Take the Work out of Networking

I ‘m due to attend yet another networking event tomorrow evening (hosted by Women on the Move).

Yes, it ‘s that time of year again, when fun barbecues (where it ‘s often easier to mix) turn to enclosed spaces in upmarket conference suites in hotels, where you are expected to speak to other entrepreneurs, sell your business or promote your idea.

It ‘s terrifying, I ‘ll admit, the first time round. But here are some surefire ways to get those butterflies flying in formation (lovely imagery, unashamedly stolen from a friend)! Continue reading “Take the Work out of Networking”

What Speakers Need From a Venue

The venue is crucial, whether you’re a Training Business, a Freelance Trainer, an Associate or a Conference Speaker. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re hiring a room yourself or just making use of it to deliver for someone else. If you’re a venue supplier, then pay close attention.

  1. Respond to requests on booking, pricing and facilities quickly. We are often comparing multiple venues, and we will <> those who respond quickly. Once a booking has been made, continue to respond to requests for additional information promptly. Otherwise, we may need to make use of that cancellation policy.
  2. Speakers often need IT equipment, whether to stay online during a workshop day, demonstrate technology to an audience, or display slides. Ensure that your IT equipment is up-to-date and don’t say you have equipment when you don’t. Trainers need to know that they are not required to bring a laptop, projector, flipchart, pens, paper, extension cables, network cables, their own freakin’ web connection, multiple versions of software, along with manuals, handouts, handbags, manbags and other props!
  3. If a speaker turns up early, don’t go apoplectic. We can manage to amuse ourselves with setting up the equipment, having a cup of tea, walking around the room to get a feel for its size and possibilities, checking our fringe is OK, reading the news online etc. Arriving early means we have time to get “in the zone”. Trust us, we have multiple years of experience in arriving not quite early enough, so just let us be, alright!? (I was once berated and treated abysmally by a conference manager for turning up half an hour earlier than I’d advised – one and a half hours before kick-off. And, yes, the seminar started 40 minutes late, because it took them over 2 hours to get their web connection working.)
  4. Have an IT person on hand, especially for the start of the session. Often, trainers and speakers are depending on the equipment t0 work, notably during a workshop. If the trainer has requested that access to certain websites is crucial to the success of the day, i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc, ensure someone checks this. Assume n-o-t-h-i-n-g. If it fails, everyone has to go home. It’s happened me more than once, despite multiple phone calls to check it has been checked.
  5. Have a conference person on hand. Often, last minute hitches, ideas for table configurations or memory lapses will alter how a session could or should be run. Accommodate where possible.
  6. Paper, pens, flipcharts, notepads, water, quality tea, coffee, scones and sweets all make things so much nicer. Attendees love them too. Make the experience as pain-free as possible.
  7. Locate a water fountain in the room. Trainers drink a lot of water before, during and after a session. It helps lubricate their vocal chords, making for a pleasant speaking experience for both trainer and attendees. If this is not possible, supply a glass and a jug of water. Top it up just before the session commences. It is very embarrassing to have to ask during a session, then wait while it arrives.
  8. The toilets facilities should be spotless. Otherwise, don’t advertise that you provide “excellent facilities”. If unpleasant or unable to cope with the demand of multiple users, especially at larger venues, it makes breaks run later and people get snappier.
  9. Be on the ball! Ask the speaker what they thought of their day. Was everything OK? You should not get any surprises, as all should have been dealt with before or during. However, this might reveal some things you’d not thought of, perhaps new ideas!

Who most recently delighted this customer? SIGNAL Centre of Excellence, Bangor, Northern Ireland, UK.

Image credit: Incase Designs.

Northern Ireland Twitter Hours

There are a huge number of business-focused Twitter hours in Northern Ireland. Briefly, a Twitter hour is an online networking session organised at a specific time. Organisers post to get things going sometimes there is a set topic or questions and answers, to prompt discussion, sometimes not. Tweets are aggregated using a hashtag. People view and respond using tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

This is a list of (mostly) Northern Ireland Twitter hours, listed with GMT starting time. We’ll expand it as we discover more Twitter hours.


