Posts Tagged improving presentation skills
We all know that making a good impression is fundamental to professional and social success. All too often, however, we unintentionally tarnish our personal polish by forgetting the basics of face-to-face communication.
From personal appearances and body language to handshakes and introductions, here are some top tips on being remembered for all the right reasons…
1. Looking Good
Your appearance is an instant message to those around you, so the way you look is as important as how you behave. It goes without saying that you and your attire should be shiny and clean from head to toe. Dress appropriately for the situation – tailor your personal sense of style to suit your surroundings.
2. Positive Posture
The way you stand, walk and sit all make a big impression. Hold your head high, keep your back straight and pull your shoulders back, but keep it all looking natural. Tread lightly (no clumping, thundering footsteps), and don’t drag your feet or shuffle. Women should always sit with their knees together; men should avoid sitting with their legs excessively wide apart, and should never repeatedly jiggle their leg up and down.
3. Boost Your Body Language
Body language is a series of silent signals that play a vitally important part in the impression you give to the world. Create an air of confidence and positivity by avoiding crossed arms, hunched shoulders and awkward fidgeting. Focus on good posture, positive gestures and a natural sense of self-awareness. Never yawn in public and don’t forget to smile.
4. Shake On It
A handshake, lasting just a few seconds, is the common form of greeting for all business situations and most social situations. Always use your right hand and ‘pump’ the recipients hand two or three times before you let it go. Make eye contact and ensure that your fingers firmly grasp the other palm. Avoid bone-crushing grips or loose, limp hands.
5. Successful Social Kissing
When faced with a cheek-to-cheek greeting, approach the situation with confidence. Usually it’s right cheek first, but prepare to change direction at the last minute. Cheek skin must make brief, light contact; avoid sound effects, air kissing and saliva traces. Pull back decisively (but don’t be too abrupt) if you are just giving one. Be cautious with those you are less familiar with – two might seem over the top.
6. Seeing Eye-to-Eye
There’s no doubt that a certain amount of eye contact is a positive form of communication, but remember that there’s a split-second’s difference between a good impression and unnerving staring. Eye contact is crucial when you are being introduced to someone, shaking hands and engaging in conversation. Just don’t unnerve your recipient with an intense gaze.
7. Interesting Introductions
When you are introduced to someone, the traditional response is to say “How do you do”. If this is overly formal for the situation, then a friendly “Hello” is an equally acceptable response. If you are making the introductions, remember the hierarchy: men should be introduced to women, juniors to elder people. Offer a little information about each person as you introduce them to help break the ice. Speak clearly and don’t mumble; you don’t want people to be left embarrassed, forced into “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name” territory.
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Looking to succeed in business? Work on developing competent communications skills in speaking and writing to enhance your professional image
Unless you want a career tucked away in a quiet little cubicle, start working on your communication skills. Interviewers of new job applicants look for a professional communication style when they recruit and hire new employees. And within the organization, you will have to compete with some pretty smooth talkers for that bonus, raise, or promotion.
How to cultivate a professional communication style?
Professional communicators share several key characteristics that help them stand out from the crowd and influence the people they work with. Here are some tips for developing a polished image through your use of language skills.
1. Focus your message on a central purpose. Don’t waste words in the business world where corporate writing can cost $1 to $5 per word. Make each message count, whether by telephone, speech, email, Web site, or post. Decide what your main point is and package it in a way that will appeal to your reader or listener. Brevity is a virtue for those with hectic schedules, so get to the point quickly and stay there.
2. Add a catchy opening. Jokes, riddles, quotes, short poems, pretests, and stories are great ways to grab people’s attention in a presentation or paper. Avoid being glib, corny, or cute. Make it short, but something that your audience can relate to. Setting the mood and establishing yourself as an expert are important to gaining the audience’s trust and holding their interest.
