Opinion

Danny Wallace: A networking event like no other

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Dave Fawbert
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Danny Wallace networking

I keep receiving the same email from different names and I am worried I am being catfished.

Sometimes it comes from a woman called Jessica. Other times a Stephanie.

But each time it is inviting me to a £10 breakfast buffet in a hotel in Loughborough.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s all right for some. But I have asked these people what I would be expected to give in return for this chance. I am no fool, and know that a £10 breakfast buffet comes at a price (£10), but why is it me being offered this opportunity?

At that point, they immediately start talking about my work as a will writer.

I am not a will writer. I know nothing about will writing, except that now that I’ve mentioned it, there is every chance this column will end with the phrase “where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Then these people follow up by making wild promises – like this 7.45am meeting in a hotel being a chance for me to network with tree surgeons and experts in LED lighting and generate referrals for my will-writing work – and then I have to really accentuate the fact that I am not a will writer and do not want any extra work as one.

But they are keen as mustard. Soon enough, someone else emails about a separate covert meeting in a Loughborough hotel – promising financial planners and health and safety officers this time – and asks me once more if I’d be willing to represent will writers.

What is it about me that makes people think: that guy must be a will writer? Also, how bad does a health and safety officer need to be at their job that they require immediate access to will writers?

What’s more, this sentiment – “are you willing to represent will writers?” – is like a badly-worded mafia threat. I find the whole thing deeply unsettling.

Colin, though, has a brighter theory.

“You’re being courted,” he says. “Masons.”

The Freemasons! Of course! That underground network of men – just men – who ‘help’ each other, and ‘do favours’ for each other, all the while keeping silent about their secret network of judges and policemen and LED lighting experts. Well, it had to happen eventually. Maybe this is how they get you. Invite you to Loughborough for a £10 breakfast buffet.

And the power they wield! I was once in Freemasons’ Hall in London, and had a look around the gift shop. There was a set of Christmas crackers for £99. God knows what was inside. Probably a job. You pull one cracker over Christmas lunch, suddenly you’re head of European operations for ICI.

“Hang on,” I say. “The Masons are all men.”

“They’d still let you in,” he says.

“No, I mean the emails come from women called Jessica and so on.”

“Oh, Danny,” he says, shaking his head.

Colin implies these are pseudonyms and that this is just another reason these mysterious offers have the Masons written all over them. But they don’t. I think it’s a business-to-business networking initiative which has mistakenly assigned the job ‘will writer’ to me and added me to a mailing list.

“It’s the same idea,” says Colin, bruised by my assertion. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Y’know, we could start our own Masons. What’s stopping us?”

I don’t say this, but I think the main reason is the absence of any sense of appeal.

But Colin has made me think. It might be nice to be a Mason. I don’t have that sense of camaraderie that they enjoy. I don’t have colleagues. I don’t have a network. And that is precisely what Stephanie and Jessica are offering me, if only I’ll lie and tell them I’m a will writer.

Maybe I should give them what they want to get what I need.

And is that not precisely like the Masons?

For a hot moment, the idea of travelling to Loughborough and just turning up at a 7.45am breakfast buffet in a hotel to garner referrals from local tradesmen and women seems quite fun. Until I run that sentence through my head again and realise that it doesn’t.

What I’m saying is there is a halfway house to be had between the Freemasons and a business networking opportunity with strangers in a Leicestershire hotel. I suppose what I am suggesting is an adult version of the Boy Scouts. (Note: I do not mean an adult version of the Boy Scouts.)

“Do you want to start a grown-up version of the Boy Scouts with me instead?” I say.

“What?” he says. “No.”

“It could be just you and me wearing woggles in the pub. It’d probably catch on.”

“Suggest it to your Mason pals,” he says. “I’m fine for joining your Man Scouts.”

But he will. I will make him. We will do this.

I am just practising my will writing. Because where there’s a will there’s a way.

(Image: iStock)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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