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Posted in DC Examiner this week by Marissa Levin:

Ladies, I know your time is valuable. I know you have 101 people pulling on you in different directions, all day long. And I know it is so easy to get caught up in the online networking. But the online networking doesn’t replace the physical networking.

Ladies, you need – you crave – your high-touch, face-to-face networking time with other successful women. Let’s get real. We do not want to hide behind a computer screen all day long, no matter how much we enjoy our Facebook postings and Twitter updates. After all, the online universe is no place to check out each other’s sassy summer dresses and strappy sandals.

So where can a successful woman in the DC metropolitan area who has it all going on go to let it all hang out, connect, network, relax, laugh, and celebrate all that she is?

Look no further. I’m here to tell you.  Also, all of these groups are on Facebook.

1: Success in the City. (www.successinthecity.org). Ladies, there is no networking group anywhere – east coast or west coast, that has it going on like Success in the City. Launched by Chief Diva Cynthia deLorenzi, SITC is the place to meet FUN, confident professional women. This is not a place where you will find “speed networking” or get a lecture on time management, marketing, or other typical business topics. Because there is nothing typical about SITC. The events are always informative, progressive, trend-setting, inspiring, and the perfect blend of professional development and personal development. This is an organization that is devoted to the building and strengthening of lasting friendships between professional women and leaders. Trust and humor are the foundations of this group. Once those elements are established, deals-on-heels can follow. SITC women are beautiful inside and out. They inspire me and bring out the best in me. They radiate optimism, confidence, and fun like no other group, and you always want to go back for more.

2: National Association of Women Business Owners – Greater DC Chapter. (www.nawbodc.org). This past year, NAWBO NoVa and NAWBO DC joined forces to create a single DC metropolitan NAWBO Chapter. NAWBO’s events provide exceptional networking opportunities and educational opportunities for women business owners at all phases of the business lifecycle. It is comprised of both seasoned business owners and newer entrepreneurs, and its dedicated leadership work diligently to build highly valuable, collaborative programs that are directly tied to the wants and needs of its members. For women’s entrepreneurial education, NAWBO DC is the place to be.

3: Women in Technology. (www.womenintechnology.org). I have had the pleasure of watching Women in Technology grow over the past several years, and it has evolved into an absolutely phenomenal organization for all women who are connected in any way with the technology industry (and that includes just about anybody).  WIT has an exceptional mentor-protégé program (of which I used to be a proud mentor), which includes one-on-one mentoring sessions and great speaking programs. It also has several special interest groups (SIGs) including Diversity Outreach, Executive Women, Sales & Marketing, Technology, and Women Business Owners. In addition, it has a Girls in Technology Program and a Workforce Development program. Also worth mentioning is its tremendous commitment to philanthropic causes through galas, golf tournaments, and other events. WIT has many committees that offer everyone involvement at some level if they choose to get involved. They include Advocacy, Communications, Membership, Mentorship, Programs, Special Events, Strategic Alliances, Women in Government, and many more.

4: Women Building & Investing in Success – WBIS. (www.wbis.biz). WBIS was started in 2003 by a dynamo named Sheila Dixon. Sheila is so passionately committed to connecting professional women and helping them realize their potential. I am inspired by her every day.  The goal of WBIS is to help independent and professional women grow to their next level of success.  WBIS holds Networthing Nights in addition to regularly scheduled luncheons and other collaborative events.  Sheila’s positive energy and commitment to the success of other women is reason alone to become involved with WBIS. It is people like Sheila that enable all women entrepreneurs to reach their potential.

5: Sterling Women (www.sterlingwomen.org). Sterling Women is the newest women’s networking group on this list, but don’t let that fact fool you. This group has enjoyed skyrocketing popularity due to the leadership and vision of Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limousine.  Anyone that has the good fortune of knowing Kristina is aware that she is always looking for ways to connect women with one another, and that she always puts her heart and soul into everything she does. These characteristics are why Reston Limousine is one of the top-rated transportation companies in the country, and why Sterling Women is now recognized as one of the best networking groups for women in the DC area. Kristina always goes above and beyond in everything she does, and Sterling Women participants benefit from her work ethic, passion, and commitment to the women’s community.  In November, Sterling Women will host its first day-long conference – in addition to its monthly luncheons, so stay tuned for that important information.

6: YES!Circle. (www.yescircle.org). YES!Circle is the creation of Margarita Rozenfeld, who is an exceptional career coach, and completely committed to both entrepreneurship and helping others. YES!Circle brings together entrepreneurs from all industries, in all phases of the business lifecycle. Many of the YES!Circle events are held in the downtown DC area. The events provide an intimate setting of brainstorming and learning, and are true peer advisory groups for anyone looking to learn the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship. One of YES!Circle’s most popular annual events is a weekend-long visionary retreat. The next one happens June 26 – 28, 2009 at Berkley Spring, WV. These retreats are for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and creative types who want to get crystal clear about their vision, mission and action steps to get to their next level of business growth. There are still a few spots available, so check the website for details if an immersion in entrepreneurship interests you. Yes!Circle meets monthly, and the meetings are always full of successful, passionate entrepreneurs looking to connect with like-minded individuals.