3. Include support details. Examples, illustrations, anecdotes, and descriptions can flesh out a dry point. Use support that your audience can relate to. For example, when addressing a group of farmers, use planting or harvesting analogies. If speaking to fire fighters, make reference to fire-related imagery. Find out ahead of time something about your audience demographics and plan your presentation accordingly. For example, if most attendees will be female, adjust your speech to suit feminine needs.
4. Look the part. Dress conservatively in the business world, but add a bright accent or personal decor item. A neon scarf or signature tie can seize the imagination of your audience. Avoid anything extreme or bohemian to be sure you invite your listeners’ respect rather than their curiosity.
5. Arrive early and greet guests. Looking at ease, introduce yourself or ask people’s names while shaking hands. Smile and engage in friendly conversation. When the presentation begins, ask your audience a question to engage them immediately. Continue to interact with listeners throughout the session.
6. Provide careful explanations that your audience can understand. People dislike when a speaker communicates at a level that is over their heads. On the other hand, don’t speak so simply that your hearers feel like you’ve underestimated them. Aim for a middle-of-the-road approach that will meet most of your audience’s needs for information.
7. Use visual aids or handouts to convey a complex idea. Whether in a document or part of a “live” session, adding a visual component is often greatly appreciated.
8. Be receptive to feedback from your audience. Answer questions, invite alternate views, and respond politely to hecklers, which will earn your listeners’ respect.
9. Seek feedback and continue to improve. Don’t give the same stale speech you’ve been making for twenty years. Tweak, revise, or change it completely to make your ideas relevant to the current generation. Take constructive criticism in a positive way as a means to help improve your delivery.
10. Enjoy communication for its own sake. People who like talking to others send a powerful message about the value of professional communication. Someone who reads from notes or an outline reflects discomfort with words and ideas. Plan a quality presentation, deliver it with gusto, and you’ll have listeners eating out of your hand.
An audience can tell a qualified speaker from one who is not. Follow these suggestions to make your next presentation the most effective yet and leave your audience clamoring for more.
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Chrissy Scivicque, March 15 2012
Remember on Seinfeld, when George Costanza’s dad decided to rebel against the commercialism of the winter holidays and celebrate a holiday called Festivus instead? One tradition was to stand around the Festivus pole and air your grievances.
Well, the spirit of Festivus must be in the air because lately, it seems, quite a few people (including top level executives) are being very vocal about their employment grievances.
Take, for example, the Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, whose scathing resignation letter hit the opinion pages of the New York Times.
Of course, let’s not forget about the most legendary display of employee dissatisfaction—the Jet Blue airline employee who cursed at his passengers over the loudspeaker, pulled the chute for the inflatable evacuation slide, grabbed a beer and made a dramatic emergency exit.
So, here’s the question: Are public displays of this nature helpful?
The answer is NO.
I’m sure some people will disagree, but I’m coming at this from the angle of a career coach. And this is what I know: Employees get disgruntled. It happens. Companies make poor choices, leaders don’t treat their staff with the respect they deserve, life isn’t perfect.
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of pulling a stunt equal to that of the Jet Blue flight attendant? Who hasn’t silently drafted a scathing resignation letter? These are fantasies every employee indulges in now and again.
But only a rare specimen acts on the impulse.
In some cases, such as with the Goldman Sachs executive and the Microsoft employee, it seems these folks honestly believe their vocal complaints will some how, some way make a difference. They seem so fed up that they can no longer sit idly by and watch the company they once loved dissolve in front of their eyes. It’s as if they believe that “taking the fight to the streets” will change the outcome.
Perhaps in these cases, the publicity will have an impact. How much is yet to be determined. But of course, these are very high-profile situations. In the average person’s life, a scathing resignation letter probably won’t hit the pages of the NY Times. The average person storming out of the office crying, “Who’s comin’ with me?” probably won’t make the evening news.
The sad truth is that these kinds of things (usually) have very little impact on the business. The person carrying out the wild, vengeful act is usually the only one harmed. Their reference is destroyed; their reputation tarnished.
But for the company, it’s barely a tiny blip on the radar.
