Skip to content


Providing the Kno-How on networking

As the region’s largest and most influential multi-sector membership organisation, supporting more than 2000 businesses from SMEs to multinationals, the Chamber is a trusted business community with the largest business events programme in North East England. Since 1815 it’s been a force for good in the region, working to ensure members get the best possible support through comprehensive benefits like exclusive services, cost-savings, events and networking, knowledge and information, and policy representation and campaigning. To build on all of this, the Chamber has enlisted Jeni Smith, a networking expert and founder of NetKno, to help members overcome barriers to networking, understand the benefits of the process, and get the most from the events programme. Available only to Chamber members, the ten-minute Kno-How videos cover everything from the principles and power of networking, to improving your elevator pitch. Here, North East Times Magazine speaks to Jeni, to find out more about the series and how it supports members.


Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a northerner passionate about networking.

I’ve been networking professionally for more than 16 years across the UK, including a stint as a full-time networker in Liverpool, founder of a network in Cumbria and managing director of a network in the North East.

I launched NetKno in March 2020, just as the world closed its doors, and since then have been on a mission to help people network more effectively, confidently and strategically.

As well as teaching networking skills and creating networking strategies, I’ve built a unique SaaS (software as a service) platform, which brings together all the networking events happening across the North East, so people never miss out on opportunities.

I’ve also recently started a PhD at Durham University Business School, researching the relationship between networking event anatomy and entrepreneurial narratives.


What’s the drive behind NetKno?

I came up with the idea for NetKno while on maternity leave three years ago, but it has been a long time in the making.

Ever since I discovered the world of networking in 2006, I’ve been hooked, and have repeatedly seen the impact it has on individuals and businesses.

During my time hosting and attending events, I created a kind of map in my mind of the world of events, and I used it to navigate opportunities and recommend events to others.

In 2017, I drew the ‘map’ (more of a doodle at the time) for some colleagues and was encouraged to explore it.

Durham University ended up conducting two rounds of academic research into it, which really spurred me to share it with the world.

NetKno comes from a place of wanting to help people network with purpose, to give them the tools and confidence they need through training, and the ability to strategically select the right events for them through consultancy and the SaaS platform.



What does the Kno-How series do for members?

In the post-lockdown period, a lot of people are out of practice when it comes to networking, or socialising in general, so the Chamber wanted to create a series of resources to help members develop networking skills and rebuild their confidence.

The series has been designed so members can jump in and out of videos, learn in their own time and access resources when and where works for them, so they have complete control.

The Chamber offers such a variety of networking opportunities throughout the year, designed to add value to its members, and the purpose of this series is to give them the confidence and tools they need to take advantage of those opportunities – whether they’re a seasoned networker looking for a refresh, or someone who has never set foot in an event before.

The series is without doubt one of my proudest pieces of work to date.

Getting to work with the Chamber, which is so passionate about supporting its members, has been an absolute joy.


How do you get the most value out of networking?

In a world obsessed with numbers, certainly when it comes to social media followers and web traffic, it is easy to get wrapped up with volume.

But in reality, less can be more.

If you can build and really nurture relationships with the people in your network, so they understand you and your business, that is much more powerful than having hundreds of people who have no idea about you or what you do.

The greatest way to get value out of networking is to give it.

When you add value to the people in your network, through things like introductions, knowledge transfer, support and mentorship, the more value you get back in return.


What three ice-breakers would you suggest for a networking novice?

The first top tip is to stand by the bar, buffet or coffee – that’s where people congregate, so you’ll easily spark up a conversation passing someone the milk or discussing the quality of the biscuit selection.

The second is to put your phone away.

I know networking can be awkward, and if you find yourself stood on your own, your phone can be a safety blanket.

However, by getting your phone out, you’re simply prolonging the time in which you’ll be stood on your own, because nobody will come and talk to you.

And the third is to say, ‘hello!’

Remember, everyone has signed up to be at a networking event – they want to talk to you.

It’s not like you’re walking up to someone in the supermarket and asking what they do for a living. You’re in a networking event, where social etiquette not only allows you to talk to people, but requires it.

So take a deep breath, smile and start with ‘hello…’


The Chamber in numbers:

200+ events and webinars planned for 2023

9500+ attendees at events and webinars in 2022

40,000+ people to connect with across our online community

£138,600 of business services and cost-savings accessed by members in 2022


Daniel Marsden-Knight,

head of marketing, communications and events

“Knowing what you want from networking is key.

“You can start working on this before you go to any events. It’s important to take some time out to think about what you want to achieve and who could potentially help you ensure you get the most from every opportunity.

“Don’t forget to help others; this will mean they are more likely to remember you and recommend you.”



Jennifer Rycroft,

director – membership

“Meeting someone at a networking event is just the first step to building your network – more of the real networking happens afterwards.

“Be sure to connect on social media and personalise any messages you send.

“Look for ways to add value to your contact.

“Providing support when needed, engaging on social media and sharing knowledge are all fantastic ways of nurturing new and existing relationships.”

John McCabe,

chief executive

“My tip is to network often. Attending a one-off event is not going to help your business overnight.

“To get the most from networking, consistency is key. Attend lots of events, chat and get to know people. It’s not all about sales!

“If you see someone on their own, go over and say, ‘hello’.

“Being nice goes a long way in the networking world, and can help build meaningful connections and lasting business relationships.”