A Superb Speaker Introduction

Excellent public speaking makes those who have it appear both credible and smart and those who wish to obtain or maintain the appearance of authority and expertise are advised to cultivate the art.  Public speaking not only refers to s/he who makes a featured presentation—keynote speakers, guest lecturers, panelists, moderators, or the toastmaster at a social function—but also includes s/he who introduces a speaker.

An invitation to introduce a speaker is an honor and a vote of confidence and you would be wise to prepare for the occasion.  The introducer bears the responsibility of preparing the audience to respect the speaker and trust his/her information or story line.  If you receive an opportunity to introduce a speaker, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Show that you have the credentials to make the introduction

S/he who introduces a speaker must earn the confidence of the audience.  The leader or some other high-ranking member of the sponsoring organization usually introduces speakers, and earns that confidence by way of the authority vested in his/her position. Alternatively, a VIP speaker may be introduced by a similarly ranked colleague or guest VIP, who earns the confidence of the audience and as well conveys the importance of the speaker.  The guest VIP who introduces the high profile featured speaker will merit his/her own introduction and that will be given by a member of the sponsoring group.

Direct audience attention to the speaker

A speaker introduction is in reality a sales presentation and obtaining audience buy-in for the speaker and topic is your mission.  Your first order of business is to persuade the audience to be fully present in the moment. Typically, audience members are engaged in other activities in the intervening moments between speaker presentations, or as they await for the program to begin.

Some will be in conversation with those nearby, perhaps discussing the previous speaker or the program agenda.  Others will be focused on electronic devices, checking email, sending texts, or posting social media updates.  Your introduction must provide a bridge that transports the audience away from distractions and leads them to the subject of your introduction, the speaker.

A clever way to gain audience attention is to capture their imaginations with a rhetorical question related to the topic.  Consider opening your introduction with “What if…?“, “What is it about…?“,  or “Have you ever wondered how…?” The question will allow you to segue into the topic, which ideally will be perceived as compelling, to validate the audience member’s decision to attend.

Endorse the speaker

Now that you have the audience’s attention and confidence, it’s time to portray the speaker as an expert who is deserving of the audience’s time, attention and money (if admission was paid).  Put them in the mood to hear the talk by saying something like… “I first heard (the speaker) about three years ago, at a reading s/he gave soon after his/her book (title) was published.  I’ve been anticipating the release of this new book (title).” “I’ve heard more than one expert address our topic this afternoon, but I believe that (the speaker) gives the most comprehensive and clear representation of the facts…”

You may in addition give a build-up that precedes the above by listing awards and honors that the speaker has received, if applicable, or reading quotes about the speaker that have appeared in important publications.

Create intrigue and excitement about the topic

Tempt the audience with a smidgen of how the speaker will meet or surpass their expectations for the talk.  Read a sentence or two of an early review of the book that will be discussed.  Describe a useful piece of information that audience members will receive as they listen to the presentation.  Make them know that a worthwhile pay-off awaits.

The introduction

Continue to demonstrate that you make excellent speaker introductions by weaving the sense of anticipation into your actual introduction, perhaps in this way… “Let’s all welcome (the speaker) and let him/her give us the real story about what’s going on.” “Let’s invite (the speaker) to tell us what happens next in the ongoing saga of this character. Please join me and give him/her a warm welcome.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

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Build Your Referral Network With Board Service

Volunteering has for many decades been a way for aspiring socialites, self-made millionaires, traditionally employed professionals climbing the ladder and Freelance consultants looking to meet future clients to expand their networks, build strategic relationships, obtain social credibility, learn new skills and sometimes even support a worthy cause. Volunteering is the best way to do well by doing good and the money you donate is tax-deductible.

