How to be confident at a networking event

Confident NetworkerSo, you’ve been invited to a networking event…what now?

Networking can seem intimidating if you’re new to it, but it’s an important part of any woman’s career, at any stage of her career. A young professional might need help as she climbs the corporate ladder. The same goes for an entrepreneur trying to establish clients and resources. Anyone looking to change positions or careers can use a network of assistance.

Women and men can both benefit from networking, but they tend to have different networking styles. Once you’ve decided that attending a networking event is worth it (it is!) and you’ve added it to your calendar, it’s time to prepare.

Keep these helpful tips in mind in and around a networking event.

Determine what your objective is

What do you want to achieve from attending the event? e.g business opportunity, meet someone to follow up at a later stage, grow your network. Whatever the reason, ensure you have a clear objective.

Arrive early or on time

While it may seem counterintuitive to be the first one at a networking event, the room is likely calmer and less crowded early on. People won’t have divided into groups yet. This can make it easier to have the confidence to approach other attendees. You’ll be able to initiate conversations with a wide range of people and you’ll get a chance to talk to more attendees than if you had arrived “fashionably late.”

Women tend to listen more and speak less—don’t forget to be heard!

Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships, not just about helping others. Don’t forget to talk about yourself, your career, and your aspirations as much as you are listening to other people’s careers, aspirations, and needs. You may find people approaching you and wanting help from you even if they know little about you. This is a great way to start helpful working relationships for yourself and others!

Ask simple questions to initiate conversations, but don’t hijack the conversation

Rather than trying to sell yourself immediately, try getting to know people as people. Ask simple questions, and remember that everyone likes to talk about themselves. You’ll feel more confident when you get the other person smiling and responding to your questions.

Find common ground

Women at networking events tend to value relationships while men tend to value professional experience more, so consider who you’re talking to. Networking is all about building relationships with people who can help you now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to politely introduce yourself to new people, Remember, waiting for someone to approach you is a waste of time.

Discuss your passions

Don’t be afraid to approach people, introduce yourself, and discuss your passions. Sometimes professional relationships are built on more than careers and professional experience; they can be built on personal experiences and interests as well.

Bonding over things that don’t necessarily revolve around work can help boost your confidence so that when it’s time to discuss work, you are comfortable with the person you’re talking to. This is often a great stepping stone for staying in touch after the event, especially if you connect online.

Connect on social networks like LinkedIn, and follow up

LinkedIn isn’t just for online connections. It can be a handy tool for staying in touch with your professional network which can give you the courage to ask for a favour when you need one.

Rather than just exchanging email addresses or cards, connect with your in-person network on the most prominent social network that is meant for professional networking. This is also a great way to follow up with people after a networking event, which is one of the best ways to truly grow a reliable professional network.

If LinkedIn is too broad or general for your preferences, consider helpful professional networks, like Behind Closed Doors. You’ll find that like-minded people are more committed and reliable.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to acquaintances

Women tend to have smaller networks, but they’re closer to the people in their networks than men tend to be. While it is important to maintain relationships even after the event, don’t be afraid to reach out. Men are more likely to help out an acquaintance when they see it as a reciprocal relationship. Conversely, women are more likely to ask for assistance from someone who they have helped in the past.

Networking doesn’t begin and end at a networking event

A great networker knows that while the best strategy includes connecting with the people attending an event, it also involves people you meet socially, the parents of your children’s friends, or even your fitness class teacher. Networking doesn’t require an event. Rather, it is a behaviour that needs to be practised all the time.

The more you practise, the more confident you’ll feel at making these types of direct and meaningful connections with other people. And all that practice will make a big difference whenever you’re attending a networking event!


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Why You Need a Personal Elevator Pitch

Elevator PitchIn a perfect world, you’ll always have all the time you need to explain your perfect business idea to a potential partner or investor. In the real world, however, opportunities don’t always come, and if they do, they often happen quickly. To successfully connect with the power brokers in the business arena, including when networking, you need to have an elevator pitch prepared and ready to go.

What Is an Elevator Pitch? Why Do I Need One?

CEO and co-founder Tom Deierlein of Thundercat Technology describes an elevator pitch as a 30- to 60-second explanation of what your business is and how it provides value. The concept of an elevator pitch arose from an old story about a sales rep getting into an elevator, and having a CEO step in next to him. In a contained environment, with 60 seconds before the elevator hit the top floor, how would that sales rep explain his company?

Coming up with an elevator pitch can feel frustrating. After you have put weeks and months of work into your business plan, describing every detail, turning around and reducing your business to its simplest explanation can feel reductive and incomplete. Knowing that women experience a more difficult time accessing venture capital or interesting banks in traditional funding, having a polished pitch helps you get your message across succinctly and successfully.

