Networking strategy and training
Whilst Talent Lab has concentrated on building and managing its own business networks, it has also offered strategic advice on networking and network development to both its clients and also other companies and individual.

A large High Street bank engaged Talent Lab to help them create a series of networking events that would appeal to its clients and prospects. The aim was for these to be self-managed after our involvement, so we trained their senior managers on how to approach networking and also uncover the value in their network.

The usual approach of bank managers when networking is to hit the sales patter early and see events as competive market places. During our training, we had to undo this attitude and refocus them as facilitators, helping them see the value in making introductions and geberating business for others. The value of this approach to the brand - and their own customers - became apparent as the plaudits for this approach by event attendees were matched by new business enquiries.

Area networks
Our formal work with Shoreditch Business Network started in 2003. This part of London is now known for being a hub for creative and new media companies, but at the time was still known as a base for printing companies and other trades.

We were invited by the companies that had formed the network to both grow the membership. We took over responsibility for the shape of the events and the calendar. We helped to make the experience of attending an event more effective whilst making sure it was also enjoyable. Online was limited at that time, but the website became a key showcase of the network.

We also became aware of the different drivers for each local business. Our report on networking for Hackney Council looked at how networking worked - at the time only the Chambers, BNI and a few funded networks existed - and how these networks benefited an area. It was this research that informed our strategy and approach to building networks. Over the next 8 years, Talent Lab created the largest independent business network in London, Business Junction, until creating Urbano Network in 2011.

Business networks and communities
Our experience of working with different companies on brand, marketing and communication projects has informed our work building business networks and communities.

Urbano Network combines networking events with an online space facilitates connection between companies and encourages individuals to build their own networks. Talent Lab is at the forefront of how networking is developing and maturing. Many companies are now realising that by making themselves a network hub, through events and online, they can mine value in their existing clients and prospects, whilst finding tangible benefits in areas like recruitment and customer service feedback.

Talent Lab is now being approached by different companies who want to build their own networks and communities and who need to understand both the mechanics of building their own business network and how to deliver value through networking by their employees.

Online and beyond
The pace of change in web-based media is astonishing and only now is the networking potential of online channels being properly utilised. Talent Lab's starting point in this area was to look at what makes networking effective and then how technology can enhance and facilitate networking in its own right.

Talent Lab has its own online network, Brialto, which uses the latest technology to allow individuals to build their own connections according to area, sector, speciality and need, and hence their own networks and communities. The results informed the build of the online part of Urbano.

We now know how to combine the established channels of online networking - LinkedIn, Twitter, websites - with other elements - blogging, photosharing, video hosting - and with the business case for networking: finding new clients and suppliers, but also exchanging value that is at the heart of our philosophy of all networking, online or otherwise.