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How To Network Like A Boss When You're At An Event Alone

Become an expert at navigating the networking scene with these key tips.

Workin' Girl

If you're not a social butterfly, networking solo can feel like a job interview. Regardless of what kind of networking event you attend, you have to dress to attract the "right" kind of attention, know how to answer and ask the right questions and have a bomb "about me" pitch.

And while that all sounds good, putting this into effect may be harder to do. So what are some key tips to networking?

Dress Your Best

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You move differently when you feel like you're looking good. And whether we like it or not, the way we dress and carry ourselves sends a subconscious message to those around us. Dressing your best isn't about looking like someone else, it's about looking like your higher self, to present as your higher self. Whether it's making sure your hair is in a hairstyle that will stay in tact all night or wearing your favorite dress, put your best foot forward in fashion.

Get Clear On Your Networking Goals

Why are you networking? What's your career or job goal? Who's attending the event that you really want to see? What questions do you want to ask about the topic of discussion? When you're clear on your "why," you have a clear compass on what you need to do to achieve your networking goal.

Have An Elevator Pitch

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An elevator pitch is a brief synopsis of who you are, what you do, what your goal is and why you're there. Your pitch should be tailored to where you are. If you're attending a creative/entrepreneurial event, then talking about a technical job isn't going to strike a chord with other attendees – but that side project you've been working on after work will. What's always a good throw-in for networking events is where you're from. This can spark a conversation, especially if you are somewhere away from home. Practice your pitch ahead of networking to assure you're not talking too fast or too low.

Talk To The Person Next To You 

How often have you gone to a panel event or conference where there was a guest speaker, and made the speaker your only agenda in hopes of landing a connection? Now how often has this turned out to be a failed 30-second convo? Sometimes the biggest connection you can make is the one with the person (or people) closest to you. Strike up a conversation about how the event is going or something interesting the speaker said or even where to get good food in the area. You never know who you're sitting next to and how a relationship can evolve. And if you see someone who's alone, take their oneness as an open window to connect with them too!

Be Yourself

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The most important thing is to be yourself. You want to build genuine connections with people who will get you, so why not bring your true self to the forefront to begin with? Give your input and opinion in conversations when you feel like it without the fear of worrying what people will think about what you said.

Everyone will not resonate with you, but by putting yourself out there you'll find at least one person you can vibe with for the night.

Remember The Names of People You’re Talking To

Whether you have to write it in your phone notes or say it every time you talk to them, don't forget names! Remembering someone's name does two things: 1) It helps you to get more personal and comfortable talking to the person and vice versa 2) It can help you stay focused on the conversation or to strike up one again when you walk away.

Exchange Contact Information

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Don't strike up an interesting convo with someone and walk away thinking you'll see them later only to find they left shortly after your chat. Exchange information! Business cards aren't outdated just yet. Make sure to have yours handy and if the person doesn't have one, ask for their contact information and the best way to follow up with them. Some people are more active on LinkedIn than email, so this may be helpful to know.

Look For Future Events Hosted By The Organizer

If you signed up for an event with an organization via email, then you'll more than likely be notified of their future events and may even run into the same people again. Get familiar with the event organizers. It may even be helpful to connect with them to learn of similar networking opportunities, and ways you can be involved with their organization to grow in community on a deeper level.

Follow Up

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Once you make your connections, follow up with them post the event 24-48 hours after meeting them. Don't send a generic email either, make sure to include a personalized touch to your message that connects with something you discussed. A sure way to keep the conversation going is to offer help or share an article on something related to what you talked about.

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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