The Machiavellian among us may choose an organization that appears to have either the best business networking or most social-climbing potential (or both!), but I recommend that those in search of a good volunteer opportunity start with a review of causes that are important to you.  Some prefer social service agencies, others are inspired by arts organizations and still others gravitate to religious or healthcare institutions. If you’re not sure where to start, try lending your services to your alma mater, your children’s school, or your local Rotary Club.  Rotary Club

Board service is at the top of the volunteer pyramid and not everyone is invited to participate at that level.  However, most not-for-profit organizations plan a big annual fundraising event and extra day-of-event volunteer help is sometimes needed. That could be your opportunity to see a snap shot of the organization, as well as the event committee, up close, in action and celebrating the vision and mission.

Joining a day-of-event subcommittee is often a good place to start your volunteer journey, so that you can meet and work with one or two board members, meet the executive director and learn about the qualifications and possibility of joining the board.  Be advised that many boards come with an expected level of financial support that can stretch into four-figure sums (and beyond).  Visit the organization’s website and speak with the administrative assistant about short-term volunteer opportunities.

There are also corporate boards on which one may serve, but those groups are for the very well-connected and influential.  A path to corporate board service might begin with relationships developed during volunteer board service, but one still must have very formidable professional credentials and superior job titles.  Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you contemplate your role as a volunteer:

Choose the right organization

You will feel much happier donating skills and money to an organization whose mission you strongly support and that should guide your choice.  Your work on the board should be for you a pleasure and a privilege and not a chore.

Be outstanding

Take your commitment to the board or committee seriously if you expect to be taken seriously by the influencers you hope to impress.  Be qualified to do the work.  Make the time to complete your pro bono work on time.  Be enthusiastic, if not passionate, and a good team player.  If you are sufficiently fortunate to be asked to chair a committee, graciously share credit for a job well done with your committee members.

Add value

While your volunteering may have at its core your professional or social agenda, you must nonetheless approach your volunteer service as someone who wants to contribute and make a positive difference.  Keep the organization’s mission and goals in mind, along with your own.  Raise your hand when leadership opportunities present themselves. Demonstrate how your unique skill set brings benefits to the organization.

Be a passionate visionary

As a board member, it will be your responsibility to prepare the organization to realize long-term goals that accurately reflect and enable the vision and mission.  Suggest that strategic planning be done, so that key staff members can join with the board and map out possible strategies for the future.  In any case, bring your creative energy and practical insights to every board meeting.

Be a team player

Make yourself look good and create the conditions wherein your fellow board and committee members will find satisfaction in their board service and find more success for yourself as you do.  Inspire fellow board and committee members to do their best work by modeling that behavior yourself.  Always acknowledge the good work and dedication of others on your committee and the board.

When you follow the guidelines detailed above, you will distinguish yourself as a superior board member who is a real asset to the organization.  Influencers who are in a position to refer those with your specialty will no doubt be eager to refer a colleague whose work they can personally endorse and your Freelance consultancy will reap the rewards.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Fixing Your Epic Fail

You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.   “The Gambler”, written by Don Schlitz and made famous by singer Kenny Rogers

The Horatio Alger story remains the ultimate creation myth of the United States. Start out penniless.  Be clever, ambitious and ready to work very hard.  Recognize opportunities that others ignore.  Have the courage to take risks.  Summon the self-confidence and determination to stay the course in the face of disappointment.  Succeed wildly.  Make millions of dollars.

The most admired American heroes are the success stories, the big money makers. Paul Allen and Bill Gates, college drop-outs who pulled all-nighters to build Microsoft.  Madam C.J. Walker, a widowed young mother and one-time laundress who in 1906 created a hair care product in one of her wash tubs, out-maneuvered endemic sexism and racism, and became America’s first female and first non-white self-made millionaire (her line is now at Sephora).  Madam Builds an Empire

Striving is the template for life in this country.  Never give up.  Just do it.   However, quiet as it’s kept, certain dreams simply will not pan out because they cannot.  Some ventures are ill-conceived.  Some are very good, but the resources to launch them are not available.  For others, the timing is wrong and one either misses the market, or is too far ahead of the curve and prospective customers do not yet have the desire for the product (or service).  In these instances the smartest action is, sadly, to scrap the dream and walk away.  It is so painful, humiliating, even un-American.  Success is our brand and the whole world knows it.

