Woman reading book

Navigating Networking Events – Schedule Downtime

I’m smiling as I leave a one to one meeting with a new colleague. You know that feeling when you meet someone with whom you really click? We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Given the large number of mutual connections we’ve now discovered we have, it’s incredible we’d not met before.

Navigating Networking Events

Of course we shared what we each do and who our ideal clients are. Our conversation rambled from analysis of different networking organizations to book recommendations to best podcasting tools. Now that we’ve spent an hour and a half talking and bonding, we’ll be on the lookout for relevant speaking opportunities to alert each other to. Oh, and good tea blends, since we discovered a common interest there. I’ve also made a note about a few people to whom I’m going to introduce her.

Sharon comes across as a very outgoing and friendly person. She hugged hello when I first arrived at the coffee shop. At some point in our time together, she admitted that while she comes across as an extrovert, she’s really an introvert at heart. She said she’s good at meeting people at events, but she has to stop and take a few breaths to prepare herself before walking into the room. Then once she leaves, she can’t wait to get home and be alone.

It never ceases to amaze me who identifies as a quiet girl.

You’re Not Alone in Your Fear of Networking

I put this out there for those of you reading because I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who feels apprehensive about going into networking events. Many of those women you see, who appear so comfortable and chatty, feel just like you do. The difference is they’ve learned how to manage their fear and channel their energy into a few good conversations.

Navigating Networking Events Then you can go home, kick off your shoes and crack open a good book while the cat curls up in your lap. Part of learning how to successfully navigate networking events is learning to manage your energy. You may find you can handle three events a week. Or your limit might be just one.

Last week my schedule included two early morning breakfast events, an evening speaking engagement, an all-day summit and a Toastmaster meeting. Plus client calls, a few one-to-one meetings and a Facebook live interview. At the end of the week, I was toast.

It was a good reminder that I need to be more cognizant of over-scheduling myself. As much as I do love meeting and talking to new people now, it can still wear me out.

Some weeks are going to be like that. You need to take advantage of opportunities when they come up. You also need to give yourself downtime to recover. Schedule a massage for Friday afternoon, make sure to get your workouts done, or let yourself sleep in over the weekend.

Both networking activities and quiet alone time are critical to the success of your business. As with most things in life, it comes down to balance.

Need a little assistance in choosing which networking events or conferences to attend this season? Or how to navigate networking events? The Quick Start Program could be for you. To schedule a 15-minute “Find Out More” call, click here.

Woman reading book

Making Up The Truth

Have you ever come to a conclusion about something – decided on a truth – that wasn’t true? You later found out you made it all up in your head?

attending networking eventsOver the weekend, I made a delicious butternut squash soup. My husband was in the middle of working on something, so I brought some over and just offered him a taste. Later in the evening, I asked him if he’d eaten any soup. He said he thought I made it for some reason other than for us to eat. Um, what? Why would I be making it if not for us to eat?

I didn’t say not to eat it. Somehow he concluded that because I’d only given him a taste from my bowl and not delivered unto him his own bowl, this soup must not be for him. Sometimes making up stories in your head serves you and sometimes it doesn’t. Are you making up truths and assigning meanings that aren’t even remotely accurate?

Recently I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic,” which I highly recommend! In it, she telattending networking eventsls about an encounter she had at a book signing for her best-selling “Eat Pray Love.” A woman came up to her and thanked her for writing the book. She said she could really relate to the part where Liz talked about her abusive husband and the book gave her the courage to leave her abusive marriage as well. Liz was stunned because nowhere in her story did she say her husband had been abusive. There hadn’t actually ever been any abuse in her relationship at all. But somehow this reader “saw” a part of the story that didn’t exist. As it turned out, the woman’s made up story served her well and led her to leave a dangerous situation.

Are you seeing things that aren’t there?

Many times however, we see things that aren’t there, take action based on those assumptions and those made up stories don’t serve us.

Several years ago, when I was running Zen Rabbit Baking Company, I was looking for a contract bakery to make the Gratitude Cookies for me. I spent months researching and calling every bakery in the state of Florida, to no avail. I believed my baking partner had to be in the same state where I was. There wasn’t really any logical reason for this belief; it’s just what I assumed to be true. Once I changed my perspective and opened the door to believing something different, a mutual contact introduced me to the perfect baker in West Virginia.

What do you tell yourself about your business that may or may not be true? What stories are you making up about going to networking events, about talking to people you don’t know, about what other people might think? And what would happen if you simply made up new stories – stories that work more in your favor?

What if you created a different story?

Maybe you could feel more comfortable starting conversations with new people if you believed they have been waiting to talk to you for weeks. Ok, they didn’t necessarily know they wanted to talk with you until they actually meet you, but once you get into a conversation, they realize you have information they’ve been needing. I don’t know what info that is. Maybe you don’t either, right away. But you can still see yourself as an important messenger.