18:00 #NewBizHourNI

20:00 #AntrimHour, #DownHour, #DerryBizHour

21:00 #NorthernIrelandHour #FoodNIHour


20:00 #NBelfastHour

20:30 #Export_Hour

21:00 #NewryHour, #MagherafeltHour, #FermanaghHour, #DerryHour, #NIStartupsHour #CastlereaghHour


20:00 #BallymenaHour

21:00 #CookstownHour, #LisburnHour, #NIWeddingHour, #LegenDerryHour, #IrishBizParty #BeautyHour #CausewayHour


20:00 #ArdsNthDownHour #WestBelfastHour #NewryBizChat

21:00 #BelfastHour



If we’re missing an essential Northern Ireland Twitter hour, get in touch.

If you run a Twitter hour or are thinking about it read our blog, How to Run a Twitter Hour.

Image credit: leppre.

Beyond the Glass Ceiling (Women’s Event)


There are many business workshops and training events that are designed for businesswomen. Have you noticed how they tend to cover the same sort of themes? Conflict management skills for women. Assertive communication skills for women. Confidence building for women. Isn ‘t all this slightly reactive and belittling? Haven ‘t businesswomen in 21st century Northern Ireland moved past these stereotypes yet?

Beyond the Glass Ceiling is different. Instead of assuming what women need, we will address what real women want. Instead of patronising women by ‘helping ‘ them play catch-up, we will equip women to move ahead. Our workshops will achieve this by addressing some workplace issues with an openness and honesty that is rare, but that everyone welcomes when it arrives. Continue reading “Beyond the Glass Ceiling (Women’s Event)”

Women’s Business Networks in Northern Ireland

Having heard about women’s networks in NI and looked up a few online, I soon began to feel a little confused (like some others I spoke to), due to the similarities in names. Below, I have set out each organisation I am aware of and a little of their flavour.


Business Women’s Network

Area: This is a joint venture, including Antrim, Londonderry, Tyrone and Down. Individual networks are listed in order below.

Website: www.bwnni.com

Contact: Each individual organisation’s contact details are available by clicking a link to their website. For full contact details, visit individual websites, or InvestNI.


Women on the Move

Area: Ballymena

Website: www.womenonthemove.org.uk

Contact: Joanne Brown-Kerr

Membership: £30 (annual)

  • They run monthly networking events, with invited speakers, some of whom are from among the membership.

Women in Enterprisewie

Area: Londonderry

Website: www.womeninenterprise.org.uk

Contact: Toni Forrester

  • They run networking events and supply business information.
  • At the time of posting this blog, many of the menu links were not working, so it was impossible to investigate the membership, events or other information further.


Network for Enterprising Women

Area: Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Website: www.networkforenterprisingwomen.net

Contact: Ruth Daly

Membership: £50 (annual)

  • They run joint networking events with other NI women’s networks and deliver both training and business news, including an e-zine.
  • They’ve had a nice idea of highlighting one particular business by adding a Role Models page.
  • A Business Information page lists some useful business websites, together with a full listing of network members’ websites.

Enterprising Women’s Network

Area: Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Newry and Mourne.

Website: www.enterprising-women.net


Contact: Margaret Andrews

Membership: £40 (annual)

  • They meet monthly and offer information sessions and training events.
  • Inter-trading, Mentoring, and Confidence Building are some of their more unique services.
  • They emphasize that they are men-friendly!

Women in Businesswib

Area: Belfast

Website: www.womeninbusinessni.com

Contact: Nicki Bayes

Membership: £100 (annual)

  • This organisation is independent of the Business Womens Network.
  • Unique features include a News and Podcasts page and online booking for events.
  • Small, invitation-only lunches are held on a regular basis, to assist women to network more effectively, and to allow interested parties to find out more about the network. I attended one recently held at the Ramada Encore.
  • They also run Women Into Business, an organisation dedicated to those women who’re thinking of starting a business, but not quite there yet.

Finally, if anyone’s interested in meeting other Twitter business users, we’re having a TweetUp in Belfast, next Thursday! Let us know you’re coming.

How to Write Tenders

You could say that we have a little form when it comes to writing tenders. We look for them and find them. We read them. We decide whether they’re worth our time. We sift and sift. We prioritise and decide. We add them to our work schedule. We make a writing plan. We consult our bank of tender submission template responses. And, then the real work starts!

