Why creating your networking plan BEFORE you attend your next industry event makes great sense!

February 1, 2013

Why is it that some people always get great results at networking events and others just seem to flounder from person to person and never appear to get results?

My research has shown that people who create a networking plan BEFORE they arrive at the industry event, definitely achieve far greater results than the ones who just show up.

A networking plan may differ from person to person – but here is a basic outline that may work for you. Feel free to adjust to suit your desired outcomes.

PRIOR TO ATTENDING YOUR NEXT INDUSTRY EVENT:

To really maximise your results and return on attendance, it is wise to allocate 15-30 minutes to plan your strategy as soon as you register for the event. During this preparation time, answer/complete the following:

1. Who would you like to meet at this event with a view to building a strong connection with them in the future? Ideally list at least 3-5 people.

2. Beside the 3-5 names write a specific reason why you want to meet that person.

3. Is there anything that you could do prior to that event to ensure that you make the connection productive?

e.g. If you know the person reasonably well maybe a quick phone call to them to check if they are going to the event and the reason for wanting to meet them. You might even suggest that you meet with them 15 minutes before the official start of the event. Or they may be able to spare 15 minutes at the end of the event.

b. If you don’t know a lot about the person/people – can you spend time on their website or their LinkedIn profile to get to know a little more about them? Look for common interests and mutual connections. Make a note of these points.

c. Can you send  a LinkedIn inmail introducing yourself to them and mentioning the event and indicating you will introduce yourself to them?

d. Finally Google the person and see if there is additional information that may assist you to start a conversation or make a stronger connection.

Often when I suggest this preparation strategy, my audiences groan and tell me they don’t have time, why bother, blah, blah, blah…..My response is always, if you are wanting to build a connection with someone and you know very little about them, you have to start somewhere. The least you can do is pay them the courtesy of doing your  homework before you meet them.

If you had the opportunity to “pitch” to them in a formal meeting, it is highly unlikely that you would not prepare for that meeting. So consider this preparation advance research. Why would they remotely consider doing business with you when you have not done your research around their industry or them?

e. Prepare a couple of questions that you could ask some of those people.

e.g. John, my name is Brian Johnson, we have not met before, but I was very interested in the quote you made about the XYZ project, may I ask you………..?

Susan, my name is Brian Johnson, we have not met before, but I saw where your company was a finalist in the ABC awards, may I ask what being a finalist was like for you?

f. An important step with your preparation is deciding before you attend the networking event, how to stay connected post event with these key players. You have many options here from emails, inmails with LI, a follow up note, an invitation to  another event, sending an article or a web link, a phone call – what will work best for that key contact? The more you know about the person, the easier it becomes to pick the most suitable follow up strategy. One size does not fit all here.

g. Finally how will you measure your results? Very few people walk away from an industry event with a million dollar order. It happens, but not every time. However, many people walk away with potential million dollar contacts and they never follow up or keep in touch.

Think about the dollar investment to attend industry and business networking events and memberships for the next 12 months. You might be surprised at the total investment. Why not give my suggestions a trial for the next 3 events that you are planning to attend? What have you got lose?

Remember, every best friend was once a perfect stranger!

Happy networking until next time.

   

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Get that job – 3 keys to get an interview for your job of choice!

January 17, 2013

Today as you scan the positions available you may identify  an opportunity to use your current skill set in a different role or industry. Alternately, it may be a promotion or sideways move. If you have made the decision to change jobs this year or to find a job that you love to do, firstly you have to get an interview.

Competition for middle and senior management jobs has never been fiercer as the volume of great jobs in the marketplace decreases in our tight marketplace. Here are 3 tips to fast track your resume to the top of the “to be interviewed” list. Please note these 3 tips are recommended prior to you sending off your application.

1. Give them exactly what they ask for. If they ask for a cover letter, give them a cover letter. If they ask for five referees, give them five referees. Avoid giving potential employers reason to delete or “bin” your application. A human resources manager recently told me that in today’s tight market, he may receive 70+ applications for a position. 50% of these are culled because they did not give exactly what was requested.

2. Do your homework. If you are using www.seek.com.au then it is usually clear who the employer is, unless it is a recruitment company listing, where the client would be more ambiguous. Spend time on the potential employer’s website. Find out who is on the board, make a note of their names. Look at the senior management team, make a note of their names. Are their any charities they support or corporate social responsibility activities they are involved in? Do you see any familiar names/faces? See if you can find the name of the current person in the position you are applying for. Next step is to spend time on LinkedIn and look up the names of people on the board and on the senior management team. Who do you know who knows any of these people? Look at your 1st and 2nd level LinkedIn connections – how are these people connected to you, if at all? Study the key player’s profiles, do you share common interests? How long since you have made contact with any of these people, is it appropriate to reconnect and mention you are applying for this role? Would you feel comfortable asking one of your connections, who are linked to the key players, if it would be okay to list them as a referees?  A word of warning though, some people may decline your request to be a referee. That’s fine, if you receive a no, just move to the next person on the list.

