We laughed as the rain literally drowned out discussion leader Andy Bluestone’s voice at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, NJ as he gave us his wisdom on ways to improve and expand one-on-one conversations by asking open-ended questions. We surrendered to the rain for 5 minutes, which most used as ample time to connect with those they were sitting next to at their table.
I met so many fantastic people, and I believe everyone truly benefited from this event—despite the unfortunate weather conditions. My favorite part was definitely the 30-second profiles exercise, which was a chance for everyone to be taken out of their comfort zones and split up into groups, each person being allowed 30 seconds to basically tell us what they are all about. I loved hearing everyone’s different aspirations, and seeing the way their faces lit up when they could talk about something they are proud of and passionate about.
Discussion leader Jack Killion spoke about how a lot of people come to networking events with negative attitudes, feeling as though they have nothing interesting to say or are intimidated by people who are far more successful than they are. I am only 20 years old, halfway through college and taking on my first internship. I was definitely intimidated at first by all of these successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, but then Jack made it clear that every single one of us has something that sets us apart from the rest. Jack was nice enough to introduce me and mention that I will be studying abroad in Australia this coming semester. I instantly felt more confident because this is something I could easily talk about, and it was something everyone was interested in.
Andy pointed out that building your network doesn’t have to take up all your time and effort—it just takes being aware of those who are around you and seizing opportunities to talk to people anywhere and everywhere, whether it be at a party, a wedding, or even a gas station. My mother has taught me to always assume everyone has something you can learn from him or her.
Another favorite moment was when everyone got the chance at the end to stand up and say who it is they are looking to connect with, or what they are looking to gain from this networking event. Many were looking for potential clients, some were looking for volunteers—I’m just a college kid looking for experience. When I went into this event, I barely understood the reason why Jack pushed me to get business cards. When I came out of this event, I had at least five people to follow up with—and I had the business cards to prove it.
A couple of other key things I learned were:
- Have your business cards on you at all times!!
- Always follow up with someone within 24 hours—it shows you are truly interested
- Be aware of your body language when you are speaking to someone—square shoulders, eye contact, firm handshake
- Women are often worried that they are coming off as flirtatious if they offer to meet a man somewhere. However, there are plenty of places they can meet that would be comfortable for both parties, i.e meeting for coffee in the morning.
We looked at the evaluations that everyone filled out and overall people were very pleased with the event. They found Andy and Jack’s presentation very informational and planned to recommend the event to others.
Contact Judy if you are interested in attending the next Garden State Woman networking workshop or if you would like to discuss how Jack and Andy might help you and your organization strengthen your networking skills. You won’t regret it!
Written by Dana Drahos, Garden State Woman intern