Networking Made Fun

“Excited.” “Great.” “Low pressure.” “Needed this.”

These aren’t typical responses to a networking event. But the women who attended a recent event I co-hosted along with professional photographer, Martha Abelson, discovered networking can be both productive and enjoyable.

Martha and I invited our female clients to join us in a private party room at Nordstrom’s Old Orchard for an evening of informal networking combined with the opportunity to get a new look for spring. We treated our guests to mini-makeovers from Lauren Mercier Cosmetics followed by complimentary headshot sessions.

The results surpassed our expectations. For over two hours, 25 women mingled, exchanged business cards, nibbled on yummy salads, pizza and chocolate chip cookies, and learned how to put their best face forward.

Perfect event for busy multi-taskers

For many of our time-strapped guests, the event answered a real need. “With family and a career, I don’t have the time necessary to explore the many new makeup products now available in the stores, and it’s been 16 years since I’ve had a new headshot taken,” commented Lydie. “I’m really looking forward to getting professional guidance for what makeup works best for me.”

For Susie, another guest, getting a makeover was a big draw. “Who doesn’t want to look beautiful? she joked. “On a serious note, today our photos make the first impression when we connect with people through social media. It’s always a good idea to have makeup professionally done for a headshot and to update your photo regularly.”

“I’ve been using the same head shot since my first job, and I don’t like how I look,” noted Rachel, a 27-year old sales professional. “I didn’t take it seriously, and it shows. Now that I’m exploring different career possibilities, I need a professional headshot, and know that getting my makeup professionally will help.”

Several guests noted that combining these activities took the pressure off. “Nobody likes networking or getting their photographs taken, but with everyone here in the same boat, it feels relaxed and fun,” said Suzanne.

“Getting a new headshot adds an interesting layer to networking,” added Kerry. “And it’s definitely more comfortable to get a photo when you are with a group.”

“Sometimes, it’s hard to make conversation with a stranger in a typical networking situation. But here we have something we can start talking about it right away,” observed Elizabeth.

My co-host, Martha Abelson, is a pro at making her subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera. She gives clear, gentle directions to prompt confident and authentic expressions, and her humorous names for standard poses, like “Girl Talk” and “Hey, Bartender,” helped people relax into flattering, natural poses.

The key lesson we learned is that networking doesn’t have to be one size fits all. Look for opportunities that fall outside traditional networking events and you may find meeting new contacts can be a more rewarding experience.