If you rely on a steady flow of clients to support and grow your business, then you need to network. It’s as simple as that!
I know that you know this and you know that I know that you know this. And yet, you don’t do it. Why?
It’s probably because you “hate” networking. You hate it because:
- It feels inauthentic, overly salesy and pushy
- You don’t see the point in collecting strangers’ business cards
- You’re tired at that time networking events are happening
- Small talk is the worst
- You don’t believe that the people you want to know would be caught dead at a networking event, so why would YOU be caught dead there?
I feel you, friend. That’s how I felt, too!
But, if I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that I had all those thoughts mostly because I NEVER networked! I was saying all of these things to my coach with absolute conviction when I hadn’t gone to a single networking event in NYC in more than a decade that wasn’t associated with a conference I was already attending.
It is often the case that when people have a strong opinion about something they have very little actual knowledge about, those opinions are driven by FEAR. Here’s the real list of why I “hated” networking:
- I didn’t know where to go
- I didn’t know what to say
- I didn’t know what to wear
- I worried people wouldn’t like me
- And I worried that people would wonder why I was there when I was clearly NOT as cool as they were
Say it with me: Fear is never the truth.
My coach threw down the gauntlet when we began working together. “You will go to one networking event a week forevermore. And if you have time, you will go to two.”
Never one to back down from a challenge, I did some searching and found an event to go to. My first professional networking event was SO IRRELEVANT to me and my work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a happy hour that was preceding a weekend-long conference for project managers.
I, quite obviously, wasn’t going to attend the conference since I was not a project manager! All I really knew was that it was on a Wednesday near Penn Station and I would be able to make a train home and get to bed by 10. #priorities
I walked in with my business cards clutched in my hand, prepared with my elevator pitch, ready to “network!” The first person I walked up to got a major deer-in-the-headlights look when I announced that I am a coach.
She said “Oh, I was just leaving!” and ran away. This room was maybe 20 x 20 feet, so I saw her for the rest of the night on the other side of it. She didn’t leave, she just wanted to get away from me!
The second person I spoke to, literally just stopped speaking and turned on his heel to talk to someone else. Finally, I met a really nice guy who chatted with me and was interested in my work. I got his business card and then fled the scene.
This is one of the great rookie stories of my business career (and you KNOW I love a good rookie story!), but it’s one that I’m on a mission to save YOU from.
Networking can be great. You can make friends, find speaking engagements, find all the help you need, and all the clients you can serve. YOU CAN, but it really, really helps when you are networking with your people and it helps A TON if you have a real, solid, plan.
That’s where I come in!
In this post, I’m sharing the fruits of my months and months of networking. I’ve come to realize that there are really 3 flavors of networking events and I’m going to give you the skinny on each one. Bonus: if you live in New York City, you can check these out!
Networking Events in NYC that You NEED to Know About
These are events where the goal is networking alongside a speaker. Often the speakers are professional women with businesses and the topic is usually empowerment. I LOVE THEM! The women who come to these events run the gamut- some are in corporate jobs, others are entrepreneurs, and some are from non-profit sectors like education, healthcare or international development. The one thing they have in common is that they are out in the world, seeking improvement in themselves and their lives. A great place for therapists and coaches to go and mingle!
I’ve been to two of these and I really love them- the speakers are often VERY successful so you get a glimpse into how powerful women are able to overcome hurdles and make things happen. I really enjoy these chats! Open networking happens before the speaker while you enjoy free wine and “light bites.”
The size of the crowd can be a little large, but they’ve been moving back towards more intimate events, which I appreciate. Remember, though, even at a large event everyone is EXPECTING you to walk up to them and introduce yourself. It’s not awkward or unwanted, it is, in fact, a gift to them (because now they don’t have to do it!). This is one of my favorite networking events in NYC.
Power Hour is a panel of 3 women entrepreneurs organized around a wellness theme that happens every couple of months. It’s organized by Daphnie Wang, who is an Athleta ambassador so the panel happens in the fitness studio of the Flatiron Athleta store.
This networking event for professional women happens before the panel upstairs on the sales floor and the women are all really kind and open to connection (gotta love the wellness community!). For therapists, this a great place to find power referral partners in fields like personal training, yoga, and meditation! I was on a panel this Spring and I’ve been to two other panels- I really like the experience and have met some amazing people!
Be Social Change is an organization run by a cool guy names Marcos Salazar. He offers co-ed events focused on the intersection of social good and career/business. He is personally a career coach so his events focus on careers alongside events like “the future of sustainable products.” There are also straight up networking “mixers,” panels, and fireside chats (when a single speaker is interviewed, as opposed to offering a talk).
I’m a member of Be Social Change so you are likely to catch me at their mixers and networking events in NYC because I like the community he’s creating. The people I meet there are always very socially minded and cool. Another great place to find potential clients!
Six degrees is a GREAT resource for networking events in NYC. They have events every single week that focus on everything from wellness to productivity, from video to SEO.
The Six Degrees claim to fame is that they take some of the bite out of the networking by matching you with someone who seems like a good fit.
Here’s how it works: you show up and have some open networking while you drink wine and eat crudité. Eventually, the facilitator will tell you to find your first match- you know who that match is because the organizer sent you an email with your matches before the event. There are 5 minutes where everyone walks around peering at each other’s name tags and before you know it you are engaged in 15 minutes of curated conversation. This is a great opportunity to practice the networking strategy I lay out in the guide!