If you choose to leave the company—whether in a dramatic, irresponsible fashion or in a more professional manner—your vote no longer counts. You can scream and shout about the injustice, but you’ve taken yourself out of the equation. What does it matter to the company? You’re a quitter. You’re no longer any of their concern. You’re disgruntled. These are the ramblings of a mad man, they cry! It’s just emotional nonsense! And thankfully, you’re a problem they no longer have to deal with.
If you really want to make a difference, why not be the calm, rational, reasonable voice of dissent from the inside? Why not be an advocate for change while you’re still in a position to do something about it?
If that doesn’t appeal to you—or if you’re convinced you’re powerless in this situation—then, yes, it’s time to leave. The problem is bigger than you. A public display isn’t going to change that. It might make you feel better…for a minute or so. It might make you the talk of your town (or office building) for about 15 seconds. But, chances are, the company will come out unscathed.
And let’s face it: Your public display wasn’t really about changing things. It was an attempt to “punish” the company in some way—for doing you wrong, for failing to be what you wanted it to be.
But in the end, you only hurt yourself.
I’m not trying to discount the importance of speaking your mind. But the way you do it impacts how clearly your words are heard.
The debate on my morning news show today was about whether the Goldman Sachs executive’s letter will change anything. One commentator said, “Why are we talking about this? What’s the headline? Wall Street is greedy? We already knew that.” Another said, “This sounds like a disgruntled employee.”
I don’t think this is the reaction Greg Smith was looking for.
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October 18 2011
An elevator speech is a sales call in a sentence. It either confirms or destroys your image — not to mention how it affects your results.
If you find yourself stammering and stuttering when you should be selling yourself and your services, consider the following tips:
1. State what you do in terms of a benefit. Example: “We help salespeople really engage their buyers when they deliver a sales presentation or a written proposal.”
2. Make sure the benefit has a “hook.” The hook causes listeners to say to themselves: “Oh, yeah? We have problems with that, too. I wonder how he/she does that?” People don’t really care what you do — they care about what you may be able to do for THEM.
3. Add a credibility builder. You may mention well-known clients to establish that others value your services. Consider key results achieved for clients, such as a certification process “just completed” to accomplish the same effect. Example: “Our clients — such as IBM, ExxonMobil, and Frito-Lay — tell us that they’ve been able to improve their closing ratio by up to 20 percent.”
4. Deliver your “speech” as if off the cuff. Never sound purposeful or canned. Work in some conversational glitches. Stumble on a word, use a colloquial phrase, or bridge from the conversation at hand with a spontaneous segue. Give careful attention to your phrasing, speaking rate, tone, and demeanor. They all provide context to make the message sound as if you’re talking friend to friend.
5. Be quotable. Make it memorable so the other person can pass it along to others interested in what you offer. Before you charge me with contradicting the previous point about a casual delivery, let me elaborate: There should be some phrase that sums up the essence of your offering succinctly.
You might deliver your memorable quote in a casual way like this: “I often tell clients that when they need to talk to the top brass, our presentation programs open the door. How well do your people do that in the C-suite — routinely talk to the top brass with class?”
6. Prefer the vernacular to jargon. Sound as though you’re talking to your brother, not a prospective boss or client.
7. Keep it brief-not more than 15-30 seconds. Remember that people have attention spans geared to 15-second, 30-second, and 60-second TV commercials. And those employ screen changes to hold attention. How often do you flip the channel or leave the room for a snack?
8. End with a question. Your goal is to engage the other person in a dialogue. Example: “How difficult do your employees find it to do X around your office?”
If you just end the “speech,” you’ll typically get a pleasant nod or polite “Hmmm.” And silence leaves both of you uncomfortable. But with a question, the person can either respond briefly and change the subject if uninterested, or continue about the challenges you can help him meet-ideal
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Selena Rezvani, July 22 2011
Last week, I found myself presenting a workshop to over 1,300 women around the globe—none of whom I could see or hear! I was leading a webinar on leadership for a high-powered, top-notch group of women as a guest of Professional BusinessWomen of California (PBWC).