One of the biggest questions we will encounter as we build a life is, when do you hold on tight to your dream and keep pushing forward through rejection and disappointment and continue to invest time, passion and money into an idea that might be doomed (or not) and when do you give up?

Failure, at some point, is inevitable.  It is demoralizing and damaging, if only to the ego.  It undermines self-confidence.  Repeated failure unravels and destroys a life.

According to behavioral psychologist James Clear, who studies and writes about performance and creativity, failure can be classified in three categories:

  1. Failure of tactics
  2. Failure of strategy
  3. Failure of vision

Clear categorizes Failure of Tactics as Stage 1 and identifies it as HOW mistakes are made.  According to Clear, Stage 1 Failure occurs as a result of poor planning, preparation, or execution.  The Vision may be sound and the chosen Stategy reasonable, but operations issues bring it all crashing down.  His remedy for Stage 1 Failure is to:

  • Examine the process of product and service delivery (service packages, sales distribution, quality control and customer service, usually)
  • Identify system failures in the sales process/ buying process as articulated by customers and employees.
  • Adjust systems and practices that impede an efficient and desirable customer experience and employee efficacy and morale

Stage 2 Failure results from a Failure of Strategy and Clear calls these WHAT mistakes. Stage 2 Failure occurs when the chosen strategy is unable to deliver the desired results.  Since there is no way to know in advance which of your presumed reasonable products, services, or proposals will succeed until there is a beta test, Clear recommends that after due diligence has been done, roll it out and monitor the progress.  His remedy for Stage 2 Failure is:

  • Launch the beta test quickly
  • Do it cheaply
  • Revise rapidly

Throw it up against the wall and see what sticks. If your strategy isn’t doing the job, have Plan B ready and give your concept another try.  Keep costs low to minimize the financial strain of do-overs.  Ideas are meant to be tested, it’s all about trail and error.

Failure of Vision constitutes Stage 3 Failure and it reveals the most basic reasons of WHY the plan failed. In this scenario, the purpose for taking the action was poorly understood.  Was there no measurement of demand for the product, service, or action taken? Did you overestimate access to target customers? Did you not acknowledge that you’d rather not commit the time and money necessary to build the business or carry out the initiative?

Some of us fail because we get pressured into taking certain actions by those whose motive is to continue a tradition or to exert control.  In these scenarios,  actions are taken to follow the expectations of others, rather than one’s own priorities and preferences.

For example, the brother of a good friend, because he was the only son, was expected to take over his father’s highly successful business.  But according to my friend, her brother was not cut out to run a large and complex business.  He lacked the necessary drive. Unsurprisingly, her brother eventually crashed the business.  Their father spent more than a million dollars trying to bail out his son, but the business went bankrupt.

If you’ve done your homework and can be reasonably confident that your vision is sound and you’re willing to invest your time and money testing Stage 2 issues (launch strategy) and perfecting any Stage 1 challenges (operational glitches), then ignore those who would dissuade you to abandon your vision.  Maybe you’ll never be wildly successful, but if you feel compelled to do what you can to realize your dream, then carry on! Avoid Stage 3 Failure in this way:

  • Determine your priorities and purpose and be clear about what you’re willing to do to make it a reality
  • Identify and stand by those parts of your dream that are non-negotiable
  • Accept that there may be naysayers

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Those Who Can, Teach

What’s a proven way for Freelance consulting service providers to demonstrate expertise, distinguish yourself from the many “me, too” competitors; position yourself as a thought leader; and work against being perceived as a commodity? Teaching! The old proverb, “Those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” doesn’t hold up in the 21st century marketplace.

