Catalyst Business Executive Hannah Howes shares her experience of helping the Brighton Chamber team pull off their annual business networking event under this year’s extraordinary circumstances.

Well known across the Brighton entrepreneur community, Brighton Chamber is a supportive membership organisation for businesses of all sizes. For the past 8 years, they have run the Brighton Summit event for over 400 attendees to network and participate in enlightening and thought-provoking workshops. The global Covid-19 pandemic has put big events like this on hold (for obvious reasons), so, Brighton Summit is now… ‘Brighton Basecamp: Bananas’! A virtual event that brought together the innovative businesspersons from our city.

You may be thinking, why Bananas? Well, ‘Brighton Base Camp: Bananas’ symbolises the slip up Covid-19 has caused for so many. Essentially, Covid-19 is a pesky banana skin that caused our world and businesses to skid to a halt. Nonetheless, our city full of optimistic, creative and vibrant entrepreneurs are well equipped to bounce back from this obstacle. The event was to encourage everyone to make the most of the bananas year we have all found ourselves in!

The Catalyst team have helped out with the event for the past few years and this year was no different. Emma, Kelly, Amy, Isthiak and I were on hand to deal with technical difficulties (it wouldn’t be a Zoom event without a couple of tech glitches) and answer questions from attendees. Excitingly, we also hosted Brighton Chamber at Sussex Innovation this year, so we had the support of Laura and Daisy from the Chamber team.

Brighton Chamber team

Attendees logged onto the event to be welcomed by MC James Dempster (Cobb Digital), naturally he was dressed as a banana. As they say, “start as you mean to go on”, and it truly was a fun filled morning. Our first speaker certainly followed this; Stephen Grant, resident compere at Krater Comedy Club in Brighton. Stephen raised some important issues concerning the entertainment industry, highlighting the difficulties they are facing as a result of Covid-19. The overarching message was that the industry is resilient, needing a simple reboot to transform the way they deliver their art and reform the stage. Further, all attendees were in mutual agreement that a comedic wakeup call was needed every morning from now on.

After a session of networking, we entered into our designated workshops.

– Jude Bolton, Founder and Director of Speaking Works, delivered a workshop about ‘Presenting Yourself Positively’. Kelly took away some important lessons about harnessing nervous traits and grounding yourself when under pressure. Those in Jude’s session will have benefited from a range of tips on how to become a better speaker and effective communicator.
– Toby Buckle, founder of Hazelbranch, focused on ‘Practical Resilience’ and was joined by Catalyst team member, Amy. Toby emphasised that to build resilience, we must prioritise the way in which we respond to stressful events, saying “we must tweak the story we are telling ourself”, which resonated with Amy.
– Toby Kress, Programme Director at Plus X, was joined by Isthiak and led a workshop about delivering your next product/service. Toby touched on his experience in starting a business, emphasising it’s vital to love the problem you’re trying to solve.
– Harry Venning, award winning cartoonist, led attendees to ‘Express their Inner Cartoonist’. I had the pleasure of attending this session, and felt empowered by picking up a pen and drawing freely. I took away a great sense of self-expression, and to not take yourself too seriously. I can also confirm the promised ‘belly laughs’ were delivered.
– Camille Pierson, founder of The Float Spa, guided a session based on mental health and how to overcome the overwhelming pressures of daily life – with support from Emma. Reminding us to simply breathe, and emphasising that the smallest changes make the biggest difference.

After workshops, we got to hear from the second speaker of the day, Adam Joolia, Chief Executive at AudioActive. This is a music organisation which specialises in contemporary youth culture, they are well known for their work developing the talent of young marginalised artists. Adam expressed music as a way of channelling energy in a positive way and can be an effective tool in combating mental health issues amongst young men. It is obvious that Adam is passionate about his mission, his success highlights the value in being driven by what is important to you.

The final speaker was Picturehouse founder, Lyn Goleby. Lyn gave us an overview of her broad career and time transforming the cinema industry. The key message I took from Lyn is to support the local community and businesses, especially in the current climate. Further, Lyn emphasised not to be overwhelmed by the pandemic and ensure that you focus on the present, the rest will take care of itself.

The event captured the essence of a bustling room full of people, with the exciting workshops and inspiring speakers, all from the safety of our homes – but (sadly) minus the usual delicious food that we have been told so much about. All the speakers and workshops were truly engaging and insightful, showcasing the innovative pool of talented individuals we home here in Brighton. The Catalyst team had a terrific day networking, hearing from the speakers and supporting Brighton Chamber!

Photography credit: Let’s Talk Video Production