LEADERtips – How to Get the Most from Networking vs. Socializing

A few weeks ago, I attended a professional women’s event with 175+ other corporate and entrepreneurial women.  I was so looking forward to networking with the other professional women, and determining how we can forge efforts in the advancement of each others goals.

As it turned out, the majority of women were there to simply socialize; not to network.  So it made me question; women often state that men know how to socialize more effectively when it comes to business than women do. I wondered if they meant to say, men are better networkers than women. The difference?

Socializing is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘to talk to and do things with other people in a friendly way’.  Which, being a woman myself, we certainly know how to do that; and relish in our ability to build relationships, connect and share ourselves with others; with little planning whatsoever.

But, if like men, women want to advance their connections, sponsorships, career, position, leadership style or even professional brand, they need to focus on networking: ‘the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business’. Put it another way, networking is an amped up version of socializing; and it requires planning.

For example – prior to my attending the event mentioned,  I researched the group and its members to ensure it aligned to my personal and professional goals. I then sought out the registration list and LinkedIn with each of the them, noting I looked forward to seeing them there. I then identified 6-8 women I specifically wanted to meet in support of my own goals. With list in hand, I headed out. By the time I arrived, many of the women already knew who I was, and several were looking out for me; which created an immediate conversation starter. When I asked what brought them there or what goals they were pursuing, other than one or two, all of them simply said, ‘to socialize’.  And even then, very few of the women had business cards to exchange for follow-up on their socialization.

At the end of the event, I left happy; having accomplished my to-do list, but wondered how many women were missing out on a great opportunity to ‘network’ toward their goals and objectives.

LEADERtips™ for Networking vs. Socializing:

  • Research the group or event you are planning to attend to ensure their charter and membership aligns to your personal or professional goals.
  • Set a goal(s) or purpose for the specific event, i.e. socialize with other like minded women with the intent of expanding my network (exchanging cards, setting up breakfast, etc.), meet 3 C-Level executive women I can potentially build a relationship and mentorship with, meet 2 executives who may be looking for new talent, or in my case, identify 3-5 companies that are looking for expertise with their Leadership Programs, etc.
  • Seek out the registration list; even calling the group if it is not listed online.
  • Reach out, LinkIn, and introduce yourself – at least to the one’s you specifically want to meet in support of your goals.
  • Review their LinkedIn profile and learn something about them that you can use as a conversation starter.  If you don’t have that, use “What brought you to the event?” to learn something about them.
  • List out specific points of conversation you would have with specific attendees, and the goal of that conversation, i.e. follow up call or meeting, a reference to someone else, etc…
  • Carry the list of attendees and talking points with you to the event.
  • Don’t forget a pen, so you can take notes on each person you talk to – either on their business card if they provide one, or one of your own.
  • Bring business cards….. even when socializing you want to be able to follow up.
  • Don’t just stand amongst peers or colleagues…. stay focused on achieving the goals you laid out for the event.
  • If you do not find the people you are looking for, ask others at the event to help you. They will be impressed by you having a target contact.
  • After the event, assess what you set out to do and what you achieved; making note of any adjustments or changes needed for the next event.
  • FOLLOW UP with anyone you met with a note.

Bottom-line – have fun!  Just because you planned, were focused, and had a results oriented mindset going into the event, does not mean you can’t both socialize and network in a fun and engaging way! It just might mean that you reach your goals faster. A win-win for everyone!

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Bernadette Boas is the ball of fire behindBall of Fire Consulting, a strategy and leadership consulting practice, and Ball of Fire Inc. (media/publishing). Bernadette is a business growth and leadership consultant, trainer, speaker, radio personality of Shedding the Bitch Radio, and author of her first book Shedding the Corporate Bitch, Shifting Bitches to Riches in Life and Business. Her focus is on igniting leadership in individuals, businesses and their company cultures to one of RICHness and profit.

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