Vogue called. I answered.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve dreamed about how my life would be if I would reach every single one of my goals. People all the time ask me why I work so much? Why don’t I just relax and take a day off?
The answer is simple: Success makes me happy! Helping others to be successful makes me happy, and I will forever be unapologetically comfortable with this mindset.
I’m saying all of this as a reminder to not let anyone tell you to not chase your goals or to not work your ass off to reach something that is truly meaningful to you.
Because if the people around you aren’t supporting you and don’t want to see you reach your highest potential, you’re hanging around the wrong people. And I’m happy to tell you that I have been hanging out with the right people, because I was recently invited to be a part of Vogue 100!
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Vogue 100 is Vogue’s curated community of distinctive creative voices from around the globe, encompassing actors, artists, musicians, athletes, stylists and activists, and they’ve asked yours truly to be a part of the conversation!
Of course, I’m thrilled by this, but I want to make this moment valuable for everyone who might be reading this so that you have a better understanding of the intentionality and the thinking and the strategies that have helped me get into the right rooms with the right people so that I can accomplish what I’ve been able to.
I’m not just living in the moment here. How I network, who I’m speaking to, and what we’re discussing are all things that I’m deeply considering.
So, in the simplest of terms, this is really about networking. And for everyone reading this, networking can mean a lot of different things, but I want you to understand that this approach to networking is at least in part responsible for putting me in a circle of the world’s most influential people in the fashion and creative worlds. It’s that powerful. And you can apply these techniques to whatever your personal, professional, and financial goals might be.
Don’t attend if you don’t intend
Not trying to be too cute about this one. I’m being perfectly serious. Don’t just go places to be seen. Attend every event you go to with specific intentions, otherwise you’re wasting your time and they’re not worth attending.
If you’re not able to walk out the door having done something that will help propel your life forward, then why did you go at all?
Let me be clear: Your intention is not to be “inspired,” and your intention sure as hell shouldn’t be to just “take it all in.” Honestly, what do those things even mean? Inspiration is only real when there’s action behind it, right?
Putting things into the starkest of terms, if you are going to an event where there are other people and you do not know those people, then it is essential that you need to create very clear intentions to meet those people. I know this sounds incredibly basic, but all too often people tell me that they’re just too shy or meek or whatever other excuse they can muster as to why they’re not getting what they want out of life.
I attended some unbelievable events in Paris for Haute Couture week, and I can assure you that I did so with a clear picture of the outcomes I was aiming for.
You have to remember that you’re walking into rooms filled with people who have everything you could possibly want in this life — how many of those opportunities are you really going to have if you don’t take advantage of them?
Like, if those are the stakes, then you really have to figure out this networking game. It’s totally, completely, and entirely on you. And I’m just going to tell you, I’m a professional at this. I’ve got it down to a seven-step process. Will there be some bonus tips? Maybe! Let’s get into it, one by one.
You’re finally in the room. Now meet who you came there to see.
Now you might be thinking, “Wait a second, Natalie — I don’t know who’s going to be there. How am I supposed to know who to meet?” The thing is that you will know, and you’ll know the moment you walk into the room. There will be an energy. There will be a sense of excitement. It will be clearer than you think.
There will be reserved people, outgoing people, and people surrounded by other attendees, and it’s going to be your job to figure out how to join the group of people with a lot of people and figure out who you’re there to meet.
What you absolutely should not do is that thing where you start talking to the first person you encounter, never moving past that person because both of you guys might be uncomfortable. And then you sit together, you have your meal together, and you just become buddies. And while that’s fine, it’s completely misaligned with your intention. So read the room, and get in front of those people who are filling the room with that infectious energy, whether they’re generating it themselves or others around them are putting it back on them.
You are on a mission. Make a goal to meet the majority of every room you walk into.
Always ask for contact information
When you are in a room of people that you do not know and you’re afraid of things getting awkward, the easiest way to take control of the situation and keep the conversation flowing is to simply ask them for their contact information.
For example, when I was in Paris for Haute Couture Week, I sat down with a person and we were eating together with another group. I didn’t know the person I was talking to and I knew that soon I was going to need to meet the rest of the people at the event.
Instead of making it awkward by saying something like, “Okay, I’m going to mingle” or something else that is surely going to make them feel like I’ve grown bored with their company, I just say, “It was so great talking with you. Can I get your contact information?”
More often than not, they oblige, and now you’ve accomplished two things: One, you’ve made a clean transition to end this conversation so you can continue networking, but more importantly, you’ve secured new contact information that will be beneficial in the future.
Here’s a pro tip that you absolutely must do when they’ve shared their contact info: You take a screenshot. Why? Because it helps contextualize the interaction. Trust me, once you start attending a higher volume of events and collecting a large number of contacts, this is going to be incredibly valuable.
You’ll have the contact info. You’ll have the date stamped photo. And you’ve had a great conversation with a new person that you can, in some way, shape, or form, move the relationship forward with. And that leads me to my third step.
Follow up immediately with your new contact
Okay, immediately might be a little too soon. You should wait until you’ve left the event before you follow up. That’s what I typically do — I’ll reach out within a day, maybe the following evening. Do it during your car ride home or while you’re walking back to your hotel room.
I’ll usually say something along the lines of, “Hey, it was great to meet you. I’m Natalie Dawson. Here’s how you can contact me,” or, “Here’s where I’m at on socials. Let’s get connected,” and then make your ask. Think about this.
