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5 tips for getting behind the communities that support you

I was in Adelaide last week presenting to the CPA Women in Business network.  Apart from the diverse backgrounds and interests of the participants, I was most impressed that on a cold winter’s evening (and trust me, it was COOOOLD in Adelaide!) more than 70 women turned out to network and interact with me in what was a fantastically meaningful dialogue.

What’s so impressive about this?  Well this winter in Sydney, where I call home, I’ve noticed that event sizes have shrunk and many of the women’s groups I’m part of or have spoken at have had difficulty filling the room.  In a city of 4 million people, I’ve turned up to similar industry and professional events where only 20 or 30 women have been in the room – despite memberships numbering in the many hundreds or thousands.

I’ve written about networking events for women before and I know that it’s hard to please everyone.  One thing I know for sure, is that it’s tough for the event organisers trying to put together these events: you will never please all the people all the time.  But thank goodness, that’s not enough to stop them from trying.

Because the one consistent message I receive from most working women and particularly women in leadership roles, is that they feel like they’re alone.

Well here’s the news… while we’re all sitting home or at our desks at work late at night, feeling alone and isolated, we could be getting together with members of our professional body or a networking group or even just a group of friends who know us well enough to know there’s times when we just need to purge and let it all out!

So for the sake of people trying to coordinate these events so that we can get together and vent collectively (as women can!) here’s my 5 tips for getting behind the communities that support you:

  1. RSVP.  It’s tough enough securing venues and speakers, without knowing how many people to cater for.
  2. Turn up!  If you say you’re gonna be there, then honour your commitment.  Even if it’s a cold winter’s day!  It’s not only rude to event organisers when you do a no show, but also to the guest speakers (who all talk – so it’s going to be hard to secure speakers in the future if members do the no-show)
  3. Encourage others to get involved.  I know, we’re all busy, juggling our work and home commitments.  Which is why sometimes we need a gentle reminder or an incentive to go along to an event.  Take it in turns with your friends or colleagues to organise the bookings so it doesn’t always fall to one person.
  4. Connect with other women when you’re there.  Either with the people you’ve gone with – or make new friends.  I’m a big fan of taking the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen for a while.  But I know that some of you prefer meeting new people.  Whatever works for you.  But I promise you, it will be more fun once you hook up with a few of the other people there, rather than sitting on your own and relying on the speaker to entertain you.
  5. Give feedback.  Whether you like the event, or not, make sure you let the organiser know.  This is the only way they’ll know how to please the membership in the future.  If there’s no feedback forms, then email them afterwards.  It will take 2 minutes out of your day, and who will benefit from your efforts?  You – of course!

Being part of a community has to be a 2-way street.  That’s the principal of every healthy relationship.

And when you are part of a thriving community, there’s no need to ever feel isolated and alone.


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