MatchMakers: How to Make the Most of Virtual Networking

| By Sarah Jester

Last month, a series of Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® (Certified LGBTBE®) suppliers participated in a virtual MatchMakers event with a wide range of NGLCC Corporate Partners. Each supplier had 15 minutes to chat and network with corporate and federal supplier diversity representatives before moving onto their next meeting.

Shelley Gaddie, Founder & President of ProjectCorps, a Certified LGBTBE® and Platinum Circle member, was among the large number of event attendees. ProjectCorps is an award-winning provider of business & technology consulting and professional services to both the private and public sectors, with operations in the nonprofit space as well. Over the past 19 years, ProjectCorps has completed a wide range of successful projects for organizations both large and small. Gaddie emphasized the importance of inclusion to her team, citing it as a necessity for success.

“Equity and diversity at ProjectCorps is really a lived experience,” she explained. “It’s also who we are as a company.”

Shelley Gaddie

Gaddie said that after hearing about MatchMakers, she quickly signed up to attend the pre-event prep webinar. There, she learned how to set up her profile and company materials on the MatchMakers platform.

“I basically followed everything that was recommended by Alicia and the team when they gave their training, so that worked incredibly well,” she said.

Through the platform, Gaddie uploaded a capabilities statement, as well as a longer document that featured examples of a broad range of projects that her company had completed for past clients. Overall, ProjectCorps scheduled a total of 10 meetings with NGLCC partners.

“The technology platform worked just great,” said Gaddie. “I loved the feature where you could also have the meeting added to your calendar.”

Gaddie shared that each representative she spoke to was very personable and interested in what ProjectCorps had to offer to them during the series of meetings. They all came extremely prepared and asked well-informed questions.

One point that was strongly emphasized during the MatchMakers prep seminar was that MatchMaker meetings are centered around building long-term relationships with supplier diversity representatives rather than securing a contract within 15 minutes. Gaddie strongly agreed with this point.

“We went in with the mindset that this is like a first date,” she said. “You’re getting to know people. This is not about closing the deal...it’s about developing a long term partnership with the organization. When that opportunity comes up, who are they going to think of? They’re going to think of you.”

Gaddie recommended conducting sufficient research on each company ahead of time before meeting with them. It’s important to understand not only what their mission and values are, but also what kind of jargon and vernacular they use as applicable to different fields. Do they have a supplier diversity portal? What kind of gaps in their operations exist that your company may be able to fill?

“None of these buyers had to participate - they opted in,” she explained. “So when any person from any company is giving you their time, given how thinly stretched everyone is, you want to really show up well prepared. Because that will make all the difference.”

Lastly, Gaddie advised future attendees to be true to themselves during these meetings.

“Show up genuinely,” she said. “Almost anyone can spot someone who is not being authentic. And these buyers are in many ways the gatekeepers of who will be a future vendor at the company.”

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You can read more about Certified LGBTBE® suppliers at nglcc.org/blog!