3. Research the industry – what significant changes are happening around their client base? You are looking for snippets that you can include in your cover letter to show that you understand their industry and are up to date with recent developments/disaster/mergers etc. e.g. If one of their major clients has just retrenched 1,000 people then it stands to reason they are looking for new business to replace that revenue. And some of their other client’s may potentially be under pressure.

If all this sounds like too much trouble, well don’t be surprised if you are not short listed for an interview. Recruitment decisions are very costly and most HR managers are wanting to be as certain as possible that they have made the right selection. Don’t give potential employers any reasons for declining your application.

Effort + Time + Research + Finding Connections = Results = An Interview

Good luck with the job search!

WHY WILL MASTER NETWORKERS GET GREAT RESULTS IN 2013?

January 2, 2013

As the new year dawns many people review their year – both positives and negatives –

What worked well?

What didn’t work at all?

What do you wish you had more time for?

What will you make more time for in the next 12 months?

Yet when it comes to face to face networking, if you are taking one year to review your activity – you are potentially missing lots of opportunities. Or even worse, continuing to do something that is really not working for you.

One thing I know for sure is that master networkers can make decisions quickly and accept or decline potential networking invitations in a heartbeat.

So let’s look at the decision making tips that some master networkers use on receipt of an invitation. Let’s face it – today the chances of getting a hard copy invitation via snail mail are very rare.

The standard invitation format today is sent via email, twitter, a forwarded link, meet-up, LinkedIn, Facebook, You Tube or a dedicated website. You may print off the invitation or just give it a quick scan. Let’s look the main things that grab your attention:

1. Attention compelling email header/opening sentence or event title. If the sender has targeted their marketing to a specific demographic (that includes you) you will probably move to point 2. If you are not remotely the target market, the delete button looms.

2. Your interest has been sparked – tell me more – What is the date? Where is it being held? What is the time frame? Who else will be there? Some readers will delete the invitation at this point if the location, date or time does not match their availability. If it does you may move to point 3.

3. Why should I go? What are the benefits of attending? Who else is going? Good copy can clinch the deal here or at least get you to move to the action step – point 4.

4. How much is it? Very quickly we weigh up the risk of wasting that amount of money on a bad event versus the potential benefits to be gained if you enjoy the event and get to network with the potential participants.

The definition for bad event may vary from person to person. Some may define a bad event as a poorly organised event where nothing was planned, the event started late with no real structure and everyone was left to their own devices. Sometimes a case of promise great – deliver lousy.

Yet for others the informality may be just what they love the most. Many people have a “dollar meter” that they are prepared to risk. “Well it’s only $50, so if I don’t like it, I can leave – it’s not a huge amount of money.” Someones else’s “dollar meter” might be $1,000 – it totally depends on the demographic, the event and the potential benefits.

Many people today attend a free event knowing full well that although theoretically it is FREE – there is a big chance there will be a heavy and very persuasive sell throughout the event for another event/course. All of this as the delete button looms and we quickly make a decision – yes, no or maybe.

So let’s put on a master networker’s hat when we look at the next invitation we receive. In addition to the above 4 points, the master networker has done their pre-event homework weeks before. They have decided that in this quarter, they are looking to attend networking events – local, nationally or internationally where:

a. Their specific potential prospect demographic is located. e.g. you are a recruitment firm specialising in finding candidates for banking and finance organisations. So you will definitely plan to attend the high $$ ticket events where your banking and finance decision makers flock. This might be a state or national conference, a post budget breakfast or maybe even a charity fundraiser that their organisation supports. Their marketing budget would include attendance at these events. Stricly speaking the higher the cost of the ticket, the more senior the level of decision maker attending the event. e.g. if the event is a $275.00 AFR lunch, it is highly unlikely you will find the personal assistant or support staff in attendance. But you will find a number of senior managers there. Yes they are there for the speaker/information/panel as well as the opportunity to network with their peers, competitors and prospects.

b. Their current client base are regulars at these events. Today once the business is secured, in some professions there is no need for regular contact with the client by the original negotiator – your team are the ones making contact. However, it is always a healthy networking habit to run into/reconnect with your client from time to time at social or business networks. You are reconnecting with them, updating yourself on what is happening in their world, not just professionally but also personally (when appropriate), and supporting their networks as well.

c. Lapsed clients are also in the master networkers radar for this quarter. So they will make an effort to show up at networking events where they can run into lapsed clients. Past clients are lapsed for all sorts of reasons, e.g. they only require your product or services occasionally, you blew it – they gave you a chance and you stuffed up at that point in time with your product or service, complacency may have also set in and you lost their business because you stopped valuing their business. Often in an informal networking situation lapsed clients or more than happy to discuss doing business again – or highlighting to you, why that will never be possible. At least you will know. And face to face you will be able to get to that much faster than over the phone or email.

