Think back to your last networking mixer. Chances are, you were tired from working all day, waited 20 minutes for a little plastic cup of wine, and ended up talking mostly to your friends because, well, it’s kind of awkward to approach strangers, no matter what the situation.
It’s no wonder, then, that “sweatworking”— networking while working out—has caught on over the last few years. In Los Angeles, the concept’s being dominated by #FlexFitClub, an event series created by fashion event producers (and sisters) Donna and Joanne Vo. Their first two throw-downs, which took place earlier this year at SoulCycle and buzzy boot camp Speedplay, racked in some big-deal sponsors like Nike and Wtrmln Wtr. The next one, on November 20, will be held at Playlist Yoga.
The Vos love sweatworking because it’s all about multitasking—you’re getting your workout in and furthering your career at the same time. “Our audience is really ambitious and goal-oriented—we all have so much going on,” says Donna. “This is a great way to cultivate relationships with like-minded women while also being productive. It’s an [alternative to] getting coffee together because, to be honest, who really has time for that anymore?”
There’s also something refreshingly egalitarian about exchanging business cards over burpees, say the Vo sisters—everyone’s wearing Spandex, everyone’s in a ponytail, and you don’t have to worry about your makeup being on point. “Being in an environment where you can be yourself and wear comfortable clothes makes it easier to build relationships organically,” says Joanne. Plus, adds Donna, “Working out is a great conversation starter—you’re challenging yourself and having fun, which gives you something to talk about.”
Not in LA? You don’t have to miss out—Donna and Joanne say it’s really easy to start sweatworking on your own. So gather a group of women in your industry (or even just one person you want face-time with), put on your sharpest activewear, and prepare to bulk up your LinkedIn network.
Keep reading for Donna and Joanne Vo’s dos and don’ts of sweatworking.
1. Pick the right studio
Do: Choose a buzzy, cool venue
“To create a great experience for sweatworking, the fitness studio plays a huge part,” Joanne stresses. “We choose studios that offer a fun approach to fitness and classes that are open-level.”
She adds that the best options encourage interaction and camaraderie during the workout—so a quiet, candlelit yoga class is not ideal. “The objective is to promote a team-building environment, because you want to have fun while overcoming challenges together,” Joanne says. “This gives everyone a more organic way to interact and spark up a conversation—such as cheering each other on, or conversing afterwards about the awesome, challenging workout.”
Don’t: Be afraid to negotiate the price if you’re going with a large group
If you’ve gathered enough guests to fill an entire class, contact the studio ahead of time to ask about organizing a private session. “Most studios are open to renting their space and are more than happy to negotiate the price with you,” notes Joanne.
2. Curate your guest list wisely
Do: Think common interests and experience
“Curating a perfect guest list is definitely a craft,” Joanne says. Although the #FlexFitClub members come from all different industries and have very different job titles, the one thing they have in common is that they’re into working out. “[Fitness] ends up being a more natural conversation starter than the typical ‘what do you do’ question at networking events.”
The sisters add that it’s important to bring together people who are in similar places in their careers. “That way, everyone will feel included and have an opportunity to make a connection on common ground,” says Joanne.
The same goes if you’re sweatworking one-on-one. Make sure the person you’re inviting actually likes to sweat and is at around the same experience level as you. If you want to meet with someone further up the ladder, a more formal lunch or coffee date is probably a better idea (at least for your first few encounters).
Don’t: Invite without a goal in mind
“We try to make sure everyone on the guest list has a common goal when attending the event,” says Joanne. “If the event’s goal is networking, we want to make sure everyone who’s attending the event is there for the same reason so it sets a positive and welcoming tone.” In other words, make sure everyone involved knows that you’re there to talk shop as well as sweat—and remind them to bring their business cards!
3. Leave room for socializing
Do: Set the mood
“We want our guests to connect, network, and be inspired, but we also believe in letting things be as natural and organic as possible,” says Joanne. “Make sure to include extra time aside from the actual workout, so that there’s room for guests to interact and socialize.”
If you’re renting out a studio for a group, she says, talk to them about playing music before and after the workout. Also, consider bringing decorative touches like candles or flowers to make the event feel special.
Don’t: Let the fun end after the workout’s over
If you can get guests to chip in a little extra—or can work your connections for freebies—the sisters say to think about bringing in food and drinks, a photobooth, or a live DJ to keep people sticking around after they’ve toweled off.
If you’re working out with a small group, it’s easier to go elsewhere for quality time after the sweat sesh wraps. Scout the neighborhood for a spot to grab post-workout juice or tea, so you don’t have to worry about making a plan at the last minute. That way, you can keep the focus on what’s really important: bonding with your fellow boss ladies.