Top 3 Ways to Build Confidence Before an Important Event

Getting ready to deliver a big presentation? Going to a networking event that you’re nervous about? Heading into a crucial meeting, or a crucial conversation?

Whatever the critical scenario may be, in order to successfully maneuver it and come out on top, one must approach it with confidence (a humble confidence, of course).

That’s great, but where do you get this confidence? Well, we feel most confident when we are prepared. It’s one thing to show up at a crucial meeting and wing it; it’s another entirely to take the time to prepare before the meeting, to show up with facts and figures to support your arguments. It’s guaranteed that if you took the time to prepare for that meeting, or any other important event, the outcome would likely be much different. The more you know, the more confident you will be and appear to others. The more you prepare, the more your executive presence will shine through.

Here are top three ways you can prepare and build confidence before any important event:

1. Find out as much as you can about the event/meeting/presentation beforehand.

Do your homework! In order to prepare adequately for the event or presentation, find out as much as you can about it: Who will be there? Where exactly is it? What is the dress code? Who will you be sitting beside? The more you can find out ahead of time, the better able you will be to prepare adequately.

2. How well do you know the people attending?

The more you know about the people who will be in attendance the better, especially if it’s a networking event! Contact the organizer and find out who’s going to be there. If possible, look up the individuals and find out as much as you can about them. Knowing about the people you’ll be interacting with will not only make you feel more at ease, but will impress those you talk to as well. It can also help you to converse with those around you, as you can mention something about the person that you saw while doing your homework.

3. Make notes. Know your material.

Michael Bay, producer of Transformers, showed us that being unprepared – not knowing your material, relying on teleprompters – does not work. Things go wrong. Technology fails us. To avoid potential mishaps, knowing your material can save you a lot of embarrassment.

We’re all so busy in our day-to-day lives that we often forget to take the time to prepare for crucial scenarios thoroughly. We rely too closely on technology working well, on our instincts, on our experiences. Confidence is key when approaching any critical scenario, and the best way to feel confident is to prepare. When you approach a critical scenario with confidence and poise, you project executive presence.

Want to learn more about how you can communicate your executive presence to others? Visit our website and take a look at our Workshops and Courses!

Five Business Networking Faux-Pas To Avoid For Young Professionals

business-networking-young-professionalsStarting your career in your chosen field is certainly an exciting time in your life. As your career begins to take off and flourish, there are certain activities and behaviours you can engage in to make the transition into work like more successful and fulfilling. One of these activities is often dreaded and feared by most, let alone young professionals who have little to no practice engaging in it: networking.

Despite this inherent fear, many people choose to overcome it and engage in as many networking opportunities as possible. They do so because they’ve realized one simple truth: your network is your net-worth. The more people you know, the more relationships you form, the more you will succeed in your field, whatever field that may be and regardless of the position you hold.

Now that we’ve established the importance of networking, there are some behaviours to stay away from when at a networking event. These behaviours will serve to not only undermine your executive presence, but will also result in a less-than-stellar networking “performance.” Here are four faux-pas to avoid while networking:

  1. Smelling like smoke
    It is understandable that many people smoke these days. However, if you are a smoker, it is really important that you do not go into a networking event right after smoking a cigarette. Non-smokers (and even many smokers) can’t handle the smell of second hand smoke on someone else. Remember, you are going to this event to meet people and engage them, and turning them off with cigarette smoke is not a great way to start.
  2. Trying to talk to everyoneIt is true that in networking and in business networking, the idea is to touch as many people as possible. You definitely do not want to be talking to the same person the whole night, as that defeats the purpose! However, you don’t want to be simply introducing yourself to someone, handing them your card and then moving on. It is important to establish a rapport with someone before you exit the conversation, to ensure they remember you. Handing them your card is simply not enough to do that.
  1. Have professional-looking business cards, no matter what stage you’re at
    Even if you are still a student, it is important to have professional-looking business cards (and enough of them!). Heavy card stock is always good, and a simple, clean look can go a long way. Make sure your information is easy to read and straightforward. If you are a student, your school likely has a business card format that you could use.
  2. Don’t bring a friend
    The idea at networking events is to meet new people, not to catch up with a friend. Often, when friends go to networking events together, they spend most of their time talking to each other. Going alone will force you to engage with and talk to others.
  3. Don’t drink too much
    This may seem like an obvious one, but often in stressful situations where we don’t feel the most comfortable, another glass of wine usually seems like a great idea. Having a few drinks over the course of the evening is acceptable; overdoing it to the point of inebriation will seriously damper your chances of a successful evening of networking. Pace yourself to one drink an hour, alternate with a glass of water or soft drink, with an absolute limit or three.

Networking can sometimes be scary and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are equipped with the right tools and know what behaviours to avoid, chances are you will have a fun and successful networking experience! Networking doesn’t always have be done at organized networking events, either. Check out our post on unique places you can network!