Do you want them on your podcast? Do you want to set up lunch? Do you want to have coffee? Whatever the ask is, follow up immediately.
Bonus round on this step: If they are a very important person to you — like I did this with Elena Cardone and the editor of Men’s Vogue, with whom I had like a full two hour conversation — send them something extra special in addition to your follow up message.
With Elena, I got her mailing address and sent her gold and black flowers. To this day, she still has them. (She had them preserved!)
The point is that it makes you memorable. You stand out from everybody else. With the Vogue editor, I’ve already done my follow up, but I’ll also send him something when he’s back in New York, thanking him for the conversation as well as a little note referencing something I learned from him during our conversion.
Similarly, I was scheduled to have a meeting with Victoria Beckham, and my plan was to wear some of her pieces to the meeting. To me, this isn’t the least bit tacky — it’s a sign of respect!
I’m not afraid to say that I’m a fan of these people, and I’m willing to do things that they’ll notice and might impress them. Why wouldn’t I want to do something that’s memorable when I get the chance to meet them? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be remembered, and you have to take some sort of action in order to do that.
You do not want to blend in.I repeat: Do not blend in. Do not be a wallflower. Fuck that. No, you’re there to be remembered. You’re there to get known. You’re there to move your life forward. And the people in that room can help you. So be memorable. But in the right way.
Do. Not. Drink.
Yeah, yeah, I know that this one might be a little controversial, but I said what I said. And I’ll say it again: DON’T DRINK.
Think about the event you’re attending. What are you there for? To meet people. To connect with them. To move your life forward.
I’ve watched countless people make THE WORST first impressions because they got sloshed at an event and made a fool of themselves. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have fun or that if you do something foolish that you don’t deserve forgiveness, but why take the chance?
Like, don’t blow the deal. Do not blow the deal. Be the person who made great conversation and does interesting work and is developing a fascinating product, not the sloppy drunk.
Now, is it okay to have a drink? Sure. But too many people rely on alcohol to loosen themselves up, or to be funnier, or whatever, but it can really quickly become a crutch. You’re a grown ass adult. Cope with your emotions. You’re going to be facing bigger things than this. You have to learn how to deal.
not then be interesting.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Be interested, not interesting” and I have a slightly different take on that: Be interested, then interesting.
This sounds simple in theory, but when you’re nervous, being a good conversationalist can be nerve-wracking, and your body language will say it all.
So, really, all of your attention and energy should be focused on being interested in the other person.
- What do they do?
- What in their life is exciting to them?
- Do they have children? Do they have a business?
- Are they excited about launching a new venture or a philanthropic endeavor that they have?
Just be interested. Ask genuine questions and be an active listener. I’m telling you this because I’ve come to realize that people really struggle with being interested in others.
It’s way easier to ask someone something and then make their answer about you, which is precisely what you shouldn’t do. Wait for the conversation to volley back your way after you’ve asked the other person five to ten meaningful questions about themselves. But don’t use their answers as ammunition to make yourself interesting.
I have one over so many people that initially wouldn’t like me, and here’s the real rule on this. Historically, it has been very difficult for me to get other women to like me when I attend events with my husband, and it’s largely an age thing.
I’m in my 20s. They’re typically older, have been married for a while, and don’t at first blush think they’re gonna like me. I’m not dumb. I know what they’re thinking. And it really just means I have to work extra hard to win them over. It’s probably the biggest chip I carry, but I know how to kill people with kindness by being genuinely interested in who they are.
Frankly, most people are really shitty at this. They’re terrible at asking great questions. I’m not.
So you start by being interested and then you move into being interesting. You don’t have to dim your sparkle. You don’t have to make yourself smaller. You can be interesting. But you have to read the room and get the timing right.
Know your angle
This is gonna change, depending on the room you’re in. If I’m in a Vogue space, then what’s my angle? We all have different roles in our lives and aspects to our personas, so we need to lean into the right aspect of it, depending on where we are.
So you might be a mom or a professional or a business owner or a philanthropist, and while all of those things are great, most people you’re interacting with don’t need to know your whole life story. If I’m in a fashion space, then that’s what I’m leaning into. Or maybe I’m talking about our wellness business. Or if I’m at an HVAC and plumbing event, I’m going to talk about helping business owners achieve their goals.
Again, I’m adapting the conversation to what’s relevant to their lives and goals vs. trying to impress them with what I think is interesting about me.
Just remember that your angle is your hook. It doesn’t have to be the only thing that you talk about, but it’s certainly your entry point into the conversation and capturing their attention.
Remember: You’re playing the long game.
Events are by design pretty short experiences. A few hours here and a few hours there. But, if you’ve gotten in the right rooms in front of the right people and have made the right impression, odds are, you’re going to see these people again.
Think of this meeting as the starting point of something bigger. Like, don’t be transactional about this experience. Don’t try to make a big splash with someone and then be an entirely different person at the next event you see them at. Be consistent. Show up as who you are — the best version of yourself.
Be kind and engaged and generous, you’ll win people over in a way you maybe haven’t been able to before. I’m proof that these techniques are effective, trust me!
If you’re interested in learning more about my networking secrets, my experiences with Vogue 100, or how Brandon and I are building an empire, then I invite you to come back to my blog every month and to subscribe to the Building Billions podcast. Listen, subscribe, review us and refer your friends! It would mean the world to me. You can find it wherever podcasts are streaming.