Thursday, June 9, 2011

Extreme Weather and Extreme Networking

I believe this spring will be known for it's strange weather. Hail the size of golf balls. Tornados wiping out whole cities, heat that is debilitating and then even cool weather in contrast. It’s been very strange weather indeed. Does it affect your networking efforts?

Obviously when we are in the middle of severe weather, it definitely will affect our efforts. I was thinking about the weather and how it can affect our plans and efforts and then I thought about people.

People network different ways. Are any of them wrong? Some may suggest they are. However we do know that different methods of communication appeal to different types of people. My imagination got the best of me and I began to see the different weather as different networking styles.

Hail/Snow- These are the people who smother you with cards, leaflets, brochures, and flyers. Oh and here’s some more for your friends! You go back to your office with piles and bags of stuff. You intend to look at it and maybe you do. However if a relationship is lacking the information doesn’t really sink in, just sits there on the surface.

Tornados/Hurricanes- This networker will blast you with postal mail, email campaigns, social media invites, even some that you’ve never even heard of. This person is definitely visible however they never reach out to you in person, they just tear apart your mailboxes with their invites and information. Yet a relationship is once again, lacking.

Extreme Heat/ Cool Temperature- You attend a networking event, business or social. These networkers will approach you, “Nice to meet you. We should get together. Here’s my card!” You feel as though this was a fantastic connection and you are excited to get to know each other and find out how you can more efficiently help each other. However at the next event a week or two later, they don’t “recognize” you and when you approach them, they are too busy with the person they just met, almost saying the same things they said to you.

Rain- Now this person really connects with you. They like you and they want to be your new best friend. They dominate your time and won’t let you get away from them. Not only that, since you have “become fast friends”, they begin to share all their personal and private information. Possibly more than you were interested in knowing. The relationship has only begun but now you’ve been soaked with details. These details are commonly known as TMI and they may even hinder your relationship from going any further.

Humidity- They are hot for you and your business. You know the one, right? They are pointing at you with their pistol formed hands that pretend to shoot you as they wink and flash that smile! They don’t let you talk, they just tell you that they are the answer to all your problems. They give you a “Here’s my card, call me Hun!” as they walk away shooting and winking again. Not necessarily the connection you were trying to make…

Dry- You have met this person once or twice and you even like them, however their contact with you is sporadic. They are irregular in answering phone calls and emails as in sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But then every once in a while, you get some from of marketing from them. A newsletter, a flyer in the mail… Ooooo! they just posted on twitter for the first time in two years! The connection could work but there is no regularity. The relationship becomes dry.

Yes, these are extreme descriptions but forgive me, we’ve had extreme weather and I’m in an extreme mood. ((Big smile)) There is nothing wrong with the essence of what they are doing. It’s just the superlative degree in which they are doing it makes their efforts less productive.

Now imagine if you will your idea of a perfect day, the one that’s perfectly balanced for you. Yes, we all have different preferences and that is why all of the different forms of networking can be efficient. However extreme weather or extreme networking often leaves the recipient of these efforts, hollow and empty and possibly even skeptical. Finding the perfect balance will increase your networking productivity as well as your return on your investment.

Have you ever met one of our extreme networkers? I’d love to hear your story!

Tara Schmakel

The Once timid Networker

Entrepreneurial Excellence

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Once Timid Networker's Special Announcement

This Once Timid Networker is about to launch her way into another world of Networking. When I began this blog my soul purpose was to help two types of people, the timid or shy person and the person working with that timid person.

I’ve tried to give tips and pointers about things that helped me. I wanted to help others break out of that box like I had and network in a much more comfortable and in turn effective way.

The feedback I’ve received about these articles, have been overwhelming, to say the least. I had no idea that it would have far reaching effects and that people all over the world would be helped or inspired by the stories that were published. However, true to form in the Tara way, I wanted to make it better. That is why I’m thrilled to announce the launch of “The Once Timid Networker Radio Show”! Cue a marching band, streamers and confetti and a little party in my head!

How in the world did this happen you might wonder, especially if you have known both versions of me. Well, it began at one of my first Entrepreneurial Excellence Business Forums, last summer. We worked on a marketing idea with the sky as the limit and money as no object. One of my personal ideas was having a Radio show that fed a TV program that traveled the world interviewing and helping other people who were either timid or once were timid. I put the thought in my book and continued to move forward with things that were within reach. However there is a reason I write things down… so I won’t forget.

