Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Letting EVERYONE Know

I am in the middle of reading the excellent new book 'Face the Music and Win' by my good friend Tracy Plaice.

Tracy's story tells of her drive to overcome her lifelong fear of playing the piano in public. Her determination to conquer her fears followed an horrific car accident that left her with a damaged right hand and concerns that she would never be able to play again.

One of the key factors behind Tracy's success was the fact that she told as many people as she could about her goal and they responded not just by supporting her, but by presenting her with a series of challenges and opportunities that each took her a step closer to conquering her fear.

While reading the book last night, a particular anecdote jumped off the page for me. Tracy recounts how she was invited to play in a concert in Sheffield. The challenge for her was that her job was taking her to Skegness the week before, a town where she knew no-one but needed to have access to a piano so that she could practice.

Undeterred by this, Tracy threw herself into the task of asking as many people as possible for their help. From her initial call to Tourist information, and their attempts to find hotels with pianos, to music teachers, local schools and the staff of the optician's practice she was due to be working for; Tracy asked and asked.

Eventually, on her first day working in Skegness and no closer to finding a piano, Tracy met a patient while standing outside the opticians waiting for it to open. As they chatted, Tracy found out that the patient's son was learning to play the keyboard. The mother gave Tracy the number of the boy's music teacher and, that evening and the next, Tracy played at the teacher's house after work.

The teacher then recommended a school where Tracy could practice. Tracy even managed to find a grand piano in the theatre of a holiday camp to practice on, just by asking!

How much do you want help and support? How many people do you know who would be prepared to help you if you were prepared to share your goals with them? Tracy managed to get her piano practice by conditioning herself to ask strangers for help. How much more easily could you find help by asking your existing network?

If you let people know how they can help you, the path to your goals will be much easier to follow.

'Face the Music and Win' is available from www.tracyplaice.com

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Art of Networking ..... in the City and in Bedford

I will be speaking about networking skills at The Chartered Management Institute in Bedford on Tuesday October 24th (7.30pm) and at Hubworking Centre in Liverpool Street, London on Thursday October 26th (6pm).

For information about either event, please contact me at andy@brenet.co.uk

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Take Your Aunt's Advice

For many people, the challenge with networking is their fear of approaching people they don't know at networking events. If you can't get beyond this hurdle, then it will be very difficult for you to incorporate business networking into your overall development strategy, either personal or business.

In '...and Death Came Third!', I covered a range of ideas to help people to overcome this fear. I looked at how to rationalise the fear; focus on approaching individuals or open groups, rather than couples; get to the event early; act as the host and a range of other ideas.

All good ideas in theory, but only of true value if you put them into practice. Ultimately, the way to overcome the fear is to consistently address it until easing your way around the room becomes habit. By attending a number of networks, be they breakfast meetings, lunch networks or evening events, you will become more confident and more at ease. And always challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone, gravitate away from the people you already know and speak to strangers.

Mr. Darcy: "I... do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before."
Elizabeth Bennet: "Perhaps you should take your aunt's advice and practice?"

Pride and Prejudice

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Book of the Book......

Following the success of '...and Death Came Third!', which went straight to Number 2 on Amazon.co.uk on the day of launch, many people have asked Peter Roper and I about how we ran our campaign and a number of other authors have tried similar campaigns.

Many of these campaigns were run by the masterminds of our Amazon campaign, Joe Gregory and Debbie Jenkins of Bookshaker. Joe and Debs have now brought out the book of the book, 'The Amazon Bestseller Plan'.

And if you want to see the plan in a nutshell, Joe and Debs tell you all about it here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Business Card Bingo

Reading my friend David McQueen's excellent Blog, I came across this interesting 'rant' about the way people use business cards.

David is obviously frustrated at the way people hand out business cards like confetti at networking events and other business meetings and then do not follow up their apparent interest. I particularly like the way that David has titled this entry 'Empty Promises' as he has really struck a chord with me. The exchange of business cards is perhaps one of the most misused business networking techniques.

For me the exchange of a business card is a means of either sealing a positive interaction or a tool to remind me to follow up on my promises. I do not order business cards simply to keep my printer in business. I don't understand the approach where people offer you their card the second they meet you. At that stage, you don't know if you want the other person to be able to contact you again!

When I ask for your business card, I am making a commitment. That may be to a specific action or simply an indication that I intend to pursue a relationship; either way I am committing to connect with you.

When I leave an event and look back on the cards I have collected I want to be able to remember whose cards I have (only possible if you have made an impression on me); what I have promised you and not have too many cards that I can't cope with the follow up.

