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6 Tips for Effectively Using Direct Messages for Networking

Some of my most meaningful connections, friendships, career opportunities, event sponsors all share one thing in common…the relationship started with a direct message (DM) via social media.

Crazy, right?

For those who may be unfamiliar, a direct message (most commonly referred to as a DM) is a private message sent to a user via any social media platform. You can send DM’s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

The thing is, DMs often get a bad rap. 

Photographer: Gooseberry Studios

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10 Common Networking Dilemmas (and How to Solve Them!)

You know – it’s no wonder that most people say they don’t like networking. Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event? From finding one to go to, to researching to see if it’s even worth it, figuring out what to wear, starting and exiting conversations…and the list goes on. Talk about major effort, right?

 

 

Lucky for you, I’ve spent some time putting together a master list of various networking dilemmas that occur before, during and after the event to make your life a little easier:

Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event?

Before the event

I don’t know how to find events near me! 

There are always events going on – you just need to know where to look! If you’re in the Toronto area, I do my best to post local events on my Event Calendar!

You can also check out sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup and most people list their events there. I also highly suggest doing a local Twitter search and of course, Google! I’ve written an entire post that walks you through how to find local events. Read it here.

How do I know if an event is worth my time?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you looking for a new job?

Are you trying to switch industries?

Are you looking to meet new people?

 

Always research to find out if the event is aligned with your current goals before you invest any time and money into an event.

I don’t have anyone to go with and I don’t want to go alone!

I know that having someone with you can help ease any anxiety but sometimes your best connections can be made when you’re alone! Sometimes when we attend with someone, we end up sticking with them the entire event which can hinder our ability to really connect with new people. But if you really do want someone else with you – let your network know! Post on social media that you’re attending the event and ask if anyone else is going. You’ll hopefully get some responses and can make plans to meet up. This is also where having a business bestie can come in handy!

I have no idea what to wear!

Although the dress code will vary depending on the event you’ll be attending, you should look polished and professional no matter what! Here’s my go-to networking look for a business casual environment:

  • Blazer or cardigan
  • Nice shirt
  • Statement necklace
  • Dark wash jeans
  • Pumps

I’ve also written a specific post on what to wear to a summer networking event. You can read it here.

I’m a student and/or unemployed so I don’t have a business card. What do I do?

You definitely still need to bring a card with you. Instead of a “business” card, you should create a personal brand card! This should have key information such as:

  • Your name
  • Email
  • Social Media Handles
  • Areas of expertise

Creating your business cards: If your budget allows, you can hire a graphic designer to create them for you. If not, I highly recommend Canva – it’s a FREE online design platform and they have templates for everything – including business cards!

Ordering your business cards: I’ve found Vistaprint to be amazing for business cards and they usually come very quickly

 

During the Event

I never know how to introduce myself in an interesting way!
It’s important to create a short elevator pitch for yourself that you can use in any situation whether it’s a networking event or you’re in an actual elevator!
Some tips:
  • Be natural (if you pretend to be someone you’re not, it will be obvious!)
  • Explain what you do in clear, basic terms
  • Highlight how you provide value through what you do
  • Give just enough to leave them asking more
I highly recommend reading the book Brag to not only get better at introducing yourself but effectively promoting yourself without sounding cocky. It’s one of the best career books I’ve read!
 

I want to start a conversation with someone but I don’t know what to say to break the ice!

This is probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts about networking, especially for introverts. How you break the ice does depend on the type of event but some conversation starters you can use are:

  • What did you think of the panel or presentation?
  • Is it your first time to one of these events?
  • That’s a great [insert item name here; necklace, shoes, shirt, earrings, etc.] you have on!

I really want to leave but I don’t know how to end the conversation without looking rude.

Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you may think. I typically recommend being honest (unless of course, you’re just leaving to go home and watch Netflix) but there may be other reasons why you want to leave the conversation. I created 4 scripts that you can use for different situations which you can find here.

After the Event

I never end up making real connections at networking events!

There are a few reasons why this could be happening:

  • You’re not doing your research beforehand to see if this event can help you meet your goals
  • You’re attending with a friend that you already know and sticking with them during the entire event instead of having your own conversations
  • You don’t ask the right questions
  • You’re not attending the event with the right energy (For example, did you have a bad day and your body language isn’t too friendly?)
  • You don’t follow up afterwards

You get out of it what you put in. Make a plan before, during and afterwards to ensure that the connections you make last beyond the event.

