Making Connections: How to Effectively Network

Making Connections: How to Effectively Network

The first step in successful networking is identifying what you want in a connection; relationships take energy and you have to be willing to put in the effort into the connections which will make a difference. Be sure to spend some time and physically write down the goals you for the connection, this will ensure you get results. In most cases, the connections we want are business oriented. We want sales leads, future employers, potential employees, technical ideas, or simply credentials that come from belonging to the “right club”.

The best way to make connections in the modern business world is to have a professional social media presence, i.e. LinkedIn, Ladders, etc. This is a pre-requisite, as anyone you might start to connect with will use these to check you out at some point in the relationship formation process. Notice that this is necessary, but not sufficient alone to establish a strong network. Physical presence is almost always required to start a relationship. You have to go to where the right connections go, talk the talk and walk the walk. You will find that many groups are welcoming to new members, as long as you have shown the initiative to find them. Social and service organizations have traditionally been the best places to meet local business and political leaders. Beware, you may also be meeting nothing but salesmen eager to network with you. Another idea for find groups: look online at places like Meetup.com. These websites are especially useful for connection with specific populations interested in a well-defined topic. If you do not find one convenient to you, then start one in your area!

That is the easy part; you now know where to find and meet contacts who could be good connections and you are ready to start networking. What next? The first step to prepare yourself is to dress appropriately for the group. In some cases, this means: a dark suit, white shirt, power tie and other times it means jeans and a clean t-shirt. Always dress based on what you think the contact would be comfortable wearing themselves. Do not forget to bring a stack of business cards with you; in addition to giving them to a potential connection, they are good notepaper. Bring a pen and an extra one in case someone else needs to borrow yours.

Networking is all about establishing a relationship. The best way to do that is by paying attention to the other person and asking questions that give them the opportunity to speak; basically, show interest in them! At a first meeting, your objective is simply to get to know them. If they have a business card, take it and use it to make notes about them and their situation while they talk. Practice your own short introduction about who you are, make it short and then turn the conversation back to them. After your first meeting, you need to decide whether the person meets the criteria for a good connection. If they pass, then send them a note, and email is fine at this point, expressing your interest in what they were talking about and try to ask a question. The follow up is critical as it cements the start of a network relationship.

The next step in the networking process is to schedule a coffee or a lunch. You should have plenty to talk about due to the email correspondence. By the time the next meeting of your group occurs, you have established at least one contact in your network. Remember to maintain your network with a monthly email and contact at the group event. Follow these steps and you will be a professional at making business connections and expanding your network.

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Tips and Tricks for Noteworthy Presentations

Tips and Tricks for Noteworthy Presentations

There are many companies that teach seminars and even college credit classes focused on the topic of creating a noteworthy presentation. For those of you who are still looking to improve, here are ten steps which, if followed, will get you 80% of the way to outstanding presentation skills. As a bonus, here is how to get started: close that blank PowerPoint presentation that you had opened because you need to think first.