Teaching is the smartest-ever marketing activity.  You get paid to do it, so along with being an effective marketing activity, teaching simultaneously benefits your cash-flow.  If that’s not enough, through teaching you will become a better speaker and better able to promote yourself as a keynote or a panel moderator.  In horse racing, they call that a trifecta!

First, let’s consider what you might teach.  Ideally,  you’ll teach a subject related to your business.  Artists since Michelangelo (at least) have taught art classes.  Authors of best-selling books are usually able to join a university faculty, where they earn steady money teaching creative writing classes.  Prize-winning journalists often teach journalism at colleges and universities, which is a superb addition to their CV.

In 2006,  I created five 90 minute sales skills workshops that I presented at an adult learning center (the nation’s oldest adult learning center, BTW) and two years after that, based on my teaching experience and curriculum development skills,  I was invited to teach an 18 week business plan writing course at a Small Business Association-affiliated women’s business development center.

When that assignment ended two years later, I developed a six-hour business plan writing workshop that I continue to present two or three times a year at the adult learning center where my teaching career began.  I’ve also developed a 90 minute networking skills workshop and a six-hour strategic planning how-to workshop that are occasionally presented.

Second, you may need to acquire or improve your teaching skills.  My recommendation is that you learn both curriculum development and gain or improve your teaching skills by writing a proposal to teach some aspect of your professional expertise at an adult learning center, library, or some other organization that offers workshops to the public for free or at a modest cost.  The proposals I’ve written for workshops became my lesson plans.

Third, identify a place to teach.  As noted, adult learning centers and libraries are good possibilities.  Explore the requirements of teaching and peruse the types of courses that are scheduled.  Read the instructor bios—I’ll bet most are Freelancers.  If you’ve earned a master’s degree and you have a minimum of five years of teaching experience, you may be able to teach at a local university.  Adjunct (that is, part-time, non-tenure track) teaching is great if you can get it,  but the market has become quite competitive.  I’ve taught a couple of semesters at a special seminar series, but I’ve been unable to secure any more adjunct work in the past five years, I’m sorry to say.

Once you’ve developed a workshop and learned how to successfully present it,  consider taking it online in a YouTube video.  E-learning is a growing field and becoming proficient in presenting an online course is to your benefit.  Schools are transferring ever more courses to an online format and if you have the know-how, you will be a more attractive candidate for those disappearing adjunct opportunities.

Web developers are able to teach students how to build a website.  Freelance bookkeepers can teach other Freelancers how to use Quickbooks.  Marketers can teach the basics of social media marketing.  Landscape artists can teach homeowners how to choose shrubbery and flowering plants for their yards,  or how to create and maintain a window box filled with lovely plants.  Developing proficiency in the ancient and noble art of teaching delivers numerous tangible and intangible benefits to Freelancers and their students.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

 

Vive la Difference: Coaches and Consultants

Freelance professionals are external consultants who bring agile talent to mission-critical special projects at thousands of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations throughout the world.  Freelance consultants play an increasing role in many organizations, providing vital ad hoc staffing as full-time work forces contract.  We are highly effective,  reliable and adaptable.  We work alone, usually from a home office, and that keeps our operating expenses low and our billable rates affordable.

We are disciplined self-starters who treasure our independence, but there is a downside. Every once in a while, it would be helpful to have team members in the office with us.  We have no one readily available to duck out and have a quick cup of coffee with, no one to help parse a tricky question or lend a sympathetic ear when we hit a rough patch.  We most likely have a support system of colleagues and friends,  but they are not on site and may not have the wherewithal to help us address some of our most important questions.

As a result, many Freelancers consult with a professional to help sort through the array of challenges and decisions that we all eventually face.  Working with the right coach or consultant can bring many benefits to one’s business or personal life.  You may feel the need to receive some expert guidance, but wonder which type of specialist you should hire?

Follow the wisdom of the late management guru Peter Drucker and ask (yourself) questions that will reveal the right answer. Before you call in a specialist, clarify your desires or dilemmas, at least superficially.