And your job at this event is to strategically and intuitively seek out the people who either have info for you or you for them. Yes, I said intuitively because intuition (or guidance from a higher power) can play an important role here.  It leads you to someone you didn’t know you needed to meet.

attending networking eventsThink for a minute. Have you ever been at a party and gotten into a conversation that delivered exactly the message you needed at that moment? Or met someone who became an important person in your life through a chance encounter? These crazy wonderful meetings can only happen when you’re in the “right” place. So you have to put yourself in the places or circumstances where they can happen. They do not occur when you’re just sitting on your couch watching cat videos.

Back to the original premise of making up meanings. Can you change the meaning you assign to attending networking events and make them less intimidating and more fun? If you need help with this endeavor, schedule a 15-minute “Find Out More” call with me and let’s see if I can be of service.

Woman reading book

You’ve Gotta Pick a Lane

My friend Dawn recently published an article about political activism. In it she writes that if you want to actually accomplish anything, it’s important to focus on only one or two issues. Nothing gets accomplished when you’re trying to do everything all at once. I thought immediately about how the message applies to your business too.

Too many solopreneurs and business owners are running down too many paths. It’s an exhausting exercise in futility. In order to make a real impact, you have to focus on the most important thing. You hear people talking about priorities all the time. When you Google the word priority, you see it defined as “a thing that is regarded as more important than another.” So you technically can’t have five or 10 priorities. You can have ONE.

In business, you can’t truly have five or 10 areas of focus. Pick one, maybe two if they’re closely related.

Have you ever met someone who, when you ask “what do you do?” comes back with “Well, I’m a real estate agent and I also run a social media marketing company. On Mondays I teach guitar lessons to kids. Oh, and I have a wedding planning business. Sometimes I help my husband with bookkeeping for his landscaping company.” Holy freaking cow! Really? You do all that?

You can NOT seriously be focused and good at doing ALL those things! I walk away from that conversation thinking this person is a disorganized mess. And there is no way I would call on her for any of those services, much less send her a referral.

Of course you want to have a full life and not miss out on anything. But when you can’t quickly and easily state your area of expertise, more often than not, it’s a case of hedging your bets. You’re not confident enough in your abilities to focus on one thing and say you’re an expert in that area.

Think about it though. Experts get paid more than generalists. Cardiologists get paid more than general practitioners. And if I had a heart condition, I want the best cardiologist I can find – not someone who dabbles in heart health and also podiatry and sells hearing aids on the side!

When it comes to your business, you need to pick a lane. What do you do and how do you do it? How exactly you define your lane is up to you and open for discussion. Some people define a niche by industry – “I work with high tech sales professionals.” That’s one way to go. You can also define your market by the size of their business – say companies with $10-50 million in gross revenue. Or by certain characteristics or demographics, such as vegetarian women who work full-time and have young children in day care. You have a million choices here.

You can carefully define exactly what you offer so you attract only those who need exactly what you can deliver. I’m thinking of my friend and mentor Jan, who teaches people to be BOLD speakers. She doesn’t narrow her market to any one industry or demographic. She defines her ideal people as those who want to become better speakers. They might be in corporate or own their own business or work for the government. Doesn’t matter if they’re men, women, CEOs, emerging leaders, engineers, or sales people. What’s important is her clear definition of what she does and what she delivers. So everyone knows, if you want to be a BOLD speaker, you work with Jan.

I guide quiet girls from feeling intimidated in networking situations to confidently starting conversations with strangers so they can build relationships that support the success their businesses.

Are you as clear about what benefit you provide and to whom? If you’re not, you’re making it a thousand times more difficult on yourself to get clients and for people to send you referrals.

Clarity leads to action.

When people know who you are, what you do, and exactly with whom you work best, they can refer business to you. If they’re confused, they’ll just move on. We don’t have the patience or attention span to spend time figuring it out. Make it easy to understand and easy to remember what you stand for. Once you do that, when you go to networking events, you can confidently share your excitement and expertise and stand out in the mind of the people you meet.

Need help with clearly defining what you do, how and for whom? Let’s set up a quick call to see if I can be of service in helping you get clarity around your marketing message. Shoot me an email with three times you’re available this week.

photo credits: stressed woman & confused emoticon ©


Woman reading book

When The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. It feels like there’s so much pressure to “get things right.” What’s your word for this year? What’s your theme? What are your goals?

creating a networking strategyAck! I love the idea of a fresh start. But I’ve never liked the idea of doing what everyone else is doing, in exactly the way they’re doing it. It doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable to me. What I prefer is the idea that you can have a fresh start any day you choose. You don’t have to choose January 1, or even any day in January.

