Forbes just ran across an article on networking that I thought everyone would appreciate.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but it does support my premise and preference for smaller, informal settings.
I hate Chamber of Commerce mixers. It’s not the people – they’re fine. It’s the idea that I have to network.
Somewhere along the line we have taken what should have been a friendly get together to meet and greet our fellow business people and turned it into an Olympic event. It’s almost comical the way some people treat it. You’d think there was a gold medal riding on the number of cards you collect.
I stopped going.
It’s not that I don’t believe networking is important. I just find it easier to congregate with people in small meetings and seminars where the focus isn’t on “networking,” but on the task at hand, be it training or education.
As the day progresses you get to know the people in your group and you begin to learn something about them. Networking happens as a natural by-product.
It’s a relaxed, no pressure, friendly atmosphere and I think it produces better results than collecting a bunch of cards and cold calling for the next two weeks.
Networking isn’t about working. Networking is about people.
Get to know them without the pretense of a business transaction. You’ll learn more about them, they’ll be more interested in what you have to say and, in the end, you may do even more business with them than you ever thought possible.
You could even end up collecting a few friends for your efforts; far more valuable than any business cards.
Dr Alan Weiss (www.contrarianconsulting.com), author of over 45 books, and something of a superstar in the world of consulting, makes the case that unless you know the value you bring to a client or employer, and can communicate that value, no one is going to pay you.
What value do you bring to the table?
In an age when job announcements can garner hundreds of resumes from all over the country with a single mouse click your expertise and value is sometimes the lone determinant in landing a position or contract.
How do you stand out from the crowd?
Expertise. You stand out from the crowd by doing something so well that you become known for it. As David Avrin puts it, “It’s what you do.”
Why do people pay for expertise?
It’s the safe bet.
The proof is all around you. When the company had a tax problem did they contact just any accounting firm or hire just any accountant or did they hire a tax firm or tax accountant? If you wanted to build a bridge would you go to just any engineering firm or would you go to a firm that just does bridges? Discover you have cancer – generalist or oncologist? The expert is always the safe bet.
You must become that safe bet.
So – what do you do better than anyone else? What are you known for?
If you can’t answer that then you have a problem, because without a specialty you have gone from valuable to “off the shelf.” And people always pay less for “off the shelf.” In fact, many times those items go on sale.
You have two choices according to Dr. Weiss. I will paraphrase: “Get better or get gone.” If you don’t have a specialty or have not risen to the level of expert in your particular discipline then you must take the steps now to succeed. Go back to school, sharpen your focus and do the things necessary to get known for what you do.
If you don’t want to do these things then you must accept your position at the lower echelons of mediocrity. You’ll have plenty of company, but it doesn’t pay very well.
Self promotion calls for one to do many things; writing, video, speaking, etc. But the first thing you need is something to promote. And generalists generally have nothing to promote, because they all look alike. You have to specialize.
This past weekend the Toastmasters District 84 speech contest was held. The winner qualified to compete for the Regional and International Speech contest held later this year in August. Out of a worldwide organization of 12,500 clubs and just under 250,000 members only one will crowned champion.
If you are a Toastmaster and have never been to a speech contest at this level you are missing some of the best examples of presentation skills you have ever seen (not to mention a great conference for both education and networking with other Toastmasters).
If you are not a Toastmaster then I would urge you to consider joining.
I’m not big on shameless direct advertising, but it is the most inexpensive self-improvement program there is. It is the only place I know where you can go to find supportive, knowledgeable people whose sole purpose is to help you get better at speaking.
They have no religious, political or social agenda. But, they don’t care if you have one. They have no other goal beyond helping you become a better speaker and allowing you access to leadership opportunities within the organization.
Unlike the National Speakers Association, whose emphasis is on the business of speaking, Toastmasters concentrates on the mechanics of presentation; the “walk before you run” process. The process itself is self-paced and you can look at it as your own personal lab. Just during your first few speeches you will learn to use your voice, eyes, body language and props to help create and deliver solid presentations that get people’s attention and get your message across. I don’t know anyone else who does this – for less than $100/year.
You also get immediate feedback. Each speech is evaluated by someone who has more experience. Their job is not to tell you what you did wrong (this isn’t high school). It’s to bring to your attention to things you could have done to have had a greater impact; insight or ideas you may not have considered because you were too close to the presentation.
This was an issue for me when I joined because I was used to having someone tell me what I was doing wrong when I’d given a speech (you guessed it, high school). It affected me for my first 5 speeches until I had a Distinguished Toastmaster (highest educational rank in Toastmasters) show me a way to make a point in my speech that I hadn’t considered – and, I had to admit, it would have made a much better speech!
At that point I was sold.
OK – corny, shameless plug –
“Have trouble speaking before an audience? Don’t have leadership opportunities afforded to you at work? Need a career accelerant? Take the time to check out Toastmasters – there’s a club near you! CALL NOW!”
And maybe we’ll see you on the contest stage.
Your brand is… Everything
When it comes to building a successful business your brand is everything – literally. It is everything you do and everything you don’t do. It is the smell of your lobby and the color of your menu. It is the friendliness of your staff and their response to customer problems. It is the quality of your widgets, the timeliness of your bill paying, and the cleanliness of your bathrooms. It’s how you arrive and you depart.
“It’s Not Who You Know… It’s Who Knows You” Dave Avrin, The Visibility Coach
People talk about other people – alot.