  1. Know what results you actually want from the presentation- Be honest! If all you want is to impress the audience with your vocabulary, knowledge, and wit, then admit it. Usually, the desired outcome is an action you want the audience to perform: closing a sale, making a correction in business tactics, or perhaps going in a new strategic direction. Think carefully about what you want your audience to do! This is your win for the presentation. Now, write your goal down on a stick note and put it on the wall in front of your face. It is far too easy to forget the main purpose when you get deep into putting the actual presentation together. Make it so visible that every time you look up from the keyboard, you will see your note.
  2. Define the audience members- Who are they? What is their role? Are they supporters? Are they skeptics? Decision makers? Influencers? Vetoers? What is their age, intellectual, and cultural background? The more you can know about them, the better chance you have of getting the results of Step 1. Write down anything you know in a list. Hint: skipping the part about writing this down will guarantee that you will not convince them. It is a mental trick on yourself, so use it!
  3. Take the list and write in one sentence why they care- Are they concerned? Do they want something? Are they scared of something? You are defining the wins and losses for the audience, and to be successful you need to address each of these items. Note: “so they will understand” is not a reason for your audience to attend the presentation. They want or are worried about something.
  4. Presentation logistics- You need to write this down as well; consider whether this will be an in-person or electronic communication. Will the audience be able to see a visual presentation, or will it be solely audio? What time of day/week will it take place> Are they going to be at a biorhythm high or low? What are the cultural considerations? How long do you have for the presentation?
  5. List three points you intend to make- This means only three points. People do not remember or even notice anything over three major points, but they also may actually get insulted and feel their time was wasted when only one point is made. This is not an easy step because you have to address all the concerns listed in Step three while still requesting the result of Step 1.
  6. Write the conclusion first- This goes back to Step 1 because people tend to remember the last, most important, and first things they head in a presentation, in that order. Make sure the last thing they hear or see is the very best. This should include all three of your points and a request for your win from Step 1. Please do not end with a question and answer session! This is a guaranteed way to ensure the presentation is less memorable than the odd unanticipated question which inevitably comes up. If you must do a Q&A session, then give your conclusion after that time.
  7. Define a few example stories for the three points- This means only for the three points! If you tell an entertaining story which does not illustrate/support one of those points, you have potentially replaced a significant point with an insignificant piece of entertainment.
  8. Pictures and diagrams- These can be great, but only if they illustrate one of the points. The same risk as Step 7 applies here.
  9. Practice, practice, then practice again- You should have your presentation memorized by the time you finish practicing. This enables you to maintain audience contact as well as bolsters confidence during the actual presentations.
  10. Retrospect- Shortly after the presentation is complete, sit and evaluate your work, consider the message given and the methods you used, and then think carefully about how you handled yourself as the presenter. Write all of these thoughts down so that the next presentation will be even better.

 

Good luck!

4 Key Attributes to Look for When Recruiting Staff

4 Key Attributes to Look for When Recruiting Staff

Knowing who to hire is difficult enough but knowing what to look for in prospective employees doesn't have to be.  Here are four key attributes to look for when hiring new employees:

1.   Ambition

You want to find employees that are not only going to show up to work on time, but that are also going to go out of their way to get things accomplished.  Ambitious employees can also encourage their coworkers to become more ambitious, which can tremendously improve company morale and productivity over time.  When an employee takes charge and finds things that need to be done without waiting for you to instruct them, they not only save you time, but they can also take extra work off of your plate and help their coworkers out if they are struggling.

2.   Honesty

Honest employees are a necessity.  If an employee is honest and straightforward, even about past mistakes, it can make them easier to work with and it can save you the trouble of having to double check everything they do. When you know an employee is honest, you know that you can trust them to do what they are supposed to be doing, and trust that they are doing it right, which saves you from having to check up on them, which means that you are left with more time to do your own work.  Also, with honest employees, comes loyalty, so you don't have to worry about them leaving you on short notice for another job, as they are more likely to be straightforward and tell you beforehand when another opportunity comes along.

3.   Passion

Anyone can show up to a job and do the work, but it is important to find employees that are truly passionate about the work that your company is doing. Not only are people who are passionate about the work that they do more likely to stay with the company in the long run, but they will be more driven and thus more likely to help drive the company towards accomplishing their common goals.  Also, people who are truly passionate about their job are less likely to create unnecessary work drama or simply hang out without doing their work.

4.   Detail-Oriented

Finding employees that see a task as a combination of all of its little parts, rather than one big picture can be valuable for any company.  Seeing the parts that make up a task, ensures that the employee is more able to focus on every part, making them less likely to miss small details in a big task. Over time, production can not only increase, but better end products can be produced, which can mean an increase in clients or sales.