NOTE: this one has chapters all over the country!
I’m just getting started with this group so I’ll update this entry after I’ve been to a few of their women networking events, but what I’m liking about them so far is that they have daytime lunch and learns as well as more traditional nighttime network events. This is a huge help to me because I’ve got small children and every night networking is a night away from them.
UPDATE: I’ve grown to love networking so much that I started a networking event of my own!
In the time since this post originally posted, I’ve started a breakfast meetup for coaches and therapists! My goal is to give coaches and therapists a place to get together, learn about the business side of their practice, and strengthen their referral network. It’s been AMAZING. Check out my Eventbrite page here to see what’s coming up! Wr have a ton of fun, and I’m watching people’s practices bloom before my very eyes. I LOVE IT! Come and join us!
PS- How beautiful is this space? We’ve partnered with KettleSpace and Hotel Chantelle to have our meetup in a place where you might like to have your birthday party. One more reason to join us!!
One of the best ways to network is to go to a PROGRAM, not a networking event! Almost every event you to go to will have a networking component, but because it’s part of an event that people are independently interested in, people tend to be less stressed about the talking-to-strangers part.
And because you all opted into the same event, you know that there’s already something important that you have in common! My one word of caution for these amazing networking opportunities is to resist the urge to sit back and simply enjoy the event- you must keep your head in the game!
Check out the guide for more details about how to network like a pro. Here are two events that I’ve enjoyed that have a strong networking component, but honestly, any event where your people are likely to be is a very good place to network!
This a great event is a 3-day workshop on public speaking that is full-to-bursting with interesting people. Lots of authors, coaches, content creators, and influencers. The professional networking at this event happen during designated networking events, in the hallways, in the seats waiting for sessions, and during the sessions themselves as you work collaboratively on your talk.
It was at HPS when I met MY coach, and we had a very natural and organic connection that had the time to deepen and develop while we moved through the sessions of the event. That kind of time together is valuable to anyone whose clients’ decision is largely based on personal connection.
Running with Heels is an organization in NYC that offers mastermind circles both virtually and online. I am NOT a part of those masterminds, but I like the idea of them so I pay attention to Running with Heels. One thing they do that is open to the larger public is a Women’s Business Book Club that ends with a visit from the author! I’m going to the Gretchen Rubin book club event for her new book in July.
While the programmatic networking is your opportunity to network on the sly, referral networking events in NYC are your chance to network with the blatant expectation of action.
A business referral network is one where everyone there agrees that they will actively work to promote each other’s business through the referral of potential clients and power partners. It is a POWERFUL relationship, and I’ve heard many, many people say that their business grew almost entirely because of formalized referral networking.
The most well-known referral network is Business Network International or BNI. BNI chapters across the country and around the world meet weekly at 7am on Wednesdays. You go every single week, and in between meetings you are constantly on the lookout for people you can refer to your BNI chapter members. The expectation is that you will refer A LOT of people to your BNI chapter colleagues, and they will refer a lot of people to you. I started out very suspicious of BNI- it felt overwrought, contrived and inauthentic. Again, this opinion was based on ZERO actual knowledge, which means that the opinion was based on fear. I’ve now been to two BNI chapters meetings (BNI 1 and BNI 7) and I’m impressed.
Now, to be clear, BNI is exactly what it claims to be. While the members of the two chapters I’ve been to seem to really like each other, they spend the entire meeting facilitating business referrals. Every week, every member goes around and reminds the room of what they do and who they need in their business. After each person speaks, the WHOLE ROOM shouts out part of their tagline. For example, I said, “I help therapists grow their practice so they can make more money” and the whole room hollered “HELP THERAPISTS MAKE MORE MONEY!” which is a classic NLP technique to facilitate behavior change and memory.
Now here’s the kicker! After both BNI meetings, I had actual referrals come my way. I was blown away! BNI works. It’s expensive (see the sidebar), and a huge ongoing commitment ($100 a month!), but it seems to truly, genuinely, work. I’m thinking of joining a chapter in the fall, so if you want to visit, let me know. I’ll be happy to bring you as a guest. 🙂
Women Empowering Networking Group (WENG)
WENG is an off-shoot of BNI and it functions in the same way, but its for women only. It’s by invitation only and very exclusive; it doesn’t even have a website! Here’s the description from the Facebook page:
“When Family Law Attorney Janice Roven found out that she was being excluded from a high-powered networking association because of her gender, she and Davida Perry (an attorney specializing in Workplace Discrimination) started their own group in 2016. Since then the group has more than tripled in size, and they continue to forge new relationships and strengthen their business ties with other women in New York City.”
I am in the middle of joining so if you are interested, shoot me an email and you can come as my guest!
Now, remember how I said that the real reason you “hate” networking is because you didn’t know where to go, what to say, what to wear and are worried people wouldn’t like you?
Well, I just solved the first one for you and I’m solving the others in my brand new guide. It’s a visual, step-by-step plan to take the guesswork out of networking.
It won’t be long before you are networking like a pro (hopefully attending networking events in NYC so we can hang out), and reaping the rewards of new clients, power partners, and opportunities that would never have hit your radar. Grab your free guide now!