Networking doesn’t have to feel awkward or forced if you take the time to find techniques that fit your style and goals. That was one of the many takeaways from Sister Spokesman’s “Networking with Purpose” event, held March 7, at Sabathani Community Center in south Minneapolis. The event gathered a colorful mix of community members, vendors, and an expert panel of entrepreneurs who shared their experiences and best practices.
The afternoon kicked off with games, including an “elevator pitch” exercise that saw attendees work the room to practice highlighting their passions, skill sets, and career objectives for maximum impact. The panel discussion soon followed, with each of the panelists answering questions presented by attendees, and Tracey Williams-Dillard, host and MSR Publisher/CEO.
Angela Harmon, owner and marketing director of App4moBiz.com, spoke about the value of utilizing social media to follow up with prospective clients, stating, “Marketing communications — content marketing — is an important way to keep your brand out there and to continue networking beyond the event.” She encouraged the vendors in the room to take advantage of this approach. She also advised attendees to take stock of the network of people around them to address whatever they feel is lacking in their lives.
Harmon’s latter point hit home with Jocelyn Parker, a former Star Tribune business editor and first-time attendee to Sister Spokesman. Parker, a Detroit native, said she came to understand the importance of expanding her network when she found herself looking for a new hairstylist years ago. Parker laughed as she recalled how reluctant she was to reach out for hair recommendations in her adopted home of the Twin Cities.
Bianca Lewis, marketing director and co-owner of Thee Urbane Life stressed the importance of being deliberate when networking. When asked if there was a question she wished were asked, Lewis stated she would’ve liked to have touched on the effectiveness of business cards, which she said are often used as a “crutch.” “You are not your business card,” said Lewis. “Make sure to tell people who you are. Make a real impression first. Without that…your card is just a piece of paper at the bottom of a purse.”
Of course, networking and working a room comes easier to some than others. La Juana Whitmore, owner of BlackTwinCities.com and self-proclaimed introvert, addressed this point by sharing that she gives herself clear goals and time limits when attending an event, to help counter her aversion to large crowds. She also shared that she saw a need for creating BlackTwinCities.com when it took her days to find a soul food restaurant in the Twin Cities. After the panel discussion, Whitmore said she was impressed by the diverse mix of attendees.
Poet and author Naima Richmond also enjoyed the energy of the event and said she rarely misses an afternoon of networking at Sister Spokesman. “It feels good to be out in the community and around people who look like me…” said Richmond.
See more photos from the event below: