I want to share a story with you that was the inspiration for this blog post.
A couple of weeks ago I was helping a friend do some stuff at her parents vacation home. As we sat on the front porch, I couldn’t help but notice a dark green antique bench. She must have seen me admiring it because without being asked she quietly said, “you have no idea how many miles that bench has traveled….thousands and thousands.”
I paused to try to figure out what she meant. Her family was born and raised in the area so I was a bit confused. Again, without prompting, she said, “That bench was my grandfathers. He worked at the railroad station most of his life. When the station was renovated, he brought that old bench home. My sisters and I sat on that bench for more hours than I can count and traveled the world. It was a car, bus, boat, horse and of course a train.”
I was so moved by watching her relive that fond memory. Not only the memory of her grandfather but also the memory of the hours she spent with her sisters traveling the world in their imagination. Making up characters, dialogs and adventures.
That was weeks ago and her story has stuck with me. At the risk of sounding old, I have been reflecting on the way kids played in “my day.”
If you are like me, you played outside the majority of the daylight hours. There were no gadgets or gizmos. There was chalk for drawing & hopscotch, bats & balls, dolls & strollers, bikes with baseball cards in the spokes and friends & imagination. We learned to interact and connect. We learned to ask for what we wanted, introduce ourselves to new kids, settle arguments and look each other in the eyes.
I can’t help but wonder what the effects will be on the children of technology. Our “Gen Z” kids (born 2000 – present) are born into a high tech and highly “connected” world. They do not know life without things like the internet, instant messaging, email, text messaging, iPods, smart phones and tablets. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad thing- just different. Road trips now consist more of movie watching than playing “eye spy” or “find the different license plates”. In any restaurant you will see more electronics at the table (including parents on their cell phones) and less tic-tac-toe on the back of the placemat.
Many years from now, when our kids are the new batch of employees, employers, entrepreneurs, mompreneurs and professionals, how will they fair when it comes to networking? Will they struggle with one on one communication? Will eye contact make them uncomfortable? Will critical thinking skills be high but empathic listening suffer? OR…..
Will they be sharper than all the generations before them? Will technology be the glue that binds them? Will networking as we know it fail to exist?
Only time will tell.
As for me, I will continue to love technology, learn something new every day, network both face-to-face and digitally… all while telling my kids how I did it in the “good old days.”
I’d love to hear your comments….
Thanks for reading!
Here is a question for you. Why do we generally wait for the other guy to make the first move? Let me tell you what I mean by that – You are at an event/gathering/meeting/coffeehouse wherever – you strike up a conversation with someone who you really think you connect with. Why do we wait to see if they are going to suggest the next step? Are we afraid that they may not find us intriguing? Probably.
What do you have to lose? After all, only one of two things can happen. Either you find out that they are interested as well OR you find out that they are not. I don’t know about you but I prefer to know. Here are three things you should try:
- If you are standing around at an event – why be uncomfortable. Why not say “I see an empty table. Want to grab a seat and continue this conversation?” This not only makes for a more relax environment to talk in but it also shows you are enjoying the conversation and that you are interested in learning more about them.
- Have they mentioned something in conversation that you can help with? If so, offer to reach out to them after the event. Why not say “I read a white paper on that not too long ago. I would be happy to send it to you. I think you will find it has a lot of useful information in it.” DO NOT FORGET. No matter how small a promise you make, delivering on that promise shows that you are reliable and starts to build trust.
- Come right out and say it. “Wow, I am really enjoying this conversation. So glad we met. Here is my card – would you be interested in getting together for lunch sometime to continue this talk?”
I know, fear of rejection is a real concern but again what do you have to lose? So go ahead and put yourself out there the next time you meet someone that you definitely want to keep in your network. You will be glad you did.
Thanks for reading ~
It was the part that I hate the most about networking. When you walk into the room , not knowing anyone, and can tell by the people around you that you’re going to have to make the first move if you’re going to meet anyone. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I am not an extrovert. I am a complete introvert. That doesn’t mean I can’t be chatty, personable and sociable. It just means that those aren’t the most comfortable modes for me to operate in.