A few months later my very dear friend Jim Bear called me telling me his wonderful news that he would be launching his own radio show helping the 55+ who were looking for work. The show would have the same title as the seminars he had been successfully teaching called, “You Can Get Hired”. I was absolutely THRILLED for him and saw how his program would be so helpful to so many.

He then said, “Tara, I think you should have a show and it should be about networking.” Jim has been a friend of mine since I was timid. He is a respectful, kind and gentle person who has always had very nice words of encouragement, seemingly when I needed them most. I respect and admire Jim and I trust him implicitly. However, this time, I chuckled (remembering the idea written in my book) and thanked him for his kind words that made the back of my neck and my cheeks hot and I think I may have tried to change the subject.

Almost exactly a month and a half later the idea came back to me and Jim’s words were loud in my head. I called him and said, did you really mean that when you said it?? He confirmed his previous thoughts and I started making a list!! Over the next few days I refined my list and Jim was right there with his encouragement, cheering me on with the idea that had become a fire inside of me.

Then Jim offered to say a few words on my behalf to Pamela Muldoon, the Producer of the Next Stage Business Radio Network, which was where his program is produced and aired. It worked.

Pamela and I met for coffee not long after and what I thought would maybe be an hour and a half turned into about 4 hours. I was ecstatic that she liked my idea. We hit it off famously and one idea sparked another! As we sat in the Coffee shop that day, I wondered if the other people sitting there with their beverages had any idea that right there at that moment someone’s dreams were coming true… It was incredible.

And so, I’m pleased to announce that April 20th, my first show will air. The hour long program will be an easy going conversation with other storytellers on the topic of networking. It will include tips and tricks as well as some humor, of course!

I warmly invite you to listen in. I’d just love to have you there with me!!

Tara Schmakel

The Once Timid Networker- Writer and Radio Personality (HUGE smile!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Networking Mechanic

As any little girl, I would vie for my dads attention. I thought if I knew “stuff” about the “stuff” he was interested in, it would make him take an interest in me and be proud. My mom always taught me to “be interested in others and they will be interested in you”. To show my interest, I would play with my dad’s tools. Not like play, play, but organize play. I loved tidying his work bench in the garage and he had given me permission to do that whenever I wanted.

One day after “playing with dads tools” I noticed that my hands were quite dirty. I reasoned on this and at the tender age of 9, I deduced that I was a mechanic. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, mechanics hands were always dirty and black. My Dad’s hands were always dirty and black after he came in from the garage and my hands were now dirty too. Ah, the logic of a 9 year old!

Being the achiever that I was, I thought it would make me a better mechanic if my hands were dirtier. My eyes scanned the garage for something that would do the job for me and rested on my new bicycle. It was a Huffy 10 speed that was a bit big for me, but it was bright yellow and it had the curved handlebars that proved, it was a big kids bike.

I decided I would test my mechanic skills. I got out the tools and loosened and tightened multiple bolts and nuts. This in effect changed the height or position of my handlebars and/or seat which after moving returned to the original positions. However, my hands weren’t quite dirty enough. In fact some of the dirtiness had rubbed off. I wanted to prove, not only to myself but also to my dad, that I was a mechanic with the dirty hands to prove it.

With frustration I looked around the garage again and then back at my bike. I was disappointed! So close (since I felt like a mechanic) and yet I didn’t have what I considered proof that I was (dirty hands) truly a mechanic. Being the optimistic person that I am though, my mind started racing and trying to figure out how to reach my goal.

And then it hit me… The chain.

This new bike’s chain was fascinating to me since I had gone from a single speed bike to a 10 speed. The chain was oily and so were the gears (I secretly thought they were beautiful). I realized I could remove the chain, see how this new bike worked with all those notched circles that were so perfectly placed and most of all, accomplish my goal- dirty hands.

This childhood dilemma is so similar to that of networkers today! They feel so close since they are a networker, but yet so far from reaching their goal by receiving business from it. When you are networking do you franticly look for your quantifiable results and then when they don’t happen right away, walk away defeated and disappointed? Are you open to new opportunities to learn? Are you looking for situations that will help you accomplish your goal?

