Tips Tricks & Techniques to Make Networking Fun

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Since we’re on a roll here, let’s continue this series on networking.

I’ve heard from so many people that they really dislike face-to-face networking.  It makes them feel intimidated and uncomfortable and they just don’t want to do it.  This made me wonder:  how can we turn the tables, flip the switch, and think differently about networking. 

I came up with five simple steps to make a game out of it – to actually make it fun.  So here are some tips, tricks and techniques to try.  Now remember, the key word here is “try.”  Pick and choose the techniques that are right for you and your personality.  I’m going to challenge you, though, to step out of your comfort zone – that is the only way you will grow.

So here we go…

1.       Get to the networking event early.  This may sound really simple, but many people show up in time for the speaker, then leave immediately after.  That is NOT networking.  By getting to the event early, you will feel less intimidated because there are fewer people there.   Then you can really focus on who you want to meet and start a conversation with.

2.       Don’t tell yourself “no”.  Many times my inner voice starts screaming: “no one wants to meet you, you have nothing of value to offer, no one will listen to you…” If this ever happens to you, STOP and hit the delete button!!!  There are enough people out there already telling you “no” so don’t become one of them.  Instead choose your three greatest attributes and repeat them to yourself over and over again.

3.       If it feels comfortable to you, wear something that stands out.  I often wear my red boots because people will compliment me on my boots.  It’s a great conversation starter.  Anyone can wear something that’s a little different – maybe a different colored shirt or tie or blouse.  It will make you stand out from the crowd.  Try it and see if it works for you.

4.       Smile.  It’s a powerful show of confidence which people respect and are drawn to.  Smiles are contagious and the simple act of smiling makes people feel better.  No matter who you’re approaching,  there is no stronger opener.

5.       Remember the #1 rule – LISTEN.  Meeting people is about making their lives better.  Whether you give them a smile, a new job or anything in between, there is a way to help everyone.  Listen and learn about what matters to them.  People want to tell their stories.  Be the person who is excited to hear them.

I encourage you to try all five techniques.  After all, how do you know which ones will work best if you don’t test them?  Let me know if you have a favorite. 

Now go out there an have some fun networking!

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5 Networking Questions that Actually Work!

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In my blog last week, I shared a unique way to look at face-to-face networking, especially if you are a bit introverted or on the shy side.  The key is to think of networking as simply starting a conversation, that’s all.  You’re not trying to make a sale, interest people in your idea, or land your dream job.  Your only goal is to start a conversation. 

But how can you reach out to people and engage them in a conversation that will help you determine if they are a good fit for you?

Well, here are five specific questions to help you get started.  Five questions that can help you in any networking situation:

  1. Start a conversation with “Where are you from?”  This can trigger a number of different responses.  They could talk about the company they represent, where they grew up or where they currently live.  It is a great start to a conversation because it can be answered in a number of different ways.
  2. When they tell you what they do, ask: “Describe your typical day to me.”  So many times people use industry jargon and you have no idea what they are talking about.  This is a simple way to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Instead of asking “What do you do?” ask “Where do you work?”  It’s a simplier question to ask because people may be more comfortable talking about their company instead of themselves. 
  4. “How did you come up with that idea?”  This is especially good for people who are self-employed.  There is usually a good story behind starting your own business.
  5. Find something in common that you can share with them in your opening conversation.  For instance, “I see that you belong to the chamber.  So do I.

These are just a few examples for getting a conversation started.  Pick and choose the ones that work for you.  Once you ask the question, your next goal is to LISTEN.  Only in listening can you determine if this person is a good match for your service or product.  Only by listening can you decide if you want to follow up with a second meeting.

I’m curious which question works best for you.  Please don’t hesitate to let me know.

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Nifty Networking Tips: Let’s Make This Easy AND Fun

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There are so many different reasons for networking.  What’s yours?  I challenge you to think out-of-the-box.