As the registration numbers climbed prior to the event, so did my anxiety. I fussed and fretted–and it wasn’t until I found a list I’d jotted down last year that I got my focus back; that list contained four strategies that I’d focused on and upheld during my best presentations.
I ended up benefiting from this list greatly last week and hope that you too will get value from the pointers that follow. In the spirit of sharing best practices and continuing to learn, I hope you’ll share your own hard-won presentation lessons as well!:
1. Don’t Be Self-Centered!: Whenever you’re tempted to focus on yourself (for example, how I’ll perform, how I’ll be perceived) get in the habit of actively shifting your focus to your audience. Worrying about your own performance does very little to improve your talk or presentation, in fact it can often hurt your confidence and subsequently your style and delivery.
By dwelling on how you can best serve your audience on the other hand, you can dramatically enhance your presentation. My favorite questions to drive this shift are:
- What does this audience need to hear most today?
- How can the setup/format help them best receive today’s information?
- How can they be surprised or have a norm challenged?
- What would make this talk a smash success in their eyes?
2. Find Your Right Rehearsal Level: The other day I watched Jennifer Aniston on Inside the Actor’s Studio share her process for acting. Reflecting for a minute, she said she requires a major focus on grasping the material―really nailing her lines perfectly―which in turn allows her to then riff and improv well on set.
The same is true for you. If you know your material cold, it not only lessens anxiety, but allows you to flex in the moment, both of which make your presentation better. My favorite method (and one I’ve learned by doing the wrong and right things), is to prepare, perhaps even over-prepare, in the days leading up to a presentation but to leave “game day” wide open.
I’ve found that rehearsing too much on the day of (or waiting and cramming at the last minute) hurts rather than helps, muddling my thoughts too much in the presentation.
3. Get Right To It: I’ll admit that I hate going to presentations where the introductions go on forever. Whether it’s the speaker or someone introducing the speaker who’s trying to frame what’s to follow, this prattle is often perfunctory and needless. After all, the audience is at their most rapt in the beginning of a talk, so why squander their attention on logistics?
The best way to kick off a presentation is to welcome the audience and jump right in. You can say something like, “Welcome everyone – I’m thrilled to be here today to talk about XYZ. Let’s start by…” Realize too that by the principle of the Recency Effect, people remember best what they heard last. With that in mind, be sure your most vital messages are delivered in introducing and concluding your meeting.
4. Think Connection, Not Perfection: I’ve certainly been accused of being a perfectionist more than once, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one! What I’ve learned, despite this tendency, is that there is no “perfect” when it comes to presenting. If there were ever something we should be aiming for however—that is a real mark of performance–it’s our connection and rapport with the audience.
Certainly knowing your material will serve you, but so will your ability to read the room and shape your message to whatever feedback the audience is giving you. For example, if lots of questions from the audience cluster around one topic, then go ahead and “meet them where they are,” rather than focusing on your original plan or order of events. The opportunities to connect and bend to your specific audience are everywhere, so make sure you look for these openings.
No, we won’t always have the perfect conditions for presenting. Nor will we always have enough time and insight into our audience. But what we can control is preparing ourselves thoughtfully, learning from and leveraging ours’ and others’ presentation mishaps and triumphs.
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Marta Kagan, June 27 2011
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been subjected to Death by Powerpoint.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever subjected an audience to Death by Powerpoint.
Let’s stop killing each other with boring presentations, shall we?
Here are three simple, powerful things you can do to transform an average presentation into an awesome one:
1. Don’t just share information; TELL A STORY.
Most presentations share a common goal: to persuade the audience to take action.
What’s the best way to persuade someone? Get them to attach to your story emotionally.
What’s the best way to get them to attach emotionally? Tell them a story with a likeable hero who encounters some roadblocks and then, [thanks to your product] emerges transformed.
