On March 4 I’ll be spending the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the first Lean On: Alabama conference. This leadership and lifestyle conference for women seeks to provide attendees with the chance to build relationships with like-minded women while sharing their own experiences and learning from women who are leaders in their communities, in business, and in government.
As with most good things, it all started with tacos.
On March 24, 2011 I invited a group of women to meet me for dinner at a Mexican cantina in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Most of these women I’d never met before; they didn’t know me or one another. But we all had one thing in common: We all loved to write.
Stay ready, so you won’t have to get ready. That’s a favorite saying of a friend of mine and over the past couple years it’s become a favorite of mine, too. If you’re a writer, blogger or small business owner, staying ready not only means keeping your website updated and your business card stash replenished, it also means being preparing to talk about your blog, book, or business anytime, anyplace. Can you do that?
Last year, that ability was put to the test in a way I never expected: I had to pitch my business in the middle of a gynecological exam!
As a writer and blogger I do a lot of online networking in Facebook groups, in Twitter chats, via email, and even in the comments section of my favorite blogs. But I do my best networking when I step away from the computer and attend live, in-person events.
Many of the women writers and bloggers I know hate networking so much that it makes them sick to their stomachs — literally. But when armed with a purpose and a plan, networking can be highly effective and productive and even fun.
Here are 7 tips to help you network like a boss:
Attend events that will attract your ideal reader/customer. You’re a busy woman with no time to waste. So do your research and be sure that the networking event you’re attending is one where you’ll actually find people who would be interested in your blog, book, or business.
Make a fashion statement. Whether you like it or not, what you wear to a networking event matters. You’ve got to look the part to get the role. Choose an outfit that properly represents your personal brand and that helps you feel confident and comfortable. Also, add something to your outfit that will make you memorable such as fun shoes, a statement necklace, or really interesting handmade earrings. I once had a pair of earrings inspired by the Boondocks comic strip that always sparked conversation at networking events. Wear the right thing and your wardrobe can serve as your ice breaker!
Have a plan. Approach each networking event with a specific goal, such as, I will collect the business cards of at least 5 people who might be interested in joining my email list. Having a clear objective will keep you from wandering aimlessly around the room and will help you focus your conversation. You know that you need to eventually talk to people about your blog, book, or business to gauge their interest in what you do. Once it’s clear they’re interested in learning more, ask for their card and ask if it would be OK for you to add them to your list, while explaining briefly what they’ll get out of your newsletter. (But be sure to ask questions about what they do and genuinely listen. You don’t want to make the conversation all about you because that’s annoying and just plain rude.)
Bring business cards. Have your business cards in an easy-to-reach space (not the bottom of your bag) but don’t walk into an event making it rain with your cards. Only give your card when someone asks for it.
Make smart talk, not small talk. So many of my blog coaching clients tell me they hate networking because they’re bad at making small talk. Well, stop making “small talk.” Try having meaningful conversations instead. Give yourself an assignment, if necessary. Decide that you’re going to write a blog post highlighting 5 interesting people you meet at the event. This will motivate you to ask questions to really get to know the people you meet and to get their business cards so you can contact them later for follow-up questions, a photo, and permission to include them in your post.
Also, tailor your conversations to the personality of the person with whom you are talking. For example, if you’re talking to someone who is an outgoing community leader or CEO, simply get to the point. She probably has a dozen other people she needs to talk to and another networking event to attend before the night is over. If you’re talking to someone who is a cheerleader, the kind of person who loves to support other people, keep the conversation focused on why you do what you do and be sure to ask her the motivation behind her work as well.
Be inviting. If you’re talking to a group of people, don’t stand in a closed-off circle. Position yourself so that your group is inviting to others. And if you’re the one who welcomes the wallflowers this will certainly make you more memorable, too.
Follow up! As soon as you get home go through the business cards you collected and jot down a few notes on each person — who they are, what they do, and how you’d like to work with them in the future. Within three days of the event follow up with an email. In the email ask the person if you may add her to your mailing list. Also, offer something to show you were really listening during your conversation at the networking event such as a link to an article related to something you discussed. This also shows that you are dedicated to helping people and that you offer valuable content to those in your tribe.
What tricks and tips do you have for effective networking?
There are so many things going on this month that women writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs in Birmingham shouldn’t miss.
Brahmin Birmingham Grand Opening
5-8 p.m., Thursday, May 7
Join See Jane Write member and local blogger Heather Brown today from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Brahmin Birmingham Grand Opening. The Summit is continuing to expand and Brahmin Birmingham, a handbag collection known for its exotic prints, is the latest addition. Heather will be hosting tonight’s grand opening celebration, which will feature free food, drinks, and giveaways. Attendees can also receive 20 percent off their purchase and a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Pathways of Birmingham, a United Way agency that serves homeless women and children. Visit Heather’s blog for more details.
Students from the Alabama School of Fine Arts Creative Writing department will be displaying works of three-dimensional poetry at the Desert Island Supply Co (DISCO), located at 5500 1st Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35212. The work will be on display from May 8 – 22, 2015. (Please call 205-201-0826 for hours.) There will be an opening reception May 8, 2015 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at DISCO. The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Kwoya Fagin Maples at email@example.com.
There are TWO business seminars for women taking place Saturday, May 16!
I Am Fabulous Business Seminar
12 – 4 p.m., Saturday, May 16
Local fashion blogger and business coach Trisha Morisette is hosting a seminar for female entrepreneurs who want their businesses and their lives to be fabulous. The seminar will help you take your style and your health to a higher level so you can take your business to a higher level, too. Get tickets and more information here.
Women Winning Seminar
9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday, May 16
The Women Winning Seminar will provide practical business strategies to help you build and grow a sustainable business. Topics include marketing, funding, technology, networking, and branding. Get tickets and more information here.
Your Blog Is Your Business 5:30 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 19
The next See Jane Write event has been set! It’s time to make the leap from lady blogger to boss lady! Learn how to blog like a boss at our next workshop.
Wade Kwon, director of the Y’all Connect social media conference, will offer tips on how to turn your blog into a business without relying on ads.
What does success look like? What rewards are better than money? Who is your A-Team? We’ll cover all this and more! Plus, there will be a surprise for attendees. Get tickets and more information here.
Auto No More: A Manual Photography Workshop
2:30 – 5 p.m., Saturday, May 30
Have a camera but don’t know how to use it? Join Rachel Johnson of Stupid Good Rachel for an introductory manual photography workshop, plus sips and sweets! Get tickets and more information here.
Don’t Forget: I’m still accepting appointments for 15-minute strategy sessions for anyone interested in learning more about the See Jane Write Mastermind program. Click here to make your appointment today.