For example, you may have a time management problem that results in a work overload that undermines your ability to have a social life.  Your task is to determine its source.  Might you need to hire a bookkeeper to compile the monthly financials, or an administrative assistant to do your billing, or some other professional to take certain tasks off your plate? To resolve business matters,  a business consultant is the go-to person.

If your time management problem results from your inability to set boundaries and understand that you cannot say yes to everyone, which then results in a work overload that undermines your ability to have a social life, then it will be useful to see a business coach to help you to identify priorities and establish boundaries.

Let’s take a look at the focus of each specialty. A business coach will:

  • Help you to enhance competencies you already have and help to bring out the best in you.
  • Help you to identify your passions, acknowledge what motivates you and then brainstorm with you to discover avenues for their expression.
  • Acknowledge and remedy a fear of success, fear of failure, or self-sabotage that you may fall victim to.
  • Provide encouragement and accountability to ensure follow-through of the action plan that the two of you develop.

OUTCOME: An action plan that addresses business and personal development goals and strategies.

A business consultant will:

  • Work with you to assess business strengths and weaknesses and evaluate its preparedness to take advantage of opportunities and overcome obstacles.
  • Improve the viability of the business and position it for growth, scalability and sustainability.  Operational efficiencies, strategy development, the business model, customer acquisition and retention, packaging of services, strategic partnership possibilities, the marketing message, niche market development, pricing, technology needs, staffing and customer service protocols are among the areas that will be examined and evaluated.
  • Work  with you to set reasonable short and long-term goals and objectives for the business, devise strategies and create action plans and time tables to ensure that strategies are implemented.  Follow-up and further consulting services to support and enable your plans can be arranged.

OUTCOME: SMART goals for your business and a way to make them happen.

So which do you need? A coach is like a partner and a consultant is like an adviser. If working on aspects of your personal life, that is if behaviors are the issue, then a business coach may be the better choice, at least initially.  But if you would like to grow and optimize your business , then a business consultant is the way to get the best results.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

Getting and Giving Advice: Tact

In my March 1 post, I introduced the matter of giving and receiving advice and I let readers know that over the next few months I would explore different aspects of this important and sensitive topic. Here is the link to that post, if you’d like the reference.

https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/getting-and-giving-advice-skill-set/

When offering advice to someone, especially if it is unsolicited, tact is an essential ingredient.  In today’s bombastic communications environment that is dominated by “reality”shows,  current events infotainment-style “news” shows and even presidential debates that not infrequently de-volve into scream fests, it appears that the use and value of tact have been greatly diminished.  Name-calling is in vogue, I’m sorry to say.

Tact comes easily for some but for most of us, tact requires first an awareness of its need, followed by lots of practice in its implementation.  When a difficult conversation must take place,  when in a negotiation, or even when relaxing and chatting with friends or family, tact is a useful skill. Tact adds subtlety and sophistication to your speaking style and makes you look more professional and competent.  Furthermore,  there will be no good relationships built without it, business or personal.

Being direct in one’s expression is also a useful skill,  but the ability to deliver a blunt opinion well is real talent. There is a right way to tell the outrageous truth.  The essence of tact is keeping one’s emotions in check, so that the impulse to blurt out hurtful (or semi-incoherent) statements will be curbed.  Consider keeping the following suggestions in mind as you work to incorporate the nuances of tact into your communications portfolio.

THINK FIRST

Especially in a conversation that seems to have the potential to become heated, pause, so that you can listen to what is being said by the other party and give yourself time to organize your thoughts and choose your words carefully.  By any means necessary, avoid attacks,  threats,  arm-twisting,  sarcasm,  accusations and disrespect.  You may be unhappy with what the other person has said or done,  but aim to express your displeasure in a polite and yet no-nonsense manner.  This approach is not to be confused with backing down.

