There is a business networking group in every town, city and country. However, showing up at networking events doesn’t guarantee women entry into the business conversations that matter. The old boys club is alive and well and women who are serious about their business must take the next step to really be included.
Think about the last networking event you attended. Did you meet new people? Did you exchange business cards? Did you offer to help others in business reach their goals even if that help didn’t make you money? Did you make offers to follow up with coffee or lunch? Did you pitch yourself or your business? Did you suggest ways in which you could perhaps help each other in business? Did you have too much to eat or too much to drink? Did you bring along a colleague so you would feel comfortable at all times because you really don’t like introducing yourself to new people? Did you leave thinking that the entire event was a waste of your time and your money and no one really becomes successful by networking anyway?
The fact is very few business people, male or female, attend networking events with a strategy. Can you imagine if you had a plan for everything you did in business? Most people, at least most very busy people I know, have a plan for almost everything in their personal lives. They plan the day out for themselves, their spouse, their kids, their pets, their home or people of any kind expected to come to their home or office. They have a strategy for how everyone in the family will get from one place to another so that there will be very few surprises disturbing them at work each day. These same very busy women in business know exactly where they are going, when and how each day, long before they show up in their offices. In this regard, in my experience, women are even better strategizers than their male counterparts.
So, with all this in mind, why do so many women, and some men, attend business networking events without a strategic plan of action?
I’ll tell you why! Unfortunately, too often, women have been led to believe that networking events won’t offer them the opportunity to gain more business. So, they enter the activity with the ‘I’ll just have a drink to relax, get something to eat and find someone to talk to’ approach. Attendees who chat only to the bartender or to the waitresses and waiters tend to find few business opportunities. And, if you bring along a buddy from the office or a colleague from the same industry, you are limited even greater.
Networking for business is a game, a business sport to those who want to win at business. And, like any sport or game it requires strategy.
The most important reason to go to any networking event is to meet someone whom you have been trying to get to see. Yes, your prime business prospect goes to networking events at one time or another. I’ve meet CEOs companies at networking events. I’ve tracked down prospects that were too busy to speak with me on the phone. I’ve positioned myself next to the men’s room at a networking event to bump into a prospect who eventually gave me business.
Networking events can make you a winner if you take the time to decide what you will do when you get there. First, get there early and make sure to view the name tags displayed. Do this only if you haven’t already called in advance to ask who will be attending. Many networking events will send you a list of the attendees if you ask. Second, stay focused on the door so you’ll see who comes in and be prepared to plan when and where you will make an introduction. Third, once you have your eye on your prey make sure you pick the appropriate time to walk up and take up their space. Don’t interrupt a conversation that person is having which clearly looks serious. You’ll be brushed away like the disrupter you are. Wait your turn and find the right moment to introduce yourself and get to your point.
YES, get to your point quickly and politely! As a woman in business your presence is not a surprise. The fact that you are bold and straight forward with this person more than likely will give you points for being a serious business person. But, be clear as to why you want a moment of this person’s time and be clear of your ask. Once you have your response make your thank you and move along. There are other savvy networkers like you waiting for this opportunity too.
Networking can be very thrilling and successful as long as you have a strategy ahead of time.
Nyaradzo Viki-Mavindidze, Managing Consultant of Avodah Consultants, is a renowned Speaker, Training Consultant, Coach, Author, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist. A psychologist by profession, she is passionate about helping people improve and excel in their lives holistically, shifting personal paradigms and beliefs through training. Over the years, she has developed herself as a brand to reckon with in dissemination lasting solutions to performance deficiencies.
QueenMakers is an initiative she founded that pursues proactive strategies to develop and empower women and girls to take on leadership roles in their communities through; training, mentoring, capacity building and coaching. She believes that the full and active participation of women in economic activities and decision-making is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Zimbabwe and in Africa.