So why can master networkers make decisions quickly about whether they will invest time, money and energy attending a networking event or not? The answer is simple – they have a networking plan – their a, b and c target is very clear, they also know why they want to network with them and in what location and they have allocated a networking budget.

Finally, they are great delegators. Yes they will attend the AFR lunch with the $275 ticket, but they might encourage their PA and support staff to take a table at the $55.00 breakfast and invite some of their client’s PA’s as well. In this way they are strengthening their networks within their client’s organisation and drilling down with cross networking staff members. And their senior team and support staff know that there is a marketing budget available if they see an event that would be a great networking opportunity for their firm. They are encouraged and more than welcome to flick the invitation to the manager with 3 reasons why they think it would be great for them to attend and maybe take a couple of clients along as well. Their requests are rarely declined – because they use their system. And all the team are aware of the firm’s a, b and c networking targets. These targets are for the team, not just one individual.

Master networkers have systems – they measure their return on attendance at every event they or their team attend. The result’s measurement includes immediate (1 week) short term (30-60 days) and long term (90-120 days).

The reality today is that your return on attendance networking events is often NOT immediate. However, you have made the connection, extended your network, reconnected or reacquainted yourself with a prospect at an event and followed up with your contacts post event. The worst thing you can do in 2013 is only attend a networking ONCE! You must go back to that network to continue to build your profile, reconnect with those you met and expand your network.

Sometimes you meet someone and at that point in time they are a 9 out of 10 prospect for you. In their world, you are a 5 out of 10 – “one day I will use that person’s services, just not today”. Attending a network a second time, will increase your chances of getting your return on attendance.

Have a brilliant 2013 – and remember networking can open every door for you – you just have to know what you want, why you want it and how you are going to make it happen.

Have fun networking until next time!

2012 in review – and a commitment to blog every week in 2013

December 31, 2012

Thank you wordpress for creating this annual report on my blogging progress. There is certainly room for improvement in volume of blogging and variety of topics. I am committed to blog at least once a week in 2013. As well as increase my following. You have inspired me! Thanks again

Happy New Year! May networking open up every door for you in 2013 and beyond.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

3 ice breaker ideas when strangers meet at social events

December 2, 2012

Picture this – you are hosting a social event/party with more than fifty people attending. You know everyone on the list – they are drawn from all sectors of your life. However, many of these people will know no one. Many of them are attending by themselves – and you being a master networker want to be one step ahead of the networking game. You know that you have done as much as you can to ensure the food, drink, entertainment, location are all first class. But how do you ensure that the experience for everyone is memorable, fun and enjoyable.

NAME TAGS – going one step further
In addition to the person’s name, why not put a tag line with a humourous and accurate note. e.g. John Smith – born in Tasmania. Mary James – mad Rugby fan. Dave Jones – loves the Swans. Bronwen Jamison – new to Sydney.

Obviously care must be taken with the tag lines – but what you are creating is an ice breaker. Something that will enable one stranger to talk to another stranger without feeling awkward.

PLAYING CARDS – finding a pair
Remember the Mission Impossible line – “Your task if you choose to complete it is to” find your other card half. If there are more than 100 people in attendance, then maybe it will be enough just to match your half king card with another half king. If there are less than 50 people, you will have to find the exact match – a half king of diamonds, finds another half king of diamonds. To incentivise the activity you may include some lucky door prizes for the first three couples who match their playing cards. Logistically if you give everyone a name tag and click the half playing card to the back of the name tag and have a couple of very clearly worded signs explaining what people have to do – you will certainly have people mingling and mixing quickly and enthusiastically.

CARD MATCH – matching heads and tails.
This system requires you to purchase some inexpensive packs of colourful christmas cards – the more designs the better. Step two is to cut the christmas cards in half horizontally, and shuffle the cards so that no two matching cards are together. Then as guests collect their name tags, give everyone half a christmas card. Again very clear signage explains how the cards are to be matched and examples of complete cards could be placed on the explanation board.