Reframe your presentation like a great story: three acts with two turning points. Let your hero make your points for you. Have him show your audience “what is”—and contrast that with “what could be.”
Nobody likes being sold to, but who doesn’t love a great story?
2. Go overboard.
Boring presentations are safe presentations. They take no risks. They state the obvious. And they’re more likely to provoke napping than purchasing behavior.
Sometimes the best way to make a presentation more awesome is to go completely overboard. Make ridiculous claims. State the opposite view. Use ginormously humongoussive words.
Polarizing slides engage audiences—they get people thinking and talking. So go ahead, BE EXTREME, and give them something to talk about.
3. Make your first slide and your last slide the AWESOMEST.
The first slide sets the audience’s expectation. The last slide is the one thing they’re most likely to remember.
And the stuff in the middle? It really only matters if the first and last slides kick major butt. So make sure they do.
What exactly makes a slide “awesome”?
Ask ten people that question and you will get ten different answers. But for me, it boils down to one simple thing: emotion.
Awesome slides make you feel something.
Love or hate.
Fear or desire.
Pain or pleasure.
Comedy or tragedy.
So go ahead. Take off the safety gear, let your hair down, get crazy. Make your next presentation AWESOME and kiss Death by Powerpoint permanently goodbye.
Want more advice on improving your presentation skills? More…
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December 21, 2010
Anyone aspiring to work in an executive capacity must to have refined presentation skills, unless of course you are the President of the United States – sorry George. However, few people are naturally eloquent speakers. Public speaking is difficult for most, but with a little help, you can polish your skills and impress even the most critical audiences. Use the following ideas to diminish your anxiety and improve your presentations.
1. Take a class. This may seem like a obvious solution, but you would be surprised how many people never think of enrolling in a public speaking class. Ask your employer if they will offer one through their training department or bring in an outside program. If they aren’t receptive to the idea, check out your local college as most offer refresher classes.
2. Join an organization dedicated to improving your public speaking skills. Not only do you have a safe environment to practice, but you get objective feedback on your presentations so you know where you need to improve.
3. Practice, practice, and then practice a little more. If you have cialis dosages a speech to deliver, you should know it start to finish. Practice until you are comfortable with the material and it just rolls off your tongue.
4. Video tape your practice sessions. Most people hate to see themselves on TV, so that makes this especially difficult – but extremely effective. If you are serious about mastering public speaking, you need to see yourself as others see you. Watching yourself deliver a speech will help you determine your strengths and show you where you still need improvement. You’ll also get an opportunity to see that you’re probably not as bad as you think!
5. Select topics that you are knowledgeable or passionate about. It’s much easier to be engaging and comfortable when speaking about something you are experience in or have a lot of energy around. Stick to your strengths and you’ll quickly build your confidence.
6. Speak at every opportunity. Speaking is like exercising a muscle, the more you use it, the better developed it becomes. So raise your hand the next time an opportunity arises – in all likelihood, you’ll be the only one.
7. Relax and remember that people came to see YOU. Chances are good that you are way more critical of yourself than anyone else. So take a deep breath and remember that you have something the audience wants – information – because that is where they are going to focus most of their attention.
Melissa, April 28th 2011
Stories are an incredibly powerful way to communicate. But you don’t have to take it from me. Consider Plato’s view: “Those who tell stories rule society.” Perhaps you don’t want to rule society, but you would like to be a bit more influential.
Creative writing instructor Robert McKee: “Story telling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” Now we’re talking – all of us have ideas we want to share and have spread.
The bottom line is that if we want to communicate more effectively, stories can help us do that. Yet, there is an art to crafting and telling stories in a powerfully effective way.
While there is far more about powerful story telling than can be explored in a short article, I can give you some very specific ideas to help you in choosing and constructing your own powerful story.
Choosing Your Story
If you don’t select the right story to present or support your message, it won’t matter how effective the telling of that story is. To pick the right story you must start with your goal – what are you trying to present? What ideas are you trying to support?
