This week our London Chapter of Women Presidents Organisation hosted a reception for prospective new members. The women that were attending were busy, successful entrepreneurs, who no doubt are invited to numerous events every week.

For me, events generally fall into three categories:

Schmoozing

For the purpose of general networking and meeting other business contacts, where there’s lots of small talk, smiling and surface conversations about how well one another’s businesses are doing. But if you are up against it time wise, you probably cancel at the last minute.

Industry Specific

This type of event is generally specific to your sector, e.g. a conference or trade show. Good for keeping up with the trends and keeping an eye on the competition.  You will put forward the most positive message about your business and be listening carefully to what others are saying. This stays in your diary even if you are busy

Authentic

Finally, there are fewer events where you can go and be yourself.  Talk about the triumphs and the mistakes, learn from others issues and truly be an authentic leader, able to relax, be open and honest and know that you are in a different type of environment.  For some this may only happen when they go home and speak to their partner.  And it was this type of environment we wanted to create at our reception, in order to give a true flavour of what its like to be part of our Women Presidents Organisation Chapter, where the members talk openly about their business challenges and successes and truly support one another.

How do you create it?

  1. The message starts prior to the event in the type of communcation that you send out.  We tried to be friendly, focused and authentic in our email and voice communications.
  2. Each person mattered. We learned something about each individual so that we could connect with them on a personal level.
  3. We set expectations by explaining that each person they would be invited to speak and share one leadership challenge they currently faced.
  4. On the evening, our approach was friendly and open. It was important that the appropriate tone was set through the first introduction so that others got a sense of what was expected. Be yourself was the message. As each woman talked, it was clear who found it easier, or was more willing to be open.  A behaviour that some leaders are not so comfortable to participate in.

By the end of the evening, meaningful issues were being discussed. People were really listening and being heard, and there was a different atmosphere compared to the other two types of events described above.  This was what we had set out to achieve. As the guests left, they commented on how much they had enjoyed the event.