by Letitia Elizabeth
We live in a world which makes opportunities harder for women. Whilst the presumption is often that female business owners need only wiggle their hips and bat their eyelashes to secure a deal, this is simply not the case; nor would the vast majority of women want it to be.
However, what this presumption does is make it seem like businesswomen are getting an easier ride, whilst also preventing them from using their genuine skills to impress on the corporate playing field. In other words, it can be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for girls who lack the confidence to stand out from the crowd and crush the stereotypes with wit, charm, and smarts.
The reality is that the business world can be tough for women. Yet, when we do succeed, we often do so in such inimitable style and magnificence that it is difficult to imagine any other outcome. From Anna Wintour to Oprah Winfrey, Karen Brady, Victoria Beckham, Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, and more – we continue to prove that, with the right networking know how, we can beat the boys club ten times over.
These networking tips and tricks will help you learn how to dazzle at any corporate event, no matter what the size or who might be listening.
Always Arrive Early
This is a great piece of advice for anybody who really has to work to ooze that effortless confidence which businesspeople love – after all, some people will always find schmoozing harder than others. If you arrive at a networking event early, however, it will be much easier to pick out the key players and make a conversational beeline for them. If you rock up to the party after everybody else has already found a friend to chat with, it is going to be difficult to make a strong impression.
Start with the Easy Stuff
There is absolutely no reason why you cannot generate a conversation with something easy, obvious, or even a little dull. Whilst an opener like ‘Hi, how are you today?’ is not going to win any awards for creativity, it is a quick and uncomplicated way to grab the attention of the person that you are interested in. It is a major faux pas to hang about the edges of the room at a networking event, so use whatever it takes to get talking.
Avoid Sounding ‘Salesy’
According to behavioral studies, this is something which women are much better at than men, so take advantage of it. Whilst guys tend to rush headlong into networking circles and almost immediately start talking about themselves, female businesswomen understand that there is more to networking than personal promotion. If networking functions were designed to showcase your demeanor at work, that is where they would be held – rather, they are designed to let corporate bigwigs get to know the face behind the brand.
Showcase Your Passion
Once you do get round to talking about your work, do not be afraid to present yourself as a real human being, with interests and ambitions, as opposed to just a company owner. This can be tricky for female business owners, because sexism within the corporate world almost constantly tells women to close off, to depersonalize their interactions, and put barriers up. Yet, you can be warm and engaging without revealing too much; think about all of those ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ questions asked in school and how enthusiastically you used to answer them.
Try Not to Hijack Conversations
If you do not have a lot of experience with networking or you find it difficult to slip into confidence mode, be careful not to overcompensate by hijacking conversations. To make a great impression, you have to be a great listener as well as a smooth talker. So, make sure to look people in the eye, use their actual name when referring to them (this shows that you listen), keep track of interesting little tidbits and personal details (you can use these later), and keep the conversation going by leading into relaxed topics.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
It is important to remember that networking is not an open and shut activity – it is designed to create personal and corporate threads which lead to further communications. Yet, you cannot expect this to happen if you do not find out how to get in touch with somebody who seems like the right match for your company. Before the event ends, always ask for a business card (you should have your own); take it with your thanks, and reach out with a ‘hello’ within two days.
Letitia Elizabeth is a veteran multi-passionate author, speaker, and entrepreneur whose currently Head Designer at LetitiaElizabeth.com as well as Editor of #Femmeboss Magazine where she empowers millenial creative women in business to build their dream brand on a budget. Every week Letitia facilitates a #Femmeboss Mastermind Group – group coaching calls, a free online action guide blog and newsletter that teaches entrepreneurs how to build their brand with style and engagement to create profitable marketing plans and customer relationships.