Thursday, March 31, 2011

networking; a breeze for the "new kid"

When I was growing up we moved 15 times in 16 years, and no my father was not in the military. (it's a long boring story.) We lived in 7 different states. Twice we moved in the middle of a school year. Once we moved while I was at camp; I left for camp from our house in Pittsburgh and came "home" to a house in Birmingham Michigan.
You might think all that moving was a burden; it certainly was to our mother, who bore it all with calm and grace. For us, it was normal and,to us, exciting. As my mom unpacked moving boxes she would send me and my younger sister and brother out into the neighborhood to find kids our age to play with. I was the spokesperson, but all three of us became adept at meeting and getting to know people, over and over and over.
Flash forward a few (ahem) decades, and the three of us are grown (double ahem) and in the business world. For us, networking is alot like being the new kid. We are accustomed to walking into a room full of people we don't know. We learned very early on the importance of observing, asking questions, really listening to the answers, getting to know just a few people at first, and then building out from there.
In many ways, people are people be they 5 or 45. We all feel a little intimidated being the "new kid". But if we allow ourselves we can feel the excitement of meeting and forming relationships with new people; hearing their stories and learning about their lives. Letting them know about us and sharing our experiences.
One thing the three of us knew; friendships didn't happen overnight. They took time and energy, and lots and lots of paying attention. The same is true of successful networking. The good news is, now the three of us (although spread out over the country) have stayed put. As adults we've had the great gift of creating and nurturing relationships that will last a lifetime. Although, as eager networkers, we still get that "new kid" experience again and again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the beauty of the 180 degree turn

One of my "bespeakisms" is "Turn your focus 180 degrees." By this I mean to urge you, the presenter, to focus on the audience rather than on yourself. Over the years I've found that in addition to being beneficial to the audience, it also greatly benefits the presenter; particularly the nervous presenter.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to help a client improve her facilitation skills. As we talked over the phone and met in person she described her excruciating preoccupation with herself, her mannerisms, her eye contact (or lack thereof) and her overwhelming feeling of being, well, overwhelmed while facilitating a workshop. This kind of confession is at once heartbreaking and heartening to me; heartbreaking because I hate to see and hear people experiencing that kind of thing, and heartening because I knew I could help.

The first thing I did was to assure her that facilitating a workshop takes practice and skill. It is not something any of us are born knowing how to do. The next thing we did was to talk about her audience, who they were and, more importantly, what they were feeling about the workshop.
As we talked, it became clear that as scared as she was, her attendees were coming to this workshop even more scared. They were about to learn the results of surveys given to their teams, their peers, and their supervisors. It would be my client's job to create a safe, reassuring atmosphere right off the bat, so that the attendees could not only know how to interpret these results, but begin thinking of how they would use it to create action plans for themselves.

Once she realized what her audience was feeling, she stopped thinking about herself. Eye contact became a necessity, something she understood the importance of and worked hard to practice. Her empathy and care about her attendees completely overtook her thoughts of herself and in the short time we spent together she became a sincere, commanding facilitator.

 Her supervisor wrote me that she'd "got her mojo back". Interestingly, it snuck up on her when she wasn't looking. She was too busy focusing on her audience; a focus turned 180 degrees.