How to Get Involved in Your Professional Field

Last week we focused on three top ways to grow as a professional, one of which was to stay active in your field. This week we’ll give this topic even more attention, as there are many ways – and important reasons why – you should be connected and actively involved in your area of focus. If you extend your reach outside of your company to build your knowledge base and experience, it can benefit your company, your department, and yourself as a professional.

Consider joining a professional association

  • Many professions have a national association or organization designed to support members working in a particular field. Benefits of membership can include continuing education or building credentials, access to career and job opportunities, subscriptions to relevant publications, and opportunities to meet other professionals in or outside of your local area.
  • These associations often function on a national and provincial level; view a full list of Canadian professional associations courtesy of the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.

Attend national and international conferences

  • There are few better ways to stay connected in your area of interest than by attending conferences, both locally and abroad. Leaders in your field present ideas and new developments, and conferences generally provide several excellent networking opportunities.
  • The content discussed in conference keynotes, panels, and side meetings often indicate where the field is heading or what new developments may be on the horizon.
  • You can gain unique and valuable information or skills at a conference, which you can then apply to your own work back in your company.

Participate in additional and less formal events

  • In addition to conferences, there are other opportunities to participate in less formal discussions and events that are related to your field of work. Meetup.com is a site designed to connect locals with shared interests; though the selection of various Meetups includes hobbies and personal interests, it unites those with similar professional work and objectives as well. Meetups can include anything from a small group discussion to a panel event with notable speakers.
  • Participate in an online forum. Instead of simply posting your resume and credentials on your LinkedIn profile and leaving it there, actively engage on LinkedIn by starting or joining a discussion group for like-minded professionals on a relevant topic. You may be surprised how extended and enriching a LinkedIn discussion can become: these discussion groups have no expiry date, so the conversation can continue to grow indefinitely as more members can join in.

Network – and maintain your connections

  • The key to keeping a strong network is to maintain your connections. You may have hundreds of contacts, but if you do not foster those relationships, they will eventually lose their value.  I always tell my clients “your network is your networth.”
  • Simply maintaining connections now means that you may benefit from them in the future: a fellow professional may present an opportunity for collaboration or partnership; a contact may be able to assist you transition between companies or provide a career opportunity; another contact may become a client someday. You never know how or when your strong contacts will support you – but it is very likely that ultimately they will.

Find out more about our business networking with a twist lunch and learn workshop today and grow your network (and your net worth) quickly and effectively.

 

New Year’s Resolutions for the Workplace

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Happy New Year! How will you ring in 2013?

Many of us start off a fresh year by making a resolution or two, aiming to better ourselves through small changes to our habits. This year, consider making a professional New Year’s resolution – because even small improvements in your routine in the office or your business interactions can help you to advance your career or make your mark professionally.

Resolve to Make Connections

Are you a shy person who only talks to familiar colleagues at networking events – or just skips the event altogether? In 2013, resolve to break out of your shell by making new professional connections, both inside and outside of your company. Besides participating in networking events, take other steps to build your contact list: set lunch dates with potential partners or clients, or schedule informational interviews with business contacts. Creating and maintaining professional relationships is an important piece of advancing and growing in your field.

Resolve to Be a Leader

Displaying leadership in the workplace is a solid building block for moving up in your company. You can demonstrate leadership in tasks big and small: anything from taking the initiative to assist a new colleague, to planning and executing an important project. Consistently displaying leadership qualities will work to your advantage, especially as management begins to notice your initiative. Practicing leadership can also boost your confidence and comfort level in the workplace.

Resolve to Improve Your Presentation Skills

No matter how impressive the content of your work, your messages simply will not resonate with colleagues or clients if you cannot deliver them in a strong presentation. Giving great presentations is something that many professionals struggle with, whether it is due to stage fright, nervousness or just unfamiliarity with speaking in front of a large group. Awareness of the key elements of an effective presentation – body language, posture, articulation, well-planned slides and talking points, appearance and attire – plus lots of practice can help you to strengthen your presentation skills and effectively deliver your messages.

Resolve to Build Your Executive Presence

Executive Presence
is not a single trait that can be acquired overnight; rather, it is a hybrid of characteristics, which are all critical for a successful professional to have. A recently published study by the Center for Talent Innovation defines the foundations of Executive Presence as gravitas, communication and appearance, and makes no question of the importance of Executive Presence, stating that it “accounts for 26 percent of what it takes to get the next promotion.” You can work on building your own Executive Presence through training programs, Lunch and Learn sessions, customized webinars and individual consultations that focus on skills such as communication, business etiquette, and professional image.

Even through small changes, we can all work toward becoming stronger and more successful professionals. What better time to improve your daily habits for lasting results than at the start of a brand new year!

 

Working a Room: The ABC’s of Interrupting a Conversation

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Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert when it comes to entering a room full of strangers you break into a sweat and have butterflies flying in your stomach. Working a room can be hard, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

A recent post I read talks about the top four most “uncomfortable” moments when working a room:

  1. Starting the interaction
  2. Breaking off an ongoing conversation
  3. Bringing someone new into your conversation
  4. Interrupting an ongoing conversation

The post offers a few pointers on the last point, “interrupting an ongoing conversation,” as that can be one of the most uncomfortable things to do from the above four.

