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!
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.
Sometimes, making connections with people who have a solid online presence like a blog can be a bit intimidating. It’s not always easy to just walk up and introduce yourself to someone you follow and admire. Here is one great tactic that you can use to connect with that person in a very safe, secure, and low risk way. Comment on their blog.
If you have a blog, you instantly get it. Even if your blog gets a good amount of traffic, it can sometimes feel like you’re pouring your ideas and feelings out into a big black hole of nothingness, day in and day out. When in fact, people are reading and connecting with your ideas. They just aren’t telling YOU about it! When someone you don’t know makes a comment on your writing, it’s like payday. It’s proof that your writing has meaning – even if the commenter doesn’t agree with your ideas.
As a reader, it’s very rare that you don’t have some kind of reaction from reading a blog post. You get to the bottom of the article, you pause for a moment to have a reaction. And then – click! – you’re on to the next article or blog.
That’s the moment when you can take a second to start or strengthen a relationship with the blogger. Many bloggers will comment back to you, but even if they don’t I promise that they’ve read your comment and are taking note.
So what should you write in a comment? Well, write whatever you’re thinking after you read the post. Do you agree with the blogger’s point of view? Did you think of something they missed? Are they way off base and you can explain why? That’s what you should write.
So the next time you read a blog post, pay attention to your reaction. What are you thinking about the post? Click in that comments section and write a little note to the author. DO IT! It’s a surefire way to open up lines of communication and let them know that their words are NOT going into a black hole. That you are reading and appreciating their work. Here’s your homework – stop right now and leave me a comment!
Note: Ironically, the comments on our site broke just when this article was posted! They are up and running now, but if you have any issues, please email me at email@example.com.
7 Tips – How to Turn People Off
Love it or hate it – first impressions ARE lasting impressions. This means that the last thing you want to do is to turn someone off so quickly that they do not even want to know your name. Here are 7 ways to assure that someone will rip up your business card.
#1 – Hand them your card within the first minute of meeting them
Why? This gives the immediate impression that you are only there to see how many people you can meet and how many cards you can hand out. It shows that you have no real interest in getting to know them as a person. You are simply looking for the next sale.
#2 – Name Drop
Why? While you may think it is impressive to know this-one and that-one it is not what people want to know about you. They want to get to know YOU and not who you have schmoozed with in the past.
# 3 – Talk Talk Talk
Why? Aren’t you supposed to tell them about yourself? YES, however you are also supposed to get to know others. It’s a conversation (give and take) not a monolog (let me see how long I can talk about myself before someone interrupts).
#4 – Play coy, meek & mild
Why? No one wants to drag a conversation out of someone. It is exhausting. Even if asked a yes or no question be sure to elaborate a bit.
#5 – Push the “hot topic” buttons
Why? There is a time and place for everything. Politics, religion, your stand on legalizing marijuana and your favorite F word have no place at professional networking events.
#6 – Announce “I’M single and ready to mingle!
Why? This is a time to meet other professionals and develop G-Rated relationships that can grow into strong networks and friendships. It is NOT speed dating. Leave the “your place or mine” line at home.
#7 – Be the party animal
Why? While everyone likes a good time and a professional event does not need to be boring, keep in mind everything in moderation. Limit or avoid alcohol (tip: follow each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink), don’t treat the hors d’oeuvres as your only meal of the day (tip: be sure to eat before you arrive (which will also help with alcohol)) and for goodness sake PLEASE refrain from doing the crotch grab on the dance floor – NO ONE wants to see that!!!
Thanks for reading~
Do you struggle to find easy-yet-genuine ways to connect with the people in your network? You’re not alone! Once you find the networking style that works for you, the number of connections you make will grow exponentially. But how can you keep in touch and engaged with that many people? You don’t have to resort to those slimy networking tactics like mass sending “articles of interest” or purposely leaving voicemails to make them “feel” as though you’ve connected.
Here are four easy tips to keep your connections fresh:
1) Comment on their blogs. It’s every bloggers dream to write a post that goes viral and inspires their readers to comment and have a conversation around the topic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen very often for personal bloggers or small businesses. If you have bloggers in your network, bookmark their blog and check on it every few weeks. When you read an article you like, make a comment. Bland “I like your post” comments don’t count! You need to make a contribution to the conversation, even if you’re the first and possibly only comment. Your words may inspire other readers to join the conversation.
2) Retweet them occasionally. As you look through your Twitter stream, you probably find yourself clicking to view articles that interest you or laughing at a funny tweet. But how often do you click that Retweet button? Retweeting their tweet to your own followers is the ultimate compliment. And along with suggestion number one above, you could also tweet out their blog post. Just remember to include their Twitter handle so they know you did it.
3) Like their Facebook Page. Seems small, right? Not so. Every Like is gold to someone trying to build a following on Facebook! Even better, click Like on their posts or make a comment every once in awhile. Engaging fans is hard work, and often it takes one person to get the ball rolling. Help them push the ball.
4) Invite them to an event. If you’re headed out to an event, spread the word! You can coordinate a group or simply let them know you’re going depending on how involved you want to get. It could be a networking event, a paint class, or even a movie in the park.
Do you have any other tips to share? I’d love hear more easy connections tips from you in the comments.
RUN! RUN! RUN!
If I were to ask you what your "gut" tells you when I mention networking I'm fairly certain it would be something along the lines of "I want to run in the other direction." Most people do not want to feel that way however I'm here to tell you that those thoughts are how the majority feel not the minority. You are not alone. Let's use our imagination for a minute. Grab a ruler and place it in front of you. This ruler represents networking. The one end represents "uncomfortable" and the other end represents "fear" or "dread". Where is your gut feeling on this spectrum? If I were a betting woman (which I am) I would say that more than 89% of you have a place on that ruler that represents your feelings. The other 11% do not fall on the ruler. A group will fall on one end and are totally comfortable with networking, actually looking forward to and/or seek out opportunities. Another group are so far off the other end of the spectrum that they liken it to death.
This month, I will be blogging on the points of the ruler and why you may feel that way. We will explore everything from the uncomfortable "but I won't know anyone there" to the "I would rather have root canal performed". Networking; Just Be Yourself blog series – certain to help you feel more comfortable and confident in all types of networking situations.
Hop on over to our Facebook page and let me know where you are on the ruler and why. Thanks for reading….