Are you networking to:

                Get more business

                Sell a product or service

                Raise money

                Raise awareness

                Find a job

                Find a date

Whatever your reason is, write it down – then go after it with a vengeance. Be clear about your goal.  It will help you avoid unfocused networking and will save you a LOT of time.

Next, find the group that is best for you.  One where you can meet people who will help you reach your goal. I know that going to the first meeting – the one where you don’t know anyone – can be quite intimidating.  And if you’re anything like me, it can be extremely nerve wracking.  You face a sea of strangers stretched out before you – and all you want to do is turn and run out the door.  You’re uncomfortable and unnerved and uncertain.

If you have ever felt like this, here’s a little tip:

Think of networking a little differently.  Know that networking is not talking to strangers but rather starting a conversation.  That’s all you’re trying to do at this point – start a conversation.  You are not looking to close the sale, land the job or get the check for your project.  Although that would be nice, chances are it will take more than one meeting to reach that goal.  So for now, you’re only objective is to talk to this person long enough and decide if you want to schedule a second meeting.  Is this someone who can help you?

So, instead of seeing strangers, think of this networking event as an opportunity to meet potential clients or potential friends.  Personally, I love using the word curious.  It changes your mindset.  Think:  I’m curious who I’m going to meet today.  I’m curious how they can help my business.  I’m curious how I can help them.  This one word will help you look at the opportunities that lay before you.  It can make all the difference in the world.

Remember that the people at the networking event are the same as you.  We all have insecurities; we all have doubts.  But most of us want to help each other. If you are at the same event, chances are that you already have a lot in common.

So whether you’re at a corporate event or in a coffee shop, you never know who can help you.  You never know who you can extend a helping hand to in return.  So start that conversation.  If you find this difficult, tune in next week and I’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to do exactly that.  In the meantime, start with a smile and simply say “hi.”

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Here’s a Toast to You

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Today is Valentine’s Day.

Some may love it – and some may hate it.  But it is here to stay.  It will return again next year and the year after that.  It’s very persistent!!!

This year I’d like to think of it a little differently and see it as a day to celebrate love. ALL love.

Over many years I have celebrated Valentine’s Day in so many different ways.  Sometimes I’ve enjoyed it with a boyfriend, sometimes with a spouse, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with my friends, but I never once took the time to celebrate with myself.  That’s right – myself!!!

I didn’t always see the good in myself.  There were times when I was scared and disappointed and felt crummy about my life.  Loving myself did not come naturally.  But now I realize that life is a circle.  There were times when my heart was singing, other times when it was broken, sometimes even shattered, but it always found a way repair itself.  This cycle will be repeated again, and now I know that my heart will survive.

No matter what was happening in my life, I always found a way to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.  As hard as it was some days, I did not give up on myself.  And for that I celebrate!

So today join me in raising a glass of wine to celebrate love – past, present and yet to come.   Here’s to believing in yourself and always finding your way.  Here’s to loving yourself unconditionally.

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What a Non-Sports Fan Learned From the Superbowl

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Because I grew up with three older brothers you’d think I’d be very interested in sports…but I’m not.  I know some of the basic rules for football and basketball and baseball, but for some reason I never became an avid fan. 

That’s why I was a little surprised when last Sunday’s Super Bowl game had such an impact on me. 

As I thought about it, what really captured my attention was not the final score or even the action on the field – but the sheer determination to win.  A focus that became so intense it was unexplainable and unbeatable.

Here’s what I observed – and since I’m not a sports aficionado, I will probably get some of the details and terminology wrong.  But what I saw has far greater impact than any numbers on a scoreboard.    

All I know is that one team was winning by a whole lot with only a few minutes left in the game.  It seemed obvious to everyone who the winner would be.  There was a HUGE point difference and it seemed insurmountable.

Then something changed.  Somehow, some way, the losing team dug deep inside themselves and found a strength that kept them moving forward – one yard at a time, one play at a time, one touchdown at a time. 

They refused to give up!!!

Even when most people around them did give up – even some of their fans – they refused to throw in the towel.  The losing team found courage, confidence and belief in themselves and their teammates.  They found a way to chip away at that score, and in just a few minutes they crossed that finish line – champions. 