So if you want to walk up to a group and join their conversation, here are some tips:

First, take a deep breath & realize that people in networking events EXPECT you to break into their conversations. You’re introducing them to new people (yourself) without them having to interrupt someone else’s conversation. Some people will be absolutely giddy that you’re rescuing them from the previous conversation.

Second, breaking into someone else’s conversation takes some guts but it gets easier with practice. It’s as easy as A-B-C:

A. Do what you would do if you saw someone you already know. That is, walk up & catch the eye of one member of the group, then stick out your hand to shake his/her hand.

B. Say, “Excuse me. I’m ____. May I join your conversation?” Amazingly creative, huh? But, as with “Open Sesame,” the group will magically open up to make room for you.

C. Sometimes the group is in a meaty conversation when you walk up, so just introduce yourself briefly with your name (no elevator speech at this point) & say, “You looked as if you were in an interesting conversation when I walked up. Please continue.”

Building your business network by working a room well can be as easy as A-B-C if you know how to do it well and with confidence.

When it comes to business networking, the little things you do make a big difference.

Interpersonal Communication Skills training can be a great way to learn all about working a room including tips on reading body language, prepping up your conversation skills, perfecting your handshake and much more.

 

Business Networking: 10 Top Tips on How To Work a Room

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how to work a roomDo you get nervous when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know? Sure, we’re all used to networking via social media – tweeting, posting to LinkendIn and sharing on Facebook- those don’t seem to intimidate us much, do they?

But when it comes to a one-on-one business networking event, professional meeting, workshop or seminar, why do some of us end up with sweaty palms and an uncomfortable feeling in the gut?

Agreed, attending an event without any familiar faces can be scary, but NOT if you go with a goal in mind BEFORE you arrive. This will help you “avoid wandering around aimlessly or trying to strike up forced conversations with people who don’t interest you.”

Here are 10 great tips offered by Forbes on “How To Work A Room Like You Own The Place”:

1. Go with a purpose. Remind yourself why you are there. You are using your precious time to network and to make some useful connections, so make sure you aren’t wasting energy. Set a couple of targets like: speak to three new people; or try to learn at least two new pieces of information or gossip.

2. Use inside contacts. If you know the event organizer and he or she is around during the event, ask for an introduction to key people who you ought to meet there. Having a warm overture will make the process of networking easier. It will also save you the time of trying to find people who you don’t know.

3. Be a lone ranger. If you’re attending the event with people you already know well, such as colleagues and friends, don’t fall into the trap of sticking together for the whole event. Talking to people who you already know will lessen your chances of meeting new ones. To extricate yourself, deliberately sit next to someone you don’t know during a talk or a meal that takes place during the event.

4. Get the lay of the land. Observe group formations before choosing whom to approach. Look for people who are most likely to respond positively. These would be individuals standing alone who are waiting for someone to talk to, or groups of twos and threes that are open to new participants. You can see this in their body language: if they are facing outward, chances are they are having a casual conversation and would be happy for others to join in.

5. Be aware of your own body language.Folding your arms in front of your body and looking at the floor forms a barrier between you and the other person and gives the impression that you don’t want to talk to them. In contrast, leaving your arms unfolded and maintaining eye contact will make them feel welcome.

6. Break the ice. Don’t feel like you have to say something profound. Breaking the ice can be as simple as commenting on the venue, the program or the food; asking people where they’ve traveled  from or whether they’ve been to the event or place before; or expressing an interest in why they are attending.

7. Mind your handshake. Most meetings start with a cordial handshake. Put out your full hand, avoiding the half-handed (and halfhearted) grip, which can feel like a cold fish. Shake firmly, but don’t make it a bone crusher. Maintain eye contact and smile as you greet your new potential contact.

8. Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that ask who, what, where, when and how – as opposed to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Your goal is to explore ideas and opinions and also to show your listening skills.

9. Go easy on the business cards. Make each one count, rather than handing them out like a meaningless pamphlet. It’s not about volume–it’s about quality contacts. Be ready to hand out a business card if someone requests it or you think that you have a made a good solid new connection. Forcing it on someone who doesn’t seem to want it just makes you look desperate.

10. Be generous. Offer to help where you can and don’t expect anything in return. Most people appreciate a favor and want to reciprocate. In time, your virtue may turn out to be its own reward.

If you want to master the art of working a room, look no further than Corporate Class’s Working a Room workshop.

Maximizing networking opportunities at meetings, conferences and trade shows is the nucleus of this session. Participants cover a full range of techniques to make connections and build relationships including: making an entrance, mastering the art of introduction, successful mingling and small talk, remembering names, handling food and drinks, plus, advance prep and final follow-up pointers.

Watch a video and learn more about our exclusive 60-90 minute Working a Room workshop here!