The New York City chapter of WebGrrls rang in 2007 with a high turnout for the first event of the year. The crowd of roughly 35 was a diverse group made up of business owners, web designers, playwrights, and even a self proclaimed "funtrepreneur" who has instituted laughter programs in the workplace. We also welcomed several members of the Women in Technology Meetup who joined forces for the evening and do some cross networking. They added a great dynamic to the night, and we were thrilled to have them. As usual, the event began with us catching up about the past month while we munched on snacks, which included some surprisingly tasty hummus that several of us couldn't get enough of!
If you've been to the New York chapter's events or you read these articles regularly, then no doubt you've heard of Biba Pédron, aka "The Connection Queen." For those of us who ventured out to the networking event last week, we got to hear her pass along some valuable tips on how to network more effectively. Biba got many of us to confess that we are good at gathering a stack of business cards while out at events, but we don't do a great job turning those contacts into leads. She explained that networking is a way of life, not the numbers game that many try to play. She helped us understand that the first goal is exposure by building relationships and finding ways to help others; getting sales comes later. She recommended that, instead of hopping between professional organizations to cover large territory, that we instead do our homework to identify organizations that are our target market and that we commit to the group for several years, not just a few months. This builds trust and recognition among members. She also walked us through practical steps for the night of the networking event, such as how to plan goals ahead of time, develop a 30 to 60 second elevator pitch, take notes on the backs of people's business cards (being sure to note how you can help them), finish each encounter with a call to action, and utilize a seven-step follow up plan that begins within 24 to 48 hours of the event.
After that, we went around the circle as we each introduced ourselves and shared one thing we could give to others in the group and one thing we needed. As is always the case, the "needs" and "gives" came in many varieties. For example, people were looking for everything from interns to avenue-facing storefronts to articles for an online women's magazine to help editing footage to look like a silent films. And the diverse group had many things to share, such as help with marketing and promotions, relationships with printing companies, tips on raising venture capital, and skin care and make up advice.
Then it was time to put Biba's pointers into action as we moved to the informal networking portion of the evening (and some of us made one more stop at the snack table for more hummus!). I truly kept Biba's tips in mind as I made my rounds that evening. Biba, you will be proud to know that I am in the process of trying your plan and I followed up with several people within 24 hours. Already I've found 3 solid opportunities for partnerships! Thanks so much for providing a structured plan to help me become a more effective networker.