How do I keep in touch with the people I meet after the event? 

Knowing how to network successfully is pivotal to success in our careers. However, in my opinion, what we don’t hear enough about is what do after you network. Of course, what you do before and during the networking event is important but unless you’re strategic about what you do afterwards, what was the point of even going? What you do after you attend a networking event (of any kind) is what will make the biggest difference in your career.

I shared my tried and true tips for what you should do after you attend a networking event here.

You really do have to put the WORK in networking in order to be successful. Some of it is easy peasy, some is a bit anxiety-inducing but if you’re committed, the end result is definitely worth it.

Have a dilemma that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below and I’ll update the post with my advice!

P.S. Bookmark this post as I’ll be updating it regularly (and you can quickly take a read before attending events!) and send to a friend who could use the tips!

5 Steps to Getting Event Sponsors

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to host 5 networking events and by the second one, I was able to secure support from various sponsors. Yes, the events were still relatively new but the numbers don’t matter as much as value. Without value, it doesn’t matter how many attendees or social media impressions you have. You may think that your event is “too small” but it may be exactly the type of event a company is looking to support.

But, let’s be honest – reaching out to sponsors is nerve-wracking! Between finding the right people to contact, drafting the emails, waiting patiently for responses (you’ll probably refresh your emails every few minutes) and dealing with rejection, landing sponsors is not easy. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned since organizing my own events – nothing worth having comes easy and you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to reach out to potential sponsors but if you successfully land sponsorship support, it can truly help to elevate your brand.

Here are 5 tips to help you get event sponsors:

Create a strong sponsorship package

It’s imperative that you have a short yet concise document that you can share with your sponsors that highlights exactly why they should get involved with your event. Here are the key things to include:

  • Who you are and your expertise (what’s your background, why are you passionate about this and what makes you qualified)
  • Details on past events (attendee numbers, photos, positive feedback – highlight your growth!)
  • Attendee demographics (describe your attendees by age, interests, location, professional background, etc.)
  • Benefits of sponsoring your event (a.k.a. What value can you provide them?)
  • Testimonials
  • Sponsorship options (will you provide pre-set packaged opportunities or customized options?)
  • Contact information

Research and create an outreach list

When it comes to sponsorship, don’t just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks – in other words, don’t reach out to anyone and everyone and take whoever responds. You need to be specific in terms of who your ideal sponsors would be so that it makes sense for your event. Take time to research and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What brands can best integrate into your event and provide value?
  • Who has sponsored events similar to yours?
  • What brands do our attendees like?

 

Create customized emails

Once you have a targeted list, it’s time for you to start your outreach. I highly recommend trying to find emails for a specific person – emails sent to a general mailbox rarely ever receive responses. If you can’t easily find the best contact from the company’s website – don’t get discouraged! Here’s what I do:

  • Look up the best contact on LinkedIn
  • Once I have the first and last name, I research to find out how the company structures their email addresses (for example – is it firstnamelastname@company, firstname.lastname@company, etc.)
  • The quickest way to find out how the company structures their emails? Search for a recent press release and check the contact details at the bottom!

Before you start reaching out, it’s important to know exactly what type of support you would like from them. Take some time to brainstorm some ideas so that if they ask you what you have in mind, you can respond right away. Be direct yet reasonable in your requests.

Your emails need to be short but valuable and from the first few sentences, you need to make clear what’s in it for them. Start by addressing them by name and then briefly introducing yourself, what you do and the value you provide. Let them know your package is attached for them to review and be sure to end the email with a call-to-action so that they’re more likely to respond – you could ask to set up a call or a meeting to provide them with more details.

I also suggest creating a tracker so that you can keep a record of all the emails you sent out, what date and the responses you receive. This way, you’ll be able to effectively follow up.

Keep the communication lines open

Once a sponsor has agreed to partner with you, it’s important to openly communicate with them both before and after the event. Provide them with all of the event details and update them on any changes that may occur. Also be sure to respond to all emails within 24 hours.

Follow-up

Your follow-up after the event is extremely important. If you’re able to maintain the relationship, you could potentially have a permanent sponsor! Within 48 hours, send each sponsor a thank you email with pictures and stats from the event. I also suggest sending a handwritten thank you card within 7 days to really show your appreciation for their support.

