FemCity Philadelphia at the conference

FemCity Philadelphia at the conference

With Tory Johnson at her book signing for "The Shift"

With Tory Johnson at her book signing for “The Shift”

Well, the 2013 Pennsylvania Conference for Women is over and what a day it was!  This was my second year. Once again I was overwhelmed in a good way. There were so many things scheduled for each time slot you wished you could clone yourself!  I managed to see all the great keynote speakers, attended morning sessions on Branding and “The Shift” and afternoon sessions on blogging  and networking. I even got a photo and my book signed by Tory Johnson. I have attended her Spark & Hustle business conference in NYC for female entrepreneurs for two years and I am really inspired by all she has accomplished both professionally and with her weight loss and commitment to change her health.

I interviewed some women over the course of the day about non-traditional networking. We all understand that events like the PA Conference for Women and many others we attend with business and industry groups in our daily lives are great for networking. But often we don’t take advantage of opportunities in our day to connect with people outside the confines of an event. We turn networking on and off. The reality is that you should always be trying to build connections and relationships with people. In fact, people that know you over time such as your hairdresser, someone in your book club, a parent you hang out with twice a week while your sons play flag football-these are the people that would be willing to go to bat for you and help you with referrals, introductions and opportunities.   “If the traditional concept of networking makes you cringe, take another look. Networking happens all the time, we share information, connections, ideas and support, that is what networking and developing a network is all about, don’t let yourself scared into your cave, get out and find a place that fits you and your style,” says Hazel Walker in her article “Non Traditional Networking.” She discusses joining club and organizations that follow your passions, your business interests and your belief system for networking. Jason Jacobsohn discusses attending charity events, workshops, cultural events and tradeshows in his article, “Attend Non-traditional Networking Events to Broaden your Professional Network.” I have put links to these two articles at the bottom of this blog post for your reference.

But what ideas did I get from women at our conference? I’ll share a few favorites. First, a few gems from speaker Sallie Krawcheck of 85 Broads. She discussed the fact that women need to spread out from people they know because your next opportunity will likely come from someone other than your friends or inner circle. I spoke to Eunice Heath, global director, sustainability business engagement and education at Dow Chemical and a host of the morning panel on Career Advancement. She also happens to be family-on my husband’s side- and it was such a nice coincidence to see her at the conference. She discussed trying to network with people you already have commonality with. For her that is people at her church and her childrens’ school. I spoke to a commissioner and the currrent female democratic candidate for Governor in Pennsylvania, Jo Ellen Litz, who just happened to be sitting next to me for my morning session. She said she does some of her best networking in coffee shops- just getting some of her women friends together to brainstorm and share ideas.  With a busy campaign schedule that involves traveling to 67 counties, she said she goes to picnics and dinners and talks to influential people that know people. These are the people that will help spread the word in their local areas if they support her. But I most enjoyed the story she relayed to me of coming to the PA Conference on Amtrak and meeting a group of women on the train who were all Republicans but asked why she did not bring signs with her. They wanted to stand at the top of the escalators with her campaign signs even though they were of another political party. It was a very organic example of women helping women to me and the candidate really seemed touched.

At lunch I sat next to lawyer and blogger Elizabeth Collura (http://beezuskiddo.com/) who said she regularly attends “tweet-ups” which are in person events for bloggers or other folks from online communities. It is easier to talk to them in person because you have already engaged online. She recommended looking for community online groups for networking.

I attended an afternoon session given by Nancy Dunleavy, president & CEO Dunleavy & Associates, on Connecting vs. Networking. Part of her presentation involved something called, “The Favor Bank.” She had someone stand up and explain to the audience what they needed or were looking for with their business and then had anyone stand up who might be able to help her with an introduction, information or resources. This went on with several audience members and each time there were several people who stood up right away with offers of help. So afterwards when I asked Nancy directly about an idea for my blog, she told me to discuss The Favor Bank. I have to say, it was effective and easy! You never know unless you ask and no one can help you until you tell them what you need.

Sometimes breaking the ice can be so simple yet so effective. Cheyenne Palma Dominguez, a friend and the leader of FemCity Philadelphia, the local chapter of Femfessionals, gave this advice: ask the person next to you what brought them here today or what break out sessions to attend. Often we look for an “in” or a reason to approach someone. But we overthink it and these are simple but very effective icebreakers to approach new people at a conference and learn about what motivates them and what they do. Another simple but great tip came from Ellen Fisher, founder of Women’s Yellow Pages of Greater Philadelphia, who said “I talk to everybody!” I can’t argue with that logic!

So mark your calendars to attend the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in 2014. It will be held October 16, 2014. And please comment below on where you do your best networking or any tips for non-traditional networking. We can all learn from each other!