A
few months ago I went, for the first time, to a women’s networking event. The location was the beautiful store, LK Bennett on Madison Avenue. The panel had 4 successful women experts in different aspects, talking about how a woman should present herself at networking events. Moderator Joya Dass, co-founder of the the women’s networking initiative LadyDrinks, was amazing in bouncing the ball back and forth between: Robyn Hatcher–Speacketc, Cara Power—Cara Power Coaching, Cynthia Greenawalt—Seachange Networking, Joan Pelzer—Joan Pelzer Media and Tania Sterl—Stearl on Style.

 

How should a networking event be prepared and handled? You spend your money and most of all you spend your precious time going to these events. You have to make sure you make that time worth it, staying in contact with the people that you meet at the events that are a good match for you and your business. So here is what you should work on before, during and after!

 

Before:

  • Do some research about the people that are attending. Maybe ask for a list of the participants and learn as much as possible about ten, so that you already know what a possible smart interaction will be, Cara suggests.
  • Another important aspect of “how to get ready” is to pick out the right outfit for you. An outfit that looks good on you, appropriate to the event but also that communicates something about your persona. “Accessories are Key”, says stylist Tania Sterl. A scarf, a necklace, something that you bought on a trip and has a history will give you the opportunity to show who you are and may be have something to talk about. “Fashion trends are important, but it’s more about what YOU feel comfortable wearing” says the expert. Tania’s motto is “make a bold statement… before you say a word”

 

During:

  • Be real and interested in the conversation. Cara Power suggests to use open questions like what, how, why to be able to learn more about your new friend and have an easier path in starting conversation.
  • Robyn Hatcher brings the attention on the body: the way you walk into a room, the way you stand while talking to a person and even your feet position tell already a lot about you and the degree of your connection with what and who is around you. Your body communicates before you even open your mouth.
  • Most importantly do not use your phone to check texts and emails while at a networking event. Be present, be willing to dedicate your attention to the network around you and be polite.

 

After:

  • Now that you met nice and interesting people you have to make the time worth it, and follow up!
  • You probably gave and received many business cards. “Keep a pen in your bag and write at the event or just after a note about that person” says Cynthia Greenawalt. You can’t remember everything about everyone. Be smart and take notes so that the effectiveness of your first email to the new friend has value and more power. That means you listened to what they were telling you, you remember it and you have an interest.
  • Follow up in no later than a week time with a meaningful email, with an invitation for another event she might be interested or simply with social media. “Social media helps you in keeping the connection alive even after the email. But be personal. When you look for a connection on LinkedIn don’t just click the “CONNECT” Be personal and specific. You can have a real connection and a real relationship also on line as far as its personal” says social media expert Joan Pelzer.

 

 

Interesting, useful and fun! But I learned something even more important that night.

 

I want to share with you the thing that I most value of what I learned at my first networking event — The concept of giving, helping and valuing the relationship with new people of the networking event. You go to networking event because you want to connect, you want to connect with people that might be able to help you grow in your profession. But you can’t pretend to receive without giving. “You need to make your deposit, before you can withdrawal” says Cynthia Greenawalt. Like at the bank. You need to be willing to help others solving their problems, if you have the possibilities, before you ask them to help you.

 

The magic words are “How can I help you?” — a short, efficient and very powerful sentence.

 

These words still resonate in my brain even months after the event and I hope their power will never fade away.

 

How do you cultivate and nourish your networking?