This particular night I was attending a Continuing Ed instructor workshop for the school where I teach elearning and WordPress classes. When you teach night classes, you never get to meet your fellow instructors unless they happen to be in the classroom next to you on the same night. So I grabbed my box lunch, found a place at a table, and did the one thing that almost always works. I turned to the person nearest to me, smiled and said “hello!”
It seems so funny to me that after all of the anxiety and avoidance and worrying I did about networking for so many years, the one thing that always seems to work is a simple smile and a hello. Does it always work? No, there have been times when my hello has been met with a brush off and even completely ignored. But for every one of those there are at many more people who smile and say “hello” back.
So what happened this night that prompted me to write about it in this blog post? Robert smiled back and reminded we that we’d met a few months ago at the first instructor workshop I had attended. I then said hello to Rob, Dave, Al (actually he said hello to me first) and we had a great group discussion about geeky things like elearning and flash and HTML 5. Several of us stayed an hour after the workshop just to chat and I now have some new friends/colleagues that I know I’ll learn a lot from. All because I was brave enough to smile and say “hello”.
So the next time you find yourself alone in a crowd, feeling nervous and wishing you were anywhere but there, think about me and smile. Then say hello to the person next to you and see what happens.
Do you have a tip for breaking the ice at networking events? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
It looks like Facebook is going to be rolling out a(nother) new timeline. I tried to do some preliminary research to help make it clearer so when it happens we all won’t be wondering “what the hell”. It is a lot of information but here is what I have so far….
They are doing away with the staggered post timeline (thank goodness). Your status updates and posts will be down the right hand side of the page. All other sections such as your “About”, “Friends”, “Photos” etc. will be more extensive and down the left. I hear they are also adding a new “instagram” section as well.
Facebook is going to be pushing you to fill out more of your profile content. There will be “call to actions” that will prompt you to fill in any empty sections such as Movies, Music, Books etc. The interesting part is that with the Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Books sections, there will be new “Watched,” “Want to Watch,” “Read,” and “Want to Read” tabs in addition to “Likes” for those sections.
You will notice that the Photos, Friends, and Places sections have been redesigned and organized in a way that makes switching between content easier and the content will be broken down to make it more user friendly.
Facebook is going to suggest pages to “Like.” My understanding is that these recommendations will not be reflective of things you have “Liked” before but more from other sources. Here is what I can gather…. Facebook has caught on to the fact that most of us “Like” a page because we are trying to win a contest, support a local business or simply because a friend asked us to in order to get their “Like” number higher. That means, when Facebook is trying to sell advertisements and trying to pinpoint who will most likely buy the product advertised… our “Likes” really may not be what our interests are at all. They are going to instead focus on our interests from our “want,” “watch,” “read” and other profile information so they can get a better feel for our desires and activities. Knowing that now makes the call-to-action prompts to fill out these sections more understandable. By doing this, they can provide us with more targeted ads which in turn will most like boost ad revenue for Facebook. I’m still not sure who this whole thing is going to play out and I hope to find out more about it through my research.
So that is it for now. I will update you with me when I discover more. If you have any additional information PLEASE add it to the comments below… help a sister out. J
Thanks for reading~
I crashed a conference this week. It wasn’t intentional – I didn’t start out the day thinking, “I wonder how I can interact with new people today.” But it worked to my favor, and started opening my eyes.
I work in a downtown area connected to the city’s convention center. We regularly make the trek from our office building to the food court at the convention center for lunch. Today, I was standing in line at a vendor while the crowd from the convention was bustling around me. It had already been a particularly hectic week, and the crowd was an unpleasant surprise because I was in a bit of a hurry. I was completely focused on choosing my lunch when I heard a voice behind me.
“Are you having a good time today?”
I initially didn’t turn around, because I was sure that question wasn’t for me. When I didn’t hear a response follow the question, I glanced back and saw a young smiling face. He was wearing a conference badge around his neck.
“Well, yeah, I guess. I’m working today. So as much fun as you can have working, I’m having it.”
Despite my less-than-engaging answer, we chatted for a few minutes. This was a music educator’s convention – something I don’t do as a career, but I am a former music major and can relate to their passion for music and performance. In the span of time it took to place our orders, I learned this person was just beginning his college career, what instrument he played (and what instruments he wanted to learn to play), and what types of sessions he was attending at the conference. Just a brief conversation, but this was probably more than I learn about people on my work floor in a week’s time.
