Chicago’s 312 Restaurant, located in downtown South Loop, was the destination spot on May 9th for women of color in communications looking for a good organizational network.
A group of 100 women connected at ColorComm’s official Chicago Launch in pursuit of building with fellow communications professionals in various mediums.Some familiar faces were on board and others, meeting for the first time, introduced themselves and continued throughout the evening conversing, laughing and enjoying complimentary cocktails and hors’ d oeuvres.
ColorComm: Women of Color in Communication, headquartered in Washington, D.C. and founded by Lauren Wesley Wilson, a communications strategist with MSL Group, is a network that provides women of color a way to get recognized, make meaningful contacts, and grow a network with access to some of the highest level professionals in the communications industry. Oh and don’t be alarmed if you gain great friendships and mentors/mentees along the way!
The theme, “Women Helping Women”, was truly honored. From the moment you made your entrance, smiling faces greeted you ready to share their experiences as well as yours.
It was by far one of the best and well put together after work events that many of us attended in quite some time. Micaeh Johnson, CEO and Founder of Carte Blanche LTD, a public relations/marketing firm expressed that ColorComm’s event held “a lot of power in one room.”
The absolute highlight of the evening was the introduction of ColorComm’s Founder and Chief Networking Officer, Lauren Wesley Wilson, who briefly shared the network’s expanding journey since its 2011/12 inception; guests were swarmed into the energy given by Najja Howard, Public Relations Analyst and Executive Director of ColorComm Chicago. Her explosive energy extended a warm welcome; and then the moment we were all anticipating, Ebony Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Amy DuBois Barnett took the floor and captured us with her ‘sista’ realness, genuine approach and professional knowledge. Her spirit was authentic.
After sharing snippets of her journey, you couldn’t miss the underlining message of her speech. Ms. DuBois Barnett spoke of building real relationships with people. The key take-away: Build relationships before you need them! (Yeah, I hope you stopped reading -briefly, of course – and jotted this down!)
Why wait until the moment of disparity to reach out to that great connect you met a few weeks or even a month ago? By that time, you’re scrambling for contacts. If there was a genuine connection during the initial meeting, stay in touch – whether you “need” them for career progression or not. Opportunities and friendships are among us everywhere. Be aware and alert.
In addition to schooling us on networking etiquette, Amy DuBois Barnett also dropped these gems:
- There is no place that you do not belong. Work the room. Mentally assign yourself a goal and accomplish it. If there’s one person you feel you need to know or they need to know you, make it happen.
- Network outside of your comfort zone. Don’t get caught up blending in with who/ what you already know; challenge yourself and broaden your perspective. Grow your connections. See what others have to offer and vice-versa.
- Make a good first impression. It’s much easier when you know a little about the person. Or if not, find a commonality in the moment. Compliment their outfit or create a conversation starter. (*ToizStory: With the advanced use of technology and smart phones, take a few minutes to conduct some speedy research and do a Google search on your potentially new connect. Dip off to the ladies room or somewhere with low visibility and gather quick/interesting facts.)
- Follow up quickly. Don’t let those great ideas and possible collaborations just become ‘shop talk’. If you’re serious about your brand, business, and personal growth make sure you reach out immediately. Also, mention your prior conversation and where you met. “Don’t overwhelm them,” Amy advised. “But, it’s okay to drop a line and keep them updated on what you have going on.”
- Invite your contact out to lunch. This is how you grow your network and a way to scope if there’s a real connection. Important note: “Don’t always ask for something!”
- Be specific with your request. No beating around the bush, professionals are much too busy for that. Know what you want and ask for it, appropriately.
- Be Nice To Everyone. SMILE! This was a major staple on Ms. DuBois Barnett’s list. “You don’t know where people will end up.” (*Fun fact: Before JET Magazine’s EIC, Mitzi Miller held the title, she worked with Amy as the entertainment editor for Honey Magazine – where Amy was the Editor-in-Chief. -See, you never know what journey your attitude and personality will take you on!)