SOFTEN NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

When you must address the stressful matter of unmet expectations or poor results,  the tactful approach is the best way to get you and the other person on the road to effecting a satisfactory solution.

First, search for a way to include a positive observation about the outcome. Next, discuss what came up short.  Be diplomatic with your criticism—it may be that you did not clearly communicate your request and thus caused the other person to misunderstand.  Make the conversation a teachable moment for both of you.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

It may not be possible to know in advance the best time to wade into a sensitive subject. If you attempt to force a discussion at an inconvenient time,  your message will not be well received and if your manner of approach reeks of entitlement,  you could damage the relationship.

Always ask if it’s a good time to talk.  If it appears that the other person can focus on choosing another time,  then ask to do so.  But if that person appears to be overwhelmed,  back off and revisit the subject at another date.  Respect for boundaries  is another cornerstone of tact and tact is good business.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Negotiating 2.0: Taming Hardball Tactics

Freelance consultants are always the little guy.  We possess agile talent and experience that bring value-added to so many mission-critical projects,  but we never control the process.  We value our savvy and survival skills,  but we are alone and vulnerable, truth be told. We navigate and negotiate our way through work assignments and do whatever we can to obtain billable hours.

As we enter into negotiations in pursuit of contract assignments,  prospective clients will sometimes seek to take advantage of us. Passive aggressive withholding is the usual weapon. Prospects are known to play ugly games,  sometimes to bargain down our already quite reasonable fee,  other times to sneak more work into the agreed-upon scope of  project work (mission creep) without paying a supplement for the extra duties.

Negotiation skills are a crucial defensive mechanism that help us to protect our integrity and our income and maintain good client relations as we do. Deepak Malhotra, author of Negotiating the Impossible (2016) and professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, has a few suggestions that will help us to respond when a prospect or client decides to become an adversary.

Tactic:  “We will never…”

This is an ultimatum. Malhotra recommends that one should simply ignore ultimatums because he’s found that they are usually NOT deal breakers. Ultimatums are frequently issued in the heat of emotion, or as a tactic to intimidate or control.

Avoid acknowledging the ultimatum and you allow the person who put it out there to slide away from it down the road,  because you never started a discussion about it. The other party will not lose face should they contemplate surrendering their tough position.

If ignoring the ultimatum is impossible, then try to reframe the statement in less harsh language that gives the other party an out. “It may be difficult,  I understand…” or “It could be costly (or time consuming or put you into unfamiliar territory)…”.

Tactic “Oh, and we also will want…”

The other party may have a laundry list of add-ons and conditions that delay agreement. Malhotra observes that there are a couple of likely motivations for this behavior. One, they sense that doing the deal is important to you and they aim to exploit that.  Alternatively, the conditions might possibly be meaningful to them in terms of obtaining satisfactory ROI.

Malhotra recommends that you put a cap on the demands by stating that if something is truly important,  you would like to understand why and that you will work with them to accommodate any legitimate concerns or objectives. However, you are not willing to negotiate an individual element so late in the negotiation process.

If adjustments are critical, he says, then tactfully make it known that it will be necessary to propose and discuss concessions that they would be willing to make in exchange. The other party must be willing to give some easement and flexibility on issues of value to you as well.

Tactic “Great– I’ll confirm this with my boss.”

Malhotra advises that first of all, make sure you are negotiating with the person who can really approve and set into motion the terms of the negotiated agreement. Sometimes, unfortunately, the other party will not be transparent.  Negotiations can be handed off to a gatekeeper while the real authority remains behind the scenes.

To head off this possibility,  ask clarifying questions of the other party  before you get too far along into the negotiations.  Inquire about who will need to sign off on or otherwise sanction the deal that is struck. Ask what factors might speed up or slow down the process. Learning the process of the one across the table shows you are someone who respects the organization and allows you to set expectations for the outcome you can achieve. Do you want to invest time talking to these people, or should you walk away and find a potentially better prospect?

