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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Tara, why don't you make a list?"

I am a list maker, through and through. I love short lists, long lists and colorful lists. Just love them!

I believe the first list I ever made was when my mom told me I needed to clean my room. I was overwhelmed by how messy it was and didn’t know where to start. I asked my mom to help me and she said, “Tara, why don’t you make a list?” I didn’t know how to spell so I drew pictures of the things I needed to pick up. Some items of clothing, a book, a Barbie doll, Mrs. Beasley (of course I wore her glasses while I was cleaning), some little dishes and a nicely made bed. I used crayons, it was colorful and I thought it was the prettiest list I had ever seen.

The fact is… yeah, I was probably was stalling. However, since I took the time to make this pretty little list, I enjoyed looking at it I was able to check off as I went. I could see my progress and when I picked up something that wasn’t on the list, like the magnetized alphabet shapes, I put it on the list so that I could cross that off too. I wanted to see what I had accomplished. And this list made me smile every time I looked at it.

My mom told me when I was done with my work, I could play. She followed that with, if I took something out to play with, I should put it away before taking out a new toy. Oh how I enjoyed playing in a clean room. I felt good that my mom was pleased with what a good job I had done. I had more room to play and everything was in its place. I also had more freedom, because I knew if I got it done fast, I would be able to play for a longer period of time.

There were several things I learned from this that I carry with me to this day.

1. A sense of accomplishment- If it’s not on my list, I don’t get it done. It was pointed out later to me by my business coach, Jim Larson that being overwhelmed is a common thing and since lists work for me, use them to my advantage. It was at that point I fully embraced my love of lists. Thank you Jim!!!!!

2. Efficiency- By adding on to my list, items that weren’t there before, I was able to come up with a permanent list that I could use each time I cleaned my room. I still have lists that I use over and over. I don’t cross things off those lists. I just put a pencil dot when it’s complete, so it can easily be erased and then reused.

3. Freedom- If I get the list done (the work part), I can play. Playing is of course different for me now than it was when I was 4. But the idea is still the same. And yes, sometimes… the playing would be considered by some as work. But hey, it’s my list… and that’s just how I roll! ((big smile))

So what does all of this have to do with The Once Timid Networker? Well, to be honest a lot. When I am going to a networking function, I have a list of things I need to have along with me (Paper, pen, calendar and business cards). As a Once Timid Networker, I used to think the only thing I needed was my business cards. But as I became more comfortable with networking, I added things to my list to include the other items (there’s that permanent list again). When I’m speaking at a BNI chapter, I have a list of other items I need to have with me. When I go to a conference, it’s a different list.

Are you a list maker? What do you enjoy about them? If not, is there a task that you struggle with? Try making a list and see if that helps you get it done faster?

Yes, I do love lists. They help me get things done and that feels so good! They help me look professional, because I am prepared. And using them allows me more freedom to do what I really want to do!

Tara Schmakel
The Once Timid Networker
Executive Chair- Entrepreneurial Excellence Business Forum- Minneapolis
The Workroom at Tara's

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Go With Your Gut

Have you ever had that feeling in your gut that tells you that you NEED to do something? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s that unrelenting, urging in your soul to move you forward to do something. It may be something you feel very good about but it could also be something that you may be feeling a little trepidation. Regardless, you are moved to act.

Last January, I had a gut feeling that I needed to go to Miami Beach for Get Connected 2010. Financially, it was not a super time for me to leave. But I had made a promise to the organizers Beth and LuAnn that I would come to help out and I really wanted to keep my word. I wanted to hold true to myself and the promise I had made. I was in fact excited to hear and learn from the speaker lineup and knew I would walk away with some fantastic ideas that would improve the success of my business. So, I went.

The benefits I received from attending this event were beyond my wildest dreams and to this day the transformation that I experienced is indescribable. Yes, it was fun but more importantly, it changed my life.

One of the people I was able to get to know better was Frank De Raffele. He was kind and interested in my business but also me as a person and as a peer.