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Three Tips to Deal with Difficult Co-Workers

Three Tips to Deal with Difficult Co-Workers

Working in any job can be difficult but when adding in office politics, work can become almost impossible. Everyone has different personalities and it can be hard to navigate difficult coworkers on a daily basis. Here are three tips to help deal with coworkers so that you can stay focused on your job:

  1. Avoid “watercooler” gossip- It is one thing to come home to your family and friends and blow off a little steam by talking about an incident, but do not discuss these issues at work. It may seem like you can trust your co-workers to remain quiet, in many cases you can, but word spreads like a disease in an office environment and the person you are complaining about will find out. Avoid any extra drama that may be caused by talking about people behind their backs.
  2. Create boundaries- When dealing with difficult coworkers, it is important to maintain a professional relationship; there is no reason you have to be best friends with them. Create boundaries that prevent you having to spend extended amounts of time with any coworker that you have problems with. By limiting the amount of personal time you spend with this co-worker, you can hopefully avoid any extra stress. Try changing the time you eat lunch or taking a walk when you feel any frustration starting to rise. Keep boundaries between your professional interactions and personal ones in order to deal better with a difficult coworker.
  3. Confront them with any major issues- The best way to get rid of any issue with a coworker is to try and work out a solution with them. Do not be rude or try to incite anger; just talk with them about the issue and politely try and come up with a solution that works for both of you. If your co-worker becomes angry or does not agree with a solution, try talking to the HR department about mediation. By allowing issues go unresolved, the tension will continue to rise and it will become more difficult for you to work with your coworker.

All of these tips will help you to better handle working with a difficult coworker, and just remember that they are just one part of the job. You will always have to deal with people you do not like and find ways to handle your differences. This being said, if you feel your coworker is crossing any lines such as harassment, then file a formal complaint with your superior. It is one thing to deal with someone who is very nosy or steals your food, but you do not have to tolerate any illegal harassment. So take charge of your interactions at work and find a way to be comfortable in your office environment. 

Benefits of a Well-Done To-Do List

Benefits of a Well-Done To-Do List

There have been countless articles written about the power of a to-do list and creating tangible goals. With all of the focus and time spent on this topic, why do people still struggle to understand the power of a well-done to-do list? The reason is that people just do not take the time to do it. We are all natural procrastinators and a to-do list can force us to work harder.

In order to understand the benefits of a great to-do, it is important to understand how to create one. A list should be tailored to your life: what are your life goals and values? This list should not be like a grocery list, yes you may need to pick up bread, but that is not the point of a to-do list. Understand your goals and break them down to little steps that you can do every day to get closer to that goal. Write down what you need to accomplish each day and then do it! Do not let your to-list become a reminder of what you cannot get done- beat the list and finish it each day by choosing manageable tasks. Once you identify your tasks for each day and work to complete them, you will find that you get a lot more done. It can be easy to fall into the trap of creating a mental list of things-to-do, but by writing everything down you can better plan your day. A physical list allows you to visualize everything that needs to be accomplished and prevents anything from falling through the cracks.           

This leads to the benefits of a well-done to-do list. The major benefit comes from the motivation and proud feeling you get when everything is checked off at the end of the day. Creating and completing small tasks each day will eventually turn into great progress. Has some goal been eluding you for a long time? A promotion that you want? A new certification? A to-do list may be your way to finally accomplish this goal. Let’s go with the promotion; each day create a list of extra tasks you can do to prove you are ready to take on more responsibility. Once you create a to-do list of your normal tasks and the extra steps you want to add, you can better organize and optimize your day.

Allow your to-do list to work for you and take the hard part out of planning your day. Watch with each day you check everything off your list as you become more productive and start taking steps towards reaching your goals in life!

Top Reasons to Invest in a Wellness Program

Top Reasons to Invest in a Wellness Program

Wellness seems to always be a popular topic at the beginning of the year. Everyone wants to start being more active and getting in shape, and companies can play a big part in helping to keep their employees healthy. There are many reasons to invest in a wellness program for your company and here are some of them: 

