Of all the lessons I learned early in my career, the ability to network strategically stands out as one of the most important — and one I continue to find value in and practice to this day. In fact, I attribute much of my success to networking.
When I was 21 I was president of the European Pharmacy Student Association representing 35,000 pharmacy students in Europe. Networking got me to that point it also got in me in Brussels campaigning for important pharmaceutical legislation. After buying my own pharmacy I was elected onto the board of the Maltese Chamber of pharmacists and remembered my passion for being at such events. Now that my career has evolved into an online business I do not get to network as much as I wish and events like this reignite my passion for making human connections.
Networking groups and events are an efficient way to meet valuable contacts and gain ideas and also to get motivated. But She., A female-only networking group goes the extra mile in providing a space for gender issues, mental health, body positivity and equality to be discussed without judgement.
The event was held at Casino Maltese, in Valletta. This was my second time attending a She. event. There were plenty of female-owned businesses with stands showcasing their products. I bought myself a nice journal from Stephanie Borg that I will be using to write the outline of my upcoming book as well as gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate. Since I have been diagnosed as celiac finding a nice treat is even more pleasurable for me.
It’s no secret that entrepreneurs need mentoring and coaching. I am a binge eating and intuitive eating coach but I also have my own coach. By listening and connecting with one another at in-person events, networks are built and people leave feeling supported and inspired. Whilst driving home from this event, I realized that more than ever women truly need inclusive places to come together, network and share their stories. That’s what regular events like this can provide for female entrepreneurs and professionals, and for those women thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
The meetups are not about excluding men; rather, they’re about creating an environment that is comfortable for women. As well as discussing issues pertaining to women more openly such us menstruation, motherhood, maternity leave and many more.
During each event, four local inspirational women take to the podium to tell their stories, offer advice and answer questions from attendees. No fancy PowerPoint slides or pitch decks are needed, just honesty.
I have to say that this panel was comprised of extremely strong and inspirational women. I was particularly touched by Lorinda and Robyns stories. I loved the fact that they chose to incorporate a medical expert in the field as well. I feel it adds to the credibility of the event.
I also loved the workshop by Mikela Fenech Pace. I found her to be smart, interesting and her insight on human behaviour and struggles is extremely deep. I would have loved to be able to chat with her after the event but unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity.
The new Victorians offered a great show – I will be definitely listening to more of their music after hearing their story and hearing them perform.
I spoke to several women who never attended a networking event after the she event and mentioned how good the event was but they told me that they feel embarrassed about attending a networking meeting. As they do not know how to make conversation with people they never met.
My perspective on these events is that it helps me to connect with new people from different areas of life. I focus on connecting on a human level and what I can learn from this person I’m talking to. You might use small talk as an icebreaker; but quickly move on: When you approach each interaction as a learning opportunity, you may discover a business tool that could bring greater efficiency to a routine at your workplace or knowledge of a new technology this person is working on that could benefit your industry.
Another tip is to let go of the fear of saying something “stupid” and thinking you have to have all the answers. This is something I see a lot of women struggle with, but the truth is, almost everyone in the room is feeling this on some level — no one is an expert on every subject.
Instead, examine the beauty of discussing an unfamiliar topic: It can be the thing that helps build a connection. I have found that when someone knows more about a subject than I do, I have the opportunity to learn something new and engage with that person in a more meaningful way by asking questions.
Expand beyond your comfort zone.
Be willing to get a little uncomfortable. I don’t go to events to hang out with folks from my own company. Instead, I make it a point to mingle with as many new people as possible. Maybe a session of speed networking could be something for the next events to help people get out of their comfort zones.
Often, I inquire around about different events people are attending and ask for an invitation if I find them interesting. Others may find this approach awkward, but I believe the only way to make positive change and achieve growth is to put yourself out there.
In sum, although we live in an age where we primarily communicate via email and social media, the majority of people still value face-to-face contact. In fact, according to a study conducted by Forbes Insights, 84 per cent of those polled preferred in-person meetings because they build stronger business relationships, allow for more stimulating social interaction and foster more complex and deeper conversations.
Ultimately, the best way to network and overcome any negative associations with that task is to be genuinely interested in other people and to be an advocate for their success. Knowing how to strategically network is an incredibly powerful career tool, one that no one, women especially, should overlook. So, start today. Research three meaningful networking events, get yourself invited and get out there. She. has also launched a member package where you can join and have more regular networking events in a more intimate setting. Get in touch with them for more information.