Typically, I despise networking events. I am an introvert. Introducing myself to stranger after stranger and desperately trying to find something interesting to say requires herculean effort for me. I feel as though I’m always standing outside of a small group of “networking” folks trying to play Red Rover to get through to actually talk to someone.
Women in HVACR is nothing like that. What a breath of fresh air it was to walk through the WHVACR Welcome Reception. Each person seemed to genuinely want to connect. To ask and answer questions. To get to know me and share themselves. It was, as advertised, a most “welcoming” reception. As I wandered the room, introducing myself, I met some amazing people. But what truly floored me was how comfortable I felt.
Here’s an example with two separate groups. The first, who strategically and ingeniously placed themselves at a table equidistant from the source of the delicious appetizers and the generous open bar, were all smiling as I approached and said, ever so eloquently, “Hi! I’m Karen.” They immediately opened up their circle to make space and welcomed me in. As they introduced themselves, I realized that they were from all over the country and had never met each other before, but they’d already had an easy rapport with each other. They each teased each other about little things they’d learned about each other earlier in the night. And even including me in their jibing as they joked about my lack of a Massachusetts accent, despite being born and raised just a little south of Boston. From there, we barely stopped talking. We even made plans to share costume resources at the Defying Gravity night the following night, which I now realize, I actually forgot to do. Sorry ladies! When I finally excused myself to do some more mingling, I was sad to leave because I feel as though I was part of that group.
The second table I visited was laughing so loudly, I absolutely had to go check things out. Again, I found a group of women who’d never met before laughing and joking as if they were old friends. This time, taking sides over who was planning to go to the wine tasting event and who was hiking post-conference, and debating which was better for true bonding, copious amounts of wine? Or copious amount of sweat? Though I don’t think they ever came to a conclusion, I think that we can all agree that both were effective means of creating lasting bonds of friendship at this event.
I have attended several conferences and countless networking events in my career and I have never felt so at home as when I attend the Women in HVACR events. The best part is that the connections don’t end after the conference. Several women that I met have already connected on my personal social media, through the mentorship program, via email or through WHVACR social media, to keep the conversation going so that we can all stay connected until the next event.