Impressive —Very Impressive!

The power of not giving up, of believing in yourself, of giving it one more try.  I can’t even begin to imagine what we can accomplish with that type of determination.

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Oh Look – Another Shiny Object

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The first month of 2017 is behind us, and if I could share one thing that has made my last 31 days successful, it would be this:

I’ve stopped looking for the next shiny object.

Sometimes it seems like I’m always looking for what’s next:

                                                The next workshop that I just can’t miss

                                                The next webinar that will have all the answers

                                                The next article that will solve all my problems

So now instead of looking for what’s next, I’m focusing on what I already have right in front of me.  And the first place I looked was at all those piles sitting on my desk.  Those same piles that contain all the information I collected at the last workshop I attended or the last webinar I watched or the last article I read.  There on my desk sits notes I took, phrases I highlighted and pages I dog-eared – all waiting for me to finish what I started.

I’m taking time to look at all those unfinished projects and making decisions rather than excuses.  Decisions to concentrate and apply what I’ve already learned.

Someone once told me that if you don’t use something within the first six months, you might as well throw it out because you’ll never look at it again.  I strongly disagree.  As I’m going through those mounds of paper and notebooks, I’m finding some really good stuff.  And now I’m ready to use it.  So in my next blog, or my next speech, you just may hear something that I resurrected .  Something that really resonated with me and hopefully will do the same for you.   

So the next time a bright shiny object is calling to you, stop and take a look at what you already have right in front of you.  After all, it was important enough at one time for you to keep. Dust it off and take another look before you bury it beneath that new handout you just brought home.

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A Peaceful Roar

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This is NOT a political statement, nor am I taking anyone’s side.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts on something that touched me deeply.

A few days ago, we all witnessed the 2017 Women’s March.  It’s estimated that approximately four million Americans gathered to support one another, to speak out for a cause, and to say “I’ve got your back.”  The people who gathered on this day, all over the world, were of different ages with different backgrounds – all with their own story.  They got on buses, hopped on  trains, crowded into airports so they could walk for something they believed in. 

And it was all done peacefully.

That’s the part that really got to me emotionally.  Instead of fighting and yelling and screaming obscenities, you saw people holding hands, hugging each other and smiling.  Lots and lots of smiles.

They promoted awareness in a peaceful manner.

It made me realize that if you really believe in something, and you want to get it done, it’s up to you to lace up those shoes, stand up straight, and take that first step.  Sometimes it’s hard to brush off all those “no’s” that people throw at you, but who would have guessed that a movement like the 2017 Women’s March would resonate around the world with millions participating.  You never know where that first step will take you.

Watching the massive crowds gather in the different towns and cities really sent a chill up my spine. Just think of all we can accomplish – all YOU can accomplish – when we don’t give up on our beliefs.

Those words of Katy Perry keep rolling around in my head: “You’re going to hear me roar.”

 

 

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I Just Need Possible

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I just heard some fascinating news on the radio – YES, I still listen to the radio!

The announcer said that today, half way through January, 75% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned.  What?  75%?  It’s only two weeks into the New Year and the New You.  What would make someone give up so quickly?

Then, as I was pointing my finger towards others, I noticed that four of my fingers were pointing back at me.  How many times have I made the same resolutions year after year after year?  I began to wonder why they seemed so hard to keep, and I came up with these five ideas:

1.        Sometimes we get so excited and so ambitious and we make a LIST of resolutions.  No wonder we become overwhelmed and discouraged.  Try focusing on just ONE change.  I know a year seems like a long time to work on only one thing, but just think how amazing it would be if you actually got that one thing accomplished, finished, done with, and never again to be seen on another New Year’s resolution list – ever again.

2.       Be kind to yourself.  If you falter today, start again tomorrow.  Don’t beat yourself up or throw in the towel.  This change will take time, and as my mother always said: “You have more time than money.”

