Posts Tagged ‘networking’

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.

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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.

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.

 

Nature and Networking – another great way to connect

October 4, 2011

Many of you know I am a humpback whale fan – and am blessed to live close to the Rainbow Bay/Greenmount Beach/Point Danger area close to the Qld. border.At this time of year, At this time of year, I am always on the look out for whales as I complete my morning walk around the headland – as many of the humpback whales head south from their annual migration to Hervey Bay.

This week, I (and many people on the walking trail) saw an amazing sight – a pod of six whales, possibly two mothers and their calves were swimming in a row and as each came to the surface and exhaled a high water spout – it appeared almost as synchronised breathing. Each of the six water spouts came up within 10 seconds of each other. This amazing sight was hypnotic – almost like six fountains spurting into the sky across a very calm ocean and it continued for many minutes as the whales gracefully made their way along the coast line.

And the other side of this wonderful sight was the conversations that were started with people, who you previously walked past with a friendly “morning” but not much more. These beautiful whales had brought many people together and we could not help but comment on this amazing sight. And consequently share our names, our whale experiences and engage with each other.

Watching rows of surfers lined up waiting for that perfect wave, actually turned away from the waves and turned to face this extraordinary whale parade was quite a vision – times like this you really wish you had your favourite camera to capture the magic moment.

And just as in networking at business networks, the next time you see that person with the whale connection, you have certainly gone from stranger to acquaintance and engage in conversation again and again.

What are your passions? What are the fun things that you like to do in nature? Maybe you have not thought of creating networking opportunities out of these situations – but there is no faster way to connect with someone than to find that you are both passionate about the same thing.

As the market continues to tighten, maybe it’s time to take the blinkers off and look at combining more of your passions with your everyday life. Remember no one wears a sign on their forehead saying be really nice to me, I am going to introduce you to your next biggest client, new best friend, flat mate, partner – whoever. Yet every connection we make starts with a simple word – “Hi!”

In the next thirty days, why not set yourself a task to combine your special interests with your networking and ideally speak to at least 10 strangers in the next thirty days about your passion/special interest – ideally why you are doing it. Remember, don’t try to sell yourself or anything else – just connect, engage and have a quality conversation. Who knows where it may lead?
Have fun until next time.

Networking & Sporting Events – a great combination

October 4, 2011

What a great time of year to be networking with all the sporting finals and the World Cup happening. Last week was a great opportuntiy to reconnect with a number of clients who are football mad – even if their teams ere not in the finals. Pre-game everyone has an opinion on which team will win and why. And of course it’s another story post-game – “if that last goal had not hit the post”, or “they truly just missed out” – and so it goes.

I was very fortunate to learn a valuable  lesson from one of my early mentors Doug Malouf, 20 years ago when I first started speaking professionally. I was checking in with Doug after a big presentation I had given. And I made the comment, that they were all raving on about the cricket results and I really had no interest at all.

And I will never forget his words, “Robyn, it’s not about YOU, it’s about your audience.” If they are interested in cricket for whatever reason, it is important to them, get interested. I pleaded that I didn’t understand the game, “so ask them to explain it to you. Robyn, what will get you through your speaking career is always knowing the two teams at the top of the ladder and the bottom of the ladder – across all codes. Scan the sporting pages, and even if you don’t totally understand the game, you can always ask the question – what you do think about XYZ? (whoever was in the headlines that day).

I always took on board Doug’s suggestions, what’s the point of having a mentor if you don’t listen to them? So the next presentation I gave, remembering this was the early ’90s, when pagers were around, I came back from the break with the latest cricket score – 4 for 198. I didn’t exactly know what it meant – but the audience were delighted to hear it. 

  In the next few weeks Australia will stop for 3 minutes (plus) for the running of the Melbourne Cup. Why not consider running a sweep for your clients? Decide on a budget for prizes 1st, 2nd, 3rd and last placed horses. The prizes need not be expensive gifts – maybe some of your clients would donate a few prizes for the sweep and vice versa.

Make contact  with your clients the day prior to the Melbourne Cup telling them about the sweep and advise you will email them their house on the morning of the Cup. Have fun on Melbourne Cup Day and of course you will need to email them the day after to advise who had the winning horses. Don’t be surprised if when you make that first or second contact, the client  says something like, “we were just talking about you the other day, saying we would have to get more “widgets” (whatever your product or service is).

Good networking is based on great communication and staying connected. Have fun with the Melbourne Cup sweep – and look for an event in your local community to celebrate the race – it’s always a fun event and you never know who you might meet on the day.

Have fun, be friendly and most of all value your connections.

What do you take to a business networking event?

August 14, 2011

Now some of you might be thinking, well I take some business cards, and some blank cards (in case I meet someone who doesn’t have a card on them), a pen, a notebook. What I would like to talk about with this blog are the non visible or non obvious things you take to a networking event or to work everyday – these include:

1. Your connections – all the people that you know from years, months and weeks ago, people you currently and previously worked with, your friends, current and past bosses, neighbours, school friends, people you have studied with, your LinkedIn and social media connections.  Yet no one is wearing a sign saying be really  nice to me, I am going to introduce you to your next boss, partner, flatmate, best friend, employee or connection. That is why it pays to be friendly to everyone – you never know who they know!

2. Your current and past roles/jobs/careers – you may be studying, even retired – but you still have loads of current and past experience. Not every job we are doing, is currently utilising ALL the skills we have. And sometimes a chance conversation triggers a discussion about something we do know about that is not necessarily obvious with our current job title.

3. Your passions and special interests – whether your passions include something as obscure as  breeding peach faced parrots or mainstram as following a local Aussie Rules, Rugby Union or Rugby League team – very few people have a solo passion – there are always others who have similiar passions. And again if we are at a business network, unless we are a guy wearing a rugby tie (which is a dead giveaway or our passion) or a Rotarian wearing a Rotary badge, our passions are not always obvious. Yet asking someone what they do outside of work and what they are interested in can start an entire conversation stream. And before we know it we have built trust through communication.

We are made up of  all 3 areas and if we were to put a value on the little piece where all three areas overlap – it would be PRICELESS.

How? Well let’s imagine that Hawaii is one of your favourite holiday locations – you have been there many times, visited all the Hawaian islands, know all the best deals available, where to stay, eat, what is worth seeing and where to shop. You know ALL the bits that are NOT in the guide books.

Now let’s imagine that Sue is going to Hawaii for the first time, has planned a 14 day holiday and is now overwelmed with where to go and what to do? Would you think that 10 minutes of YOUR time might set Sue on the right path and save her money, time and energy.

That’s where the definition of priceless comes in. Your knowledge, life experiences, connections, wisdom, current and past jobs, passions and special interests are PRICELESS.

So, the next time you go to a networking event – never ever allow yourself to feel intimidated – you have so much to share with anyone and everyone you meet. Network, have fun, befriend strangers – and never be surprised how much value people may place on your expertise.