(CMR) Over 30 aspiring Caymanian professionals gained special insights into the art of navigating business social events at a development event on Wednesday evening.
The unique networking event was organized by the Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom (CIGO-UK), and took place at Abacus Restaurant in Camana Bay. A principal aim, organizers say, was to help participants maintain their poise at any corporate social networking event they might attend in their professional careers.
Hosted by the new Cayman Islands Representative to the UK, Dr. Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, and the new Cultural Attaché for CIGO-UK, Ms. Jessica Bodden, the event brought together young men and women, 21 years and up, with 14 local coaches who generously donated their time and expertise for the afternoon's activities.
Dr. Garcia and Ms. Bodden organized the event as one of their first tasks for CIGO-UK.
The attendees included young professionals, a number of students who will be studying overseas from September this year as well as nine contestants vying for the Miss Cayman Islands crown at the annual pageant on 8 September.
Divided into groups, the participants spent equal time among five different stations that were coached by 14 business stalwarts and community leaders on several networking and social skill topics such as business etiquette, the art of introduction and the ability to talk interestingly about oneself. All the coaches generously donated their time and expertise for the workshop.
Dr. Garcia elaborated, “This was a development opportunity that targeted young professionals seeking to learn the soft skills necessary to be comfortable and confident at any business social event.”
The event was delivered in two sections. During the first section (3-5.30 p.m.), participants worked in small groups with coaches who covered a range of topics related to business social events. The second section (5.30-7p.m.) allowed participants to practice their new skills at a cocktail reception attended by esteemed persons from the community.
At the reception, the young persons could put into practice everything they had learned during the workshop, including basic small talk which covered conversation starters about topics other than the weather, Dr. Garcia said. Abacus partnered with CIGO for the event and provided the venue at no charge. Additionally, all the drinks provided at the “cocktail” reception were non-alcoholic or “mocktails” and included only produce provided by local growers such as limes, sorrel, honey and watermelons, explained Ms. Bodden.
“We thank all supporters and coaches for making the effort. We are overwhelmed by the support of the young Caymanian participants and the coaches alike. The purpose of this event was to empower any young Caymanian professional to be on par with the rest of the world. We hope that this continues and that we will see further support from Caymanians, the private sector and residents all working together to encourage our young people.”
She believes there is potential to do more with this finishing school approach, including focusing on topics such as mortgage 101, how to balance a checkbook and how to invest. “I see it as a series on how to win at life,” Ms. Bodden added.
The coaches donating their time were Mrs. Debi and Mr. Kris Bergstrom, Ms. Tessa Bodden, Ms. Eileen Rhulen, Ms. Cheryl Pokoradi, Ms. Lana Cayasso, Ms. Donna Bush, Ms. Laurice Fraser, Mr. Marcus Mueri, Mr. Ed Chisholm, Ms. Betty Baraud, Ms. Fleur Coleman, Ms. Eweline Cimring and Ms. Katherine Tathum.
Attending the reception to encourage the participants and thank the volunteers were the Deputy Governor, Hon. Franz Manderson, Minister for Financial Services and Commerce, and Investment, Innovation and Social Development, Hon. Andre Ebanks and Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Samuel Rose.
Commenting on the event, participant Ryan Frick said, “It was incredibly informative and covered a wide variety of topics that anyone, anywhere could benefit from.” Devin Jeffers said, “This was an extremely well thought out event that would be beneficial for all individuals.”
Morgan Ebanks noted, “The ’Perfecting the Elevator Pitch’ session helped to test my confidence, and I thought the diversity of professionals was very beneficial as it provided various perspectives.” Added Zoey Conolly Basdeo, “This was a fantastic opportunity for young professionals to learn new and essentials skills relevant to wherever you are in the world.”
Commenting on the whole event, the Deputy Governor said, “I am delighted that CIG, led by the London Office, and along with the generosity of local volunteers and businesses could bring this much-needed event to the direct benefit of young Caymanians. I hope there will be more organized for larger and more diverse groups of our young persons.”
Cabinet Secretary Mr. Rose commented, “I am happy that our young people, even the most academically accomplished ones, now have the requisite social and networking skills to develop their personalities and their confidence levels, in business settings or when their public presence is required.”