You may have heard the premise that in order to accomplish anything of great significance, you need to get out of your comfort zone. I get it and believe that to be true. However, there’s a difference between stepping out and doing something new and different in order to reach a new level of development and trying to shove a size 8 foot into a size 5 shoe. Ouch!

Both are uncomfortable, but only one is going to serve any good purpose once you’ve forced yourself to do it. The key is to be honest with yourself about the difference. It’s easy enough to say “I don’t want to go to networking events because I don’t feel comfortable making small talk with strangers. That’s just who I am; I can’t change.” True that may be who you are today. But not true that you can’t change – if you WANT to, if you have reason enough.

How to Know the Difference

Here’s one way to figure out if your feelings of discomfort are holding you back or protecting you from disfigured feet.

If the actions you’re taking, or not taking, today are serving you, then by all means, continue them. However, if they’re NOT serving you and you’re frustrated because you’re not moving toward your desired goals, then now is a good time to reexamine the idea of making a change. Consider doing something that’s uncomfortable, but that you anticipate will move you closer to what you ultimately want.

Let’s say you hate the idea of networking. You feel awkward, you don’t know what to say to people, you feel like everyone else knows someone there and you’re an outsider. But your business is struggling because you don’t have enough clients. Or you could use some help in the form of a local assistant but you don’t how to find that person. Or all your “real life” friends work at a corporate jobs and they don’t understand your life as a solopreneur.

Staying home and NOT networking because that’s what feels comfortable is NOT serving you. So it would make sense to get up the courage to go to a few networking events and meet other people from your community. Maybe you’ll meet an architect who can refer business to you. Maybe you’ll have a conversation with a banker who has a friend who would be a great fit as your assistant.

The KEY is to figure out how to do the uncomfortable thing in a way that IS comfortable. You don’t HAVE to pick a theme or set your annual goals in January. You don’t HAVE to network the way everyone else does it, or the way you think you’re “supposed to.” You don’t HAVE to become more outgoing or act like someone you’re not.

Learn how to network in a way that feels comfortable to you. Develop a strategy that works for you – one that allows you to remain authentic to who you are. That could mean figuring out exactly which networking events are most useful for you to attend. That could mean coming up with a plan before you get there for how many people you want to meet (and allowing yourself to leave without feeling bad once you reach your quota). That could mean clarifying exactly what you have to offer so that the people with whom you share your message can easily send you referrals.

networking strategyGoing back to the shoe analogy, this isn’t about squeezing your foot into a shoe that’s too small, trying to walk and pretending it doesn’t hurt or look ridiculous. And it’s not about cursing the shoe for being too small, throwing it against the wall and stomping away while screaming “shoes don’t work for me!” It’s about finding a shoe that fits comfortably and looks good.

If you need help creating a comfortable networking strategy, I can help you. Sign up for The Quiet Girls’ Quick Start Program. As for finding comfy, stylish footware, you’re on your own.

Woman reading book

But Why?

Scampi the cat

Like most parents, my mom endured and answered a million questions from her curious child. I wanted to know as much as I could about things that interested me so I could make sense of my world. Why do I have to practice piano? If a train is going from Pittsburgh to Denver at 80 mph, why does it matter how long it takes the train going from Miami to Boston? Why is it not okay to feed the cat the apple cinnamon oatmeal I don’t want? (She LIKED oatmeal!)

At my first job after college, my new boss was challenged by all my questions. She saw them as a test of her authority. But really, my questions were – mostly – genuinely about learning. Why do you do registration this way? What if we organized the newsletter like this? Wouldn’t it be better to send the mailings on Mondays?

As you get older, you tend to stop asking questions. You think you already know all the answers. Or you don’t want to do the work to find out the answers. Or you don’t want to know the answers. Those are pretty much the top three reasons you stop asking. Unfortunately, that’s also why you stop learning important information that can not only help make sense of your world, but also make your world better.

Start Asking WHY Again

Why are you working at THIS job, or providing THIS service to your clients today? Is it because you LOVE what you’re doing? If it is, then ROCK ON! You are one of an elite group. More than likely though, you’re doing what you’re doing for some other reason. What is that reason?

No doubt, you’ve heard the “life is short” refrain a million times. And you get it, intellectually. Yeah, wow, Prince was only 57! Holy crap, George Michael was only 53! Maybe it hits home a little more when it’s your mom or a close friend who passes. But when do you get to the point of really taking action? When do you stop wasting hours on Facebook, stop driving an hour a day to a job that’s not fulfilling, stop hating yourself for skipping the gym in favor of kale chips and Cabernet on the couch watching “Dancing with the Stars?” And start asking the questions that get you closer to your bliss?

