For the last few years at Relativity Fest, we’ve held a women’s luncheon to put the spotlight on some standout professionals in the legal space—and give them an opportunity to share their strengths with their peers.
The theme for our 2018 women’s luncheon came about following a conversation I had with Joy Murao earlier this year. Joy is the founder and CEO of Practice Aligned Resources. She also is the first-ever winner of the Relativity Stellar Women in e-Discovery Innovation Award.
During our conversation, Joy told me about workshops she started to help people take control of their careers. One of those workshops focused on empowerment.
This workshop intrigued me, and, I thought others would want to join the fun. When I asked Joy if she would run the empowerment workshop at this year’s Relativity Fest, she was game.
Here’s how luncheon attendees—including me—got empowered.
Cozy Up to the Uncomfortable
For the luncheon, Joy wanted people to get out of their comfort zone. Her idea, simple in nature, elicited mixed reactions from attendees. Each attendee would receive a table number once they walked into the room—forcing them to sit at a random table and talk with folks they likely didn’t know well or hadn’t met before.
Seemed easy enough, and for the most part, it was. Some attendees took the piece of paper with a smile. Others looked confused, and a few traded so they could sit with their friends.
It's fair to say that a good number of people were apprehensive—at least at first.
For those who felt uneasy when sitting down at a random table, a list of icebreaker questions might've raced through the mind: How do you like Chicago? Are you a fan of the cooler weather? Do you watch This Is Us?
Thankfully, my table didn’t need to use any of these conversation starters. Before I knew it, we were talking about different sessions we’d been to and what we were looking forward to for the remainder of the conference.
All in all, the seating exercise was a success. People were uncomfortable. But this discomfort gave them the chance to move beyond their comfort level. Attendees met new people and engaged in interesting conversations. Some even made new friends.
Want to Be Successful? Strategize.
How many times have you heard I was at the right place at the right time? There are instances where this may hold true. In most cases, though, finding prime opportunities entails more. It comes down to strategy.
Having a strategy to achieve your goals is paramount. Let’s be honest: most of us don’t love networking events. But we can all agree networking is crucial. Networking can open doors and help you grow professionally. Taking five laps around a room and grabbing a second refreshment may not be the best use of your time.
Joy suggested a different approach.
“First, I always go in with a game plan. I try to get there on time or early,” she said. “But life can get in the way. If I am late, I will look for someone who is by themselves or looking around the room and introduce myself.”
Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, know what you want out of a networking event. Then, create a strategy to meet your goal.
“Fake it ’Til You Make It” Works
Introducing yourself to strangers may make your stomach flip, and walking into a room with confidence is easier said than done. But having a strong posture may help instill confidence within ourselves.
At Relativity Fest, Amy Cuddy, author and psychologist, discussed power posing. Dr. Cuddy noted having a “powerful” positioning produces positive hormonal and behavioral changes. In other words, if you look confident, you will start to feel confident.
Marilyn Tokuda, American actress and Joy’s co-presenter, also discussed posture during the luncheon. She explained that humans tend to make themselves small when they feel nervous. While this is human nature, the key is to be cognizant of your posture and adjust accordingly to exude confidence.
When Marilyn asked for volunteers to show how this worked, I raised my hand. As soon as I got center stage, I felt my legs start to shake. Marilyn took me to the side and told me to stand up straight and walk across the stage with confidence.
And, it worked. Once I stood up straight and unfolded my arms, I felt my legs start to settle and even started to have a bit of fun with it.
If you want proof, look at this photo. A non-biased third-party observer may say I appear confident. (Feel free to share your impressions in the comments below.)
Everyone Should Take a Lesson in Improv
Improv isn’t reserved for actors; everyone can benefit from taking an improv class, especially when it comes to thinking on your feet.
In one exercise, coming up with a response quickly was paramount. Because improv is fun—and beneficial—let's explain how this activity works in the following hypothetical scenario, so you can try it out, too.
Sam and Mary stand back to back, so they can’t see each other. Mary starts doing a mini-game of charades; she acts out the first motion that comes to mind, like jump roping.
While Mary perfects her jump roping skills, Sam turns around and says the first thing she can think of that is unrelated to Mary’s action, such as: “My friend Julie is trying out for swimming.”
Mary would then respond to Sam’s comment without skipping a beat. Mary’s response must in some way be related to the activity. So, Mary might say, “She should jump rope. It will help her freestyle stroke.”
Now, you might be thinking: “This is all good and well, but how does this help me ask for that raise?”
It helps because when you put yourself in situations where you must think fast, you’ll learn how to respond calmly and prepare an answer over time—so, if you’re having a difficult conversation and your boss asks a question that you hadn’t planned on answering, you don’t freeze.
Joy and Marilyn provided this handy PDF that tells you everything you need to know about improv and its benefits.
In the end, the luncheon was much like any professional development opportunity: walking in, attendees likely did not know what to expect. We came from different roles, experiences, and even different continents. All of us, though, walked away feeling empowered.