Recently I attended a networking event for women photographers in the Milwaukee area. It was good for the soul. I walked away from the event with more knowledge in my field, more confidence in myself and more connections with other women entrepreneurs on the rise. Networking is all about growth; both professionally and personally. Networking opens up doors you might not know exist. Networking is opportunity. It is community. Women in particular prioritize the importance of having a strong centers of influence and relish opportunities to grow. Recently, I read an article by the Harvard Review Business Review that discussed the success women have seen in recent years when it comes to networking. Their research showed that women had a slight advantage over their male counterparts when it came to networking results. According to the article, women tend to be more efficient, nimble, boundary-spanning and energetic. Preach Ladies!
Knowing all that, let's talk about the HOW behind networking. We've established that it's important, but it can also be intimidating. Building a professional or personal brand is no easy feat, it helps to have avenues of information and support. Below are some key networking tips, ideas for growing your network and a few pointers for planning a successful networking event.
Key Networking Skills
Come prepared. Arrive at the event with a plan. For example, who do you want to meet at the event and what questions do you have about the topic being discussed? Make a list; mental or literal.
Make a solid introduction. In the corporate world this is known as an "elevator pitch" but it is applies anywhere.
Make eye contact and have a firm handshake ready. Both display confidence.
Repeat the names of people you meet.. Especially if there are no name tags, repeating the name of the person you just met helps cement it into your brain.
Bring business cards or have the QR code to your LinkedIn profile or website on the ready.
Be a connector. If you have a chance to connect other attendees at the event, do it. Be the bridge to bringing other women together.
Work the room. It's easy to latch on to people you already know. The point of networking is to meet as many new people as possible.
Practice Active Listening Skills. Make sure to listen as much as you share.
Post-Plan. Have a plan for following-up with the people you meet.
Growing Your Network
GET SOCIAL! (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook). This means you will need a good headshot!
Join Professional Organizations.
Volunteer or serve on a board.
Attend classes, workshops or trainings in your field.
Get involved with your alumni organization.
Attend virtual events.
Join an employee resource group at your company.
Planning a Successful Networking Event
Have an agenda and send it ahead of time to all attendees.
Have an icebreaker to get the event going and help everyone start to connect.
Offer an educational component in the agenda.
Allow plenty of time for general mingling.
Provide beverages and snacks.
Consider giveaways or prizes.
Provide attendees with a list of all participants and their social handles.
End the event something inspiring or a call to action.
Send a thank you and a survey for feedback after the event.
"Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business." - Sallie Krawcheck. Ladies, take control of your success while feeding your soul at the same time. Get out there today and find your people!