I was invited to speak at a really great event last week "Leadership Lessons from Influential Women in Business". It was put on by Business in Vancouver, Professional Women's Network, and Young Women in Business. The event was sold out!
I was honoured to be part of a group of women that included Tamara Vrooman CEO of Vancity, Sarah Morgan-Silvester Chancellor of UBC, Karen flavelle of Purdy's Chocolates and many other successful women in Vancouver. Here is a complete list of all the women who spoke.
The room was a constant buzz of energy. The topic I spoke about was "The Power of Networking". The 3 groups of women who joined me, in true networking form, traded business cards as soon as they arrived at the table. We discussed everything from the fear of networking, networking outside of your comfort zone, how to turn networking into sales, some of the great networking groups in Vancouver and of course, the big topic of social media & networking.
Here's a short summary of our lively discussions with some takeaways:
1. Recognize your fear - Most people who don't network a lot have a fear of it. When you're talking to someone, they are probably more nervous than you are. Recognizing that fear is normal and common is a great first step to overcoming it.
2. Develop your networking style - Do men and women have different networking styles? Some thought that men were more aggressive and women had softer styles. Personally, I don't like to generalize. The point is, be true to who you are and be genuine, honest and natural in your interactions in order to develop valuable connections and relationships.
3. Use Social Networking tools - from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter, there are great ways to connect with people these days. Everyone who used LinkedIn found great value in it as it allows you to keep up-to-date on the activities of your network without actively having to talk to each person regularly. You can also keep your network abreast of your updates. Many people didn't understand the value of Twitter although more people are starting to try it out. Twitter is a very fast way to get your message out to a lot of people.
The key point to remember is to make sure you use these tools appropriately and manage your reputation carefully. Maintain work-related content and avoid posting anything too personal and certainly avoid anything inappropriate. Your reputation is out there for anyone to see whether it be future employers, future clients or business partners or future acquirers of your business.
4. Recommended networking groups - There are many industry specific groups.
I'm on the Board of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and can attest to the amazingly high quality of programs and networking events. The next FWE 2010 Gala on January 18, 2010 will celebrate the people who invest in entrepreneurs. Keynote speakers will include stars of the popular shows Dragon's Den and Fortune Hunters.
One group I joined recently is the High Output Business Network They combine the power of social networking and weekly chapter meetings in a no non-sense "this is what I need" and "how can I help you" format, that I find surprisingly refreshing.
The Vancouver Board of Trade has some great events as well and at the beginning of each event, people are invited to exchange cards and ask "how can I help you". This format really helps those who are typically too shy to approach others at a networking event and I highly recommend it to those who are just starting to network.
The Women's Enterprise Centre has a comprehensive list of the various networking groups for women in BC.
5. Start your own group! - There are a number of less formal groups in your local area called "Meetups". These are formed with specific topic areas like entrepreneurs, sales, social media, real estate. I joined the dotTel meetup recently. Go to www.meetup.com to find one that suits your interest. If you don't find a group that fits your interests, you can even start your own.
6. Importance of Followup - Many people go to a networking event and come back to the office with a stack of business cards and they sit on a desk for a while before they get tossed in the garbage -- wasted time and some trees sacrificed in the meantime. When you meet someone, write on the card where you met them and a few notes about them. Write a followup to the people you met the next day to continue the conversation you had and to build on the connection you made.
.TEL - Making Networking More Successful
To facilitate easier networking and life-long connections, Webnames.ca gave away three .TEL names as prizes at the event. .TEL is like a virtual business card. You give out your easy to remember .TEL name rather than a business card.
The information in a .TEL is much richer than what fits on a small card and can include email, phone, fax, Skype, SMS, Google map, links to blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. The true beauty is you can update your contact information as often as you like without having to reprint business cards and whoever has your .TEL name will have your up-to-date contact information for life.
L to R. Cheryl Carter-Business in Vancouver, Laurel Douglas-Women's Enterprise Centre, Paulina Lipska-Young Women in Business