There are a few simple ways that you can make the most of your networking mechanics.

  1. Keep your eyes open for opportunities even if they don’t seem to be the answer you’re looking for immediately. You can always learn something and increase your knowledge.
  2. Use your skills and learn along the way. If you aren't learning, you’re regressing. I learned a lot about gears that day that would help me later. Yet I still could say I accomplished my ultimate, quantifiable goal.
  3. Have the tools you need handy. Business cards, your calendar and your smile are the most important!

Remember, the “feeling” you get from stepping outside the box in your mind is very satisfying. You grow, you learn and you’ve only just begun to achieve your potential.

I’m not by any means a mechanic, but I really thought I was, and to this day take pride in enjoying learning how things work. There is much more to networking than just handing someone a card and saying let’s get together. It’s also more than sitting down with someone and showing them what you can do to ease their “pain”. It’s about creating the relationship FIRST, sincerely. Trust me, I knew my bike well, before I could actually reach what I called success. I learned all about it and how it moved and worked but only THEN did my hands get black.

When I came in with my dirty hands and smudged face that afternoon, my mom asked what I had been doing. As I rubbed my black greasy hands together, I proudly answered, “I was just workin’ on my bike”. My mom’s blue eyes sparkled and as she smiled she said, “You’ve always been mechanical, Tara”.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How's the Weather?

So many conversations start with the topic of the weather. It doesn’t matter the season, it’s always one of the number 1 topics of discussion. Recently here in Minnesota we have had several different types of weather. We have had warm and cold. We have had snow, rain, ice and mud. All of these are great conversation starters including the commonly used, “Is it (insert hot or cold here) enough for ya?” Whatever the answer is it doesn’t lead to much weight in the conversation.

We have about 7 seconds to make a first impression. Do we want our opening line to sound like a cliché or would it be better to start a conversation with some forethought and something of substance?

So here is a list of a few non cliché phrases that you can use to start a meaningful conversation*-

  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • You mentioned that you were in (Industry). What got you started in that direction?
  • Where else do you usually network?
  • What are some of your biggest challenges?
And my VERY favorite of all time…
  • How can I help you?

Small talk is one thing but when you are trying to have meaningful conversations with people that stimulate more conversation or even a meeting at a later date, we want to take an interest in the other person. People in general have one common topic that is their favorite… themselves. It’s not out of selfishness. It’s truly because they are an expert on the topic. Give them a chance to share their expertise. When they realize that you are interested in them, they will take an interest in you. You begin to establish trust with your conversation partner. With trust we are able to begin to build a relationship with that person.

So next time you are with a person you’ve never met before, leave the weather out of it and go for the depth and meaningful conversation. You will make the other person feel comfortable, at ease and possibly begin a new relationship. Because really, isn’t that why we network in the first place?

*Questions taken from Networking Like a Pro by Dr. Ivan Misner

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rowing Through Mud

2010 kicked my butt! I had every intention of it being the BEST YEAR EVER and yet the things that I thought were solid were fluid.

I set my goals, I got a fantastic coach, I started a new business and began writing a blog. I also commenced writing a book as well as got asked to be a contributing author to another. My beautiful daughter got married and I now have a wonderful new son added to my family. I was able to travel more than I had in my life and had a wonderful vacation with some very dear “new” friends. I moved into a new home that I embraced with all its imperfections. I reconnected with friends I hadn’t known for years! I made some new friends that will be in my life forever. I had doors and opportunities placed in front of me that were beyond my imagination. And I have a family that is so dear and wonderful, words can’t express the depth of emotion I feel. For all these things, I am truly grateful.

I also had so many bad things happen that it made every day a challenge. I’m not talking, I’ve had a bad day and I’m a little fussy. I’m talking tragic, horrific and ugly. When my Doctor asked me how I had been and what was going on in my life since I had seen her last, I said, “Oh, you know, pretty much everything stayed the same…” And then one by one, I mentioned some of the things that had happened in the last year. When I finished, I was a little emotional. She reached over and squeezed my hand and gently said, “It sounds like you’ve been through hell”. I laughed through the tears that quietly fell and said “But isn’t everyone going through things like this or something like it?”

