November 28, 2011

An Introvert's Guide to Networking

You've heard that building your network is important, but how do you do that? 
Seems easy for an extrovert, but what if you're an introvert?
Rewind my life 5 years ago and I'll personally answer this question for you...

When I started my business in 2007, I had few contacts. I heard networking was a good idea, so I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. After attending two events, I collected a ton of business cards yet left feeling tired and hoarse. Networking wasn't for me. Next, I attended conferences, but left feeling the same way. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I made the switch from networking to connecting and everything changed.

Networking is a bad word. Connecting is building relationships. When I focused on meeting people, getting to know them and figuring out ways to help them succeed, results changed for me. Instead of chasing people at different events, I created my own, Career Synergy. My advice to you is create your own network group. If you don't have a desire to do that, try these 3 easy tips:

Ask current contacts to introduce you to new contacts. Think temperature. Warm leads are better than cold ones. When introduced to a new contact through an old one, you have something in common to talk about. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions before telling the person why you're so great. Start a relationship that can last over time. 

Quality over quantity. Sure, it's a numbers game, but would you rather have 10 strong connections or 100 acquaintances? Strengthen what you have before you try to reach the masses. Relationships are meant to be long-term investments. Over time build trust to the point where you can refer others and vice versa. 

Follow-up. 10% is meeting the person. 90% is what you do after. Starting is easy. Finishing is hard. Most people don't follow up, so if you do, you're standing out. Mean what you say when you mention following up. That's integrity. If your goal is to be a trusted connection, then follow up is crucial. Be a closer.

The next time you attend an event or get introduced to a new contact, try these tips. Networking is simply building relationships. Focus on that and you'll be fine. When you're ready to practice these skills in person, check out my network group or sign up for my workshop!

November 16, 2011

When Good Becomes Bad

"Good is the enemy of Great." - Jim Collins

There's nothing inherently wrong with "good" except when it's used for measurement. For example...

Lack of honest feedback. When you ask for an evaluation and the only response you get is "it was good," then someone's lying. "Good" is a vague, non-descriptive answer. If you really want to be helpful, be truthful and specific. Don't just compliment to be nice. If their performance was bad, call them on it. If it was great, tell them why. I've been around too many groups who only want to hear positive feedback and reject any constructive criticism because their egos are too sensitive. Last time I checked, you can learn more from areas you can improve upon, than always being showered with praise. 

Low standards. What does "good" really mean? Better than average? When you and I live in the "land of good" everything is the same. The bar is lowered because it slowly disappears. "Good" is a lazy response that we can't learn anything from. It doesn't tell us anything. It's neither hot nor cold. It's in between.

"Good" saps your motivation. It's a generic label. Be bold enough to ask for clarification the next time someone mentions the word "good." Why settle for good, when you can strive to be great?

November 10, 2011

The Importance of Local Partnerships

If small businesses really are the solution to our economic woes, how do we make that happen? 

Local partnerships.

Communities need to embrace businesses around them.
Business owners need to partner and work out deals to support each other.
Consumers need to spend their hard earned dollars in their neighborhoods.
Local is the new global. Look at an organization like Unique LA. Their push is to "buy local" and strengthen your community. If each city took care of themselves, we could turn this economy around. It's going back to pre-internet times where you'd buy what's around you. Picture links in a chain. We're stronger together.
Networking is like forming a partnership. Local events draw local crowds. The same thing you and I do to build our personal network can be done on the local level. Connect online, but meet in person. It's easier to build trust face to face. Aim to build local partnerships. It's the pulse of your community.

Local growth is organic. Visit your local farmer's market. Nothing fancy, just good product delivered consistently. Everyone starts small, but treat your customers right and they become your salespeople. It may take longer, but in the end it's more sustainable.

I've been fortunate enough to experience this at a group I created called Career Synergy. We have monthly network meetings where the motto is "relationships first, business second." This inclusive community has a friendly, give-first attitude that's infectious. Personally, I've invested my time building new and strengthening old relationships which I know will result in the collective success of the group.  

Wondering how to get started? Step outside your home and reach out to the local businesses in your neighborhood. Introduce yourself and offer your hand to support them. We can turn the economy around together, not apart. Nothing great is accomplished alone. Who will you partner with in your community?

November 7, 2011

What Separates the Good from Great Speakers

"The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through."  
- Sydney J. Harris

Communication is one of the most powerful tools we have. You hear tons of messages daily, but what actually sticks? I believe one factor separates the good speakers from the great speakers: FOCUS.

Good speakers focus on themselves. Great speakers focus on their audience. 

Good speakers are more interested in hearing their own information and in the process they create a divide between themselves and the crowd. Outwardly, good speakers communicate, "I'm smart, you're dumb, listen to me."

Great speakers cater their message to who's listening. They study the characteristics and values of who they are communicating to and speak to their hearts and minds. Outwardly, great speakers make it feel like they are talking directly to you in a conversation.

Preparation to speak should be based on the 70/30 rule. Spend 70% on the presentation, 30% on the content. As a speaker, when you try to "teach" too much information, people end up leaving with nothing. The biggest mistake as a communicator you can make is speaking too long. Engage the audience with stories, visuals and conversation. Remember, when speaking it's NOT about YOU, it's about the audience. Spend more time on "how" to say it, than "what" to say.

Good and great speakers also differ when it comes to response.
Good speakers stick to their notes regardless if the audience is bored, confused or distant.
Great speakers have a Plan A, but are willing to improvise to Plan B if needed. 
As a speaker, where is your focus? Is it about YOU or your audience?

Speaking is personal branding. It's not what you think of yourself, but what others think of you. Speakers make the transition from good to great based on their focus. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Great speakers listen to the pulse of the audience, so they can prepare and perform a message that inspires action. What will be your focus the next time you speak? Don't settle for just giving out information, communicate to get through to your audience!

Career Synergy Tomorrow! Last Chance to RSVP!