Life Lessons from Women’s Empowerment Events
Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the social media influencer space about how the “women’s empowerment” movement has brought about events filled with rhetoric and expensive products. You know the type - functions with bold “girl power” slogans where hosts promise inspiration, tools for success, and connections of a lifetime. Many women have reported leaving such engagements feeling empty, uninspired, and taken advantage of after having spent money basically to listen to Instagram, motivational quotes and to buy products plastered with “you’ve got this, girlfriend” inspirations. Being #teamwomen and new to the entrepreneur space, I was shocked by this feedback and decided to see for myself. November gave me the perfect opportunity to attend a “women’s empowerment” event hosted by a well-know influencer who I had been following for less than a year. I had met her at ESSENCE 2018 and felt that we had made a connection, and I was genuinely excited to attend. Honestly I didn’t really know what to expect so I set my intentions, arrived early, and put my extrovert hat on, preparing myself to connect and engage. Here is what I learned and how I recommend choosing the serious from the scams.
Mind Your Budget
I firmly believe in investing in yourself and your brand. Leveraging professional development events such as these is smart and you should build into your budget, chances to learn and connect with like-minded individuals in your field. However, “feeling empowered” is difficult to purchase and it shouldn’t cost you more than you can afford or the result will be less than empowering. Know that it will be difficult to identify one empowerment course, workshop, or brunch to give you everything you need. Make sure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket and that the weight of the basket isn’t breaking your bank.
You love her style, her transparency, and she’s funny as hell, but know that the enthusiasm and authenticity of your online idol may not carry over offline. If you have an opportunity to connect offline with the presenter of one of these events prior to paying a hefty registration fee, do so. Don’t be afraid to hop into her DM’s, spark a conversation, and see how she responds. Try to attend smaller engagements of hers to measure the level of engagement with the audience and see who else is there. By attending these events, you are subscribing to the energy and personalities of the other speakers and attendees. Authenticity was probably an initial draw so connect early (and for the low) to get a taste of what you are buying.
Just as you would approach a work-related professional development opportunity, shake off any introvert tendencies and start preparing. Have your business cards, LinkedIn, and Instagram ready for trading details. Most folks announce their next moves on IG stories so start a list of people you expect to see and want to connect with, and seek them out. Be authentic (see above) in your approach and have your elevator pitch ready. “I’m Ashley with Schoolin Life, a weekly podcast and bi-monthly blog for millennial women, centered around conversations about life, love & (occasionally) libations.” Have a descriptive and engaging pitch for introductions and ask questions about what others do. Don’t respond “How many followers do you have?” or “I’ve never heard of that.” Be polite, inviting and engaging. Feel free to pull some tips from the “Life Lessons from Networking” blog post.
Build Connections That Last
Even the best of these events can leave you feeling empty if all you end up with is some cute pics, a swag bag, and a few new IG followers. Make sure that you are intentional about building connections that last. Get emails (not just IG info), and follow up within a week to identify ways that you might work together or partner. Make future plans to connect with the women you meet and then act on your ideas.
These are the strategies I used at the women’s empowerment event I attended in early November and I got more than I bargained for. Prior to attending the event, I had met the influencer and not only found her to be genuine and authentic, but I felt confident that our relationship would prove positive for me as a budding business woman. I ended up spending an amount that fit my professional development budget and I was prepared with branded cards and buttons to share. People complimented me on having a spot-on elevator pitch and “really knowing my brand.” I’ve already followed up with several of the women I met, gaining new followers, future collaborations, and what I know will be fellow entrepreneurial friends.