Speed Networking, Elevator Pitches and Is Wine Gendered?

On 10th August, we held a multi-faceted summer social, combining a talk on ‘Is Wine Gendered?’ followed by our first speed networking session. Over 40 women working in the London wine industry joined us at the Liberty Wines office in Clapham for a very successful and inspiring session.

Sula Richardson (WSET) and Clara Rubin (Veraison Wine Education) kicked off the evening with a reprisal of their P(our) Symposium lecture, which explored the ways in which wine marketing, communication and tasting are influenced by our conceptions of gender. They argued that a more nuanced approach is needed, taking into account the realities of both people consuming wine and working in the wine industry. View their P(our) talk here.

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Networking for people who hate networking

The speed networking section of the evening was introduced to Women in Wine LDN leader, Hannah Van Susteren, as the ‘We hate networking’ portion. Recognising that ‘networking’ is usually cringe-worthy and often feels artificial, we sought to do something different. After selecting a playing card randomly from a deck, people found the three others with their same card number and practised their elevator pitch and engaged in conversation to get to know each other.

The groups switched every 15 minutes as everyone selected new playing cards and arranged themselves into new groups. Although we had questions to prompt the groups – e.g., “What are the biggest challenges in your job?”, “Whose job in the wine industry would you most like to steal?” – we found that by just by putting engaged, interesting and career-minded people together was a conversation starter in itself. Women in Wine LDN organiser Regine Lee said, “The true gauge that our speed networking session was successful was that even after I literally kept hitting a gong to get the groups to finish their conversations, pretty much all of them ignored me and continued talking to each other!”

As we received fantastic feedback, we anticipate that we’ll do another speed networking session later on, and some further events focussing specifically on professional development. 

Celebrating our first Birthday!

What a year it has been. 2016 has proven to be a year that the world will never forget. Whether due to social, political or economic factors, we are yet to see the true effects on the wine industry. Price lists are already beginning to be adjusted and some producers are becoming nervous.

In our small corner of the world, one thing we can definitely celebrate is our first Birthday! We are incredibly proud and humbled to have received such industry support and hope that we can continue to make a positive contribution to the trade.

We are still finding out what works for the group and we’ll be sure to keep building on what we have learned over the last 12 months. Our aim has always been to help foster better relationships and enhance industry knowledge. We will continue to have this at the forefront of our minds, in everything we do, for 2017.

At each event it is clear that we are slowly but surely filling a gap that has long needed to be filled. The chance to meet peers and learn about the industry we work in from other women in the group has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring for many, ourselves included.

Professional Networking Without the Awkwardness

The word ‘networking’ often makes us cringe and in itself, is an activity that the majority of people find hard. It brings to mind cheesy slogans and awkward half-full rooms of people exchanging business cards. We set out to ensure that our events were professional, social and informative and we always tried our up-most to remove the cringe-factor. #ick

All those who have been to an event this year took a chance on something new. We especially want to thank those women who came to an event on their own, you are who we aspire to be! And to those of you who brought along a colleague or forwarded an invite to a friend in the industry, without you, the group wouldn’t have grown the way it has. A huge thank you to all for making this year a great success. 

Message in a bottle: How do we create, educate and communicate about wine?

Thanks so much to those of you were able to join us for Women in Wine LDN panel discussion: ‘Message in a Bottle.’ We were really pleased to have so many of you there and thought that the panelists offered great insight into communications from industry to consumer. 

For those of you who missed it, we went to Liberty Wines on Tuesday evening, where our panel of speakers Nicky Forrest (Managing Director of Phipps PR), Abigail Barlow (Director, BD Creative) and Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW (Educator and international Wine Judge) discussed effective communication in the wine trade; they highlighted obstacles faced when developing a style of language, design and platforms for engagement that are relevant to the consumer and key to success. We include their bios at the bottom of the page.

From left: Regine Lee, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, Nicky Forrest and Abigail Barlow

From left: Regine Lee, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, Nicky Forrest and Abigail Barlow

The evening highlighted the cross pollination of education, visual design and public relations; it was clear that each sector faces similar challenges in navigating between under or over communicating wine to the consumer. Among discussion points were the power of the on-trade in communicating and hand-selling wines, and the importance of telling a story.

Forrest spoke in depth about the changing landscape of public relations in the wine industry, the growing necessity of community management (focusing on social media channels) and the influence of large, multiple retailers. The sentiment was echoed by Cherutti-Kowal who believes that the power of creating opportunities for consumers to taste different styles of wine especially through by-the-glass listings in the on-trade, is huge. She commented that it’s key for waitstaff to be engaged and trained, as they're the gatekeepers to effective sales.

Barlow led the discussion on story-telling, commenting on the influence of label design and the importance of winemakers themselves understanding the end consumer in order to sell the wine at the end of the day. She also provided key insights in to how design affects shopper buying habits and the generational and cultural differences she takes in to account when designing labels for clients.

Special thanks… to Liberty Wines for hosting Women in Wine LDN, to Charles Heidsick for donating their NV to our Champagne hour and to our panelists. Cheers!

Up Next... We have a social organised for Monday 15th August so make sure to get it in your diary. Location details will follow shortly. Please also watch this space for autumn events that are currently in the pipeline. 

What are we now...  In just a few short months we 135 women strong representing over 50 companies within the industry. Please do extend invitations to your colleagues, contacts and friends; it has been incredible to see this community take shape and we want it to continue to grow. 

Go on and… Follow us on Twitter.

Michelle Cherutti MW
Wine Lecturer
Michelle is a Master of Wine and highly-respected wine lecturer, having taught at the WSET since 2004. She is a chair judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and a frequent wine expert at major wine shows including Vinitaly, The London Wine Fair, The France Show and Taste of London.

Nicky Forrest
PR strategist

Nicky is one of the leading wine communicators in the UK and lectures at the WSET on PR and social media.  Her agency Phipps Relations is Drinks International agency of the Year 2015 and 2016 and has been Drinks Business PR agency of the Year twice in the last four years.  She has just planted her own micro vineyard in Kent.

Abigail Barlow

As Director of the award-winning creative agency, BD Creative, Abigail's portfolio includes a 2015 Drinks Business Award in Best Design and Packaging in Wine for 'The Wine Atlas' for ASDA. With 25 years experience, including brand management for Blossom Hill, retail for Oddbins and various buying roles, she really does know her way around a wine list. @BDCreativeUK