  1. Motivated employees- By putting in the time and money to create a wellness program, you are showing the employees that you care about them. This will motivate employees to work harder and do better work because they know that the company is willing to invest in their wellbeing.
  2. Better work- When employees are healthy and taking care of their bodies, the results will come across in the work they do. There will be fewer people taking sick days and increased performance as everyone gains more energy. Also, with health comes a confidence that makes people take better pride in their work and step up their game in the office.
  3. Better mental states- Wellness programs encompass more than physical health as they also help mental health. When employees start caring about their bodies and their minds, they will be happier. A healthy mind can also move faster and take on more work. Your employees will increase their mental and physical capacities.
  4. Insurance benefits- Many insurance companies give discounts for health and wellness programs; this is especially true when there is a focus on stopping people from smoking or increasing heart health. This means in addition to the discount you can get, you will also see a reduction in your employees’ health care costs and thus the entire companies’.
  5. A work and life balance- Wellness programs allow your employees to incorporate some of their life interests into their work with the company. These programs become part of their social lives as they go on weekend biking trips or meet their coworkers at the dog park. An effective wellness program should incorporate activities both inside and outside the office that will show the employees you care about their personal and professional lives.

A bonus that can come from having a wellness program is that many young workers in the job market are looking for companies that have increased interest in their wellbeing. As the workforce is being taken over by millennials and Gen X, since the baby boomers are starting to retire, it is imperative to identify what attracts them to a company. They want to work in a place that is invested in the life they are living, because a job should be more than 9 to 5, it becomes a major part of their social life.

Wellness programs have huge benefits for both the company as a whole and the individual employees. Invest in one to take your company to the next level and help your growth. 

4 Key Attributes to Look for When Recruiting Staff

4 Key Attributes to Look for When Recruiting Staff

Knowing who to hire is difficult enough but knowing what to look for in prospective employees doesn't have to be.  Here are four key attributes to look for when hiring new employees:

1.   Ambition

You want to find employees that are not only going to show up to work on time, but that are also going to go out of their way to get things accomplished.  Ambitious employees can also encourage their coworkers to become more ambitious, which can tremendously improve company morale and productivity over time.  When an employee takes charge and finds things that need to be done without waiting for you to instruct them, they not only save you time, but they can also take extra work off of your plate and help their coworkers out if they are struggling.

2.   Honesty

Honest employees are a necessity.  If an employee is honest and straightforward, even about past mistakes, it can make them easier to work with and it can save you the trouble of having to double check everything they do. When you know an employee is honest, you know that you can trust them to do what they are supposed to be doing, and trust that they are doing it right, which saves you from having to check up on them, which means that you are left with more time to do your own work.  Also, with honest employees, comes loyalty, so you don't have to worry about them leaving you on short notice for another job, as they are more likely to be straightforward and tell you beforehand when another opportunity comes along.

3.   Passion

Anyone can show up to a job and do the work, but it is important to find employees that are truly passionate about the work that your company is doing. Not only are people who are passionate about the work that they do more likely to stay with the company in the long run, but they will be more driven and thus more likely to help drive the company towards accomplishing their common goals.  Also, people who are truly passionate about their job are less likely to create unnecessary work drama or simply hang out without doing their work.

4.   Detail-Oriented

Finding employees that see a task as a combination of all of its little parts, rather than one big picture can be valuable for any company.  Seeing the parts that make up a task, ensures that the employee is more able to focus on every part, making them less likely to miss small details in a big task. Over time, production can not only increase, but better end products can be produced, which can mean an increase in clients or sales.

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How to Effectively Use Social Media for Business

How to Effectively Use Social Media for Business

Social media is everywhere; it is no revelation that any successful company in today’s society has to have a good social media presence. Technology is changing our world and how we find our information. It used to be word of mouth that would determine reputations and we trusted our neighbors to lead us to companies that were trustworthy. Now we have the internet; with the ease of writing and sharing reviews, it is particularly important to use social media to preserve your reputation. Here are four ways to effectively use social media to help your business.

