Tips to Take the Networking Plunge for Women 40+
When the sun is beating down on you and sweat is oozing out your pores, there is nothing more invigorating than plunging into cool, clear, and refreshing waters.
But if instead, you choose to bashfully dip in your big toe, and then plant yourself on the pool-step nearest to the shallow end for the rest of the afternoon, the results will be dramatically different.
Well, meet-and-greets don’t have to be that way, if you learn how easy it is to get off the sidelines to allow yourself to sink or swim, even if you’ve never learned to tread water.
But what if you’re painfully shy and are accustomed to spending most of your life living on the sidelines?
For an introverted businesswoman, Kristen Reed Edens, even after countless rehearsal sessions locked in the bathroom, she still had to “quell parking lot panic before entering.”
“I realized that I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to do–unless I put myself out there,” says Edens, content creator, brand developer, and midlife blogger. So, she developed “Get Off Your Ass,” (GOYA) strategies to dive into the networking game and win!
Whether you are starting over in a new city, new to the networking game, or pivoting to a new career, these four successful women that I have interviewed will prime you for the networking plunge.
Kristen Reed Edens will ease you in with her GOYA tips, while Marie Sultana Robinson, a business coach, content, and copywriter, will help you maximize local resources. Dr. Jo Anne White, a certified professional coach and consultant, bestselling and award-winning author and speaker, TV, and radio executive producer and host, will guide you through networking prep and follow-up. And Debra Wallace, a motivational speaker, and an award-winning writer and editor will help you connect and build relationships.
Employ GOYA Strategies for the Introvert to Tread Water:
Basically, Edens encourages getting your feet wet. “You are presenting what you think your audience needs and testing out and refining your business idea with each meet-up over time.”
Here are 23 Tips to take the Networking Plunge for Women 40+:
Remember, You are Not Alone.
Networking jitters are common but well hidden. “I was absolutely terrified,” explains Edens, “but it was necessary to build my brand and business.”
Practice Makes Perfect.
Rehearse pitches and conversation starters and responses until you’re comfortable. “Be confident, state what you do, how and why you do it.”
Seek out people you may know who could introduce you.
Scope out the Room.
Find other introverts hovering in corners, near exits, fumbling with cell phones.
Check out the Refreshments.
Nibble and network with ease.
Build A Local Network.
Recently, Robinson moved, and she quickly got to know all the local business owners and her neighbors. “I’m piecing together where they work, what they do, so I can pursue new business contacts.”
Make Friends with Your Local Businesses.
Find out what people do, local events, and business groups.
Make Friends with the Cops and Firefighters.
“Because cops know what’s going on in the community, safe areas, reputable businesses, and the best cheap food.”
Join Local Business Groups.
Civic, private, nonprofits.
Volunteer for Local Conventions.
Get to Know Your Neighbors.
So, on Saturdays, Robinson grabbed a coffee, sat on the couch, and chatted with her neighbors in the lobby.
Prepare for Success.
“You only have seconds to make a lasting impression,” so White advises, “Make those seconds really count.”
Shape Your Elevator Pitch around the Type of People Who Will be There.
Speak with Enthusiasm, Confidence, and Passion About What You Do and Why You Do It.
It’s contagious. “I love being my own boss and helping people in whatever capacity I can,” White remarks. This needs to come across with every encounter.
Capitalize on Your Nervous Energy and Excitement.
Use it to your advantage. When you speak louder, it comes across as excited and energized.
Connect, Build Relationships, and Make A Splash.
Wallace advises after making introductions, “turn it on them as much as possible, and listen instead of saying, ‘I can do this for you.’ That may come later. But you really want to know their passion, goals, and why they came.”
Make First Impressions Count.
Firm handshake while making eye contact. Networking must be succinct. Introduce yourself quickly, and then ask what they do.
Don’t Do This.
Don’t talk more than you listen, tell too many stories, interrupt, or fumble around inside briefcases or with phones. “If I have a purse or briefcase I may leave it on the chair because I don’t want to be distracted.”
Reach Out to Your ‘’B’’ or ‘’C’’ List Prospects to Warm-up.
Essentials to Have on Hand:
- 30-50 business cards.
- Briefcase stocked with one-sheets or resumes.
- List of top 5 prospects, if you know in advance who is attending.
Memorable Anecdotes Make A Lasting Impression.
Save the Day stories help you stand out. When people ask Wallace what she does, she supplies a short story that matches the skill set that she wants to highlight, in her case tenacity and going above and beyond to get the scoop. “If you want to understand me better, I’m the one that a major newspaper sent to a field in the middle of nowhere in West Palm Beach because no one else could get the story.”
Exchange cards, thank them, and then move to the next contact.
Follow-up is Key to Building Bridges.
“Oftentimes, people go to meetings, and they’re excited, but there is no follow-up. You start to develop mutual trust at a busy networking event,” says White, “so following through is key to building new relationships, increasing your client base, and improving your visibility.” Be sure to set the expectation, ask for permission to follow-up with an email in a few days, and then do it.
She believes that “we are really here to boost one another up, the more we can do, the more successful we can be.”
Are you ready to take the networking plunge? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!