Thanks for reading

Kim

Getting and Giving Advice: Skill Set

In the Peanuts comic strip, the character Lucy would regularly set up a mobile office with a sign that read “Advice 5 cents.” Asking for and being asked for advice is an integral part of our personal and professional lives. It is surprising that we do not assign a higher value to the process or train ourselves in its nuances.

Giving useful and timely recommendations and advice are the essence of coaching, consulting, leadership, management and parenting.  There are right ways and wrong ways to deliver even positive reviews, let alone the evidence of gaps or missteps.  Spending some time learning about the process of giving and getting advice is an important element of leadership development.

Over the next few weeks,  I’d like to explore different aspects of the exchange.The whole business of advice is potentially fraught.  Offering unsolicited advice can cause others to see one as controlling or a busy-body.  Feelings can be hurt, people can feel threatened or violated.  Offering advice or an opinion  even when asked can also lead to an unfortunate outcome, because the asker may be looking not for an expert or unbiased opinion or guidance, but rather validation.  Certainly we’ve all experienced the uncomfortable feeling when the advice seeker turns blatantly testy because the desired response was not given.

Keep in mind that well-honed listening skills are essential when one takes on an advisory role.  Attention must be paid to the question posed and what may motivate or be at stake for the asker.  Diplomacy, self-control,  discretion and emotional intelligence are likewise required attributes and behaviors.  Ego gratification, a need for control, or other self-serving behaviors have no place in the process.  Self-awareness is part of the equation and humility as well, because if one is not qualified to give advice or guidance on a given matter, that must be communicated.

Respecting bounadaries is key.  The terrain of unsolicited advice is usually best avoided—but the concept presents an ethical dilemma when we witness someone we know and care about slide into near-certain disaster born of poor judgment or timing.

Finally, determining the type of solution one would be wise to recommend to the asker, as well as the amount of follow-up and other post-request involvement should be taken on,  calls for good judgment and strategic thinking.  How can you be fair to both the asker and yourself?

The next time you seek or are sought out for advice, keep what’s been mentioned here in mind and stay tuned for more discussion.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

 

 

Before You Make New Year’s Resolutions…

This week,  we’ll  continue the quest of getting you ready for the New Year. Regular readers will recall that last week’s post gave an overview of the benefits of physical exercise.  Those readers are now completely convinced that working out on a regular basis will not only improve their health, strength and endurance,  but will also make them smarter,  more disciplined,  more resourceful and creative and  (most importantly!) better looking.  You’ll perhaps need to know how to kick-start your work out routine and so we will take a look at that old cliche, New Year’s resolutions.

In a study by John Norcross, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton (PA) and author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions  (2012),  45 % of Americans usually make resolutions to put themselves on the right track in the New Year and 38 % never make such resolutions.

Norcross discovered that of those who make at least one New Year’s resolution,  8 % achieve their goal and 46 % continue with their resolution for six months or more.  He concluded that people who make New Year’s resolutions (or other types) are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who do not explicitly make resolutions.

So how do you get yourself into the victorious 8 %? Basically,  you need to pick the right resolutions to pursue and give yourself the tools to achieve them.  The question to ask yourself is,  why do I want to do this?

Change brings one outside of the comfort zone,  so strive to make only those changes that seem to be right for you and do not aim to make changes based on what others feel you should do.  Unless you’ve been failing to meet obligations,  the expectations of others cannot rule your resolutions.  They must be meaningful to you and that will motivate you to work hard and attain them.

Second,  put yourself on the road to success by making SMART resolutions: Specific,  Measurable,  Attainable,  Relevant and Time-bound.  SMART resolutions will be easy and gratifying to track.  Establish target date milestones,  that is interim victories,  and give yourself a small yet meaningful reward each time you reach one.  Milestones are motivators.

Before you jump into taking on your resolutions,  it will be useful to devise an action plan.  How will you bring about these changes? What will be the processes and steps involved?  Map it out and include projected interim victory dates and decide the rewards that you’ll attach to each.

