Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Hints to Help You Start a Conversation, Part I

October 23rd, 2014

MP900385536[1]Starting a conversation can be one of life’s more difficult tasks. It helps if you are an extrovert and can think of what to say right off the cuff. Yet you, too, have ever-present challenges that are above and beyond the words you exchange.

A major one is image, a combination of appearance and behavior that communicates more than half of the message. Admit it. You look at the other person and form an opinion. You notice the person’s height and weight; clothing style, colors and fit; hair color and style; attractiveness by your standards; posture; eye contact; facial expression; gestures; and more.

And you do this while you’re are shaking hands (a major nonverbal communicator) and trying to say something meaningful or respond with words that are memorable.

Sometimes you are thrown even more of a curve … like the person is unkempt or dressed inappropriately for the occasion or has obviously been imbibing. This consumes more evaluation time making it more difficult to concentrate on words.

What are you to do? Stay tuned for helpful hints.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions: Your Stance Excludes or Includes Others in Conversations

October 16th, 2014

In your book, Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last, you talk about how your stance can exclude or include others in conversations. I loved that piece of advice. Can you reprint that information here so I can share with my associates?
A follower in Vermont

Have you ever attended a meeting, conference or networking event and felt as if people were unfriendly or snobbish and hard to engage in conversation? Are you aware you might be sending the same message when you are talking with another person … simply through your stance?

By the way you stand, you either exclude or include others. Unfortunately, you may be unaware of the vibes you are sending about you or your organization.

When you and another person are facing each other and forming a rectangle,  you send the message that you have “closed off” your space and do not wish to be interrupted. Usually, you do not consciously set out to do this, rather your bodies “close up the space” as you become more and more involved in your conversation.

When you are the person trying to join two people who have assumed that stance, you set yourself up for rejection if they are not yet ready to “break the box” and let you in.

I’ve tested the principle and once stood next to two people for five minutes before they invited me in.

It can also be difficult for you to break out of the rectangle if you are ready to move on and the other person is not yet finished “monopolizing” your time.

I stopped by a funeral home to pay my regards to a friend when her father died. She had left to run an errand so I met and spoke with her sister. We moved into a rectangle position, and I tried to break it because I needed to leave for an appointment. She kept rotating with me to keep the box intact. It was apparent she was not yet ready to break off the conversation.

Finally, a priest approached us and as she saw him out of her peripheral vision, she opened our “box.” I excused myself shortly after I was introduced to the priest.

On the other hand, when you and another person have your feet pointed outward like two sides of an incomplete triangle, you are inviting others into the conversation. It is easy for someone walking past or standing nearby to make eye contact. That person will feel welcome to join you, particularly if one of you extends an invitation through a smile, nod or a pause in your conversation.

Knowing these two simple “stance” facts can save you from feeling rejected or ignored or making others feel that way vs. welcomed and comfortable.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions — Beware of the Controller Handshake

October 1st, 2014

A reader writes:

Someone I met recently grabbed my hand firmly and then, with force, turned our hands until his was on top. I’ve been wondering if he was sending me a message. I am interested in your opinion.

Hurting in Philadelphia

Thanks for asking. Yes, he was definitely sending a message! I call that handshake “The Controller” for obvious reasons.

When people insist on turning your hand so that theirs is on the top, they want you to know, in no uncertain terms, that they are in control and will dictate the conversation that follows.
Next time it happens to you, immediately register what the person is telling you. You then have the option of trying to match the person’s ego verbally, letting her/him control and/or ending the conversation as soon as you tire of being “controlled.”

Physically, extricate your hand as quickly as possible. If you were to try to turn your hands into an equal position, you will likely meet resistance.

And stay positive. Controllers comprise a small percent of hand shakers … and people!

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Small Talk is Huge, Part II

August 21st, 2014

As promised last time, here are seven tips to help you make your small talk huge!

    1. Fill your small talk arsenal. Get up-to-date on current news through whatever vehicle you use and then form an opinion so you can discuss it. It’s fine if you have a divergent opinion so long as you listen to others’ and remain congenial.
    2. Prepare a few questions based on the time of the year.

      a. Current business news
      b. Unusual weather
      c. College/pro basketball/football/baseball/hockey games and standings
      d. Movies and TV shows/ Oscar or Emmy nominees
      e. Questions and comments about the sponsoring organization

    It is generally advisable to steer clear of politics and religion.

    3. Practice by yourself. Talk to yourself in the mirror and watch your expressions and gestures. Are they appropriate? Do they need honing? Don’t imitate the president who raised three fingers when he was discussing two items.
    4. Practice with others. Try starting conversations with family, friends, clerks, neighbors, co-workers, wait staff, people in doctors’ waiting rooms, etc. Mentally record if you get the conversation started and if it goes in the direction you want.
    5. Listen better. Use your two ears (and two eyes in person) and one mouth to your advantage. Remind yourself of the proportion as you glance in a mirror at an event … in fact, every time you look in a mirror.
    6. Look confident. You automatically appear to be more knowledgeable and someone others want to get to know.

      a. Plant your feet.
      b. Hold your head high.
      c. Keep your shoulders back.
      d. Put your chest out.
      e. Hold your stomach in.
      f. Make direct eye contact.

    7. Observe and listen before joining a conversation in progress. Prepare your remarks and wait for an opening.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Small Talk is Huge, Part I

August 8th, 2014

099 0043The content can be current chitchat; the role small talk plays, however, is far from minor. It’s an enormously important conversation starter and often determines if you want to keep talking – hence the opportunity to build a relationship – or make a quick escape.

