Beware of Bad Influencers

Would you pay £23 to stand in a room full of women?

I’d assumed that most would just respond to this with, “No. Why would I?”. However, plenty of women are doing this, and, as the number of ‘women in business’ events steadily grows across Scotland – free and pricey – i’m starting to wonder why my dairy isn’t awash with these motivational meet-ups. A quick search on Eventbrite shows that for every day in January 2020, over 16 ‘women in business’ events will take place across Glasgow and Edinburgh. Why? And, what are women getting out of them?

Freelancing is a lonely lifestyle. But, you absolutely do not lose the ability to connect with another (stressed) human being the moment the word ‘freelancer’ appears in your job title. And, thanks to the growth of Facebook community groups, finding the perfect freelancing co-worker/mentor/whatever doesn’t need to cost you a single British penny. So why are some happily handing over £23 to others for the privilege?

I recently attended a free networking event organised by a chamber of commerce. What I hoped for was, a couple of relevant connections, and an opportunity to perhaps provide support to someone else. A recent study from Columbia University revealed that when helping others navigate their tough stuff, we enhance our own emotion regulation skills and wellbeing. It’s simple, sometimes the answers to our problems is each other.

So, was it worth it? No. What went wrong?

The guest speaker 
The organiser booked a social media influencer to talk about how her business has helped ‘lots of other women’. Brilliant, since I work in Comms, I was really excited to hear how the speaker – an introvert – had juggled motherhood and a side hustle over a two year period, and was now able to quit the day job and use social media to DO MORE GOOD in the world.

Sadly, this intro seemed like an intro for some other speaker, because the story just didn’t match up, at all. Turns out, the speaker is a blogger who ‘helps’ other new mums to navigate motherhood by posting nothing but the ‘best bits’ of her flawless family life. What’s more, she was quite happy to proclaim her dishonesty in front of all of us.

There’s no denying her success. What this particular speaker has achieved in two years is down to hard work. But, in an age of diversity and inclusion, it really baffled me that a chamber would select someone like this an ‘inspirational speaker’ for women growing businesses that will benefit and regenerate the local area.

The blogger was fresh to freelancing, but she didn’t share a single failure, or moment of learning. It was uphill, hassle-free and lacked drama. I felt like an outsider. In fact, it had me momentarily pondering that, if it was all such a walk in the ruddy park, I could be doing it myself. Even better, if we all follow suit, we could all ditch the day job in favour of a life of nice product reviews and filters. But we all know that just isn’t true. Darn it.

Let’s talk about failing, all the time.
Because what’s so damn encouraging is hearing the, ‘so what did you do next’. What the heck did you do to peel yourself off the ground, swallow your pride, and find the will to try that thing for the sixth time? The breakthrough after the third breakdown, and how to keep that resilience topped up to a level that keeps you pushing forward towards that ‘thing’ that’s important to you.

Stop charging women to sit next to other women.
Let’s always be thinking about inclusivity and therefore keeping costs to an absolute minimum. The room was filled will white, middle-class Marie Condo type people (there were so many de-clutterers). Let’s pick speakers we can actually relate to and maybe, just maybe, learn something about ourselves from.

Don’t expect humans to speak to one another without a little helping hand.
Yes, we may be in a comfy coffee shop, but people find it difficult to strike up a conversation, regardless of the venue. Help a sister out and facilitate networking events a little bit.  And at the very least, actually allow time for everyone to talk to one another.

Sometimes, we overcomplicate the job of putting women in a room together. Let’s not. And let’s not charge them £23 to be there.

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