Whether you are a shoes' lover (like me and many) or not, I'm sure you have seen many women approaching each other to say, with enthusiasm, "I LOVE your shoes", right?
And many immediately ask, "where did you get them?", and the "praised shoes wearer" is happy to share immediately all the details, stories related to the process of getting them, and even the price. Does it sound familiar?
Recently, I was attending a training with my mentor and again the topics of networking, building a community, become a connector and alike, came into the agenda; and with them the importance of "reaching out" and "talking our way up" to achieve what we want in business and in life.
As you probably know, I know, and most women out there know and agree, we women are not the most successful on putting into practice some key elements of effective networking. We refrain from reaching out for support (still wanting to do everything by ourselves, and "perfect"), we find awkward to speak our way up to promote ourselves (still waiting, quietly, to be recognised for our hard and diligent work), and, we are not so keen to share contacts, or to be a connector between people (still afraid of... to be honest I don't really know what...).
Then I thought, why are we so good in praising other's shoes, and we can't praise ours, and others, skills openly? Why are we so ready to share where we got those precious shoes, while we hide some information which could be valuable to promote ourselves or to support other professional women we know? Why are we so willing to put a person in touch with the shoe maker - if that is the case - and refrain from asking, and passing on, contacts who might be beneficial to ours, or someone else's, business?
That got me thinking... is that related to our "protective and nurturing" instinct (keeping all under our wings)? Or is it truly because we still have a lot to learn on how to behave, communicate, engage and take benefit (specially this one) from the encounters in our professional and personal life?
I often tell to my students, "if you go to a network event, go with a plan. What do you want to get from the event? Who do you want to meet? Who can put you in touch with someone you want to talk to?" Even if your plan is not to have a plan and go for the social part of it only, be clear about that beforehand. And please, follow up afterwards. What is the point of getting so many business cards and not connecting later?
I believe if we use the analogy of the "shoes' appraisal" and apply it into our professional encounters we will start seen some "interesting" mutual benefits growing from the relationships that most probably will start from there. We will have, the least, the opportunity of growing our community.
One of the core values of the AWE Summit events is to become a connector. To become a reference platform where women get together not only to share stories, but also, to create connections which can develop further in new ventures, businesses and collaborations. Every speaker in our event is "instructed" to be open to share stories and topics that can add value to the audience and lead them to take action. They should also be open to connect and engage directly with them. And the audience is also encouraged to reach out to the speakers and to anyone else during the event. We have already some "success stories" to share on that matter. Where new ventures and collaborations started from one of our AWE Summit events.
However, there is still a lot to do towards that. In the last event in Barcelona we had the opportunity to join forces with the WWI (World Work Innovation) project run by Valkiria Hub Space, and for the next event in Porto and Zurich we are already in negotiation of some partnerships.
Networking is an art, but also a game. A game where our communication, listening and persuasion skills should be used wisely, but also where our instincts and gut feelings techniques play a role, this is the art in it. As for every art and game we have the desire to master, we have to practice, to take action. However, there are rules, strategies and principles that should be learned beforehand to reach the desired results. Always falling back to the basics, to the 3 Keys to every and any success: Preparation > Practice > Performance.
So, there you go ladies. Next time you LOVE someone's shoes, try to expand the conversation to something that will take you not only to the shoe maker, but, to a next client, contract, a business venture or even a promotion. You never know what lies at the top of those shoes if you don't ask.
Every encounter can open new doors, and effective communication is key to reach your desired goals. Always Speak Up, Stand Out & Lead!