The Foundation Works – Colchester New Year Event

I had a great evening out at at the new Firstsite building in Colchester this week at The Foundation Works New Year event.  Guest speaker was Su Butcher of Just Practising with her talk ‘Adventures in Social Media’. I heard about the event via twitter and was there for a number of reasons including having a nosey at the posh new building, supporting Su and tweeting from the event, and to talk to some new and exciting people about social media and construction.

The Foundation Works is a new and dynamic business group supporting the Construction and Property industry across East Anglia. A Forum for professionals to meet, engage and grow, this group has been established by the Daniel Connal Partnership.  The Daniel Connal Partnership is a multi-disciplinary construction consultancy operating throughout the UK from offices in London and East Anglia.

The event was the third organised by The Foundation Works and was held at the recently completed FirstSite building in the heart of Colchester.  It is a striking building in a bold curve around the existing D shaped garden of East Hill House and is clad externally in TECU Gold – a malleable copper-aluminium alloy sheet that was hand applied by a team of plumbers (so says their website).  Its main purpose is as a contemporary visual arts centre but it also houses meeting rooms, a cafe and a 190 seat auditorium where the talk was held.

Firstsite Building
Firstsite layout
Internal circulation areas

Su Butcher trained in Architecture at the University of Liverpool and is an authority on the use of the micro-blogging service Twitter in the construction industry. As practice manager of Barefoot & Gilles, Su used social tools to find new clients and collaborators. She has been networking online for over five years and now runs her own consultancy Just Practising.

Su Butcher

The evening kicked off at 5.30pm with a steady stream of attendees arriving for a pre-talk drink and networking in the mosaic space. As is usually the case I was there early and I immediately bumped into Su who was preparing herself for her presentation and greeting attendees.  I fired up my netbook and connect to the buildings free – and fast – wifi so I could live tweet the event using the twitter.  I was also tweeting from my smartphone on which the rather poor photos included on this blog were taken.

Su (@SuButcher on Twitter) was one of the first people I followed on twitter once I had got bored of celebrities and I have been a follower ever since.  Despite a few previous attempts, we only actually got to met in person 2 weeks ago when Su did a similar but  shorter presentation in the Pecha Kucha format at our ICE presentations evening.  You can read about that event on another blog post here.

Pre-lecture drinks and networking

As people arrived I helped myself to a drink and chatted with a few people whilst keeping my eyes out for the lovely Jenny Howard of specialist foundations and piling contractor Abbey Pynford.  I’ve had some great discussions with Jenny in the past few weeks on twitter (Jenny is @bakeraddict1) and Jenny also manages the Abbey Pynford corporate twitter account @Apynfordtweet.

Through twitter we have talked about Abbey Pynford possibly doing a CPD talk for ICE and I’ve arranged to go and visit one or two of their projects which is great.  I managed to have a quick chat with Jenny but not as long as I would have liked but will hopefully see her again soon…

Before we knew it we were downing our drinks and were ushered into the excellent auditorium where Robert Hobbs Dale  (@cool4crabs [don’t ask] on twitter) of Daniel Connal Partnership introduced the Foundation Works concept and the evenings speaker – and without further adoo Su was in full flight.

Robert Hobbs Dale introducing Foundation Works and Su
And we're off. "Adventures in Social Media"

Su split her presentation into 3 sections – exploding some myths, how social media works and the most common tools, and how to go about getting the most out of it.  Su’s experience in the use of social media in construction was evident and she convincing argued in favour of social media as a powerful marketing tool.

I was tweeting all the way through Su’s presentation using  tweetdeck software on my netbook (using my smartphone to capture images) and including the #foundationworks hashtag as much as possible.  Hashtags are used in twitter like keywords allowing all tweets on a particular subject to be filtered into a single stream.  You can view all the #foundationworks tweets from both during and after the event here.

While I was tweeting I could see people who follow me re-tweeting my tweets and commenting and generally interacting as if there.  At previous events live twitter streams have been included in the presentations using such systems as Twitterfall.  A twitterfall for the #foundationworks hashtag can be seen here.

How LinkedIn (and live tweeting) works
ArchitectMap

Su finished her talk with key messages for effective use of social media in construction.  These being:

Listen

Distill from Volume

Opt in

Do not span

Think

Be Remarkable

Experiment and Measure

Don’t Worry

A handful of questions were asked afterwards including one questioning how much time Su spends on social media in a typical day.  Su replied that – as it was now her business – it was more than most people, but she highlighted the periods of time when sat on trains, waiting for meetings and the like that can be used by ‘normal’ people.  Before it being a profession Su said she allocated one hour in any one evening to writing blogs and the like.

Summing up and vote of thanks

With the presentation over it was time for more drinks, some finger food, and some serious networking. It was good to see so many people stay on and chat afterwards and I was pleased to be able to speak to a good number of them.

I’m afraid I might have come over a little enthusiastic but that’s because I am passionate about the use and benefits of social media in business and subscribe entirely to Su’s points of view so apologies if you were one of the groups of people I talked at/to.

I talked to many staff from Daniel Connel Partnership including Chris Mabbutt and Daniel Moles plus a few from WPP Architects including Ian O’Hanlan and Rachael Wainright.  I provided some examples of how I use social media and some of the real successes I have seen. I was pleased that this helped some doubters and a number of people (including Rachael) indicated that they might dip their toes into the social media pool. I look forward to connecting with them in due course…

Robert and Su as the evening draws to a close

All in all it was a very interesting and enjoyable evening and the follow up discussions and comments on twitter about the event have been been really positive.  A number of people attending have obviously been using twitter for a while and Su has set up a twitter list for people who attended this or other Foundation Works events that can be seen here. It is good to see Shaun Soanes (@ssoanes) of Nicholas Jacob Architects has started tweeting since the event. Keep it up and remember Su’s key points!

An album of my (mediocre) photos that I took on the night – including those above – can be found on my Picasaweb photo sharing website.

The last person to get a mention is the very cool Lindsay Wakelin – the professional photographer who took all the (pretty excellent) photographs on the night.  She understands the benefits of social media to SMEs and has long been using twitter and blogs.  She can be found on twitter at @LindsayWakelin. Lindsay’s website is http://lindsaywakelinphotography.com and she has already uploaded her photos of the event onto her website which can be found via her blog here.

Su Butcher is planning on hosting a series of LinkedIn workshops for anyone who want to learn how to set up a LinkedIn profile, to optimise it to be easily found, and to enable users to get the most benefit from them.  More details can be found on Su’s website here.

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