Why go to so much trouble? These three ideas will take time, effort and energy. However, your return on effort will be that your guests will have a fun time, they will have reasons to engage with total strangers without feeling awkward and there will be an instant buzz in the air.

Don’t be surprised when people leave the event, that they compliment you on the effort you went to and enthusiastically thank you for your invitation.

One thing I know for sure, whether your guests stay at your event for one, two, three hours or more, you can never give them that time back. They have given it to you. So the least you can do is everything in your control to make it a great event.

Enjoy 2013 and make the most of every networking opportunity that comes your way.

It’s a small world after all!

November 4, 2012

Six degrees of separation is finished!

Long live two degrees of separation – in today’s global market place. Let me share an amazing story with you. Last week I presented to the team at Mondo Direct, a leading recruitment firm in North Sydney. When I arrived, the CEO, Simone Allan mentioned that she had run into someone I knew last week – Alban – also in recruitment. I mentioned that I had a LinkedIn message from Alban the day before.

Apparently, Simone and Alban were both attending a conference in Shanghai and happened to be in a hotel lift together and started to chat –  as you do….. The topic of networking was mentioned and Alban (who is based in Singapore) said that he had learned a  lot about networking from Robyn Henderson, a woman who presented a few years ago to the recruitment company he was working with at that time in Sydney.

Simone’s response – “I know Robyn, she is speaking to our team next Tuesday in Sydney.” Can you believe that? What are the chances of a conversation in Shanghai between two people who knew me (and I worked out I was in Tweed Heads at that time) – chatting about something I was doing in North Sydney.

Tweed Heads – Shanghai – Singapore – North Sydney – true networking in our global marketplace

Closer to home, I regularly watch the sunrise on my morning walks and hopefully see a whale or two, though the season is almost over, so the whales are few and far between this week. Point Danger is a beautiful headland between Snapper Rocks and Duranbah Beach and has a great view of the horizon and is a fantastic whale spotting location. Yesterday I was walking past Point Danger and stopped to chat to a photographer I had spoken to a couple of times previously. Whales were few and far between and he mentioned that he puts his photos on flickr – and had taken some great cloud photos that morning.

We chatted away as you do on an early Sunday morning and I said I would check out his photos which I did later that day. They were excellent and as an amateur photographer, I thought I must look at some of his earlier shots and see if they were always as good as they are now. So I randomly flicked back through his photo library and there were many brilliant nature images.  Then I saw a photo of my Kingscliff hairdresser, who had told me ages ago about a  trek he did through Tasmania and Cradle Mountain. Amazingly,  Larry the photographer and Trevor the hairdresser were on the same Tasmanian trek.

Those two degrees of separation are at it again.

In my networking presentations I often say that no one wears a sign dangling from their ears or their wrist with a list of all the people that they know. If they did, you could then know before you even start a conversation, the reason for connecting with them.

The randomness of networking is what really makes networking exciting. Two strangers meet, share a general conversation and then indirectly find they have mutual connections, shared interests or knowledge. Trust is built through communication and when there is a third party connection and sometimes almost an endorsement of that person, you are inclined to trust them that much more.

Bill Gates  calls this the trilogy of trust, the trust that one person has in another that is passed on to a third party. We certainly do live in a very small world.

Chances conversations not only expand your network but also make you realise how small the world really is today. Can I encourage you to speak to at least one total stranger every day? You will be surprised who you meet.  And always remember that every best was once a perfect stranger.

Happpy networking until next time.

Gratitude – things can’t make you happy, only you can do that.

October 22, 2012

Out of the blue I had an phone call from an old friend last week – we hadn’t seen each other for 10+ years. Unfortunately the call was to let me know about a mutual friend, an old flat mate,  who had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago and didn’t have long to live. As you can imagine it was quite a distressing phone call and I committed to make contact with the sick friend and see her asap.

Of course we made all the excuses – sorry for not calling for so long, I meant to phone – all those pathetic excuses that we use when we realise that life has galloped away and many of the people we had such strong friendships with years ago are still around just doing their thing. And we are busy doing our thing, and the months and years fly by.

We move in different networks, live in different cities, but the strong connection is still there. The foundation of trust that was built thirty years ago when our lives were very different. And it’s amazing how much you can recall of the “old days.” The very sad thing is that as mutual friend’s names came up again and again, so many of them had died or had tragic lives.

Little did we know in our ’20s what lay ahead. Young, naive, almost gullible at times, but open to ideas, experiences, fun, friendships and socialising of course.  And now as one of the “old gang” is dying it makes us all realise just how vulnerable we as baby boomers are. It is our friend this time, who might it be next time?

