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2/25/08

Networking Strategies

Whether it is a planned networking event or common everyday encounters, make it a priority to meet new people. Be more concerned with the contact than the results. Always be prepared with a ready supply of business cards and/or brochures and have easy access to pen and paper on which to take important notes. Here are some other strategies to consider.

Act as a host. Unfamiliar events can be disconcerting. Acknowledge you are an invited stranger amid other invited strangers. Take the initiative to reach out to others in a welcoming way.

Approach expectantly. Smile as you move forward. Send out the aura of acceptance: you to them and they to you. Put the other person at east as you make a friendly, yet professional approach.

Wear a name badge. Write the name by which you wish to be called in large letters and include your business in smaller letters. If a nametag is not provided by the event, choose to have your own commercially made and wear it religiously.

Small talk before business. The eyes connect before the ears are engaged. If you start immediately with your name, the individual’s visual inspection lends to your voice falls on deaf ears. Use an icebreaker such as “Have you tried the wonderful cheese dip?” “How about those bears!” “How many Starbucks can be built in a two mile stretch?”

Make it stick. State your name clearly and with a tag line that makes it memorial. I extend my hand and say, “Mona Dunkin. Mona as in the “Mona Lisa” and D-U-N-K-I-N, like Dunkin’ Doughnuts – no relation to either.”

Strike up the band. A person’s name is music to his ears so let the melody flow. Repeat the person’s name in a questioning lilt as if to indicate, “Is that correct?” Ask for clarification in pronouncing. To help you remember, ask for the story behind an unusual name or interesting accent.

Listen. We have been given two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Use accordingly.

Engage. Body language speaks volumes. Show interest through eye contact, appropriate nods or gestures and an occasional sound like “m-m-m-m” or “Really?”

Actively make small talk connections. Be aware of paths conversation can lead to. If you mentioned the Baylor Bears and she responded with a bear claw and “sic ‘em”, inquire about her connection with the university. If he mentions the weather is perfect for hunting, find out his prey of choice and favorite haunt.

Discover commonalities. Find out what connects the person to this particular event then share your experience. “Is this your first time here?” “How long have you been a member of the chamber?” “How do you know Sharon?”

Be discrete. Show interested without being intrusive. Do not interrogate or overstep your bounds. I find it irritating when a too friendly grocery checker verbally inventories my purchases or makes assumptions about my going to have a party.

Give your “elevator speech”. Business Networking International encourages individuals to have a poignant thirty-second spiel introducing your business and its benefits.

Have we met before? In those instances where I am unsure if I should know the person, I will approach pleasantly with a quizzical look and say, “Do I know you?” If I recognize, but do not remember the connection, I will ask, “Please refresh my memory. How do I know you?” To be on the safe side, I am careful to end with “Good to see you” rather than “Nice to meet you.”

Let others in. Be aware of another approaching, step aside to make room for him to join in, smile and direct conversation to him. Make introductions as needed: you to him, or he the one with whom you are conversing.

Graciously move on. If you approach a small group and they fail to make way for you to join the huddle, do not become offended. Smile politely and go refresh your drink.

Aspire to remember. We teach ourselves what we need to know. The use of mnemonic or association tactics can be helpful, but be careful. Remembering that “Mr. Harrison has no hair” may result in you calling him Mr. Baldwin. A concrete reference made on a business card and frequently reviewed solidifies the information with the person.

Want to connect. We need people. Barbara Strisand sang that “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” One of my philosophies is that I want to connect with everyone I meet. Whether for a moment, a season or a lifetime, I choose to put the person into my quality world.

Networking is a necessity in finding and retaining customers and resources. Relax and enjoy yourself. Go with the attitude of making friends and let the positive results just happen.

2/20/08

Stress Stoppers

Stress is neutral. Physically we need stress in order to remain upright. Too much stress and we become rigid and break easily. Become aware of necessary stress escalating into distress. Here are some thoughts for effectively handling the stressors of life.

Keep things in perspective. If you’re late, you’re late and breaking your neck to get there will not make up for lost time and cause you to miraculously arrive on time. Don’t rush and don’t dawdle. When you reach your destination, be there and do not waste energy excuses or blaming.

Care giver vs. Savior. People we care about make demands on our time and resources. You can become overwhelmed with their neediness if you see yourself as the answer rather advisor or aide. In giving advice also give leeway for the individual to reject your input. In giving aide, know what is helpful and what is intrusive.