3.       Celebrate your success along the way.  That doesn’t mean a hot fudge sundae if your goal is to lose weight, but maybe it could be something like taking time for a bubble bath or sharing a glass of wine with a friend.

4.        Remember that you have a choice.  My weakness is chocolate so I’m always struggling with losing those extra pounds.  When I reach for that chocolate, I tell myself that I have a choice – I can eat that chocolate now or I can have a healthier body.  Which is more important?  If I’m honest, the chocolate does win out more often than I’d like to admit, but I’m working on that.  Knowing that I have a choice helps me to put things in perspective.

5.       Make your resolution a year long process, not just a one night statement.  Work at it every day until it becomes a habit.  I once heard someone say (and I paraphrase): I don’t need easy, I just need possible.  Make your resolution a promise to yourself that is possible.

Well, let me know how it goes.  Right now I’m going to make myself part of the 25% that have not given up on their resolutions.  I’m working on making mine possible.

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Your Choice – No Explanation Needed

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I just saw the movie Collateral Beauty.  Although the reviews were not that great, I really loved it.  The story had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and, when it was over, it left me with a warm feeling inside.

Especially the part, near the end of the movie, when Howard asked Madeleine if she is alone on Christmas Eve.  Her response is simply:  “My choice.”  Two words – that’s all she said.  No explanation, no excuses , no justification – just “My choice.”

Right then and there I learned such a valuable lesson.  There have been so many times in my life when I felt like I had to explain my decision.  So many times when I felt like someone was judging me and I had to justify my choice.   I can’t begin to tell you how often people question the fact that I don’t cook, like it’s a crack in my personality.  So I feel like I have to make myself look better in their eyes and I try to explain WHY.  Even worse, there are people who give me that wrinkled up look on their face when they find out that I don’t have children.  You know what I mean – that pity look.  It never dawns on them that this is a decision that I thought through very carefully and I am happy with it.  This decision did not come easy, but one that has worked out well for me.

So now, the next time someone tries to convince me that I need to take cooking classes to be happy, or starts to get that scrunched up pity look on their face because I haven’t experienced what it’s like to be a parent, I’ll simply say: “My choice.”  No other words are needed.  No other justification.  I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made and I don’t need anyone else’s approval.

I’m hoping that these two words will help you the next time someone challenges your decision.

In the words of the great Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

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Do – Undo – Redo in the New Year

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So, the other day my husband asked me to meet him for dinner.  My answer was quick and direct:

“Sorry – I have to work tonight.”

His response was equally as quick: “I thought your resolution for 2017 was to add more fun to your life.”

He was right!

Last week I posted a blog about New Year’s resolutions and how to view them differently so they actually work.  My intention for 2017 was IS to have more fun, but I realized that I never really thought about the HOW.  HOW was I going to add more fun to my life?

So here it is – some detailed thoughts on how I’m going to reach my goal for the New Year.  This is how I plan on making 2017 more festive:

1.        Take dance lessons with my husband.  This was actually his idea so – NO – I don’t have to drag him to any classes.  We actually took a Flash Mob dance class a couple of years ago and it was a hoot!

2.       Find a Pickleball class.  This is harder than it sounds because most of the classes I’ve found are during the day when I work.  I just have to dig a little deeper.  BTW – if you’ve never heard of Pickleball, neither had I until I moved to Madison just a few years ago.  It’s a cross between tennis and ping-pong – and LOTS of fun.

3.       Go snowshoeing this winter.  I’ve tried this twice before and really enjoyed it.  Now I just have to figure out where to rent some snowshoes here in Madison – then actually bundle up and DO it.

4.       Take an unexpected trip.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just something short, sweet and filled with laughter.  If I draw a 100 mile radius around my home, I’m sure I can come up with something.

5.       Surprise someone.  I want to do something for someone else that will make them laugh out loud.  I have such a great family and so many wonderful friends that it would bring me lots of pleasure to see them smile.

WHEW!  This fun stuff is hard work, but I’m committed to it.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  In the meantime, let me know your thoughts.  What do you want to do, undo, or redo in the New Year?

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