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Christie's exec on how to be 'the most powerful woman in the room'

Christie’s auctioneer Lydia Fenet has a message for women trying to forge connections and surge ahead in their careers: “The most powerful woman in the room is you.” And that’s the title of her new book coming out in April 2019.

Fenet, 41, started out as an intern at Christie’s and by age 26 rose to head of events for Christie’s North and South America. She now leads auctions for over 600 organizations as the senior vice president and global director of strategic partnerships at the renown auction house. 

“This is a book that I wrote after spending 15 years on stage selling at charity auctions. I’ve sold almost a half a billion dollars worth of goods to benefit nonprofits around the world,” she said.

Fenet says that one of the best pieces of advice she received about success came from her father. 

“Network or die. It is the most important thing you will do in business and network doesn’t mean just network with the people in your room. It means network with every single person you meet. I meet people on the train. I meet people on planes. I take business cards from anyone because you never know when you’re gonna have a need for something that you can reach out,” she said.

And then, she says, pay it forward.

“The people who are your interns and people who grow up underneath you in business ultimately become part of your network as well. I use them as much as I use anyone else, calling them to ask them for favors and stuff now that they’re all the heads of business,” she said.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 06: Christie’s Auction House SVP Lydia Fenet auctions on stage at the 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Hilton Midtown on May 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for GLAAD)

The book also offers tips for people who want to improve their public speaking skills and develop confidence.

“You have to remember that everybody puts their boots on the same way in the morning. I stand backstage with the biggest celebrities in the world. … I’m the person in control because ultimately I’ve mastered what I’m doing,” she said.

Each chapter of the book includes case studies from other successful business women, including Martha Stewart and Barbara Corcoran. In writing the book, Fenet noticed a direct correlation between the speed at with which certain women responded and how successful they are.

“The people who responded the fastest, with not asking about who else was in the book, were the most powerful women; Martha Stewart, Barbara Corcoran, Deborah Roberts, Nina Garcia, never hesitated to ask who else was in the book. ‘Absolutely, Lydia. I’d love to do it,’ and they got their things back to me like that,” she said.

For Fenet, power is all about commanding an audience and selling yourself.

“That’s what power is, it’s about owning who you are, owning the room that you’re in, and really believing in yourself,” she said.

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