Your elevator pitch is not the be-all and end-all of your business description or proposal. The goal of an elevator pitch is to pique the other party’s interest. You want to intrigue them so that they want to know more about your product or service. That will be your chance to lay out all the details about what makes your business enticing.

What Do I Mention in My Elevator Pitch?

Your 60-second pitch needs to involve some key details. Explain:

  • What problem your business product or service solves
  • What value you provide
  • How you provide it
  • What your experience is
  • What you want from your listener

Many of these concepts will come straight out of your business plan but need to be much more condensed. Think of distilling your business down to its most basic elements, and remember that you will (hopefully!) have the chance to share more details in the next few minutes.

What Does My Elevator Pitch Need to Do?

The goal of your elevator pitch is to catch the attention of a buyer, an investor, potential partner, or professional mentor. These people are busy and often have many people trying to catch their attention, so your quick pitch is respectful of their time and commitments.

Your elevator pitch needs to sound polished without sounding rehearsed. It is a good idea not to memorise an exact speech that you will repeat every time you have the opportunity; even though everyone knows that elevator pitches are a must in business, you want the person you are speaking with to feel that you have taken the time to research and pitch to him or her in particular. One way to accomplish this is to add in a fact or figure that specifically references their company. You might say, “I know Angel Investors has looked at companies that focus on social media for women, but it doesn’t appear you’ve found the right partner yet,” for example. This tells the listener that you want to work with them in particular.

Embrace the Power of the Elevator Pitch

When you have a well-crafted elevator pitch, which you deliver smoothly and with confidence, you are not just sharing information about your business. You are saying that you have done your research, that you are ready for the next level in the business world, and that you want to see your business evolve. You set yourself up as an equal partner in the conversation, which makes your listener take you more seriously.

Practice your elevator pitch with those who know your industry, and those who do not. See if you can interest people who are not experts. Consider contacting a professional mentoring organisation such as Behind Closed Doors to get some help from business women who understand the nuances of how to sell yourself and your ideas within the business world. And, then try out your elevator pitch on the power players in your world and see what great things come next.


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Why You Should Consider Asset Protection


Asset ProtectionVery few of us truly stop to think about how to protect ourselves financially. It might be a completely foreign topic for some but there are mentors and professionals who can help guide you through this process.

We spend a large part of our time and effort in creating assets and growing our personal wealth. But are we equally diligent in protecting them? Asset protection should be an essential feature of your financial planning as it protects our precious assets like the family home, rental properties, and investment portfolio from personal and financial setbacks.

Asset protection is also important to protect you against bankruptcy, or even a divorce which can lead to the loss of your personal assets.

Protecting Your Personal Assets from Litigation or Bankruptcy

Litigation with your creditors, or a bankruptcy, can cost you your personal property if you are unable to settle your debt. To prevent this from happening, many business owners establish a trust to manage the business and the laws regarding this vary between states.

In the event of litigation, the assets listed under the trust are alone used to settle the case, keeping the personal property of the business owner safe. However, in the case of a loan default, even the personal assets of the Director of the trust can be used to reclaim the loan. Board Directors of NFP, public and private companies need to also heed this advice as you are responsible for various fiduciary duties to the organisation and if breached, may lead to personal liability of the Director.

A good way to avoid this is to keep your important personal assets like your family home in the name of an unexposed spouse so that the property is safe from the outcome of litigation. You can also consider gradually moving your profits and investment portfolio to a self-managed super fund (SMSF) as assets managed under an SMSF are legally protected from creditors.

Both the above ways provide a legal structure to separate you from your assets while still giving you a degree of control over them. This will in turn help to protect your family from any business or Directorship issues that arise.

Protecting Your Assets from Divorce

Family courts will order an equitable division of marital assets in the event of a divorce. In order to safeguard your property for you and your children, you can consider establishing a trust where you can bequeath important assets to your children. Since such trust assets are a financial resource for the children, they are not under any threat during a divorce.

You can even arrange for regular income to be paid to your children from the trust. A prenuptial agreement can also be very useful in preserving your assets for your children, especially if you retain custody of your children.

Preserving Your Assets for Your Children After Your Death

You need to preserve your assets for your children so that they can benefit from them after your death or in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The most common way is through estate planning in which you make a will that clearly lists and divides your assets amongst your spouse and children.

It is normal to make the spouse the sole beneficiary and the children inherit it after his or her death. Leaving a will behind prevents differences regarding who gets what and ensures an equitable division of your wealth.

Recent legal reforms have led to Family and Bankruptcy laws being much stricter than they were before. For example, the Bankruptcy Act has a four-year claw back period during which asset protection steps may get nullified, allowing them to be used for legal settlement.

It is clearly imperative to protect your assets financially. Setting up trusts, have a will and possibly a prenuptial agreement can all help you to protect you and your family from unfortunate situations. There are a number of mentors and professional contacts at BCD who can advise you on how to best protect your assets for the future.


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