One of the people they talk about is you; how you’re doing, the quality of work you do, what kind of person you are, etc. They also talk about your latest accomplishments and your latest mistakes.
Those discussions, favorable or not, are how people perceive you and the work you do.
You have a living, breathing brand, whether you want one or not.
That brand will determine how many promotions you get, how many job offers you receive, or what kind and quality of opportunities may come your way. As the opening paragraph says, “It’s everything.”
A good, solid, well promoted brand will open doors for you. A tarnished brand can end your job or career abruptly. Worse than that, an un-noticed brand can linger on indefinitely at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. The longer it’s ignored the more out of touch it seems until that brand either moves on to greener pastures or gives up entirely and accepts it’s ignoble position.
Now that you know you have a brand what kind of brand are you?
If you have a solid reputation, great credentials and have been growing your career, kudos to you. This isn’t for you.
But how do you recover from being fired? Or laid-off? How do you run damage control? How do you self-promote when you’re starting from ground zero? What do you do when you’ve been passed over? How do you get NOTICED?
Rule 1. The Golden Rule.
The first step, whether establishing or maintaining your brand, has to do with how you treat others. How do you treat other people?
Do you overlook little flaws like the waiter being slow because he or she is swamped? Do you take requests from your peers with a smile? Are you willing help others, or do you ignore a situation because “It’s not my job?”
In short, do you treat others as you would want to be treated? And I mean as you would really want to be treated.
If not, then now is the time to change.
You cannot expect people to notice this new change immediately, but they will notice over time. And that change will be talked about.
Try this test: For the next 30 days treat everyone you meet (peers, supervisors, dry cleaning people, janitors) as you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. Treat each and every person as your personal customer. Smile no matter what and genuinely take an interest in their projects and the assignments you receive. Push to do the best job possible for them; just as you would want them to do for you were you on the opposite side of the table.
Most people will notice this change and a couple may even come up to and ask what is going on. That’s the first step in creating ‘buzz” about your brand and means you’ve begun the transformation from un-noticed or tarnished to becoming a solid brand.
It sucks because it’s hard. It sucks because it’s work. It sucks because it goes against everything we were taught as kids.
It sucks because we don’t know how to do it.
We were taught as kids not to speak too highly of ourselves. We didn’t want to come across as egotistical and arrogant. We did not want to appear conceited. We wanted to get along with others and wanted people to like us; go along to get along.
But in business, you have to self-promote or risk being relegated to the lower rungs of income, position and prestige. You have to “honk your own horn” in order to have any music to dance to. Just being good at something is not enough to guarantee your success just as being really smart does not guarantee you a job. And just as unrewarded genius is both a proverb and a cliché so are people who are really, really, good at their jobs and will go no where professionally.
Self-promotion does not have to be an in your face, “look at me, me, ME..” proposition.
It should be subtle. But it also has to be recurring and unrelenting. To take a queue from Madison Ave, it’s about marketing and advertising. And the same rules they apply to products and services in building a commercial brand, you can apply to your own career or business.
Over the next few posts we’re going to work on establishing a self-promotion strategy.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to delve into the specifics of any given situation, but we will begin to ask the questions and explore the planning aspects you can take with you to develop your own plan.
We’ve all been there. You sit down, pull out your note taking apparatus; ready for the meeting.
The presenter is introduced, steps to the front, clicks for the first slide, then proceeds to read the slide; all of it and everyone thereafter – the entire presentation. You realize 3 slides in that this guy (or gal) has written the entire presentation on the slides and is going to read the whole thing – all 45 minutes worth – to an agonized and gut-wrenched audience.
There will be no break from the torture. There will be no give and take. There will be no interaction between the audience and the presenter. There will be nothing but the knowing looks you give one another as you each mutter silently to yourselves, “Kill me now.”
Don’t get me wrong; I love PowerPoint. It’s a wondrous tool. It has the capability to enhance a presentation, give emphasis to a point, to paint a picture of a given situation. You can add music and animation. You can even have just words, but add enhanced graphics to keep the slide visually attractive and to keep attention.
But, it is not…let me repeat…it is not your presentation.
It is a pet peeve of mine. You show no respect for your subject or audience when you fail to prepare.
To avoid ‘KMN Syndrome’ do the following:
First, prepare yourself and your presentation like you were not going to use notes. You should practice. Your audience has taken precious time out of their day (even if it’s mandatory) to hear what you have to say. Put some effort into it so they feel they got something out of it.
I’ve yet to see a presentation that taught anyone anything or moved people to action by reading, have you?
Second, remember that your audience wants to hear from you. They want to look you in the eye, see you move, hear your voice inflection, understand your message and experience you talking to them. They’re perfectly capable of reading the material. After all, if all you’re going to do is read the presentation, why do they need you?
Third, remember that PowerPoint serves to enhance your material, not replace it. Slides that illustrate your main points and are visually appealing will help keep the audience’s attention and help you keep your place. You want your audience paying attention to you and your message, not reading the slides and ignoring you.
Finally, the next time you’re tempted to skip the preparation and read a “script” think about how you would react if you were in the audience. Professionals don’t put on sham presentations.
It’s difficult enough for someone to establish a connection with an audience without the added distraction of not being able to look them in the eye because you might lose your place.
Good to remember the next time you find “You’re in the Spotlight.”