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The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You

Lydia Fenet on How to Change the Game

By Solange Jazayeri

Imagine walking into the glitz and glamour of a gala-style benefit auction. Guests buzz about and chat; the sounds of glasses clinking and laughter are loud enough to drown out the orchestra. Between sips of bubbly, you study the room: everything is aglow. This is what champagne dreams are made of—celebrities, millionaires, even billionaires mingling to their hearts’ content. That is, until “the Strike.”

Crack, crack, crack. It’s a loud, explosive call to attention.

Small but mighty, Lydia Fenet silences the crowd with her gavel. As managing director and lead auctioneer for Christie’s auction house, Fenet knows how to dominate a room. Tall and lithe, this brunette proves to be the best kind of femme fatale: one who, with a flick of her wrist and tap of the gavel, has racked up over half a billion dollars for more than four hundred nonprofits worldwide. She’s been known to raise a million dollars in under a minute and without apology.

Fenet says, “The most powerful woman in the room is me,” and in her first book, she assures, “The most powerful woman in the room is also you.”

Her secret: be yourself; sell yourself.

The Most Powerful Women in the Room Is You, Lydia Fenet
Author Lydia Fenet

In The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You, Fenet shares her wrong turns and wins through case studies of many prominent leaders she has befriended in her twenty-year career at Christie’s.

Here are five of her selling tips:

1. The Strike Method

Most of us don’t work with a gavel in hand. That said, Fenet urges you to find an action, a mantra, or an inspiring thought that quiets your mind and centers your sense of purpose. You can command a room too. A focused mind-set demands respect. When you know your “Strike”—what differentiates you from others—this strength provides forward momentum toward your goals.

In The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You, Fenet shares her wrong turns and wins through case studies of many prominent leaders she has befriended in her twenty-year career at Christie’s.

2. Sell as yourself.

In an industry dominated by men with English accents, Fenet shares her life experience in trying to imitate those whom she saw as the most successful in her field. Though promotions came her way, the difference between leveling up from a good auctioneer to a great one was the result of her selling as herself. No English accent—just her funny, authentic, and down-to-earth personality. Sharpen your strengths and sell yourself!

3. Listen.

Before you recite that elevator pitch you’ve perfected and memorized, make sure to listen first. Listen to what your audience wants and needs. Be a resource. Show that you care. Ask them what they want before you tell them what you have.

The Most Powerful Women in the Room Is You, Lydia Fenet

4. Rejection is like exercise.

The more you take the blows of rejection and failure, the better you get at responding to them. Do you want to be better at selling yourself or your idea? You have to try it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s important to ask even when it feels uncomfortable and even if you’ve received a repeated “no” from your callbacks. Remember, it’s not personal—it’s business.

Small but mighty, Lydia Fenet silences the crowd with her gavel. As managing director and lead auctioneer for Christie’s auction house, Fenet knows how to dominate a room.

5. Map out your life and follow through—but sketch it in pencil.

After the economic crash, auctions needed reshaping. The money wasn’t flowing as it once had been. To keep from having to fire team members, Fenet outlined opportunities within Christie’s. Then she spoke to the leaders in her company who could ease implementation. This strategy kept her team intact while also allowing her to develop a new sales department.

The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You is more than a catchy title: it is a no-nonsense guide to failing forward, negotiating the salary you deserve, and building a network that renders value throughout time.

— V —


About author Lydia Fenet

Lydia Fenet also serves as the global director of strategic partnerships at Christie’s. Fenet has trained all of Christie’s benefit auctioneers for the past seven years and travels around the country to speak to corporations and groups on “the art of selling.” Fenet’s auctioneering achievements have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Vogue, Crain’s, Elle, Vanity Fair, WWD, and WorkingMother.comThe Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You is now available for purchase. You can follow her on Instagram @LydiaFenet.

Solange Jazayeri has an MBA in communication and leadership from the University of West Florida. As a reader, she enjoys books that delve into personal journeys of self-identity. As a writer, her research explores the intersection of love and identity in this new age of technology.



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