Either way, when you can mine your own experiences for the ideas of your stories, you are off to a good start because you have intimate knowledge of the story.
If you can’t think about a personal story, look for stories somewhere else. Consider things you have read or heard in the past. The newspaper and biographies are also prime places to find your story.
Wherever you find your story, if you want it to be powerful, choosing it is just the start – you must take the basic story and construct it carefully to create the power you want it to have.
Constructing Your Story
When taking your basic story outline and developing it to create a powerful message, consider the following factors.
1 – Simple. Basic is best. One of the easiest ways to ruin your story is to make it too complex or to include too many details. Look for ways to hone your story to the basic elements. It will demonstrate your message better and be more memorable.
2 – Unexpected. Present a twist. Think about it. When you hear a story that is too transparent, you aren’t very interested. Make your stories more interesting by building curiosity – and curiosity is built when the story has at least one unexpected component.
3 – Concrete. Be specific. While you want the story to be based on concepts, you want it specific enough to be interesting. Walking this balance comes mostly from being descriptive about the components you leave in the story as opposed to detailing everything that could be included.
4 – Credible. Be believable. This comes partly from the selection of the story, but also comes from telling the story in a believable way. Have you ever heard a “fish story” that has been embellished to the point that no one believes it? To really make your point (unless your point is the danger of embellishment) keep your story credible.
5 – Emotional. Tell them why they care. The best, most powerful stories have an emotional component; that’s part of the reason we love stories! Construct your stories to highlight the emotions you or others felt during the situation you are retelling. These emotional ties are a large part of what will make your story compelling – and therefore successful!
Choosing your story and constructing it using the suggestions above will significantly improve the value, usefulness and power of the stories you tell. These approaches will help you communicate more effectively as a leader and in any area of your life.
Melissa, April 27th 2011
When its time to give your next sales presentation, here are my favorite tips for delivering powerful, charismatic, and engaging sales presentations.
#1 – Plant Your Feet Squarely on the Floor
How you hold your physical body during your sales pitch communicates a tremendous amount of information about you to your audience. Studies have shown a person will unconsciously interpret approximately 55% of the meaning of your message from physiological cues in your body position, stance, and facial expressions.
Deliver your presentation from a position of confidence. Stand with your feet squarely between your shoulders. Distribute your weight evenly between your legs, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides, until your are ready to make a gesture.
Shifting your weight from one leg to another communicates to the audience a lack of confidence. This comes across unconsciously in that if you were to ask someone, a typical response might be “he didn’t seem like believed in his company” or “I not sure that I can trust her”.
Try both the balanced and the unbalanced speaking postures right now, and see which one makes you feel more confident and ready for your next sales presentation.
#2 – Get Pumped Up
It is your job to lead the audience. The reason they are there to get something from you. So you must lead them where you want them to go. If you want people to get excited about your product or to feel a sense of trust towards you and your company, you must first create this emotion within yourself.
How do you do this? Simple. Do whatever it takes to get yourself excited. Jump up and down. Clap your hands. Play your favorite music loud. High five your sales partner. You can do this where you won’t be seen by the prospect (in your car, in the customer’s stairwell, bathroom or outside the building). What do you think a rock star or an actor does to warm-up before going on stage?
The idea is to begin your presentation in an absolutely great state. Do this right and the audience will follow your where you want them to go.
Special tip: Use this technique before making important phone calls so that you are “on” when you make the call.
#3 – Warm Up the Audience
Another thing big rock stars do before coming out on stage is they have warm-up acts. The job of a warm-up act is to get the audience in a mood will be receptive of the main act’s energy.
You can accomplish this same effect by simply playing music before you start your presentation. Many laptops have CD players these days, or you can use a boom-box. The type of music you play will depend on your audience, and the emotional state that you want to warm your audience up to. Just think about how this will set you apart from your competition’s stale PowerPoint slide show.
