuring the meeting runs smoothly), then Group Leader (running the Faringdon meeting every fortnight) and finally Area Leader for two of the Oxon groups.

However, following a bit of a reorganisation I am now Area Leader for all four Oxfordshire groups – Abingdon, Faringdon, Oxford and Witney. That means I’m responsible for organising four meetings a fortnight, training and supporting four teams and making sure that my members, passporters (members from other parts of the country) and visitors have a great breakfast networking experience.

What I like about 4Networking is the format, the people, the atmosphere … in fact, everything! All the groups are friendly and welcoming – visitors are always greeted warmly, have the meeting format explained to them and are introduced to other people, rather than being left to fend for themselves. Every breakfast meeting includes open networking, an introduction round and three ten-minute appointments, meaning that once you know who everyone is, you can actually sit down and talk to those people you want to get to know better. In fact, 4Networking’s ethos is “Meet, Like, Know, Trust” – on the grounds that when you meet someone you are unlikely to do business with them till you like, know and trust them – so meetings are focussed on developing existing relationships as well as forging new ones. There’s also a 4sight slot – which is an insight, not a sales pitch, into an interesting area of someone’s work or life. Recent 4sights have included inspiring stories of courage, thought-provoking business tips, martial arts demonstrations and even a Xmas panto!

The local breakfast meetings are complemented by a very active website and forum, where members from all over the UK (there are over 20,000!) get together to exchange business ideas, advice and support, as well as have a laugh along the way. For anyone who runs their own business and feels isolated or lonely at times, it’s the perfect alternative to the water cooler culture found in many workplaces!

The best part of 4Networking, though, is that it is unfussy, has few rules and is FUN. Meetings are not staid and dull but lively and enjoyable.

It’s now up to me to make sure that the 4Networking groups in Oxfordshire continue to grow and develop and bring business and social benefits to the members. It’s a challenge, for sure, but one I relish. I’m proud to be part of 4Networking.

OK snow, time to go!


Snow on Folly Hill

OK so snow is a rarity in the UK. (Though to have so much of it twice within the last 12 months is a bit odd .. whatever happened to global warming?) Everything looks very pretty, and for a new amateur photographer like me it’s presented a fantastic opportunity to try out my new DSLR and a real challenge to get the camera set up to show the whiteness of the snow and the blue of the sky. It’s also been lots of fun for the kids, who’ve had three days off school and have enjoyed sledging and snowball fights. But we’re bored now.

Firstly, I work from home. Shouldn’t be a problem really, but having the children around makes it very difficult for me to concentrate on anything really. Secondly I was due to go to two networking breakfasts this week, both of which were cancelled – so I’m feeling a bit lost without my usual supportive network around me. It’s fun walking in the snow – at first – but after three days all that trudging around just feels too much like hard work. Roads have finally been gritted – thank goodness – so we can now travel further than our town – but all that slush makes a pretty ugly scene. It’s cold and great, and even the kids are bored now.

Worse, I was due to go into London with my man this weekend – a belated birthday treat, football at Fulham, a nice meal out, a plush hotel in Westminster and a general mooch around my home city on Sunday. of course, that’s all off now too.

So snow, I have a simple message for you. We’ve had enough now … please go away!