When I did visit my dying friend, we talked about the ‘old days’ in the ’70s and ’80s when we worked together at one stage, looked at some old photos and laughed as we tried to remember who some of these people in the photo even were. My friend had worked at the one organisation for 20+ years and recalled that it was the best time of her life.

I was quite surprised to hear that and even more suprised when she asked me, “was that the best time of your life too?”

“No, it wasn’t.  Acutally I am living my best life now. It’s certainly not perfect, but I am healthy, happy and enjoy my life. It’s great. There is certainly room for improvement, but I love my life.” She asked what was so great about it?

And I described that morning to her – I woke early, walked to the beach, waited for the sun to rise – a huge red ball in the morning sky, saw eight whales heading south, a couple of them playing along the way. Chatted to a few friends, and strangers – whale watching has a way of uniting total strangers as they watch the whales do their thing. And one breached right in front of me – now that is a sight to behold. I read the weekend papers, had breakfast and just had a relaxing morning.

To be honest I think my friend thought I sounded pretty boring – but over the years, what I have learned is that things can’t make you happy – only you can do that. And if you are not living your best life – only you can change that.

I do wish I could wave a magic wand and take my friend’s pain and illness away. But reconnecting with this group of long time friends, made me realise more than ever how precious life is. And  how grateful I am to have choices every day how I want my life to be. Sometimes there are tough decisions to be made and I try not to shy away from them too much. I am responsible for everything in my life – the good and the bad.  Yes there are a million things I would change if I had my time over, different choices I would have made for sure. But the present is all there is, right here, right now.

I don’t ever want to look back at years of my life and say that was my best life. I like to thing that I can create my best life every day.

What about you? Is there a time in your life that you think was better than today? I’m not talking about that fantastic holiday you had last year, or the day you won that huge contract. I’m talking about a length of time – months or years that you thought was better than the present. What would have to change for you to think you were living your best life today? Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days, I had a couple of really crappy ones last week, but you move on, you make decisions and you get back on the bike.

I saw a great bumper sticker today – it said – “expect a miracle”. What miracle are you expecting?

My advice would be don’t wait for the miracle, it might happen, and it might not. While you are waiting, why not start by being grateful for what do you have?

This year, at the end of each day,  I started writing down 3 things I am grateful for. Even on the bad days, I am still grateful for the lessons.

Happy networking until next time.

How long since you asked someone for help?

September 24, 2012

It’s OK to Ask for Help

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are trying to grow their business or their career, is to avoid at all costs asking for help. So if asking for help is the most obvious way to solve a problem, why do many people resist to the point of failing themselves, rather than take that perceived gigantic step?

Would fear possibly contribute to their dilemma?

* Fear of being indebted to someone

* Fear of looking or sounding stupid by not knowing how to do something in the first place

* Frustration that although they consider themselves to be a smart, intelligent person – how come they can’t do something as apparently easy as master computer technology, program a DVD recorder, change a toner cartridge without tearing their hair out.

Asking for help is the answer to most questions.

As Harvey Mackey says, “it’s not what you know, but who knows what you know.” Master networkers spend a lifetime gathering useless pieces of trivia and information. They store them  away, sometimes in a recorded format (if they are really organised). More often than not, it is in their head. Their mastery comes in being able to connect two or three seemingly obscure pieces of information and making them relevant. We are in a knowledge economy – information is the new currency.

I recently met a trade delegation of women from Singapore. Being very conscious of their financial outlay in coming to Australia, I wanted to be sure that they “got their money’s worth” so to speak. As I befriended the women, I asked the specific question, “When you return to Singapore, what is one thing you really hope you will have achieved from your visit to Australia?” Armed with these answers, I was then able to connect them with relevant people within Australia, who definitely had the answers for them. Some even may be in a situation where they could form a strategic alliance or put them in touch with another person who could. Master networkers always treat people the way they would like to be treated.

Let’s look at some of the asking for help options available to savvy networkers:

Fee for service:

This is by far the most popular – engage a tradesperson, service provider or professional who will normally quote for the job or service to be provided and charge accordingly. Yes, we will pay more for this service, but the job will be done exactly as we want it to be done. This is more often than not the most time efficient and, in the long run, economical way to ask for help.

Undertaking training:

Most skills can be learned and there are hundreds of courses available at TAFEs, evening colleges, BECs, universities, schools etc. The choice is really – what value do we place on our time spent in mastering the skill versus the cost of paying someone to do the job for us?