The co-worker I had walked with to get our lunch met up with me after gathering her meal, and said someone had asked her the same question. It must be a challenge they were issued as part of the conference, I thought. Sounds like an interesting way to get people to interact, and a sneaky version of the dreaded ice breakers.
As I was crossing the street back to my daily grind, it hit me. This encounter was actually a great teaching moment, and I had practiced my conference skills without knowing it. I’m not the best at starting a conversation with strangers. When I’m feeling particularly energized, I can work up the courage to blurt out a few quips to someone in the elevator about the weather, but starting a conversation is a little (okay, more than a little) nerve racking. I stumbled into a great networking experience at last year’s ASTD ICE, and found it easy to interact with folks I had ‘met’ through social media, but starting up a conversation in the sessions was a whole different story. And since last year’s conference, I felt I was getting worse at it. Almost to the point of wondering how I was going to meet new people this year.
This chance encounter with a random stranger has opened my eyes to the possibilities in my own back yard. How often do I wait in lines with people who might be willing to chat for just a few minutes? What could I learn if I just open up to the possibility we have something in common? And what fun would it be if I could expand my network even further into my community?
If I run into him again, I’ll have to let that young man know he was already a successful educator. But only after I practice my scales.
Kelly and I had the pleasure of attending Training Magazines Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. The conference was a great learning event as well as a fabulous networking event. I just wanted to share with you some of the highlights that confirmed many of the networking tips we have shared with you in the past:
- Let things happen organically: There is no reason to always feel “on”. By just meeting people and letting the conversation flow organically we were able to make great connections that we will have for a long time. Just like any other situation, a conversation that starts off with what city you traveled from will soon move to what other conferences you have attended, who you work for, what you do… without you forcing it. So relax and just enjoy the experience of getting to meet new people.
- Our network is your network: One of the best parts about a network is that you can share it with others. By really listening when people talk it is very easy to make introductions of people that you will know have something in common. Example: I knew that our friends at Legacy Business Cultures were going to CHART in San Diego and Miami this year. I met a person in the lounge who shared with me that he was going to CHART in Miami alone. Later that evening I was able to introduce the guys from Legacy to this gentleman. They had a great chat, plan on meeting up in Miami AND have discussed a possible business relationship. WIN WIN.
- Networking doesn’t have to happen in a suit: While organized networking events are a great way to get to know people – so is bumming around Disney in jeans and flip flops. The key is to not have an agenda. The only thing you should plan to do is have a great time, relax and let others see your fun side. Afterwards, when you are dead tired and lying in bed, you will be surprised at how much you learned about the people with whom you shared a giant turkey leg.
- It’s never “out with the old and in with the new”: While learning new things about new people is always exciting – it is even more exciting when you learn something new about someone you have known for years. This week I learned that my friend and business partner, Kelly, sings Opera. I also learned that Amber, a friend for years, lived in Italy. If you continue to learn about people, regardless of how long you have known them, you will NEVER have a dull conversation.
- Laughter doesn’t have a schedule: Laugh often, laugh loud and never apologize for it. From first thing in the morning, to traveling on the Disney bus, to walking the expo hall and at 2am in the hotel room…. There is never a wrong time to laugh. What? Not professional to carry on that way? Well, if those are the standards than I vow here and now to never be considered professional. Remember, people like doing business with people that they like and trust is built by being genuine. So go ahead and give into that giggle fit – it makes you human.
- Don’t over plan: Kelly and I use twitter all the time and this conference was no exception. A great night of making connections can be done with a simple tweet. We decided to tweet that we would be at the Laguna Bar at our hotel overlooking the water on Sunday night at 6pm before the official start of the conference on Monday. Weather made us have to change our location which we tweeted as well. The end result was a nice gathering of people from all over the US and Canada. Connections were made and friendships were formed. I am pretty certain I also heard talk of collaboration and business deals! Amazing what picking a place and posting some tweets can do.
I could go on and on about our time in Orlando but I think you get the picture. Networking is hard because we often make it hard… slow down… be yourself… let things happen. Remember, connections are made in both the organized and organic settings…. They are made in business suits and swimsuits…. they can be short term collaborations and long term friendships… all you have to do is be open minded, curious and engaged.
As always, thanks for reading~