Archive for category Professional Networking

How is Your Social Capital?

The way we do business or even think about business has changed. You have a budget and financial plan, a task list, a project plan, a diet plan, no matter what your goal is and the plan associated to do it, the main question you have to ask yourself today is: “WHAT IS YOUR PEOPLE PLAN?” In today’s competitive market, products out there are the same, people come up with new product everyday, what makes the difference is who you or your company is affiliate to, associate to, volunteer with, partner with. Yes, that’s true for business, and it’s true for your personal branding as well. It’s true also for your personal goal whether it’s to find a significant other, someone to go and practice with…The one million dollar question is WHO DO YO”U KNOW?

Yesterday I was on Skype with a great friend of mine who just got an executive position at a bank in London and we were doing some catch up because we didn’t the time to really talk last time at my wedding. As we were talking and I told him about the new products my company Act2be International, LLC was getting ready to launch in Africa he started telling me about some of his close relatives who have executive positions in the government and major banks in countries like Gabon, Cameroon, and Central African Republic. He started giving me some names and we dug in the feasibility of the connection.

Here are some tips to start investing on your social capital:

  • Define your goal and have a clear knowledge of what you need from people.
  • Go over your cell phone and mailing list and start writing the names of people of your network.
  • Rate those from 1 to 5 stars which represents how strong your relationship to the person is.
  • Start sending a nudge to the person and request a catch up meeting either on phone, Skype, chat, at dinner…
  • Ask yourself how you can help the person. What valuable service can you provide to the person? Why would that person connect or reconnect with you?
  • Follow up and keep in touch with the person (birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…)
  • Don’t forget so say PLEASE and THANK YOU for each service to everyone, no matter how important is the service and no matter what the person social rank is.

I strongly believe everyone first job today should be to work oneself by developing a personal brand, by understanding what make you unique, by having something of value to offer to others, and by developing and investing in the people on your network: your social capital.

 

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How I Strongly Connected With a Star In Just 2 minutes

I attended the Toastmasters International District 31 conference few weeks ago and met the 2002 World champion of public speaking, the “natural born” speaker Dwayne G Smith.

Of course at this kind of event you may not be sitting next to such a star of the public speaking industry if you are not part of the key people who put the event together, but at breakout sessions you can always approach them, and discuss with them. But well, would discussing with them be enough to strongly connect with them? Probably not for the main reason that just like you, everyone else present at the event would love to connect with the star. So you face the challenge that the star won’t probably have too much time for you and second with all the person he’ll be talking with that day, he probably won’t remember your face. So how did I manage a strong connection with someone who was at the centerpiece of an event in just 2 minutes?

  • First, I started with a praise. Sincerely praising others is the 1-2 steps of building strong relationships. Dale Carnegie said if you want to win friends and influence people you have to show genuine
    Max and Dwayne G. Smith

    Max and Dwayne G. Smith

    interest and praise. In my case, I knew I wanted to connect with Dwayne G. Smith so the first thing I did was to attend to his workshop. Dwayne was lighting the room full of people on his topic entitled “The Seven Steps To Speaking Success” After the workshop, I went to him and presented my simple but powerful THANK YOU. Yes, I didn’t have to but to connect I first had to give my feedback for the great presentations he offered the people at the workshop.

  • Second, I asked for a favor. Well of course when you see a star or person you respect and kind of see as your role model, then you definitely reach out for your camera and try to have a picture with him. Now think about it….when you take a picture of you camera did you really connect with the person? Will you be able to make a follow up? Probably not. I went the other way around. I didn’t have my camera so I asked him if he had one. He said yes, so I told him that I’d love to get a picture with him, but then I had a favor to ask him. I said:”I don’t have my picture and would cherish to take a picture of you. Would you mind giving your camera to someone so he can take us a picture and then you email that picture back to me?” He said yes! Took the picture and gave me his business card in return.
  • Finally, I followed up. After the week-end, I sent him an email describing who I was, where we met, and why he gave me his business card. Do you still have the picture? I was asking in the email. Guess what happened? He emailed back, sent me the picture along with his contact information and then I asked for a phone meeting request which he accepted. We spent about 45 minutes on the phone and he was giving me private lessons on how to enter the speaking business and be successful. Of course, at the end of the phone conversation I asked if he’d mind me giving him a call if I need some help or advice and of course he said he doesn’t mind because of the already established strong connection.

Dwayne G Smith is World Champion of Public Speaking (2002) Author of A World Of Difference: From Shy and Quiet, To World Champion Speaker

Try this technique and let me know how it worked for you.

