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Building relationships is the key to Successful Networking

Do you really know who you know?

Donna Messer had a group of about 200 people gathered in London yesterday believing that the answers to almost anything anyone would ever want were in the room with them.

Messer was the keynote speaker at a forum on networking sponsored by the London and District Labour Council (LDLC) and the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Local Training Board (EMOLTB)

The meeting brought together community organizations with groups offering job services and training.

"I'm going to introduce you to 10,000 people I know," Messer, who runs ConnectUs Communications in Oakville, said in her address. "Am I a wealth of knowledge? I'm a wealth of who I know."

One of the exercises Messer used to show how easy and effective networking could be was to have people find points they had in common with the person seated next to them.

When she went around the room, Messer found people who had immigrant parents, lived common-law, had degrees from the same university or did volunteer work.

"If you're listening, you'll find you have common interests that have nothing to do with your business," she said. "What you're doing is you're building relationships and those relationships build business opportunities."

The seminar also had a serious side, however. Organizers wanted to make people aware of the services which various community organizations offered and the avenues for funding open to them.

"We had a report done last year that looked at the services provided in the area, particularly to the unionized workforce." said Sandi Ellis, national representative for the Canadian Labour Congress in London.

"That survey identified gaps, it identified needs, particularly in literacy and numeric skills. This forum is part of the effort to fill those gaps."

The crowd at the forum included representatives from training organizations, the United Way, local unions and adult education.

Ellis said the forum was designed to provide an understanding of how people could satisfy their needs through other organizations - needs which some were not even aware of.

"I wasn't aware that the CLC had identified that," Francis Shamley, a community development worker with the Government Access Information Network (GAIN) in Strathroy, said of the findings on literacy in the CLC report.

GAIN links services and programs with the people looking for them.

"Now that I know that, I'll make sure they get listings of problems in the area," Shamley said.

"That's probably the most important thing we can do."

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