Now, let’s be honest – you could follow all of these steps and still receive a No. If you do (and it’s very likely that you will receive a few of them – that’s just life), do not let it discourage you. Move forward and continue reaching out because you’re sure to find the right company that completely believes in your vision and will help to take your event to the next level.

Would you be interested in an e-Book on all things event sponsorship, including more proposal tips, screenshots from successful sponsorship packages, email templates and more? Leave me a comment below! 

What to Wear to a Summer Networking Event

Oh, summer! I absolutely love this season as not only does it allow us to wear fun summer attire but as the temperature rises so does the amount of networking opportunities! I think it’s safe to say that no matter where you’re located, there’s an opportunity for you to get out and meet new people every single week. So if you’re eager to get out, take advantage of the warm weather and meet new people, there’s only question I have for you – what are you going to wear?

Related: Check out this post on How to Find Local Networking Opportunities

Dressing for summer networking events (and just dressing in the summer, in general) does pose a bit of challenge as since it’s so warm outside, many of us become tempted to dress super casually (I mean, flip flops and shorts type of casual) and show skin. Although summer events tend to be held in more casual settings such as a restaurant patio or rooftop, it’s still important to look professional as after all, first impressions are important no matter what season it is!

networking event outfit

When Nine West Canada provided me with the opportunity to select a pair of shoes from their summer collection, I knew immediately that I needed this red pair in my closet. They are a sleek and classic pair of wedges that you can easily transition for different dress codes.

I wore these shoes during the networking event I hosted in June and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they wore! I was running up and down all afternoon and didn’t complain about my feet once. Finding a stylish yet comfortable pair of shoes can be tricky but it’s not a challenge you should back down from. I speak from experience when I say that if you wear uncomfortable shoes to a networking event, it will make you super miserable and you’ll end up leaving early. Do you want to potentially miss out on meeting someone important all because your shoes are uncomfortable?

Here are two different networking outfit options featuring the same pair of shoes:

The Fun, Patterned Dress

I love this outfit because it’s one that you can wear both to the office and an after-work networking event! In an effort to remain cool yet stylish, I recommend choosing a light dress that is flattering and exposes little to no skin. Try to find a dress that is hemmed just below your knee to achieve an elegant look. I also typically go for sleeveless dresses especially on super humid days to ensure that I avoid those embarrassing sweat pits.

networking event outfit

Summer is also the perfect season to wear some fun colours and patterns to your networking events. This dress is great because it’s super colourful but is still very clean and elegant. Of course, you should always wear a statement necklace when you can – not only is it the perfect icebreaker but it adds the perfect finishing touch.

I loved how the open-toe wedges really complimented my dress as they were a great match with the colours on my dress and they helped to give me an overall friendly and approachable look while still looking professional, as open-toe shoes typically do.

The Statement Jeans

I know this outfit might not work for many office settings but it’s a look that I love for super casual weekend events! In fact, this is the exact outfit I wore when I hosted my event last month. Embroidered jeans seem to be “on-trend” this summer and although you know I’m not a big fan of following fashion trends – I can appreciate embroidered jeans as they are a great way to make a statement! Pair them with a neutral top so that your jeans become the focal point – I’m sure you’ll even get a compliment or two on how great they look! To bring out some of the colour in the embroidery, the wedges were perfect and of course, super comfy!

 

So, there you have it – one pair of shoes styled for two different types of networking events! Any pair of shoes that I can wear from work to weekend is a winner in my books. Find yourself your own pair of comfortable networking shoes and you too will be ready to make a great first impression no matter where you go!

Outfit details

Wedges: Nine West Canada (they’re on sale!)

Dress: Zara

Statement Necklace: H&M

Earrings: Charming Charlie

Top: Zara

Embroidered Jeans: Zara

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Disclosure: My shoes were sponsored by Nine West Canada but all words and opinions are my own.

 

The Why Women Panel: June 10 ideate networking Recap

A couple of months ago, I was reading the book Start with Why (I highly recommend it!) and all of a sudden I was hit with this idea. How awesome would it be to put together a panel of empowering and confident women who have been lucky enough to find their passion a.k.a their “why”?! I would call it…”the why women panel”.

