The word “networking” can be a dirty word. It’s synonymous with awkward meet ups with people you don’t know shoving their business card in your face. It means finding a response to the (most) awkward question, “so, what do you do?” It means a pocketful of business cards from people that you aren’t really interested in. Networking can be like a very bad date: not going anywhere, an awkward situation, but thankful you could drink during it.
New “networking” groups, like The Lady Project, are changing the tone, style and outcome of your typical networking event. By having events in new, stylish bars and restaurants and unexpected spots like city parks, historic libraries and roof decks, that set the tone for a casual night out, without pressure, with women (our events are only for folks who identify as a woman) from all different backgrounds and industries.
Lady Project events are affordable (which many other networking events can be super unaffordable), with tickets ranging from $10-30 per event. Our events also feature a 3×3 speaker series, with three women from different backgrounds and industries speaking for three minutes, which can sometimes be a challenge.
The biggest thing that Lady Project events lack, that most other events have, is the “what can you do for me?” feeling. The mission of the Lady Project is to connect, inspire and showcase awesome women doing amazing things.
Here are some tips for your next networking (or better yet, Lady Project!) event:
Bring the business cards, but don’t have them out all the time. It’s awkward when someone gives you a business card right away (and can feel salesy); wait until you need to pass on your contact info to make that next step
Have a question to ask. Instead of something (boring) like, “what do you do?” ask other ladies: “Do you live and work here?” “What’s your passion?” “How did you find out about this event?” Questions that aren’t just what do you do (and can feel spammy) can start a bigger conversation and make more of an impact
Think about what YOU can offer, instead of what they can offer you. Are you starting a freelance gig and can offer your design services for a new start up? Do you have time to mentor a student? Make a connection for someone? By offering to help another person, you can make a bigger statement, and often a better connection.
At events, you don’t need to connect with every person you talk to; but go out of your way to say hi and introduce yourself. Going to networking events should not be about making the next sale or seeing who’ll be at an event that can further your career—it’s about making a genuine connection and forming an authentic relationship.
Sierra Barter hails from Hubertus, Wisconsin and came to PVD to attend Johnson & Wales University. With her degree in Advertising & Marketing Communications, Sierra worked for WaterFire Providence and a small web firm before joining her alma mater as a Social Media Coordinator. Sierra also runs her own social media consulting business, @SierraBarter and fosters dogs with Critter Calvary Rescue. She also serves on the board of Girls on the Run RI as Communications Chair and the Summit Neighborhood Association. She is currently pursuing her MBA at JWU.