If you’re like most people, this is what you do when you’re considering going to a conference…
You spend time looking over the program, the speakers and the topics, and these are the main factors that helps you decide whether to attend. Am I right?
The problem with this is that is overlooks the fact that while the speakers are experts who have a lot to teach us, they are not the true VIPs of any conference. Who are the real VIPs?
In fact each person at the conference has the potential to be a VIP for you. They could be the very important person who will become a great new customer, or refer a great new customer, or collaborate with you on a ground-breaking project, or share some knowledge that will help you take your business to the next level. If 350 entrepreneurs and professionals come to a conference, chances are that your VIP (or two) is among them.
Your Mission at the conference is to find your VIP.
That was my message when I spoke about “The Power of Power Networking” yesterday at the Kishor Conference for Religious Women Entrepreneurs at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem.
This is the 3rd year I’ve been involved with the Kishor Conference and we noticed in previous years that participants tend to stick like glue to their friends or anyone vaguely familiar, so long as they are not alone in the sea of 350 unknown faces. Many people find networking events intimidating, and religious women entrepreneurs who rarely or never flex their networking muscles are no exception.
But what a shame to make the tremendous effort to leave your home, family and work for the only professional conference you attend all year, only to end up spending the breaks discussing Moishe’s potty training with your sister-in-law’s ex-roommate. Since we are often are shy to “promote ourselves” compellingly in the conversations we do have, in my talk I also gave an outline on how to give an elevator pitch, which you can view here in slide 3.
After my brief presentation, I launched a facilitated “power networking” session, where the women moved along the line and had 2 minutes to present themselves to each other. If you can imagine organizing this on spot for 350 people, you can see the potential for a tremendous “balagan” (Israeli for “disorganized mess”). However, the Kishor women took to it like pros, and within a few minutes had arranged themselves into long double lines and sweet sounds of networking rose until it became a strident roar. All around me I could see excited, passionate, dedicated entrepreneurs and professionals presenting and listening to each other.
Ahhh… such nachas!
After my talk, I did my best to take my own advice and spent exactly 4.5 consecutive hours non-stop meeting and talking to people. I was offering free 10-minute parnasa and business strategy sessions so I met around 20 women that way, and I met at least another 80 women one-on-one. I could not have been more impressed with the variety and quality of people I met, but here are a few examples:
- Shaindy Reich, CEO of Birthlite, the maternal wellbeing center on Malchei Yisrael St (AKA the throbbing heart of Chareidi Jerusalem). Shaindy’s business selling girdles, hosiery and other accessories for women before and after birth is growing fast. This doesn’t surprise me because I’ve rarely been so impressed by the business sense of such a young woman, or any person anywhere, for that matter.
- I also really enjoyed meeting other women who own stores in the Malchei Yisrael area, including Elia from Elia Fashions (designed and made in Israel), Michal from URM (modest maternity store with several branches), and the lady from Petite Sweets (I will be in touch when I find your name). Take into account that they are successfully operating in one of the most sought-after (and expensive) retail areas in Jerusalem, and be impressed! I encouraged these ladies to get together and cooperate more.
- Miriam Schwartz and Mia Weiss, co-owners of RBY Tech, who are rapidly making a name for themselves for head-hunting in the hi-tech sector in Israel, placing tech professionals in companies overseas (to work remotely).
- Hilary Faverman, Managing Director of Secretary in Israel, which employs dozens of religious women as VAs to clients around the world.
- Ami Hizkiya who has just started a super-convenient car maintenance service for Anglos in Israel, along with her mechanic husband. She told me she got three great leads within 20 minutes of power networking, which doesn’t surprise me because I don’t know many car owners who wouldn’t want this service
- Chavi Ehrenfeld works with academic colleges across Israel to create degree programs catering to Charedi women within regular colleges, so that students have more choice and flexibility
- Judy Avraham Chai has created a petting zoo and working goat farm attraction on Moshav Mevo Modiin. I met Judy at last year’s conference and so this year I asked what she’s been doing since then. “Oh, I built a new event center on the farm,” she said nonchalantly. And then proceeded to show me pictures of a gorgeous hall for 70 people, with wood paneling and big windows which she is renting out to corporate groups and for Shabbatot and simchas.
- Sharon Altshul is another person I met last year when her blog was just getting started and I gave her some marketing tips. Now it seems that I should be asking her for tips, following a big year of many viral successes for Real Jerusalem Streets, which aims to give the world an accurate picture of what daily life in Jerusalem is really like. (And thanks Sharon for the pic)
- My amazing fellow committee members Sarah Manning from Tikshoret, Leah Aharoni from AQText translations and Shaindy Babad from Temech. May Hashem bless you for your hard work and dedication to making this event a reality.
I could go on and on about the wonderful people I met. I feel like I literally met 99 VIPs,and I could have met more if I had time.
Obviously the Kishor Conference is something special (in my humbly biased opinion), since it brings together women who have so much in common and the barriers to connecting are lower. Most conferences I go to are not this warm in atmosphere.
Yet perhaps with a change of attitude we could probably all meet a lot more VIPs wherever we are, whether at professional events or on social networks.
Perhaps it starts with realizing that we ourselves are someone else’s expert and VIP, and get ready to generously share our knowledge.
What has been your most valuable live networking experience?
PS. The Jewish women’s networking continues over at the Jewish Women’s Global Network, a great LinkedIn group that I run. Please join us!