Respond vs. react. Respond to the need to clean up the milk rather than react to the messy floor or the child’s childishness. Respond to the person’s frustration rather than react to his emotional outburst. Responding seeks resolution, whereas reacting compounds the problem.

Tame the taunting critic. Listen to your self-talk and see how you are your own worst enemy. Sure you have made mistakes and you have also had a lot of successes. Focus on those. Picture the worst-case scenario then tap into your untapped strength and overcome.

Reassess priorities and schedules. Are the items on your to-do list real or self-imposed? What would happen if you didn’t attend that meeting? Are radish rosettes worth your sanity? Do the elaborate decorations make you a more gracious host? Will the sun not come up tomorrow if you miss a deadline? Would the organization fold if you did not chair the committee?

Have faith. Faith is looking forward to something that has not happened yet. Have faith in your ability to stop doing as well as to do. Have faith in others to step up to bat and take responsibility. Have faith in God to be faithful regardless. Have faith that this too shall pass. Have faith that hope, energy and clear thinking is restored through sleep.

Say “No” and feel good about it. You cannot give out of an empty basket. Never say “Yes” just to be liked. Failure to say “No” when it is in your own best interest leads to a bad case of the “overs” – over-commitment, over-scheduling, over-spending, over-indulging, over-re-acing… being over-bearing. Leave ‘em wanting more. Say “Yes” only to what is in the scope of your dreams, talents, time and resources.

Establish boundaries. Although undue stress may seem inevitable, it is alleviated through establishing boundaries. A relative of mine was an avid fan of a company whose products were sold through a home party plan. She had to have so many hostesses a year to book from her so she could win a butter dish. She could always depend on Mona. Saying “No” was painful, but not fatal. In the long run, it was also freeing to her. If you don’t have someone to aid and abet, why start the process? Stop the stress and start living.

People we care about make demands on our time and resources. You can become overwhelmed with their neediness if you see yourself as the answer rather advisor or aide. In giving advice also give leeway for the individual to reject your input. In giving aide, know what is helpful and what is intrusive.

2/15/08

Let's Get Organized, Part 3

Sunrise. Sunset. Life is a continuous, on-going process. Planting, weeding, harvesting and canning. As much as we accomplish, there is always more to do. As much as we know, there is always more to learn. Here are a few thoughts on prioritizing and organizing.

Identify the most important. Write down all the needs for the day, arrange in order of priority and tackle number one. Stay with number one until completed. Continually assess, “What am I doing now?” Weigh the current activity against what you have identified as the most important.

Make it a part of your everyday routine. Remember the hare and the turtle? It is better to consistently devote one-hour a day to planning and implementation than hours of stressful catch-up. Habits form character and determine destiny.

Practice the One to Four Ratios. Time management experts say that for every one of planning reduces execution by four to ten times. One hour of advance preparation can take up to ten hours off the finished project. One day of concentrated planning can reduce the job by four to ten days. One week of deliberate groundwork can knock off ten weeks from the completed task.

Preto’s 80/20 Law of Predictable Imbalance. This principle ascertains that 20% effort produces 80% results. Using this predictable imbalance, 20% of your outfits are worn 80% of the time, leaving 80% of the items in your closet as clutter. Busy-ness does not mean business. In a given workday, 20% of your activities produce 80% results, leaving 80% as non-productive bustle. Twenty-percent of your social interaction will produce 80% of your leads. By eliminating 10% public commitments, you will gain time to develop better customer service.

Simplify through elimination. Be realistic about what you can do, what you cannot do and what you do not intend to do. Rather than delaying and denying, let yourself know your conclusion. Schedule in and pursue the can do’s and will do’s. Obtain help where needed and discard the rest.

Be an investigative reporter. Budget your time by asking pertinent questions, such as who? what? when? where? and how? Who needs to be involved in this task? Who will benefit from my completing this chore? What resources are needed for efficiency? What results are anticipated? What benchmarks point to accomplishment? When will supplies be available? Where do we eliminate fluff? How does this element compliment that component? Keep these qualifiers and quantifiers in sight to help you stay on track.

Find balance. Live one day-at-a-time while planning for the future. Plan around your entire life; being diligent to include family.

Much of the business of life is repeated over and over. Michael Gerber states that the “solution is in the system.” Developing a smooth running system reduces frustration, increases productivity and is easily taught to new workers.