  1. Monitor what is being said about you and your company- People are brutally honest on social media, so do not discount what they complain about. Chances are one bad complaint will be seen by hundreds of other people. Which will they remember: the ten positive reviews or the one scathing critique? Unfortunately, negative experiences tend to spread quickly and negate the positive ones. So, keep an eye on what people are saying about your company and employees, take what they say into account and work on ways to solve their issues. If people criticize your website and say it is not user-friendly, then look into their complaint. Do not brush off critiques because once the word gets out about your bad website other people are going to be specifically checking to see if there is any truth to that review.
  2. Make it convenient to purchase or secure your product- And make sure your website is secure. One security breach is a betrayal to your customers and can quickly eliminate any business. Your website should be easy to find and easy to use. If someone wants to book your service or purchase one of your products, they should be able to find your company and purchase with minimal hassle. It helps if you use fewer pages on your website in the process of choosing and buying; it should not take fifty steps to buy a box of paper or to book a plumber. In addition to making it convenient, make sure that once they pay your company that no one will be able to hack your server and find their credit card number. Security and ease are your objectives.
  3. Be okay with apologizing and use it to your advantage- If you receive a complaint, find a way to fix it and reach back out. Let the customer know that you are sorry they had a bad experience and then tell them what you are going to do to fix this for the future. Now you will not be known for the bad review, but rather for your eagerness to listen and accommodate your customers’ needs.
  4. Be sure you personally go through your website and app- Take the time to try and use your app; have your friends try it, your family try it, and employees as well. Personally make sure that it actually is user-friendly and consistently check it. This can also help with catching scammers who may create copies of your site or app and try to fool customers into paying them.

Use these four tips to help your business effectively use social media to your advantage. 

3 Things to Take from Work (and what to do with them)

3 things you should take from work

No, we’re not talking about pens or staplers. We’re talking about three really important things that are actually YOURS.  So make a note, start bringing these things home today, and save them in a safe place.

Annual Performance Reviews

These tedious little exercises can actually be a lifesaver for you later down the road. Not only are they usually chock-full of great information for your resume or interview details, but you can use them as a great initial reference when interviewing for new opportunities. A little "John exceeds expectations and consistently delivers on our established goals and objectives" goes a long way!

Your Accomplishments

At least once a month I talk to someone who doesn’t know the quantifiable details of any of their accomplishments. A great way to avoid this is to sit down once a year and write down what you accomplished and any non-confidential statistics to accompany/demonstrate your success.

Atta-boy Emails

You know those times when you deliver on a project and your manager and leadership are just blown away? Forward those feedback emails over to yourself and keep them in a tidy file for future reference. Unsolicited accolades can carry a lot of weight with potential employers!

Best Tips for Employee Motivation

Best Tips for Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is one of the most popular topics to write about because employee happiness is so important to running a successful business. Many authors and business experts have given their two cents on how to motivate employees, so I have tried to narrow down their many suggestions to just three key tips.

  1. Be organized so they can be given advance notice of what is going on- Surprises have their place in some parts of human life, but work is not one of them. Companies and managers need to maintain organization, so they can give advance notice of any new projects, change in deadlines, or additional work that the employees need to do. This will help keep everyone happy and prevent excess stress from hurting the office. Preparation creates better results in their work and makes everyone’s job easier since they are not playing catch up and have an adequate amount of time to complete a task.
  2. Clearly and openly communicate with them- Hiding is retroactive because people can invent worse things than the truth. If there are issues with administration, layoffs, budget cuts, or any other changes that can shake up a company, then be honest with employees. Even if it means telling them that they can expect a period of restructuring in the near future or other vague answers, at least the employees can mentally prepare for the future. Secrets will always be leaked in the office and you do not need the rumor mill to get ahold and terrify employees over some simple changes. Honesty and transparency are also important because these are your employees; it is their business as well! Every company is a family and the changes will be felt in every branch and office. Show your employees that they can trust their livelihood with you by being honest and maintaining open lines of communication.
  3. Have a clear goal that they can create their own path to- Creativity and intelligence go hand in hand. Just because employees have earned their degrees and landed a job does not mean they should stop learning. By providing goals and allowing employees to use their own intellect and skills to reach them, you are giving them the freedom and pleasure of discovering the best way for them to personally complete a task. This also means there must be a clear goal that way they know when their job is done. It has been proven that productivity and overall happiness increase when people have some wiggle room to figure out their own way to meeting their goal.

These three tips to help employee motivation may seem simple, but they are effective. Employee motivation means that the company can keep running and growing. 

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