Networking is about connecting with people and pursuing long-term relationships. It is not a game where the winner is the person who collects the most cards.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

People you can work through

I spent a very pleasant evening with Tim Kidson at the weekend. Tim had commented on an earlier blog, expressing his frustration at the amount of business networking opportunities available and knowing how to pick the right one.

I asked Tim how he chooses which networking events and organisations to attend.

"I look to see where I can meet people I can work with and people I can work for. Beyond that, there are a lot of pleasant social interactions at networking meetings but no end result."

Tim's comments were interesting. Through the evening, up to this point, Tim had mentioned various opportunities, clients and contracts that had come his way recently. Without exception, all of these doors had opened through someone else's recommendation. None were people who Tim had directly met at networking groups.

I asked Tim if perhaps he had missed the best kind of person he could meet at events. He seemed confused.

"You've talked about people you can work with and for", I said. "How about people you can work through?"

It can be very easy to write off social interactions at business networking events as non-productive, however much fun they may be. However, you can never really tell which friendship or which interaction will one day open the key door for you.

As Carole Stone, 'London's Networking Queen', once said, "Make friends when you can, not when you need them"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's Holding You Back?

What's holding you back from achieving your goals?

What is stopping you making the most of the networking opportunities that come your way?

Is it possible that the answer might be you?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at The Executive Club in London. The Executive Club is a network and a resource for non-exec and company directors who are looking for career development and new business opportunities. Speaking alongside Chris Mason of Connaught Executive, we focused on how networking can play a key role in moving your career forward.

In his talk, Chris asked who had come to look for a new opportunity. Some three-quarters of the audience put their hands up. Chris then asked who would like to tell everyone else present what they were looking for.

Not one person put themselves forward.

Not one, single, solitary person took the opportunity extended by Chris to tell a room of over sixty well-connected businessmen and women how they could help them? What could possibly explain this?

I addressed this question during my talk. I suggested that two factors were prevalent in holding people back from volunteering. One was, quite simply, fear. We have an inherent fear of speaking in public, and that fear strikes people irrespective of their experience and success in business. If we are going to grab opportunities as they come along, we have to learn to overcome this fear first of all.

The second factor is a lack of focus. People had come to the event with a general idea of what they wanted to achieve but no firm picture of the introductions they wanted, the information they were seeking, their dream position. As a result, when offered the opportunity, they were not in a position to grasp it.

At this stage of my talk, Mike Duval, one of the attendees, put his hand up. He had not been in the room when Chris spoke, he said, and could he take his opportunity now? Mike explained that he was looking for a career change, wasn't quite sure where he wanted to move and was thinking of setting up his own business. After asking Mike a few more questions, I asked the audience who felt that they may be in a position to help him. Five people put their hands up.

I had an email from Mike this week telling me how a number of doors have opened as a result of the conversations he had after the seminar and how he is now seriously considering embarking on a top-level post graduate qualification offered by the National Coaching Register (a sub-set of "The CEO's Office" on the web) which should enable him to get into the business coaching at the MD/CEO level.

Are you holding yourself back from achieving your goals? Is fear stopping you from taking a step in the right direction? Do you lack direction and a clear vision? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

And if you are prepared to do the right things to help yourself, what can you achieve?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Swedish Lesson

I enjoyed a great evening last Monday when I delivered a talk on networking skills at The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom in London.

At a pre-event briefing I had been told that the Swedes are notoriously shy, not something that I could believe easily, having had a Swedish flatmate ten years ago! However, putting my reservations to one side, I promised to help the Chamber's members overcome their fears and meet lots of new people on the evening. Wallflowers would not be allowed!

There was no cause for any concern! Rarely have I experienced an audience so comfortable networking, so happy to approach new people and chat. Often when I ask people to introduce themselves to someone they haven't met before, they exchange a greeting and then turn around to listen to me again. Not the Swedes! I found myself struggling to STOP the networking. It really was a great pleasure, not work at all.

During the meeting I found myself talking to Kurt Larsson of Bosbec Communication. Kurt had flown in that afternoon on a week long trip from Stockholm. After my talk, Kurt told me that the Swedes had a word that described perfectly one of the things I had been talking about.

The word that Kurt mentioned was Lyhördhet and it means 'Listening with all the senses'. I often talk about 'listening for' each other and refer to Steven Covey's 'empathetic listening'. But rarely have I heard this skill so well described and never in just one word.