This weekend, like many others in NYC, I had a lovely brunch! Great restaurant, lovely food and fabulous company. What made this one a bit different was that I didn’t know anyone that I was meeting before I arrived!
A few weeks earlier I had come across an interesting organization online called Women Who Brunch. In a nutshell, they host monthly brunches in NYC for women and always feature a guest speaker. It was founded as a way to support, connect and inspire women in a comfortable atmosphere over the most important meal of the week, brunch!
This particular brunch featured Emily Merrell, the founder of another NYC (and now also growing across the US) organization that I really admire, Six Degrees Society and the topic of conversation was “How to Network Like a Pro and Build Your Community From Scratch”.
The fact that there was a specific topic being covered by a interesting, reputable speaker really appealed me to. I don’t know about you but my weekends are precious, so if I’m signing up for an event, I want it to be focused and have enough structure to I know I’m going to get value from it. Added to that, a nice restaurant pick and that spaces were limited to 12 guests, this sounded like a useful way to spend a Saturday morning. Whilst it may annoy some, I also liked that it was a pre-pay event (I paid around $50) as it meant the people attending would most likely be willing and active participants!
So last Saturday morning, I arrived at Vic’s New York on Great Jones Street in NoHo (short for North of Houston St!) with high expectations – and it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed!
A quick shout out for Vic’s – this was such a cute restaurant. We were seated in a light, bright airy space towards the back of the restaurant close to the kitchen. If you’re a smaller group (and it’s nice weather), it would be great to sit outdoors and dine al fresco! Considering we were a larger group, they couldn’t have been more friendly, responsive and accommodating. I always like to shout out about great service when I see – as you usually only hear about the negative experiences.
I thought the brunch was organized really well. I turned up on time to find most guests already at our table. I said hello to Nicole, who founded Women Who Brunch and introduced myself to everyone already seated. Everyone was warm, friendly and chatty – exactly the vibe I was hoping for!
We were served family style for the first part of brunch, which was absolutely delicious and included platters of blueberry scones, ricotta pancakes topped with stewed peaches and bomboloni. During this course, we talked free flow with our neighbours which was a nice way to get to know each other better and break the ice.
As we were served our entrée, (after all the sweet stuff, I went for the grilled chicken on a bed of greens – which was much tastier than it sounds and had quite a kick to it!), Nicole opened the broader table discussion and asked us all to briefly introduce ourselves. It was then over to Emily to talk about networking and her experience of what works best.
In my line of work, I often talk about networking and have attended many an event on the subject so I was pleasantly surprised to glean even more tips on the subject from Emily.
Some of the networking tips and takeaways from Emily included:
Challenge yourself to lead with something other than ‘what do you do?’
- From Emily’s perspective, this question can rub people up the wrong way and some people don’t want to be defined by what they do.
- Networking should be about developing relationships, so try to find a more neutral starting point other than work if you can.
If you find networking difficult/ nerve wracking, let your outfit help people gravitate towards you!
- I happened to be wearing a brightly patterned jacket and a bold lip to the brunch so Emily used me as an example to show that wearing something bold, can also be a good conversation starter/ ice breaker.
Exiting conversations can be tricky so have a couple of strategies in your back pocket!
- If it’s someone you’ve enjoyed meeting and want to continue a conversation with, tell them that and ask for their email details then and there, e-mail right away (a blank email so they have your details too) and then the ball is in their court and eliminates the need for business cards/ a follow action the next day.
- If it’s someone you may not want to follow up with, ask for their information. That way you can follow up if you change your mind.
- In both situations excuse yourself by saying there is someone else you’re keen to meet but you’ve enjoyed meeting them.
Networking is a reciprocal relationship, it involves give and take, so think about what you have to offer
- Emily places more emphasis on giving than taking when networking and encouraged us to think about doing the same.
- If you’ve enjoyed meeting someone, could you invite them to an event that you might be attending or could you send them some interesting information about something they mentioned during your conversation.
Shift your mindset about ‘networking’ and what you think it is.
- It doesn’t need to be a stiff, formal and often awkward interaction in the stereotypical way we might think about it.
- Networking is really just interacting with people – which we do all the time, every single day!
For me it wasn’t the topic itself that was the major draw, but getting to meet meet Emily.
A couple of my friends here in NYC are members of Six Degrees Society and introduced me to this organization. In essence, they’re a membership based women’s networking group that hosts regular events aimed at young professionals. Events range from various business skills and entrepreneurship sessions to fitness and nutrition seminars.
I attended one of their events last year as a guest and I really liked the format. You arrive to drinks and snacks and for the first 20 minutes or so you are paired with 2 other guests to network. Ahead of the event, you submit (via a quick and simple survey) some basic information about yourself and then Emily personally handpicks your networking ‘matches’ ahead of time. This way, even if networking isn’t your thing, you get the chance to meet people in a thoughtful way, and if networking still isn’t your thing, you know it’s only for 20 minutes before the event itself starts!
It’s a great organization and I love what Emily has built with Six Degrees Society. It’s always so inspiring to meet someone who saw a gap in the market, had a vision for a business and is succeeding with that!