5 Easy Tips for Surviving (and Thriving!) at Networking Events

by Debra Bednar-Clark

Is there anything more inspiring than being around other ambitious, passionate and supportive women? That’s why I make networking events a priority in my schedule. The most recent one I attended was a “Midspring Night’s Mixer.” Sunny Bates, president and CEO of Sunny Bates Associates hosted the event in her Union Square penthouse, alongside Ruthie Ackerman, the Deputy Editor of Women@Forbes, and Sara Kalick of SY Partners.

Networking events require you to find additional time in your already-busy schedule, so here are a few of my tips for making it worth your time:

1. Spread the good karma and bring a friend!

When the invite came my way, I was thrilled to be included but also anxious because I didn’t know anyone else attending. That can be an intimidating feeling for anyone, no matter how seasoned you are. So, I decided to bring my colleague and friend Carmen Scheidel, the CEO and Co-Founder of Edmaker. We both have similar interests in our careers, so I knew she’d get a lot out of the evening (and that we could be each other’s wingwoman).

2. Bring a small token of your appreciation for the host.

Carmen and I stopped at a local wine store to pick up a bottle of rosé before arriving. Even though Sunny’s bar was well stocked, it showed that we appreciated her opening up her home for the evening. Plus, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the host at the beginning of the event — and then she can start connecting you with others right away.

3. Don’t leave a networking event without meeting at least five new people.

Challenge yourself to meet someone new or reconnect with someone you may have lost touch with over time. My motto is quality over quantity – I’d rather have five thoughtful conversations than 15 meet and greets. I was pleased to have chatted with some amazing ladies that night, including Amy Whitaker, a professor of art at New York University, Ivana De Maria, the founder and CEO of Storyplace, Beth Comstock, the former CMO and Vice Chair at General Electric, and so many more.

4. Invest in unexpected partnerships.

When you meet someone who is in a different field, invest your time. Groundbreaking ideas come from unexpected partnerships. My most impactful conversation was with Isabel Behnoke, who studies the social behavior of bonobos. Did you know that the bonobo society is run by empowered females? We talked about what we can learn from our fellow female primates. And, Isabel gave me some great tips for visiting Patagonia! In case you don’t get a chance to meet her, watch her TED talk above.

5. Dress to express yourself.

Debra Bednar-Clark Style Networking Event

The first thing people notice is what you wear, so it’s important to choose an outfit that expresses your personality and makes you feel confident. For this night, I wanted to be casual, yet chic, so I went with a neutral Veronica Beard blazer and Nili Lotan pants combination, teal J.Crew pumps for a pop of color, my trusty Celine bag, and a necklace I bought in Japan

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