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General Business

WBLF Speakers Talk Networking and Staying Connected in a Digital World 

TED-style talks from Day 1 of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s (NJBIA) 9th annual Women Business Leaders Forum (WBLF) yesterday featured Joanne Spears, CRPC, CSRIC, senior vice president financial planning, Newport Capital Group, LLC, and Kim Brennan, managing director at Cushman & Wakefield, who discussed the topics of networking and, separately, how businesses are keeping employees connected and engaged in today’s digital world.

Spears, in sharing how she makes the most out of her networking opportunities, said there are three main principles she follows: preparing, being present, and following up.

“First, you need to determine which events will be most effective for your goals,” she said. “When I first started networking, I would only go to work events, but over the past few years I’ve found that social networking can be equally important.”

Spears said that joining a book club and learning to play golf has helped to enrich her network.

“Golf is an instant relationship builder,” she said. “When you go out on the course and play a round with strangers, I guarantee you that by the end of [the round] you are going to know a lot about them and their lives. You also get to celebrate successes and commiserate lost opportunities, which is great for building camaraderie.”

When it comes to staying present, Spears mentioned hallmarks of eye contact and listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond.

“People might not remember what you said or what you did, but they most certainly are going to remember how you made them feel,” she said. “You want to make people feel important, so focus your attention on them when you are speaking to them.” 

Finally, when following up, Spears suggested jotting notes down from each conversation you may have at a given networking event so you can personalize your follow up and keep track of who said what.

“Whichever way you choose to follow up, make sure it’s simple and diligent,” she added. 

Separately, Brennan spoke about the importance of keeping people connected in today’s ever-evolving digital world. 

“People want the ability to work from anywhere at any time,” Brennan said, adding that it is important for companies to give their employees choice and flexibility in this realm. 

She said that when it comes to real estate, many companies’ choices are now driven by this desire to be connected in new ways.

“For example, companies are redesigning their conference rooms to have cameras pointed at each person in the room individually, so you can better connect with those attending virtually,” Brennan said.

These types of hybrid innovations allow companies to maintain the productivity and collaboration they desire while still offering the flexibility that is so sought after today.

The themes that Spears and Brennan touched on in their talks were echoed by many of the other speakers over the course of this year’s WBLF. 

Ultimately, strengthening relationships, forming new ones, and building chemistry with colleagues is vital not only to a company’s success but also personal success. Whether it is meeting new people at a networking event, or collaborating with co-workers while at home or in the office, genuine human connection continues to be the secret to leveling up personally and professionally. 

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