To enact an especially ambitious resolution,  or series of resolutions,  may require a support system,  if for no other reason than to make  you accountable for achieving them.  You may want to enlist a mentor or friend to act as a coach and motivator to give you encouragement and/or advice along the way.

If working out is your resolution and you can afford to hire a personal trainer for individual or (less expensive) small group training,  that will effectively keep you on track,  provide an exercise regimen that will serve as the heart of your action plan and make it easy to identify reasonable milestones.

Whatever you decide to do,  or not do,  about potential New Year’s resolutions,  the upcoming New Year is the traditional time (along with your birthday) to hit the re-set button on life by making some beneficial changes.  Why not review the past year and decide what could be better and what is within your ability to improve? Your resolutions need not be earth-shattering.  The chance of joining the 8% winner’s circle will be greatly improved when you resolve to make small-scale changes that will nevertheless have a noticeable positive impact on your life.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

A Fail-Safe Christmas Party Strategy

Christmas party season is here, bringing Freelancers and business owners opportunities to become their own Santa Claus and put some new clients under the tree.  Christmas is the time to pick up the thread with clients past,  nurture relationships with clients of the present and meet clients you’d like to add to your roster in the near future. To make that happen,  you know that you’ll need a game plan.

First,  go to your parties alone.  Under no circumstances do you need to drag someone along with you, unless that person is required to get you into a party where you can expect to meet prospective clients,  or that person promises to introduce you to a good prospect while there.  Even that arrangement can be risky— a few years ago I was invited to what should have been a networking bonanza for me,  except that my friend wound up getting very drunk and even worse,  he reneged on bringing me into a post-party meeting with someone who could have been very helpful to me.

Second,  confirm the dress code.  A weekend party held after 6:00 PM will imply fancier dress and maybe even black-tie optional.  If you are the  +1 (guest),  ask your contact to send you the invitation.  If s/he does not do so,  then call the party organizer and inquire.  You do not want to show up improperly dressed,  even if your contact claims not to care about such things.

Men should wear a jacket,  even if a suit is not required.  Women should avoid too-short or too-tight clothing and revealing necklines.  Jeans or leather pants are out of the question for either sex,  unless your host is in the arts or tech.

Third,  ask who is on the guest list,  if you can do so casually and diplomatically.  Present your request as a way to find out if you’ll know others in the room.

Fourth,  polish up your short-form elevator pitch and think about how you might approach guests that you’d like to meet or reconnect with.  You may want to Google a name and find out what that person has been doing,  so you’ll know what to “spontaneously” bring up.

However,  be mindful that pushing business topics will be a turn-off,  unless the other person raises an issue.  Focus instead on scheduling post-party follow-up with selected people who would like to know more about your products and services.

While at the party,  greet and thank your hosts straight away,  before you visit the bar or buffet.  After that relax,  mix and mingle.  Brainstorm some friendly ice-breakers that will open the door to conversation (“How do you know [the hosts]?”)  Eating and drinking are party highlights,  but take it easy with the drinking.  I recommend that you have not more than one drink and then switch to a non-alcoholic beverage.  You must be sober to successfully work your networking agenda.

Moreover,  you’ll also need to master the drink and hors d’oeuvres plate juggle.  Hold your drink in your left hand,  so that you can shake hands easily and not give a cold,  damp greeting.  Likewise,  eat your hors d’oeuvres with the left hand,  so you don’t offer a sticky handshake.

Finally,  pay attention to the ebb and flow of guests.  Unless you’re in a serious conversation  when their number begins to fade,  find your hosts,  thank them for the invitation and take your leave.  There is an optimum time to arrive  at and leave a party.  Arriving 15- 20 minutes after the start time is usually good.  The next day,  send a quick email to thank the host once more.  After all,  a good party is a wonderful thing and you want to get invited back next year!

Thanks for reading,

Kim