Posted by Lena L. West, Creator of The Technology Diet
Last night, I attended a networking reception hosted by The Network of Executive Women at the Hilton Hotel in Hasbrouck, NJ. I was surprised.
Scale: 1-5 (5 is the best)
REAL Conversation: 4
Goodie Bag: 5
The event was set to start at 5:30 and run until 8:30. Everyone in the room admitted they were TiVO’ing American Idol. I arrived at 5:15 to an already buzzing, full-on cocktail reception in the hotel mezzanine – complete with branded ice sculpture. Yes, I said ice sculpture.
I immediately encountered Susan Hart of Barry Promotions. Susan and her associate Nicole were just super. You’ll be hearing more about a great piece of software they’ve developed to help retail organizations managing their sampling programs. The only one of its type. I don’t specialize in retail technology however, I find Susan’s software solution to be verrry interesting.
The crowd was warm, friendly and oh so professional – there were a handful of men there as well. Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson had a very solid presence – as did Baruch College. I thought it was awesome that a Baruch administrator bought her MBA students so that they can start to learn how to network and mingle. The place was *loaded* with retail pros. I would have liked to see more entrepreneurs present but maybe entrepreneurs don’t think of themselves as “executives” per se.
During the cocktail hour we all played a game in which had to find three types of people at the event – a first-timer, someone who’s been in at the same company their entire career and there was another category that slips my mind now. But, the point was to fill out that mini-form with names and drop it in the basket to be entered to win some cool raffle prizes. There were some GREAT Johnson & Johnson gift baskets chocked full with their products and a full-sized Coca Cola golf bag.
Then we all ‘retired’ upstairs to the 12th floor for the keynote and our meal, which was like a penthouse ballroom that had near 360 views of the citiscape. Nice.
There I met the funniest Jewish soccer mom from New Jersey (her own description), Barbara Lyons of Acosta Sales and Marketing, who really does need her own reality show. Thanks for the assistance with the mic, Barbara!
I also met Michele Chiulli of the American Cancer Society. Since she’s a Westchesterite, I’ll be in touch to invite her to lunch.
The keynote speaker was Lisa Gersh, President, COO and Co-founder of The Oxygen Network – the ‘upstart’ network that now has 71 million subscribers. Her topic: “The Importance of Partnership: How a Couple of Chicks Built a Brand”. Now, I can respect any woman who’s secure enough to refer to herself as a chick – my kinda entrepreneur! Because Lisa had to catch a transatlantic flight, we reversed the order of our evening – keynote first and then dinner. I didn’t regret it.
Lisa was engaging, super funny and broke up her presentation by showing the very commercials that Oxygen used to solidify their relationships with their partners. I thought it was odd to have an entrepreneur speaking to a room full of mostly non-entrepreneurs but, then I thought the better of it. Everyone can learn something from everyone and these days if employees don’t have an entrepreneurial mindset, they don’t make it very far.
Of course when they opened the floor up for questions, I was the first to ask a question about technology. Lisa mentioned that Oxygen had launched a new site yesterday at http://www.OompH.net. I visited last night but haven’t had time to poke around. You might want to check it out though.
Lisa, who honestly and candidly admitted that it’s still hard for her to leave her kids to travel for work, had this advice to offer:
- Ask questions. Never be afraid to ask a question.
- Women should learn how to brag about their accomplishments.
- Share your business with your children; when you have to go out of town or work late, if they understand what you’re doing, they’ll be more understanding.
- If you have a partner, be sure to make decisions together.
- Work/life balance doesn’t exist. Accept the ‘imbalance’ and work from there.
At the end of the evening, we were all given very, very nice goodie bags. The piece de resistance? A full-sized bottle of Ralph Lauren’s Lauren Style.
Overall, I had a great time, met some awesome people, was introduced to a progressive organization, heard a solid keynote and had great coffee. Can’t beat that.