It felt like the perfect mid-year event. With June as the halfway point of the year, it’s typically a time of self-reflection as we look back at the past 6 months at both our failures and successes. It’s difficult to be successful (and happy!) if we don’t know “why” we’re doing something. It can be easy to get caught up with wanting a specific job or a specific item but why exactly do we want it? How can we actually uncover our passion? How do we deal with people that don’t support our vision?

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These New LinkedIn Updates Will Up Your Networking Game

LinkedIn has been an important networking platform for years but over the past few months, they’ve made some significant updates to their user experience to help us taking our networking to the next level!

Here are 3 important updates you should know about:

Easily meet up with other members

Have you ever been out of town for a conference or meeting and wish you had the opportunity to connect with people in your network? Well, now you can! You have to opt-in for this feature in order to make your current location public but I can definitely see it proving itself useful for those who “never eat alone”. P.S. If you’ve never read the book, Never Eat Alone, it’s a must-read that will completely change the way you view networking.

Photo Filters

Bring your Instagram skills over to LinkedIn because you now have much more options to to edit your photo from cropping to a wide array of filters. Don’t forget – your photo is the first thing people look at when they land on your profile so you should always ensure it’s high-quality and the best reflection of you!

Message connections from anywhere on LinkedIn

Connecting with someone on Linkedin is easier than ever as you can now access the messaging tool from wherever you are. Found someone interesting you want to learn more about? You don’t even have to leave their profile to send them a message! Plus, Linkedin now provides message prompts to help you construct the perfect message. We’ve all been there – we want to send a short but intelligent sounding message but we have no idea what to say. Looks like Linkedin understood our pain and has pre-written messages that you can either use word-for-word or simply just use them as inspiration for what you would like to say.

If you haven’t been spending much time on LinkedIn lately, head over and check these features out. Happy networking!

4 Ways to Gracefully Exit a Networking Conversation

When it comes to networking events, a common challenge for people is figuring out the right icebreakers. What exactly do you say to end that awkward silence and start a conversation?

I was recently quoted in a roundup article on Ladders HQ alongside six other professionals to share my favourite go-to icebreaker – statement jewelry. Trust me when I say it’s the networking tool you never knew you needed.

But icebreakers aside, it’s not just starting the conversation that’s a challenge – it’s gracefully exiting it. You know what I mean. You need to end the conversation because you see someone else you would like to chat with – or you simply want to go home and curl up with a blanket and Netflix. (By the way, that is totally understandable and I may or may not have left a networking event to do this.)

networking

Whatever the reason is, here are 4 scripts you can use to gracefully leave the conversation:

Be honest about work

“Sara, it was a pleasure meeting you but I do have to head out as I have a few other things on my to-do list tonight. Enjoy the rest of your evening!

Going to chat with someone else

“Pleasure chatting with you, Claire – I actually see an old colleague of mine that I’d like to say hi to before heading out. I’d love to get your card though and I’ll connect with you online.

When you want to plan a follow-up chat

Alicia – so glad we met tonight! I do have to head out but we should definitely set up a time to chat further about [insert topic you talked about here] – can I get your card and I’ll shoot you an email this week?

When you’re looking for a job and they seem like they could help

Grace – so nice chatting with you. Unfortunately, I do have to head out but do you mind if I get your card? I love the sound of the culture at [insert company name here] – by what you’ve said it seems like a great place to work! I’d love to connect and set up a time for us to grab a coffee – if you have some time in your schedule in the next few weeks?

What things have you said to exit a networking conversation?

Ideate Networking Event Recap – January 2017

They say that third time’s a charm. I’ve never fully believed that until I had the opportunity to co-host my third ideate networking event alongside my business bestie, Jeanne.

Curious to hear the story behind my networking events? Read this recap from our first event.

On Sunday, January 22, Jeanne and I brought together 15 amazing women who were so diverse yet alike in that we all share an innate passion for entrepreneurship.

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How to Get the Most Out of Conferences

conferences

Out of all the various way to network, I have to admit that I like conferences the most. Not only is it an excellent way to expand your network (as most typically have hundreds of people) but you also get to increase your knowledge! I don’t know about you but in my eyes – that’s a win-win!

But to ensure that you get the most for your time and money commitment, you need a plan. Instead of just showing up and hoping that you’ll meet great people, it’s better to be intentional about what you want to achieve while you’re there.

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