Upcoming Blog Posts in the Series

  • Tender Terminology
  • Where to Find Tenders in Ireland

I Need Help to Write Tenders Now!

  • I’ve no idea where to start!
  • I’ve started a tender but can’t seem to finish it!
  • The terminology is driving me crazy. Can you sit down with me and go through answering all my burning questions?
  • I’m stumped on the methodology. What we do seems so obvious, I don’t know how to put the process into words.
  • They’ve not stated a budget. What do I do? How do I price it?
  • My English isn’t the best. It just needs a wee polish.
  • Can you just write the whole darn thing for me?

We can help from searching for tenders, to deciding whether to go for them or not, to making a writing plan, to filling forms, to collating all documentation, to polishing the English, to mentoring you through it, or writing it from start to finish!

Get in touch today.

Image credit: pedrosimoes

Public Sector Tenders Northern Ireland

Do you ever wonder: Where can I find tenders in Northern Ireland (and beyond)? Check our list.

If we’re missed anything out, let us know. Or, get in touch for help with sourcing, planning, writing and winning tenders.

Local Councils

Each council website may have their own Tenders or Opportunities page. Alternatively, they may direct you to a central repository.


Contracts Finder

UK government contracts


eSourcing NI

Northern Ireland Public Sector and Regulated Contracting Authorities



This is a list of tender sources in Scotland.

Public Contracts Scotland

Scottish Local Authorities, NHS Scotland, the Scottish Government, Agencies and NDPBs, Higher and Further Education and Emergency Services Tenders



This is a list of tender sources in Ireland.

Intertrade Ireland


Office of Government Procurement



This is a list of places to find tenders across the EU.




There are only a few central websites for worldwide tenders.


Public procurement notices


Image credit: davidbolton

Hot-desking & Co-working NI

Update 17/08/15

We now maintain this list over on WabiSabi. Click for an updated version. Email us if you would like your space added or you know of somewhere we’ve left off the list.

This blog post lists the new options centred around the hot-desking and coworking trend and ends with a list of spaces in Northern Ireland.


April: Coworking Craigavon has just started

April: Bayview Synergy Space (Newcastle) is open

April: WabiSabi hosts its third Coworking Day on 20 May

March: Boom! Studios and Collective (Bangor) is open

March: StudioSouk (Belfast) is open


Hot-desking is the option of paying (on demand, or monthly) for use of a desk on an hourly, daily or ad-hoc throughout the month basis. Only rarely will you be able to make the desk your own, as it will be used by others inbetween your visits.

Larger organisations, typically in the IT industry, may keep some hot-desking space free for visitors, or where a large portion of the workforce works mostly from home. Hot-desking is best for those who are only rarely in the office. Alternatively, those who work from home, and want to avoid distractions or enjoy a little company may also benefit.


Coworking is the option of renting a desk for one to five days a week, usually in an open office. Often, you will be able to make the space your own, as it is more common to rent the desk all week. Coworking is suitable for those who enjoy the busy office vibe.

Virtual Office

A virtual office does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a service supplied by an office provider that gives you a business address and telephone number (usually along with an answering service). It allows those who prefer to work from home, those who travel frequently or those who cannot afford permanent, physical office space to maintain a professional image.

The option is also used by those who have a headquarters in one location, but who may wish to establish a presence in another, without committing to a long-term contract.

Inclusive services may involve answering calls, storing and forwarding post, conducting administrative tasks, setting appointments, and hosting meetings.

Dedicated Desk or Office

Renting a dedicated desk is the best option for those who need an office, but without the large premium that city-centre locations bring. It may, or may not, be located in a shared office. The advantage of a dedicated office over a mere desk, is that clients may visit and conversations will be private.

In either case, meeting rooms are usually available (often free to residents, or, if charged, at a discounted rate).

Industrial Unit

Many Enterprise Agencies and business centres will have industrial units for rent. They are suitable for manufacturers, those who need a workshop, or anyone else who needs lots of space. Some units on offer would need to be modified to incorporate suitable office space.