7: Executive Women’s Roundtable. (www.execwomensroundtable.org). EWR has evolved into an outstanding group of executive women from all facets of business and government in the DC region. This rapidly growing group meets monthly at Maggianos in Tyson’s Corner, VA. This wonderful setting provides great networking opportunities, and the luncheon speakers are among the best that any networking group has to offer. Speakers include leaders and business owners from all types of businesses, government leaders, political experts, national news correspondents, business coaches, chefs, international authors, women’s rights advocates, health experts, and many more. The leadership of Executive Women’s Roundtable is extremely strong, which ensures top-notch programming and ongoing participation from the best and brightest in our business community.

8: eWomenNetwork. (www.ewomennetwork.com). eWomenNetwork has been around for many, many years. What started out as a small networking group has mushroomed into one of the most far-reaching women’s networks in the United States. The group has hundreds of networking events occurring during any given month, and the DC Chapter is particularly active. It is run by Susan Wight, who has transformed the DC chapters (meeting in both Tyson’s Corner and Leesburg, VA) into excellent networking events with strong speakers and great attendance. The unique aspect of eWomenNetwork is its national reach. The founder of this group had a vision to create a nationwide, cost-effective network for women, and she has achieved it. There are annual conferences, an author’s network, a coaching network, a speaker’s network, and many other benefits. You can find Susan’s information on the main website, under Managing Directors.

9: National Speakers Association. (www.nsadc.org). I am a newcomer to NSA, but I attended an event last week, and I know the President of NSA, Susan Trivers. I also know several incredibly gifted colleagues (Sally Strackbein, Jennifer Abernathy, Vernice Armour) that are active in NSA, and they are among the best speakers you could ever hope to see. Not only was I very impressed with the quality, talent, creativity, and diversity of the speakers I saw at their monthly June meeting; I learned so much in the short time that I was there. Professional speaking is truly an art. It is a discipline that requires knowledge in many aspects that extend way beyond an understanding of a specific topic. If you have any interest in pursuing a speaking career, or if you are required to give presentations in your line of work (and most business owners are required to do so), you should consider attending a NSA event or explore their membership options. I hope to be spending more time with NSA.

10: Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia.  (www.cbponline.org). The Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia is one of the SBA-run women’s business centers around the United States. It is the flagship women’s business center; truly setting the standard for what all women’s business centers should be. These centers fall under the supervision of Ana Harvey, President Obama’s appointed Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women Owned Business within the SBA. Ana is dedicated to ensuring all of the Women’s Business Centers nationwide provide the resources that women business owners need to thrive. This center offers so much to women business owners. It provides classes in virtually every topic, from writing a business plan to securing financing. It provides excellent conferences and workshops, and is a phenomenal springboard and resource for all women business owners.

So there you have my top 10 list. I hope you found a few resources that you have not experienced, and I hope you have been inspired to get out there and connect with other like-minded women.

One More Resource…

Before closing, I would like to mention just one more resource. The Hot Mommas Project (www.hotmommasproject.org) was launched by an amazing, inspiring woman named Kathy Korman-Frey, who also has been teaching Women’s Entrepreneurship at George Washington University for seven years.  Here is a description of the Hot Mamas Project – I blocked and copied it because I don’t want to in any way devalue its mission:

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning women’s leadership program housed at the George Washington University School of Business. The research initiative started in 2002 to fill a gap in the education system: Scalable access to role models, particularly female ones. Thus, our mission is to increase self-efficacy of women and girls across the globe through exposure to role models. To accomplish our mission, we are building the world’s largest women’s case study library to produce not just vignettes, but credible academic tools that can be utilized in a classroom environment.

I encourage you to visit Hot Mommas to learn more about this groundbreaking program, and to be inspired by heroic tales of entrepreneurship from across the globe.

Thank you for reading my column… more valuable information to come for sure.

Happy Networking!

 Marissa Levin started Information Experts 14 years ago at her kitchen table after her boss told her she would never be worth more than $34,000. Today, IE is a multimillion-dollar integrated consulting firm that is the thought leader in strategic communications solutions, human capital strategies, and learning strategies for government agencies and organizations. Ms. Levin is the recipient of countless leadership awards, and is known throughout the national business community as an inspirational visionary. She frequently speaks at industry events and universities on her experiences as a woman business owner who has financed 100% of her organization through earnings while raising two young sons, and maintaining a corporate culture that is employee-focused and values-based.