It’s true, we all have challenges that we could use as an excuse to just lie down. But as my mom always says, the things we experience make us the people we are. I have another friend who says, “rub some dirt on it and get back in there”. Last year, I didn’t want to “get back in there”. I was tired. However, I believe a person is a victim only if they want to be. I refused to be a victim and I fought hard, with every fiber of my being and I got back in there!

Why am I sharing this? If you know me at all or see me on Facebook, you know I am in no way a complainer. In fact… I despise complaining ((big smile)). I do know, however that I’m not the only person who had a “hard year”. I’ve heard it over and over again from people I know and even those I’ve barely met.

The purpose for this post is twofold. One, it’s a growing experience for me. A cleansing exercise, if you will. I don’t share my down days except with those who are VERY close to me. I think I can count them on one hand. As a Once Timid Networker, sharing anything about me would have been a struggle or I would have refrained completely. Thank you for allowing me the venue to grow.

Two, most importantly, I want to share what helped me, in hopes it can help someone else.

So here’s my list of things that will help when your day feels like mud and you’re trying to paddle through it to get to your destination.

1. Count your blessings- Sometimes taking stock of what good things are happening makes the bad things diminish, or at least give you a new perspective. I gave you my partial list at the beginning of this post. I mentioned the big things. However sometimes all you have to count are the small things, like witnessing a sunrise, a pen that WORKS, a smile from a stranger, a hug from a child, or a text from a friend. And one of my favorites, that first sip of coffee.

2. Find delight in small things- see above

3. Notice others- Everyone has problems, be a support for them. This helps us forget about the negative things going on in our own lives, if only for a few moments. Don’t just leave it at that either. Ask how you can help them. Check in on them regularly and give assistance to them. Even if it’s an ear for support.

4. Smile- A true eye squinting smile. A smile can help so much. It makes you feel better, it makes the people around you feel better and it releases endorphins that help your immune system and fight depression. You can be happy and improve your health!

5. Have a confidant that you can vent to- This is not the same as complaining or whining. This is factual release. This is not to imply that you talk to multiple people about all the things that are happening to you and venting to anyone who will listen. Or heaven forbid, post all your garbage on Facebook or Twitter. I’m talking about letting one or two people know what’s really going on so that they can “have your back” (see the book Who’s Got Your Back- Keith Ferazzi). This is so they can check in with you and be your support when it’s too much to take. For those who helped me through last year, you know who you are, I’m eternally grateful. I don’t know where I would be without your love, compassion, hugs and listening ears. Thank you.

6. Move on- Dwelling on the past is unproductive. You can’t turn back time to change it so why bother with the “what if’s” or “if only’s”. By looking backwards you keep bringing that negativity on yourself. If you noticed, I refrained from making a list of all the yucky stuff, and you all know how much I love a good list! But here’s the deal, list’s are made so you can remember something. Keep a list of the successes instead.

These are just a few things that helped me last year. But they have been great habits that I have used to continually keep myself in check. Little by little the mud goes away. Eventually you will find yourself in a lovely place again, whatever that may be for you. As I look around my life now, I see the mud receding and drying up. Is it all gone? By no means. However, I’ve come prepared and this year I intend to outsmart the mud!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "Sparkle Factor"

I was born and raised in Alaska. It’s common knowledge that there is gold in Alaska and you can find it if you know where to look and if you have patience. When I was a little girl, my dad would bring me fishing along the Kenai River and he would often tell me to look for gold. He said if I could find some, I could keep it.

So as any little girl who loved Barbie’s and dress up, I would look for shiny, sparkly things along the water’s edge. Sometimes I would run my hand through the water gently stirring the silt at the bottom of the river looking for a glimmer something. I would see that “shine” through the water and I would get goose bumps. My heart would pound and my palms would sweat. My breathing would become rapid and I could think about nothing else except focusing on finding that object sparkling in the water. I had to be careful so I wouldn’t fall into the river and sometimes I needed to figure out a way to get to the Sparkle since it wasn’t always within my reach. But that didn’t stop me because each time I saw something glimmer in the water, I was convinced that it was the treasure I was seeking and I wouldn’t know for sure unless I tried to get it.

