Networking is Simple: Women need foreplay, men don't
My series continues on networking, so if you haven't read The N Word: How to network without being creepy and Networking is Like Dating, or How to Get Laid Every Time, please do. Now, today's bit about networking is about the differences of networking with men vs. women.
As a chick who often works with men, I am pretty used to doing male dominated meet and greets. And because I have a particular interest in the success of women entrepreneurs, I seek out women in business events. Consequently I consider myself practiced (nay, an expert) at moving between both circles.
And so, my simple approach to networking by gender.
Networking rules for both genders:
Look cute. I think it's particularly important to be well-groomed around dudes and not because you want them to ask you out. Men have more respect for a woman with her nails done (not to mention that I personally have a different demeanor if I'm freshly showered, made up, and ironed).
The sloppy lady with dirty business cards and stray chin hairs is a non-player in their world.
Perception is 9/10 of reality, as the saying goes, and no one is more perceptive than another woman. So carry a nice bag, wear your good shoes and make sure you're wearing a style that flatters.
I will admit to dressing more conservatively around men than around women. I'm also considering wearing glasses for more corporate events because it doesn't hurt to have more gravitas.
Mirror Body Language
This simple approach to networking is really basic but amazingly effective. Strike the same pose that your networking partner is standing in.
NB: I have one exception to this rule. If the person is standing with arms crossed (a very closed position), then stand in "neutral." That means feet hip distance apart and arms by your sides. It's a very open and inviting position and can disarm someone who might otherwise feel defensive or closed.
Nothing is more captivating than listening to yourself talk. Ha! So listen actively to your networking partner. Listen for what's not being said. Then ask a question about that.
That's right. It is sad that I have to say it, but there you go. Follow up with something specific too, not just a lame "It was so nice to meet you."
Instead say, "It was so nice to meet you. Please meet my colleague so and so who I copied here." Make it worth their while.
Ok and now for the gender specific rules:
When networking with men:
Have a good hand shake. When you show up with a firm shake instead of a limp hand hold, you convey your position as a strong and powerful lady who deserves to sit at the table.
Get to the point. Small talk is fine in context, but when you're around men, they often just want to know what you're up to and who you know. Where you went to school, play golf or squash, and live/summer are some of the things they need in order to place you in their world.
Instead of taking this personally or viewing it as superficial, give them the information they seek: your client list, your connections, your alma mater.
Ask what they need or tell them what you're looking for. Men don't want to play coy. Come right out and ask for what you want. Looking for an angel? Please say so. Need more clients? Spell out your ideal demographic and ask if they know anyone.
Recap What You're Going to Do, how you'll do it, and when. This sets up the followup, let's them know you're all business, and ensures that they remember when you do send the email loop or connect on LinkedIn. Remember, they don't multi-task as well as we do.
It's simple. Don't say, "Let's have a coffee." That could be misconstrued or interpreted as a waste of time. Instead say, "I'll reach out to you on LinkedIn in the next few days to connect you to my former boss who is an expert in blah de blah."
When networking with ladies:
Butter them up. Flattery gets you everywhere. (We are simple creatures. Sometimes.) Really. A well placed (and sincere!) compliment can open a host of doors. It can start a story, a friendship, launch a business. Be careful who you compliment!
Ask about something personal (but not too personal). Women love to chit chat. Nail color, vacations, exercise, etc. Don't underestimate the goodwill built by discussing a bikini wax. If you're a straight dude, do not try this! Stay away from those areas. Family is a good topic for you. Gay men? You have a lot more latitude.
Go for the queen bee. If you're a woman in a new situation where there are established relationships, I always go for the leader of the group. My reason? If you go in tangentially it can throw of the group's dynamic and create some kind of Mean Girls phenomenon. I say head for the top dog (in most any room, event, situation) and it will get you everywhere as long as you aren't an idiot talking to someone famous/powerful.
Play the social card. Yoga, brunch, and spa dates are fair game if you're looking to network with some ladies. It is our version of the golf course and frankly, way more fun. Lots of business gets done while wearing white fluffy robes and eating trail mix. We ladies are social creatures, so why try to play against type?
There you have it, my completely unbiased guide to networking for men/women. If you found this helpful, do share with your buddies using the tabs on the left!
If you liked this post, and I hope you did, then sign up for my occasional newsletter where drops of gold spill from my lips to your inbox.