Because the content may seem unimportant (let’s get right to the “what do you?” and “what can you do for me”), you may think it unnecessary to prepare … and wing it. That works for the few people who can think succinctly on their feet and then articulate their thoughts fluently and effortlessly.

Gender differences in communication can also be small talk hazards. Men have three main topics in their small talk repertoire: sports, current events, business/jobs. Women have hundreds and since they disclose more about their personal lives they may run into a blank stare when they start with children and spouses.

Next week I’ll share seven tips to help you use small talk to get huge results.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions: Communicating with Those we are with vs. Those not Physically Present, Part IV

July 24th, 2014

sayingHere‘s the final summary of responses I received about texting during a workshop. Some of them raised more questions for me like “Is it really less important to communicate with those we are with than with those not physically present?”

    • Pretend people are using their electronic device to take notes or tweet what a terrific presenter you are.

    • Generational communication differences will continue to evolve with smartphones and electronic devices connecting people to their busy lives. This phenomenon will only become more common. (I do not believe this gives anyone a reason to be discourteous and disrespectful to the presenter. Perhaps, these people are too busy to attend workshops? Are people any busier than they were 10 years ago? Are we as vital as we think we are?

    • It is a generation thing. It’s now okay to talk during a presentation or program. And let’s not get started on writing, spelling, math skills … ! (Sounds as if you may not think it is necessarily for the best.)

    • It’s the people who are not paying attention who lose the most.

I chose to stop my presentation momentarily and ask the participants to please refrain from using their electronic devices during the rest of the program, which they did. One of the people sat stoically until the end. Another came up and shared how very much he enjoyed the presentation and how much he had learned.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Your Suggestions About Texting during a Workshop, Part III

July 20th, 2014

… more responses to my question about what you would do if someone was texting during you presentation.

    • I might use a nonverbal response such as continuing to talk as I walk over to the ones doing it. I’d look down at what they’re doing without saying anything, note their reaction and then move on.
    • I start with a high-energy opening that grabs attention and has lots of humor. Usually, it grabs their attention from the get-go. If I am later faced with a situation such as texting, I can jump on it, again using humor that generally gets a laugh even from the perpetrators. Nobody is likely to repeat their actions. Caveat … it has to fit naturally with your presenting style.
    • I might walk over and ask if they have their phones ready for our very own selfie. I have to admit I have yet to try this approach!
    • Since I speak on productivity, I have used experiences such as this to highlight that multitasking generally is not effective.
    • Have you tried acknowledging their behavior by giving them a 5-minute break to check emails while sharing you would then like their full attention? This may not be feasible in a 30-45 minute program.

I’ll wrap it up in my next blog.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Your Suggestions about Texting during a Workshop, Part II

July 13th, 2014

Thanks to all of you who responded to my question about what you would have done as a presenter if someone was texting during your workshop. I’ll be sharing the responses in several blogs since I keep them to about a minute each for a quick, easy and helpful read.

Here we go!

    • Many of us are guilty of texting almost everywhere … it’s very rude and disruptive to the speaker. I promise to be on my good behavior from now on. Let’s hope others do, too, so we can get the most out of every networking event.
    • Did the facilitator remind everyone to put away their smart phones? (No. And I chose to start with an interactive exercise rather than having my first words be a “command.”)
    • I would probably include this behavior in future presentations on networking with the learning objective of being present in the moment. (Good idea!)
    • Very occasionally, I address this issue in the adult classroom as a university instructor. The syllabus says that phones must be muted. (Unfortunately, workshops usually don’t have syllabi. They do have facilitators or people who introduce us.)
    • I’ve read about a K-12 teacher who has the pupils put their cellphones across the bottom few inches of the whiteboard (space reserved for markers and erasers) with their names above the phones.

More varied opinions next time, plus what I did.

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Face-to-face Networking: 60-second Solutions: Texting During a Workshop (a small workshop!), Part I

June 24th, 2014

During a recent face-to-face networking presentation, I was surprised to see two people blatantly texting. Attendance was around 20 so it was easy to make eye contact and observe what people were doing.

My questions are:

    • What would you have done as the presenter?
    • Is each of us so important that we need to be available 24/7 even when it means tuning out the presenter whom, by attending her/his workshop, we have given permission to speak with us?
    • Are courtesy and respect for someone who is speaking outdated, and by this question I include smaller, interactive conversations as well?
    • Why do we place more emphasis on communicating with people other than those we are with?

You can respond to this blog or to me personally at lillianspeaks@duoforce.com. I’d like to hear from you so I can share your thoughts (anonymously, of course) and communicate what I did.

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Face-to- face Networking: 60-second Solutions – - Divide and Conquer for Better Networking Results, Part II

June 18th, 2014

business team“Divide and conquer” is a successful team approach to face-to-face networking when several employees from the same company or association are attending the same meeting, trade show or conference.

    Why use this approach? It’s the number one way to increase value for your time and dollar. You/your employer pay for multiple people to attend external events to build more relationships and increase your exposure … not to talk with each other. Instruct your people to sit at different tables, talk to “strangers” and save the water cooler talk for the office.

    Use the tag team approach. If two of you happen to be speaking with the same person, use the opportunity to say positive things about your cohort that s/he may not be comfortable saying. One of you can also choose to move on to speak with others since you are leaving a team member behind.

    Here’s another use. In addition to standard networking events, use this approach when numerous company employees attend the same trade show. As the owner or supervisor, review the program ahead of time and assign booths and presentations to various people. (No one person can successfully visit 500 booths or attend 15 presentations!) Then make your employees accountable at a debriefing you schedule shortly after the event. It’s amazing how much information and how many contacts your company can amass from one show.

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