A friend recently bemoaned the fact that she was having terrible trouble mastering web site building. I asked, “Why wouldn’t you go to a recommended web master and get the job done in a quarter of the time?” Her response was that she wanted to learn how it was done – even though she knew it would be a one off and she had no intention of embarking on a web site building career. Each to his or her own – my thought was her time could have been spent better elsewhere, rather than mastering a one off skill.

 Barter services:

What skills in your area of expertise, do you have to trade with another service provider, who has the skills that you want? One hour of your time giving some marketing advice, may be considered a fair swap for someone who can give you a lesson in mastering specific technology.

Bartering always works when it is win/win – that means when both parties gain from the experience. This gain may not necessarily be financial, but the experience of learning and mastering another skill and the opportunity to extend your network.

 Volunteer:

With the global trend towards people wanting to give back to the community, there is no shortage of people looking for groups that they can become involved with. Maybe gardening or renovating houses is something you are keen to learn about. Seek out those charities which provide working bees at restoring homes or looking after pensioners’ premises. This is definitely a win/win for you, as you are doing something good for the community and learning at the same time.

 Find a mentor:

Sometimes we are so busy working in our business and career, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Finding a mentor for a short or long term role, can give you a very fresh perspective on your situation. Often a mentor has the ability to give you a hand up, so to speak, in connecting you with key players who can open doors for you. Try asking the specific question, “I am looking for a mentor who can assist me with my time management skills. Who would you suggest I seek out for this role?”

Over twenty years ago when I started my own business, I re-invented the wheel month after month, rather than ask people to show me a better way to do things. Not only did I waste time, money and energy, my business was stifled because of my fear of looking stupid by admitting I didn’t know something that I thought everyone knew – except me. It was only when I developed enough courage to mention some of the things I needed help with, that I found there were dozens of people in similar situations. We all needed help and we could help each other.

So the next time you feel stuck, not skilled enough to complete a task, and frustrated at your perceived incompetence – be courageous. Speak up, ask for help and become a role model for so many people, too afraid to ask for what they want.

Always remember it’s okay to ask for help.

Happy networking until next time.

 

What is on your life of choice sheet?

September 9, 2012

One of my favourite Saturday activities, after my morning walk, is reading multiple newspapers over breakfast.  Yes I know I can read newspapers  online or on an I pad – but I really enjoy the mental stimulation and relaxation of reading my way through the national and local papers. There is something about turning those pages that I enjoy. Go figure, I guess that’s why I also like reading actual books rather than ebooks – but that’s another conversation. Admittedly I love living on the far north coast of NSW, and sometimes I feel it is like living in a bubble, when you are not exposed to many of the national and international happenings in the local paper. So Saturday is my day for a news catch up, what did I miss this week and what is happening in the world that may impact significantly on my profession, my future plans and my clients’ worlds? I do read three newspapers every day, but Saturday is the big five newspaper days.  And I for one, will be very sad when the day comes when actual hard copy newspapers are discontinued. But I digress.

In the Sydney Morning Herald 8.9.12 – there was an interesting article by Marcus Padley – headed – Only 250,624 hours left! It’s time to prioritise. The article went on to describe the Death Sheet – a spread sheet that applies actual life-expectancy tables. So based on this theory, I have worked out that if I live for another 30 years, allowing for leap years, etc., that will be 10,057 days, 1560 weekend, 262,968 hours.

It makes you realise how important it is to dig out your bucket list and started adding and deleting a few activities as well as realising how important it is to spend your free time with people you like to be around.

Marcus quotes an embellished tale about Warren Buffett being harassed by someone who just wanted an hour of his time. Warren’s reply:” I have worked out that I have 42,515 hours left to live. If you don’t mind, I don’t want to waste any of them.”

With respect to all actuaries, I have renamed your death sheet – Your Life of Choice sheet – because I know I do have a choice how I spend my time, the work I choose to do, the understanding friends I have neglected from time to time and those I will  spend quality time with in the future, the films I see, walks I take, books I read, emails I respond to and those I delete. Every day is filled with streams of multiple choices, will I, won’t I?

No wonder I love tele-coffees – those pre-arranged phone calls, that may last no more than 10 minutes, but cut to the chase of an issue or query, often resulting in a quick decision or outcome.  I definitely don’t want to spend too many of my future  260,000+ hours sitting in traffic or looking for parking spots reasonably close to the potential meeting. I love the speed of emails, and nothing beats a phone call – talking to a human and getting a decision or answer on the spot. Unfortunately phone calls and newspapers are both dying breeds – what a shame.