#4 – Begin with Audience Participation
The more rapport you have with an individual or a group, the more receptive they will be to your message. One way to build rapport with your audience is by asking questions of your audience during your first few minutes on stage.
Ask a question or two that most people can easily answer (but don’t put anyone on the spot too much). Questions such as “How far did you come to get here?” and “How long have you been working in this field?” easily get conversation going and begin creating a relationship between you and your audience.
#5 – Sustain Eye Contact with Individuals
You probably know you should do this. Now here’s why and how.
The more frequently you change the location of your focus, the more new information your brain is taking in. Your eyes are the visual sensory input system for your brain. Change focus fast enough and frequently enough, and you overload your brain to the point where you forget where you are at in the presentation. Aaaaggh!
Maintain your concentration on what you want to say next by fixing your visual focus for short periods of time. Do this by completing a thought or a sentence (whichever you find easier) while sustaining eye contact with one person. Move eye contact to a new person with each new thought or sentence.
Good luck with these sales tips.
Scott, March 29, 2011
Networking is a term that didn’t exist (academically) until almost 40 years ago. It’s a word uttered in and around the business world every day, yet is unclear to most as to how it actually works. Still, it’s a fundamental tool to the success of any business.
By definition, the term networking is the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships. It’s not schmoozing; it’s not just handing out business cards, selling, marketing or small talk. Those activities are part of networking, but unfortunately, many people’s misunderstanding of the term causes them network ineffectively.
The following are The 7 Habits of Highly Horrible Networkers™, and they can stand in the in your way of developing mutually valuable relationships. So, next time you attend your Chamber or Association meeting, keep these ideas in mind so you can offer the most value to your fellow networkers.
Habit #1: Attitude
Much like the development of any skill, networking begins with attitude. Unfortunately, Highly Horrible Networkers have the wrong attitude. If you’ve ever attended a networking function before, perhaps you’ve encountered businesspeople who act in the following ways:
• The hard sell – they believe networking is about one thing and one thing only: selling products and services to everyone in the room.
• Business only – they’re not there to make friends. They’re not there to have fun. And they’re certainly not interested in developing mutually valuable relationships.
• It’s all about me – they don’t take the time to help and share with others, but rather focus on their own needs. In other words, they can’t spell ‘N-E-T-W-O-R-K-I-N-G’ without ‘I.
Attitude is fundamental to effective networking. In fact, it’s the most important habit to understand.
Habit #2: Dig Your Well WHEN You’re Thirsty
One of my favorite networking books is called Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, by Harvey McKay. It’s probably the most well known text on this subject. The key to McKay’s work is making your friends, establishing contacts and developing relationships – before you need them. Getting what you want by helping others get what they want first.
Enter the Highly Horrible Networkers, who only network because:
a) They need new customers
b) They have a new product or service to sell
c) Their boss forced them to do so
Take my friend Lawrence, for example. He’s quite successful in the insurance business; however he recently approached me about using networking to obtain some hot leads.
‘My numbers are down. My boss is on my back. I gotta get out there and start networking…or else! What do you suggest?’
‘Networking takes time,’ I explained, ‘and you can’t expect to come into loads of business or dozens of potential clients without developing the relationships first.’
As you already learned, networking is the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships…over time. If you try to dig your well WHEN you’re thirsty, you may never find a drink.
Habit #3: Dealin’ the Deck
Habit #3 is a dangerous one, and it happens all the time. Have you ever seen people distribute 173 of their business cards during the first 5 minutes of the event? They move as quickly as possible from one person to the next. They don’t make eye contact, they don’t ask to exchange cards – they just deal them out.
‘Here’s my card, call me if you need a designer! See ya later.’
‘But…I…never even got your name!’ you muse.
This is guaranteed to make people feel puny and insignificant. Notice these Highly Horrible Networkers don’t spend time actually meeting and establishing rapport with new people; but rather concentrate on giving out as many cards as possible. It’s quantity over quality, right?
