I was recently invited to London to speak at 101 ways WTF (Women Tech Focus) event at the amazing Just Eat offices. I wanted to share my experiences, my successes, failures and top tips on networking. The aim is to reassure you in your own worth, ability and power regardless of the situation you are in and how you can embrace your inner Sasha.
So WTF is networking?! I bet you’re thinking a room FULL of what I can only describe as a “Cumberland Sausage Factory” (that reference has stuck with me after a CTO recently called his tech team it as he took me around the office!) and we all know in the tech industry it’s pretty relevant.
Networking can be associated with stress, dread, anxiety and probably some of your best excuses not to go, I know I’ve considered using the ‘I’ve got to wash my hair’ excuse many times before.
You may have had a prior experience that hasn’t been great and you are now building your courage to go to something you have been told you need to go to, or you are just really interested in the topic. But how can you make it easier and why is it worth the effort?
Are you thinking, this is what Networking looks like?
I get it, I really do and I can’t imagine you jumping at the chance to be in a room full of sausage, and I’ll be honest now if we are talking tech then you will be outnumbered there’s no hiding that, but it is getting better, I promise! But a lack of self-confidence can limit you in your opportunities! Now we can’t all be professional networkers, but for whatever reason you are looking to go to an event whether you’re looking to hire or be hired, for example remember you can’t win the game if you don’t want to play it. So embrace your inner sasha!
Here are my 11 top tips:
1. Join a women group
2. Make the effort to go
You can’t stick our head in the sand and forget all about it, because in this day and age, networking is a necessity. Whatever you’re trying to achieve knowing people that can support you, offer new perspectives, and help you forward networking is a powerful thing!
– Make notes on the speaker
– Check on Eventbrite & Meetup who is going, then start stalking. Get on social media and look them up. (What have you got in common, What do they look like?)
4. Put yourself in a good mood
Do something that you enjoy. Get your endorphins going. Eat some chocolate. Go for a run. Lift your spirits, drink a calamine tea or ………………. wine!
5. Dress the part!
Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident. If you look and feel great, you will naturally be more confident. Be assured in your own worth, ability, and power, regardless of the situation you are in.
6. Be Sasha!
Sasha Fierce is, according to Beyoncé, her alter ego that she assumes when she gets on stage. Sasha Fierce is her persona, and what is responsible for her confidence as she struts her stuff on stage. Pretend your confident, we don’t all feel like Beyoncé even on our best days but everyone else doesn’t have to know that. Realize that how you walk, shake hands and make (or avoid eye contact each tells someone whether or not you are self-assured. So stand tall (I try, the whole 5ft1 of me) walk with purpose, smile and look everyone in the eye! This is important, you’ll soon find that even if you don’t feel confident at first you will soon.
7. Small Talk … eh!
Don’t like small talk? Don’t we all? Join in a conversation between others than start up from cold. Buddy up and let the chatter flow, if you find yourself stuck, drop your guard and say what you are thinking ‘I’m awful at small talk’ Odds are they are thinking the same thing and that connection can spark an honest dialogue.
And if all else fails just roll down a hill 🙂
Getting over the first hurdle of saying anything is typically the hardest part. It’s an opportunity to find out all about them too. Turn your attention to them and you’ll soon forget to be self-conscious. The best way to do this is to plan some interesting questions in advance, try ‘what are you hoping to get out of this event?’ ‘What’s your story?’ ‘What would you say that you’re known for?’ or do you like your coke in a bottle or a can (just kidding but if you can rock it then go for it, it’s my ice breaker!)
9. Words have power!!!!
Try to avoid asking anything that could be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – get them to open up a little. Be aware of your word choices, don’t undermined yourself such as I think or maybe, or even apologise for interjecting. You don’t have to interrupt or be rude, but use more confident words that make a statement.
10. Resting bitch face?
Be mindful of how your facial features or expressions may be interpreted. Maybe you tend to furrow your brows when you get nervous, or you maintain a stiff and serious expression. Be mindful of how different expressions may be interpreted.
11. Follow up
Networking doesn’t end at the event, follow up and build stronger connections. You will meet incredible people you wouldn’t usually have access too.
Meeting people at events is tough but it sure gets easier with practice, enjoy it and have FUN!