Fast forward to few months later… Frank announced the launch of an Entrepreneurial Excellence Business Forum in Florida. I read about it and thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to have the kinds of conversations I had with Frank in Miami on a monthly basis! His ideas were out of the box and in my opinion brilliant! So, I asked him, what it would take to get one of those here in Minnesota?

I’m proud to say, last night was the launch of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Business Forum here in Minneapolis.

As a Once Timid Networker, this is something that I would never have dreamed possible. If I wouldn’t have gone with my gut 6 months ago, I wouldn’t be standing here today beaming from the success of last night. I wouldn’t have the opportunity I had last night, to help the 28 people that were in the room to strive for new goals that could change their life. And I certainly wouldn’t have the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that I feel today for reaching beyond what was comfortable for me.

Is your gut telling you something? Is your soul pushing you towards something that’s out of your comfort zone? Are you feeling like there is something more for you, a larger picture? Or, have you made a promise to yourself that you feel the desire to stay true to?

Why not take steps today. Move forward and be true to yourself. Yes, some things may seem a bit like a gamble. Some things you may not know the outcome until you do it. But the thing is, you won’t know until you try. Go with your gut!

Tara Schmakel
The Workroom at Tara's
Entrepreneurial Excellence

Friday, July 2, 2010

Could you be like Wayne?

I’ve been a member of BNI (Business Network International) for 5 ½ years. I was very timid and scared at my chapter meetings but knew I was where I needed to be to grow my business. As much as I loved my meetings, I also disliked them. It was not in my nature to talk to people I didn’t know. On my 30 minute drive, I would practice the commercial I had prepared but I would also think those thoughts that are so destructive. One of them being, who will I talk to? What if nobody talks to me?? By the time I arrived at the meeting, I was sick to my stomach with anxiety.

As a Once Timid Networker, I would arrive and put my things down at the seat I had selected then scan the room for the nearest escape, the coffee and treats, and a possible friendly face. Wayne would always catch my eye and wave across the room to me. He was and older gentleman with a very kind eyes and a warm smile. He was so friendly and I realized I could always go to his side and he would welcome me into the conversation. There were a few times I tried to go to another circle but ended up feeling more ridiculous than I did already, since although they acknowledged my presence, they didn’t include me. I grew to absolutely loath “Open Networking” and it was a nightmare if Wayne wasn’t there.

Fast forward about a year. My friend Kevin Snow (and now fellow Director) asked me to fill in for him at a group who was in the process of becoming a BNI chapter. Looking back, he must have been desperate for help and I must have been on cold medication! I have no idea why he asked me or why I said yes (lol). He handed me a sheet of paper that said something like “Mentoring checklist”. I put on my best pretend-a-ambassador face and went to teach this group about being a mentor and what it could mean to a new member.

As I prepared for this and researched the material for this presentation, it touched my heart and stirred my soul because I realized that I was not the only one who felt scared at their initial BNI meetings. I reflected on the way that Wayne had treated me. His warmth and how he always seemed happy to see me. He was approachable and made me feel as though I belonged there at that meeting. When I had a question, I knew I could ask him. When there were trainings coming up, he asked if I would like to join the group who was going. I realized, what if every member had their own version of my friend Wayne?

Shortly after that, I became and ambassador with the sole purpose of teaching chapters the value of the mentor program. We have researched and modified the program and have developed a system that is incredible and that our region is very proud of.

My point is, take the time. Whether it’s at your BNI chapter or any other social function and find that lost soul. The person who won’t make eye contact and is wringing their hands. The one standing (or sitting) at their seat. They are looking for a reason to get the heck out of there! Give them a reason to stay. Help them to feel comfortable and at ease. You may be giving them something that they have never experienced before. You might be pivotal in their success. You might be the one, who makes a difference for that person. I haven’t seen Wayne in years, but I hope he realizes how he helped me. Without him, I may have left the group and never become the Once Timid Networker.

Become a Mentor.

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara's

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I was recently at the National BNI Conference in Pittsburgh. I love these conferences because they give me energy and feed my soul. Being around other likeminded people is stimulating and I love being able to take in and learn from all of the other Directors. I’ve always felt a little like a wall flower, just observing and absorbing everything, everyone said. But something happened this time that made me feel… well, like I was a small, blossoming flower in the middle of the garden.