Yikes I have just worked out that I have already lived 517,032 hours – that could potentially be a depressing thought – if I let it be.

So let’s not waste another hour – and by that I don’t mean you have to DO anything. Sometimes spending hours doing nothing, is the best thing for you. Sometimes we have to slow down first, rest and recharge our inner batteries, our spirt, before we can speed up and move towards our next life of choice goal or activity. One of the lessons I have learned the hard way is doing nothing without feeling guilty.

Enjoy working out how many days, weekends, hours and if you want minutes and seconds you have to live. Then all you have to do is value every minute, enjoy your life and be open to all those amazing opportunities on the horizon. Networking can really fast track most of the things you want in life – and always remember every best friend was once a perfect stranger.

“Live each day as if it was your last – because one day it will be” – anonymous.

 

How long since you did something for the first time?

July 1, 2012

 

This weekend was a HUGE stretch out of my comfort zone – and I realised it is a long time since I have done something for the first time. What about you? How long is it since you have done something for the first time? May I share my weekend with you?

THE BACK STORY: An old friend has had cancer for a number of years and had his voice box removed. I reconnected with him and his partner 3 months ago at a reunion after not seeing him for many years. I had seen his partner on my beach walks and not realised the connection to Brian, so after the reunion we have got to know each other better. And have walked together occasionally and I had been to see she and Brian a number of times for dinner. Not that Brian could eat, but it was good to connect. When it looked like Brian only had a few weeks to live, and thinking that Gerri, his partner may need extra support, I offered to help her in any way I could with the funeral. I explained I had arranged a few funerals before, and knew what to do. And something like that can be really overwhelming when you are coping with grief as well.

Fast track to this week, and unfortunately Brian passed away. Gerri phoned me with the news and told me she had arranged with the White Lady Funerals that I was going to preside at the cremation and there would just be a cremation – no church involved – just the chapel at the crematorium. I quickly phoned my friend who is a celebrant and asked her the question – what does presiding me? She said, “You’re it, she wants you to run the whole ceremony!”

After I recovered from the shock, I Goggled cremations and found out as much as I could about them, still unsure if legally I could even do this. Next day I met with Brian’s children and step daughter and Gerri at the White Lady funerals office. And made sure I got there early and checked with the White Lady that as I wasn’t a celebrant, was that legal? She assured me yes anyone can do a cremation, just not a wedding – phew – I did explain, although I had done a eulogy, I had never actually done the ceremony before. “No problem” she said, “Gerri has total faith in you!” Reassured as I was, I knew that Gerri believed in me, way more than I believed in me with this very responsible task.

So I put my “pretend this is a briefing for a networking presentation and just ask questions” hat on. And once the formal side of the funeral arranging was completed (and I made sure I didn’t say much at all during those discussions – because those decisions belonged to the family) – I started to ask questions about Brian and the memories of their dad Brian.

I took copious notes, just as I do when I am in a briefing, and watched the adult children move from tears to laughter as they recalled many of the special moments with their dad. Then we talked about the music he liked, where his surfboard might fit into the ceremony and what he had wanted his ceremony to be like. That time was very special with them – and for me too. And hour later, I left them and went home with twenty pages of notes with the thought – “where do I start?”

I am a big believer in asking for help preferably before I need it. And that morning, I had asked my celebrant mate Maggie, if she could send me an outline of one of the cremations she had presided over. That was waiting in my inbox when I got back to my office, phew – it’s a start. A few hours later I had written up the stories, collated them into some sort of chronological order and watched as the document and order of service took shape. There were still a lot of gaps with music and photos and whom, from the family, was actually going to speak. And I had said to them during our chat, that everything was flexible and just because it was in the order of service, if they changed their mind about speaking, I would just go with the flow.

Next step was to send the draft order of service to Gerri for approval. I knew she was grieving and would not necessarily get back to me immediately. At 4.30 a.m., I received a text message – “are you awake, Robyn?” “Yes!” I texted back while ringing her. Little did SHE know I had been awake all night as I tossed and turned, worrying about the order of service and whether I had totally botched the task, not to mention if I could remotely complete the emcee role at the cremation. “Hi Gerri how are you feeling?”

Phew everything was fine, I just had to correct the 3 different dates of birth I had for Brian throughout the documents. He was a great guy but not able to be born 3 times in one lifetime.

I would love to tell you that the original draft document was the same one that I used on Saturday – I wish. I honed that document many times between Thursday and Saturday lunchtime as I gathered more stories and examples of Brian’s life. And I realised that all the skills that have taken me until today (writing, speaking, researching, communicating, networking and asking for help) were all that I needed to complete my task. I stopped sending updated versions to Gerri, she trusted me and that’s all I needed.