Business Incubation

In venues that offer coworking, you will often find business incubation mentioned. This can refer to an ad-hoc, supportive, ask-us-anything-and-we’ll-help, atmosphere, to a more structured coaching arrangement, and may or may not be included in the price.

Where Can I Find these Options in NI?

This is a list of the providers who supply a combination of some of the options listed. Recently opened spaces are in red.

Bayview Synergy Space (Newcastle)


Belfast Central Studios


Blick Shared Studios (Belfast)


Bloom (Belfast)


Boom! Studios and Collective


CIDO Innovation Centre (Craigavon)


City Business Hub (Belfast)


Code Space (Newry)


Eighty81 (Ebrington)


Farset Labs (Belfast)


Glandore (Belfast)


Magazine Studios (Derry)


Midtown Business Centre (Belfast)




Northern Ireland Science Park (Belfast)


Regus (Belfast)


Studio Souk


The HatcheryNI (Antrim)


The Hub Newry


The Laboratory


What is WabiSabi?

WabiSabi is a new venture from Sensei. We’re exploring the demand for a new coworking community and space in Northern Ireland.

Join WabiSabi on Facebook

Join WabiSabi on Twitter

Join us at an Event

What is Coworking?

Coworking is where unconnected people (who often work from home, coffee shops, hotel lobbies or client offices) and organisations get together in one place to work. Coworking spaces may offer a combination of:

  • desk hire by the hour, day, week or month
  • meeting and training space for hire by members or others
  • virtual office services
  • events

Are there any current coworking spaces in NI?

Yes! See Hotdesking & Coworking NI

Safeguarding Children Online

Parents, guardians, teachers, youth workers, healthcare professionals and others who have responsibilities for safeguarding children online are often flummoxed when it comes to the web.

Do you feel lost, left behind and clueless? Are you frightened that kids seems to know more than you do?

We are designing a series of workshops for adults who are responsible for safeguarding children online or empowering them with knowledge (teachers, parents, guardians and youth workers). Initially there are two workshops: Kids and the Web and Teens and the Web. We can also provide age-appropriate workshops for children and young people.

Click to read more about Safeguarding Children Online

Potential Co-working Spaces In Northern Ireland

While searching for co-working spaces in Northern Ireland, I’ve come across some spaces with great potential. Having covered a completely useless but fascinating few modules of Byzantine art and architecture at university, for me, the ideal co-working space would have to look interesting from the outside too.

Bishop Street Within, Derry

Currently used for what looks like a giant dressmaker’s workshop, the entire floor is flooded with light. Parking may be an issue. However, the exposed cabling, roof and skylights may make up for it.


The Old Church, Newcastle

Belltower, turrets, seaside location. What more do you want? http://www.propertypal.com/the-old-church-54-main-street-newcastle/290223

B&B Rostrevor

Reception, tiled floors, high-standard (if a little dated) finish throughout, terraces, fitted kitchen, picnic area, patio doors, and a mountain and sea view. Did I mention the view?


Methodist Church, Belfast

The location may appeal to the car-less urban crowd, parking being almost non-existent on this busy road.


The Old Thatch Inn, Castledawson

Situated almost exactly half-way between Belfast and Derry, this venue has lots of nooks and crannies and mixes old style with new. And, there’s ample car parking space outside.


The Old Mill, Ballygawley

Perhaps a little out of the way, perhaps a little small. This place may need a little work, not least electrics. But, who can resist the mixture of orange pine wood floors, stone tiles and randomly placed doors? Again, lots of parking.


The Old Mill, Cogry

This one may require the most work on my list (ahem!). But, there is space for creating parking. And, it benefits from being far away from the city air.


Old School House, Gracehill

This one would require little work, other than an injection of personality into the decor. Parking looks limited though.


Parochial Hall, Larne

Again, this one may need a massive injection of personality.


Shipkey Street, Derry

It would be hard to get a more central location, though the facade and interior would need some work. http://www.propertypal.com/9-shipquay-street-londonderry/193432

You may notice from this blog post that I’m a little enamoured with all things old, and all things Property Pal. Or, Property News, indeed.

What do you think? If you know of any other amazing spaces in NI, add them in a comment.