I found lots of shiny things, fishing lures, hooks, candy wrappers and lost or broken pieces of jewelry, but I never found gold. In retrospect, I realize my dad was giving me a project for the day so he could enjoy his day of salmon fishing. I do look back on those days with fondness. I collected piles of sparkly items that we usually threw away when we were done. But, I loved the hunt and I loved the idea of what could possibly be found and to this day I have an addiction for sparkle. In fact I sometimes refer to it (tongue in cheek of course) as my favorite color.

Do you have something that you just know is “IT”? You feel it in your bones and it gives you goose bumps? Do your palms sweat and your heart beats faster? Does your breathing become rapid and you find your mind drifting and then focusing on “IT”?

That’s your “Sparkle Factor”.

It makes your eyes shine and your heart sing and when you talk about it you sparkle from the inside out. It can be something tangible but it can also be a goal, a business idea, even a person. Whatever it is for you, use it to your advantage and run with it. Sometimes it’s out of immediate reach and we have to find a way to reach or achieve it but don’t lose your focus. If you don't try, it could become a missed opportunity.

When I have a sparkly idea or plan it becomes part of me and I’m driven to accomplish it no matter what it takes or how hard it is to reach. “Sparkle” is something that makes my heart happy and gives me joy in all its forms and I have to reach out to grab it. If I would have found gold, those summers long ago, I would have probably been a small flake or nugget of little value. "Sparkle Factor"- Priceless.

What’s yours?

Tara Schmakel
The Once Timid Networker
Entrepreneurial Excellence
The Workroom at Tara's

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Distractions Are GOOD, right?

The other day I was so distracted that I could hardly focus on what I needed to accomplish for the day. I started making a list and found my mind kept wandering. I suddenly realized this was happening and decided to post it on Facebook. I asked my friend-ly community, what distracts them. Almost every person replied with a distraction that they considered a good thing under normal circumstances. They replied about their children, Facebook, the scenery outside, an event they were looking forward to and thinking of friends and family that were missed. All positive things or good things, right?

We sometimes think of distraction as a negative thing. However, I like to think that sometimes, distractions can help us accomplish what we are trying to achieve. How so you may ask?

Well how about when you go to the Doctor and you need to have blood drawn. I’ll bet most of us, turn away and think of something else besides the blood leaving our body and the prick of the needle. Or, you’re stuck in traffic on a hot summer day. Instead of focusing on the heat, the bumper to bumper traffic, you turn on the radio or an audio book. Distractions can actually help us accomplish something that we don’t necessarily want to do. By using a distraction we can take the focus off of something that feels unpleasant to us so that we able to get done what we may not want to do.

Let’s take for example an event. For whatever reason, you may be stressing over attending. Why not use distraction to make it easier. As a Once Timid Networker, I used to loath these events. I would get so anxious before that I would almost make myself physically ill. I have since learned a few “distractions” for myself to make it easier.

1. Just DO it! That’s right, don’t even think about it, just act. We can create anxiety in our minds that is worlds worse than the actuality. Be so distracted that you don’t even think about what you’re about to do. In the words of my wise mother, “Just get an attitude about it!” Trust me, it works!

2. Invite a friend along who might be a timid networker and focus on helping them instead of yourself. Helping another is a great distraction and they love you for helping them out!

3. Play music that gets you excited on your way. You will be so focused on singing your heart out in the car that you forget about where you are going. In turn you get yourself energized and ready to go. Personally, I use theme songs and I love how they distract me!!

4. Find something “shiny”. Yes, some of us can be distracted by something sparkly (ahem!) But when you find what your personal “sparkle factor” is, that thing that makes your eyes shine, you can use it to your advantage and it can actually help you accomplish your goal. (another blog to come on “The Sparkle Factor”)

5. Visualization! Visualize yourself networking like a pro around the room, talking to strangers, taking their card, introducing them to others acting the host to the event… even if you’re not. Studies show when we start thinking about helping others, we will be less stressed. See yourself acting the part. When it comes time to do it in real life, it will be very similar to what you visualized.

Let’s face it, we distract ourselves all the time. We just need to learn how to channel our efforts and use them to our advantage. Find what works for you. Use distractions to get the things done on your list that you don’t want to do. Feel the sense of accomplishment when you do it!

Tara Schmakel
The Once Timid Networker
Entrepreneurial Excellence
The Workroom at Tara's