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Tips and Topics on Starting a Conversation And Establish Report With Any New Contact or Prospect

Don't know what to say?

Charlie Cook said it right: whether you are in the elevator or on the phone, the way you start the conversation will determine whether or not it will continue. So many times we face the uncomfortable situation of meeting with a recently established contact and we just don’t know what to say. In fact, opening a conversation requires a set of skills if you want to leave an everlasting impression that will make the other one eager to come to you every time he/she  will meet you.

Tips to excel in starting a conversation and in establishing report with any  newly established contact or prospect:
  • Start with a joke/humor – By making humors, you show that you are open-minded, you have a positive attitude, that you do not feel depressed, and very important, you send the message that the person will feel great around you and will have fun. Yet, of course, because of the cultural differences, you might want to choose carefully what jokes to give. For having traveled and lived around lot of different cultures, I found out that what is funny for Africans might not be that funny for Europeans; and what is funny for Europeans might not be funny for Americans. Also, avoid any racial or other social jokes.  Do not make fun of your new contact unless you feel like he won’t take it against you. Good jokes to get started are when you make fun of you.
  • Give a sincere praise – People love to be flattered. People love it when you show respect to their self-esteem. People love it when you show that you care.
    About two weeks ago, I was having diner with two friends of mine over in Baltimore, MD at a Greek restaurant.  As we were waiting to be seated, I noticed the very expensive watch the restaurant owner was wearing and as soon as I got the opportunity, I told him how much I love the design and style of his watch and asked him where he got it from. He loved that attention and praise and during the whole 1 hour diner time we had with my friends, we had the best service and the best attention in return from the restaurant. As we were leaving, the restaurant owner came for special thanks and asked for what we do for leaving. There was a new connection starting.
  • Make a considerable remark/meaningful greetings – So many times we come to greet people by just pressing on the play button of our recorded mindset that do not reflect how we actually are or feel at the moment. People will ask you: “HOW ARE YOU?” and you’ll go: “FINE THANKS! ” even if you feel horrible. Making a considerable remark means observing the person and giving the person a feedback of how he reflects to feel like: “you look like you are going to a company meeting”, “You look like you just got a job promotion”. That kind of greeting will definitely invite or push the person to tell what is really going on at the moment: “Oh yeah! I have so much going on right now!”, “Oh it’s not work related, it’s my wife who made a wonderful surprise.”
  • Do the happy face – Don’t walk with a pity face on you and expect to have people willing to talk with you, be smiling. Smile and enthusiasm opens doors and are contagious. People love that and love to be surrounded of that kind of people.
  • Have a respectable body language and position – Whether you are making a joke, giving a meaningful greeting or a praise, the way you position yourself, wherever you are, and your body language, tell a lot about how educated you are and therefore can help the person to engaged in a conversation with you.

Now let’s talk a bout the topics to talk about with anyone. When your relationship to someone is not yet secured and you can’t afford just talking about everything by fear of hurting the person or by fear of saying something that will be taken against you, you have to watch out about what topics to pick up when starting a conversation and breaking the ice. This selection of topics I am getting ready to give you are petty helpful for situations where you are invited to a dinner or any other social event and you know no one or barely know them. Also, when you invite someone at your place or at a diner but you have no strong relationship with the person.

WARNING!!!! This is  not supposed to be an interview. So as you surf and pick up the topics, make sure it looks more like a conversation that all the parties enjoy having and that give the opportunity to everyone to share his own story.

Topics on starting a conversation and establish report with any newly established contact:

  • Are you from here originally? / How long have you been working for that company? –  As you are establishing report with someone, you want to make sure you first show genuine interest to the person by getting to know where the person comes from. In general, people would start telling you everything about the places the lived in before moving where they live now.
  • What social activity interest you the most? – The point behind this question is to see what you have in common with the person. The more you have in common, the stronger will be your relationships to the person, and the more the two of you will be willing to do things together.
  • Do you play any sport? / Do you you follow up with sport? Which team you go for? – Men are usually the best gender to ask that kind of question to.
  • Where is the best place to go and eat here? / What are the different types of foods you ever tried?
  • Did you watch that movie???
  • Where is the best place you ever had to visit?
  • If you feel like the connection on the right track you can go the extra-mile and start topics such as who is the person who influenced you the most, or what is that you like about your job, or what would be your dream job.

Again, just like Charlie Cook said: whether you are in the elevator or on the phone, at the office or at a party, the way you start the conversation will determine whether or not it will continue. A well started conversation can open doors to a lifelong relationship.

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