A New Year

Ask the right questions in the new yearIt’s almost New Year’s Day and lots of people are talking about setting goals and making changes. Breathe deep. Ah, the fresh scent of a new year! Oh, but wait, the 2nd is still kind of a holiday. I’ll start on the 3rd. Oh, but then it’s my birthday. I’ll start on the 8th. Ack, then it’s MLK Day, the Inauguration, Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and so on.

The truth is you can decide to change any day of the year. Pick a day and start! And if for whatever reason, you’ve got to start over again three days later, then start over three days later. Keep starting until you get past starting. You gotta be bad before you can get better. So at first, focus on being bad. Gradually you can move up to “not so bad” and “not as bad as I was when I started.”

Inspired by my friend Tracy, I started a new weight training program in early July. Tracy came to my gym and showed me all the exercises she was doing and made sure I was using good form. For hip thrusts (which are great for the booty), she loaded the bar with 120 pounds. “Ok, start with that,” she suggested. Um, no I don’t think so, Ms. Universe. Help me, I can’t move this bar! The most I could do was 80.

Over the past six months, I’ve only gotten up to 100. Tracy is doing 215! So while I’m not able to go as heavy as Tracy, I can at least say, “well, I’m not as bad as I was when I started.”

Ask the right questions in the new yearBack to my point of asking questions and getting yourself to doing something you love. WHY are you providing this service? If you’re a financial adviser, is it because you love helping clients reach financial freedom? Or because you don’t know what else to do with your life? If you’re a leadership coach, is it because you love seeing your clients unlock their potential and reach new levels in their careers? Or is it because corporations will pay you big bucks to come in and work with their people?

Why are you living your life this way?

Whatever thought you JUST had, right there, in response to that question, that is NOT why. Yeah, yeah. We all need to make money to pay the bills. But that is your excuse. Your rationale. That is not why. Try again. This time let the real answer come out. If your answer is not some variation of “I’m afraid,” “I don’t know how to change it,” or “I’m not sure what I’d rather do,” you’re not being real.

How would you rather live? Keep asking questions and keep digging for your answers. You don’t have to climb an entire 25,600 step stairway all at once. Just take the first step. Keep going tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Eventually, you’ll uncover and learn a few things, you’ll get to your real and useful answers.

Is this a wishful thinking exercise? Not if you want your life to have meaning, to feel worthwhile, to feel fulfilling. You want your world to make sense? Stop settling for what you have and allow yourself to have more.

Life IS short

My theory is that when we get to the last moment, no matter if you’re 15, 53 or 105, you’ll look back and it’ll all seem like one big, long day that went by really quickly. I want to have made an impact, for my life to have counted for something. If you want the same, what questions are you going to ask to get yourself there?

If you’re already on the path of providing a service you’re excited about, but are challenged by the ability to create and develop relationships with potential clients and referral sources, check out The Quiet Girls’ Quick Start Program. Learn how to find the right people, start productive conversations and maintain ongoing channels of communication.

Woman reading book

Invitation to Connect & Building Strong Relationships

Yet again I have received a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone who did not bother to include a personal note. Does this oversight drive you crazy or is it just my own personal issue? If the purpose of connecting on a social networking site is to build relationships (which it IS), then why on EARTH would you not do the most important thing for building relationships and TALK to the other person?!

Start a conversation. No matter if you think the person knows who you are, you need to include a short note with your connection request. “It was nice meeting you at the breakfast yesterday…” Everyone is busy and meets lots of people every day. Maybe you are so extraordinarily memorable or maybe you just think you are. Even if I’m sending a request to someone I’ve known for a while, I’ll send a note such as, “how are we not connected here after all these months of phone calls and collaboration…”

Don’t even get me started on the requests that come from random people you don’t recall ever meeting and who aren’t even in a common group with you. Why? Why do you want to connect with me? Tell me. Where are your manners, like shaking hands with someone you meet in person? You would never just walk up to someone, say nothing, hand him your business card and walk away. You don’t “win” by having the most connections if those relationships are meaningless or non-existent. No one needs a giant database full of names of people they don’t know and don’t have anything in common with unless they are up to no good, also known as spamming.

Being successful is about building strong relationships. Relationships require communication. Therefore it only makes sense to start or continue a conversation here. Do I really need to remind you what happens when you assume?

Yes, this note serves the purpose of jogging someone’s memory of how you know each other. It also acknowledges her as an individual. It shows you are reaching out to connect with someone personally, as opposed to giving her reason to think you’re simply sending mass emails to reach a goal of having 7,500 connections. The personal touch here is just as important as the concept of customer thank you notes or thank you gifts; it makes someone feel good about their relationship with you.

When someone feels good about his relationship with you, he’s far more likely to think of ways to help you, work with you or send you referrals. In my social media world, it’s about developing advocate relationships. If that’s not what you’re doing, please, don’t send me a request to connect.