Dealin’ the Deck is one of the most common networking pet peeves. Whenever I give my program The Habits of Highly Horrible Networkers™, I walk out into the audience for a quick demonstration of this habit. I grab a stack of business cards and quickly jump from table to table tossing out dozens of them without as much looking at the audience members I’m handing them to.
Unfortunately during one speech, it backfired.
Last year, I was demonstrating Highly Horrible Habit #3 when speaking at a local business meeting. While hopping from table to table as dozens of cards flew through the air and into people’s laps and salads, someone yelled out, ‘Oh my God!’
I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked back at the head table and noticed that one of my cards landed in the centerpiece…
…which was a candle!
MY BUSINESS CARD WAS ON FIRE!!
I threw down the microphone, lunged at the table and snatched the burning business card from the candle! As I toppled over the chair in front of me I yelled something to the effect of ‘Oh my God!’ shook the flames off my half burnt card and regained my balance to a roaring applause/laughter from the audience.
‘And…uh…this just goes to show you ladies and gentleman,’ I fumbled, ‘When you deal the deck of business cards without eye contact or consideration…uh…people may as well set them on fire – because they’re not going to read them anyway!’
Habit #4: Unprofessional Information
It’s remarkable how often some business cards will contain unprofessional information. Have you ever received someone’s card with one of those ambiguous, offensive and questionable email addresses with AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo? Not only are those email servers frustrating and ineffective for business communication, but just imagine how it looks when someone has to send business emails to:
I have nothing against AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo. But if possible, always send and receive emails using the address of your organization’s website. If you must use free servers like MSN, SBC and the like, choose a simple username that doesn’t question your professionalism, i.e.,firstname.lastname@example.org.
Habit #5: Sit with the Wrong Company
I’ll never forget my first Chamber meeting. One afternoon I sat down with 6 other local businesspeople for our monthly networking lunch. Naturally, the first thing I did was look at everyone’s nametags. (Not only to learn their names but to examine the effectiveness of their nametags’ design and placement.)
But these were the nametags I saw: ADM Financial, ADM Financial, ADM Financial, ADM Financial, ADM Financial, ADM Financial, Scott. (Company name changed to protect the victims.)
Highly Horrible networkers not only attend meetings with their friends and/or coworkers, but they talk and sit with them the entire time! These are people with whom they’ve worked 5 days a week, 8 hours a day for the past 3 years! This is not a good technique to maximize your company’s visibility.
This habit creates an elitist, unfriendly attitude. And think how uncomfortable this makes the one or two people sitting at the table who don’t work for that company! It’s unfair to them because they’re unable to meet a diverse group of people with whom to develop mutually valuable relationships! Remember: If you’re sitting with YOUR company – you’re sitting with the WRONG company.
Habit #6: Small Talk is for Suckers
Highly Horrible Networkers forget about the small talk. It’s a waste of their time. They don’t ask or answer about ‘New and exciting things happening at work’ or ‘How Thanksgiving was,’ they simply jump right into (what they believe to be) the most important part of the discussion: selling 17 of their products before the salad arrives.
Has this ever happened to you? For example, has someone ever introduced themselves, breezed right through the conversation and flat out asked you for a referral?
Refer you? I don’t even know you!
Reciprocating self-disclosure is the most effective way to build rapport and ultimately develop trust. The people you want to do business with are those with whom you have built that rapport and trust. So, small talk is not for suckers. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk put it best when she said: ‘Small talk is the biggest talk we do.’
Habit #7: Limitations
Finally, Highly Horrible Networkers believe there is only one specific time and place for networking. It’s called ‘A Room with A Sign Posted Outside That Says So.’ In other words, they only network when someone forces them to. They don’t believe networking opportunities in places like elevators, busses, supermarkets or parks.
That’s it? A measly half hour for networking? Doesn’t give you much time, does it?
The truth about networking is that it can happen anytime, anywhere. There is a time and a place for networking – it’s called ANY time, and ANY place.