My magic dress and networking like a girl

I was in Salt Lake City, Utah last week for one of my favorite events, Outdoor Retailer. The weather was awful with an inversion that lingered, an ice storm that shut down part of the airport on Thursday and fog so thick on Saturday morning that you couldn’t see across the street. But weather doesn’t do much to stifle an outdoor crowd. We might complain, we might wish for snow and sun, but then we grab the right gear, and head outside.

As incongruent as it sounds, for me that usually involves a dress at Outdoor Retailer. But it’s not just any dress.

Every time at I arrive at this show I sigh and think, “Ahhh…I’m with my people.” And then I work. Hard. There’s a lot to do and never enough time and while I prescribe to the “Work hard, play hard” philosophy, my play usually tends to happen after the show is over. I try to keep my head down and focus on what needs to get done.

But I’m a woman, and I network like a woman, and so magic seems to happen regardless. Especially when I wear my magic dress.

My magic dress has been the cause of some pleasant male attention, but that’s not why I consider it magical. I consider it magical because when I put it on, I feel like a rock star and suspect that no one can stop me from getting whatever it is I have my sight set on. You know the feeling, right? I bet you have something in your closet that makes you feel pretty powerful, too.

I put on my magic dress Friday morning, then jumped into the elevator to head downstairs for coffee to wrap up and file my story for the OR Daily before leading my final tour and workshop. When I got on, a woman was already inside and she said, “Wow, that’s a great dress. Who makes it?” The dress conversation opened the door to why we were at the show and moved to numerous, “no way’s and this is crazy” statements as we began to discover all the things we had in common. I ran into her again at the end of the day and she helped me celebrate my latest professional accomplishment that had literally just occurred by sharing a cocktail before she left for the airport.

The long and short of it is that over one glass of wine, beer for her, we covered a ton of territory, both personal and professional, and walked away knowing that if there was some way we could work together, we would, and the beauty of our meeting was that it just happened. I hadn’t entered that elevator to network. But my network grew regardless.

This is how women network. We form relationships. We might start a conversation around a killer dress, but that’s usually a way of saying, “I might like to get to know you.” I’ve met many of my favorite women and female colleagues at this show through a similar compliment one or the other pays. The outdoor industry might still be an old boy’s network, but we gals are bonding and forming relationships that I’m willing to bet will continue to have a significant impact in the not-too-distant future. And as a bonus, we’re making friends while we explore how to do business.

It never fails. Every show finds me leaving with far more than potential business. I always leave with a new friend, and with each new show, my outdoor family grows. So does my sisterhood.

Sorry boys, but I’m glad I network like a girl.

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