One of the most important parts of growing your business and creating your empire is reaching out to the right people. The famous saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, could not be true when it comes to networking. It’s always important to reach out to people to make yourself and your business known, but also to engage with other business likeminded men and women.
However networking isn’t easy, it can be daunting and awkward and I know this as I have been there. Do you make a beeline for the first CEO you see and start handing out the business cards or play it cool in the corner and expressively talk about your ideas until someone hears? But most importantly, how do you network when you’re the only female in a room full of men?
Let’s be honest a strong, fashionably coordinated businesswoman will always attract attention in a room, but how do you head over to your counterparts without making it uncomfortable?
You’re there for the business
The reason you are at this networking event/after work get together is to showcase your business talents and build your professional network. It can be very easy for men to bypass women in business as threats and not them seriously. You need to remember you are there for business, you know your stuff and your main purpose of conversation is to meet someone new who could potentially help you in the future.
People might get the wrong idea but you won’t
You need to talk to a director/ CEO/ CFO and really get into the nitty gritty of your business plan and want to hear their opinions, so you spend a lot of time in conversation. To someone watching they make get the wrong idea (“Oh look at that girl talking to that guy for hours, wonder what’s going on there”). Let them wonder as you know exactly what you want achieve and how, and if that means skipping the canapés to speak about spreadsheets then so be it.
So he asks for your number
A lot of networking means connecting and communicating, so it’s not entirely strange if someone asks for your number. However if you feel uncomfortable giving out your number you can always exchange email addresses or LinkedIn information. This is a great way to show how professional you are and how seriously you appreciate their time.
Set the agenda
You get on great and he wants to hear more about your business visons, that’s a great sign that you have something interesting to say, so make sure you make an opportunity where you can showcase more. Arrange a coffee meeting, try to plan it during working hours and tell them beforehand what you plan to talk about.
There shouldn’t be any difference between networking with men and women, unfortunately many women will find that in male dominated industries networking with men can sometimes give off the wrong impression. It’s important to try and not think about these barriers and focus on what you want to get out of the networking session.