Fast track to yesterday and the same as if it was a presentation, I dressed professionally, arrived more than an hour before the start of the ceremony. And rather than taking my networking books, workbooks etc. I took:

* multiple copies of the order of service (in case I lost one – no chance). But it was helpful to give a copy to the White Lady who was managing the music and photo show.

*two different folders so that I could decide which one would work best (I didn’t need either)

* bottles of water (just in case they didn’t have any)- silly me – of course they had water and a water cooler.

* tissues. Yes I knew they would have those, but just in case there was a rush. I wasn’t a girl guide, but I do get the drift – be prepared.

* a couple of small bottles of Apple Juice – just in case someone fainted and needed a sugar hit. I am not a nurse either, but I was trying to eliminate all the possibilities.

*of course I checked the microphone and podium and realised as a short statured person that there was a big chance that if I stood totally behind the podium my face would be covered by the light shining on the speech. So I quickly worked out if I stood at the side, I didn’t need the light anyway and at least I would not have a barricade between me and the congregation. And I made sure I gave Brian’s mates heads up about stand on the side, not behind the podium. (Just as I do when I speak at networking events.)

Phew, by the time the family arrived, I was calm, cool and collected! Or so it appeared. My greatest fear was that I would not meet the family’s expectations and would blubber and cry the whole way through the service. Thankfully, I knew about 50% of the congregation and just as it’s reassuring to see a familiar face in an audience when I give a networking presentation, I could look towards a few mates who would smile and nod and I knew it was going okay.

Brian’s instructions were that the service should be fun and not morbid. So with the help of the stories I had collected, a few of his mate’s contributions with the eulogy, the PowerPoint photos and the music, everything went to plan.

I surprised myself how strong and confident I sounded and thought to myself, if only these people knew what was really going on. Yes I have been a speaker for 20 years, have done thousands of presentations in 12 different countries, but this would definitely be one of the top 3 hardest presentations in my life.

I would love to tell you that I made it from start to finish without crying – I almost did. I got 95% of the way through, and had just started the words for the Committal – when I glanced down to my final notes where it said – don’t forget to press the button to close the curtain on the coffin. That was it! So I did blubber my way through the last 50 or so words – but the congregation were also crying to, so I was in good company and I knew Gerri would forgive me.

AN AMAZING HIGHLIGHT:

Brian’s step-daughter Penny told me that she might sing or she might read a poem – she would let me know on the day. When she told me she had decided to sing the Beach Boy’s classic – Let’s Go Surfing before the committal, I made a note. And thought to myself, gee I hope she’s good – but whatever happens, her step-dad would be so proud of her for doing this. Not expecting and not knowing that she was a brilliant singer and strong and confidently she not only sang Let’s Go Surfing, but played the ukulele to accompany her during the song. Come to think of it, everyone was crying at that time too – it was an extraordinary experience. You had to be there.

Everyone clapped wildly as she finished the song – it was a very special moment. I made an off the cuff comment, that we would definitely have a sing a long at the wake and get Penny to repeat Let’s Go Surfing. (She did decline my request at the wake to sing it again, but I know it will be a memorable for everyone there on the day. Penny gave her all for her step dad in a very emotional situation).

The curtain closed, the final song was played and the congregation made their way out of the church. And I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Phew, I did it. And I only cried in the last 2 minutes.

A lady came up to me and said, “I’ve just told my son I want you at my funeral. Actually I thought you were a professional celebrant, until you cried at the end. And then I realised you actually knew Brian. You did a great job.” I had covered my connection to Brian in my talk, even though she must have missed that bit.  In one of the re-writes, I included the fact that I had known Brian since the ’60s from teenage days growing up in a beachside area. I remembered clearly a mentor’s tip when I was starting out in speaking – always answer any questions you think the audience may have about you. And the obvious one, who is she and how comes she’s presiding?

Soon after Gerri came up and gave me a big hug and said, “You are amazing, I don’t know how you did it. How can I ever repay you?”

My response, “You just did!”

In hindsight, I didn’t know I could do it either or how I did it on the day. But there is a first time for everything, and as we toasted Brian’s life at the wake, I reminded myself that it’s good to do things for the first time – even if my comfort zone was stretched more than it has in a very long time. And it’s about time I started doing more things for the first time, way more often.

What about you? What have you done for the first time recently? Was it as stressful as the cremation was for me?

Well done for doing it – maybe we can all attempt something new at least once a week for the next six months – and just see opportunities open up for us all.

Until next time – happy networking.