I had gone to Florida early for some other business training and so I missed the Author Mentoring Telebridge that I normally would have listened in on. When I got to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, I asked one of my colleagues what I had missed on the call. They then told me, “Oh it was good, we went over the articles, there were a few questions… etc. OH and Hazel talked about your blog!” My heart skipped a beat. Hazel is the one who co-anchors the call with Dr. Misner. I knew she had commented on my blog but assumed she did that for everyone in the program. “Yeah, she said we should all go check out your blog because you do a good job with it.” At first I thought he was teasing me. But when I realize he wasn’t, I couldn’t believe it!!

I approached Hazel later on and introduced myself. As a Once Timid Networker and if you have read any other entries of this blog, you can imagine the challenge that was going on inside of me. A mixture of, what if she doesn’t know who I am? What if she’s too busy to talk to me? What if I stumble all over myself? What if my friend really was teasing and she doesn’t know what I’m talking about?? Who do I think I am…This was HAZEL WALKER!! The Queen of Networking!!

But also, there was a small measure of pride at the thought that I was doing a good job and my message was being heard.

Well, I’m here to tell you, she couldn’t have been more kind. Her smile was warm, her hug was just the right amount of tightness and every time she saw me she went out of her way to say hello. Plus, she remembered my name AND how to say it!! She talked to me. We even had breakfast together and discussed directions I could take this blog that I have grown to enjoy writing so much. I was star struck!

When I left the conference, I had acquired a new mentor. Thank you sweet Hazel for all your kind words, laughs and hugs…This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara's

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tools and Networking Part 3 (The Feather)

Let’s continue with our “Tools and Networking” discussion that linked back to that little green Starbucks stick. We are talking about tools that make it easier to deliver our message. The next one I would like to share is “The magic feather”.

Did you see Dumbo? Remember the part when Dumbo gets stuck in the tree and the Crows give him a magic feather that would “help” him to fly? Dumbo placed it in his little trunk and could fly! However he eventually realized that the feather was just a something to give him the confidence to do what he was capable all along. The feather wasn’t really magical, it was a tool.

Have you ever noticed that when you are wearing clothing that is clean, looks nice on you and fits properly, you carry yourself completely different? You have confidence and are not distracted by fidgeting with your clothing to make sure you “look” like you have it together. Not only that, but others are impressed with your demeanor because of how professional and confident you appear. Because of that, you are able to present and deliver your message with a greater degree of fortitude.

So, go into your closet, select a few “go to” outfits that always fit and always look nice. You may get complements when you wear them. (And silly as it may seem, this Once Timid Networker has even made notes of the particular outfits, including the accessories just so I don't have to think about it.) These are your “Magic Feathers”. If you look into your closet and can’t find a feather, bring a trusted friend shopping with you and purchase some. Or you could even hire an image consultant. You won’t be sorry.

Then next time you have an event you may be a little intimidated by, throw on a “feather”. It will give you the confidence to do what you were capable of all along… and just watch how you soar!

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara’s

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Shaking of a Hand

In January, this Once Timid Networker made a new friend, Tony Wolfe. He has become a very good friend and someone I look forward to seeing and chatting with when his name pops up on my Facebook Chat list. He is always positive and has a delightful smile and friendly voice.

Today is is my honor to have him be a "Guest" blogger for The Once Timid Networker... Thank you Tony for being inspirational and for being my friend.

Tara Schmakel, The Workroom at Tara's

I'm walking into a meeting/networking event and a bit timid because I have zero pre-existing relationships with anyone in the room. I'm the new guy. But wait, they don't know me either so that makes them the new guy to me.

I begin to roam the room hoping that an ambassador or an appointed connector will spot me and approach me to save me from my agony. It happens. A very nice lady walks directly toward me making eye contact and displaying a big smile with her outreached arm. She was walking at a fast pace directly toward me to give me a warm welcome. I'm looking forward to this. She looks fabulous and professional. I can feel her energy before she even gets to me. I extend my hand, she hers and we make that initial connection with a handshake.

We interlocked and maintained throughout the introductions. She was firm, yet gentle with the clasp of my hand. She wouldn't let go. Then, her other hand came into play. My right hand was now sandwiched between the two of hers. The usual up and down handshake protocol was in full force. I was unsure as to just when (or if) I was going to be turned loose. I wasn't necessarily uncomfortable but I was beginning to wish that I would be set free sometime soon.

She was letting me know, through both her words and the eternal handshake that she was happy to meet me and happy to introduce me to folks in the room.

Once released, I felt like a new man. I was now set free from my anxiety about being in a room full of strangers. I was escorted from one cluster of people to another being introduced as a visitor for the day.

I will remember that handshake forever. The impact that something as simple as a handshake can have is remarkable.

What impact are you having on people when you meet them for the first time? GO DO!™

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tools and Networking- Part 2

Our last post discussed tools we use to improve our networking and social activities. I talked about that little green stick and how it made my coffee drinking experience better for travel and delivery. It kept my beverage true by keeping it hot and it definitely made a lasting impression.
How can we make our networking experience better?

First impressions are the most important. Another person decides within seconds what their impression of you is. Most of us want to make a good first impression and for those who don’t want to, this probably isn’t the article you are looking for ((big smile)). That said, if we are looking to make a good impression there are several things that a person takes note of before they will open up to you mentally. We all have different things we look at but since I’m the one writing this, I will tell you what I see first!

A person’s smile.

If a new acquaintance smiles at me with a true, friendly smile- you know the kind where your eyes squint in the corners, I am almost always taken by that person! I don’t think I’m unique in that perception either.

Look at how the human race responds to a smile? You can’t help but smile when you see a baby and our goal is almost always to try to get that little one to smile. A child’s smile is beautiful with the innocence they have in their hearts and minds. And I must say when I’ve been able to make the most surly teenager smile, I feel as if I’ve won the prize of the day!

As adults, stresses take over and some people almost stop smiling. There was a cashier at my local grocery store that NEVER smiled. My daughter, Phia and I made it a goal to warm her to us so that we could see her smile. It took a few months but what a beautiful smile she had. Now, she smiles when she sees us coming.

It’s true, the expression on your face is one of the first things a person sees. There have been countless songs written about smiling. As much as I got burned out on the soundtrack of Annie when I was a little girl, the song is true. You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

So try it. Next time you are in a situation when you are around people, try smiling. It can make the coldest person warm to you and put the most timid person at ease. Ask me how I know…

((Big Smile))

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara’s and The Once Timid Networker

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The green Starbucks stick and Networking?

I would like to tell you about one of my favorite, coolest, simplest inventions. The little green stick you get at Starbucks. I have no idea what it is really called, but I love them! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a green plastic stick that fits perfectly into the opening on the cup cover. It has the Starbucks logo on the top. And it’s absolutely ingenious!

The first time I saw one, I was visiting my Aunt Val in Florida. She took us out for a cup and then asked if I had “ever seen one of these before?” I hadn’t and then she told me they were in the experimental stages and gave me a few. I took the extras home and put them in my car. I used and washed and reused. I loved how much easier this tool had made my coffee drinking experience.

Travel was easier because I could walk as well as drive without the coffee spilling out, either on me or my car(I hate when that happens). Delivery to a friend was easier because not only did it keep the beverage from splashing out, it also kept it hot! Yes, such a great tool!!

About four or five months later, I saw them here in Minnesota at my own favorite Starbucks location. I asked for one and they were surprised I knew what they were since they had just received them. I told them about the great impression this little item had made on me and then proceeded to sing its praises. I’m not really sure what they thought of me when I left but I didn’t care, I loved the new look of my cup!

I was removing one from my coffee lid the other day, still appreciating the value of this little tool. I smiled to myself, did a little dance in my head for the sheer coolness of it and then inspiration hit me! I thought about how we use tools to deliver our message when we network. Things that make a lasting impression, like that little green stick. What tools do you use tools to make your “delivery” easier? If you think about it, there are many at our disposal. Some are leveraged without even thinking about it, others that are very well planned out!

The next few posts will focus on specific tools, how we can use it to our benefit as well as a few things to avoid.

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara's

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What does Music have to do with Networking?

Do you ever feel the need to get yourself going? You may feel as though you just need that push to do what you have to do, something behind you. We all have different tools that we use for just that. One of my favorites is the theme song. I didn’t realize that’s what I called until recently viewing a DVD.

We’ve been getting Ally McBeal on our Netflix and have been enjoying reliving the show. The other night we watched and episode where Ally was struggling with something. Her therapist gave her an assignment- find a theme song. She was to summon this song in her mind when she was in the situation she was struggling with. In true Ally McBeal form, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I have a theme song!!

I thought back to when I first started hearing that song, wondering if it came from the show. But, I realized I’ve been doing a form of that my whole life. When I was growing up, we watched musicals whenever they would come on TV. When we got a VCR, we were able to finally watch them whenever we wanted and some, we watched on a regular basis. We also had the albums for our favorite musicals and so I would listen to the records as well. I always wished a person could sing their way through situations like they did in the movies, it sounded so much nicer than just the quiet thoughts in my head, the timid thoughts.

Music moves us all in different ways, it’s composed that way. Think of the range of emotions a person can feel from music even when there are no words. Now, put words to that music and you have something even more. Music and conjure up style and class, be invigorating or calming or can even move you to tears. Some music is sexy and sultry and others are playful and happy. Find what moves you to accomplish what you struggle with.

You can do what I do and have different songs for different things. Or just have one that does it all. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just make it work for you. As a Once Timid Networker, I cant tell you how many times I've used a theme song to psych myself up before an event. I hear it over and over and I become more confident, I am able to achieve my goal. Find your theme song and see how it helps you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weddings and Networking

Friday was my daughter Phia’s wedding. It was simple, beautiful and they are both so happy to be together. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, the room was filled to capacity, which means there were at least 250 people there. Most of them I knew or recognized but there were still quite a few I didn’t know. I think you know where I’m going with this…

At one time, I would have been overwhelmed by the amount of people. I would have sat down at my table with the rest of my family and waited for people to come to me. I would have felt bad later that I was unable to talk to as many people as I would have liked to and wished I wasn’t so shy. I definitely would have danced a lot because it would appear that I was too busy having fun to converse. And I would have justified it to myself by saying that I was throwing the party so I could dance if I wanted to. Yes, the Men without Hats song would have been running through my head!

Well, as a Once Timid Networker, that’s what I COULD have done.

Friday night was different though. I wasn’t thinking of myself and my own comfort, I was astounded by all of the people who came and were there because they loved Paul and Phia and wanted to share the moment with them. All I could think about was how I wanted to thank all of these guests for coming and being a part of their lives and my heart moved me to do so.
I reflected on the evening the next morning over my coffee and then throughout the weekend. I realized that Networking is sometimes a social event and often I would find myself at these events sitting at a table and waiting for people to come to me. I realized that the key to my ability to thank as many people as I could Friday night, was because I wasn’t thinking of myself. My goal was to show appreciation for those who came and make sure our guests were comfortable and taken care of.

So at your next networking event or social gathering, try shifting the focus. Think of the other people in the room. Do they look comfortable? Do they know anyone there? If not, introduce them to someone they may have something in common with. Show them around and if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings, invite them to come along as you explore where everything is. Helping others to feel relaxed and comfortable feels good, it gives you confidence and helps you to feel good about yourself.

I wasn’t able to get to every person in the room Friday night, but I can honestly say that I thanked as many people as time would allow and I was happy that I felt at ease! Congratulations to my sweet Phia and to my new Son-in-law, Paul!

Tara Schmakel-The Workroom at Tara's

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Rescuer

Yesterday I saved a pretty little turtle who was trying to cross the very busy road I live on. I saw it crossing and felt the need to go help. But there were cars racing by and I cringed each time one would pass, for fear it would run over that scared little turtle. I waited for the right moment, ran into the street and grabbed it by its shell. I got to the other side of the road and placed it over by some wetlands that are nearby. I felt so good that when I got back into my house, I had to post it on Facebook!

I haven’t been able to quit thinking about it though. But today I figured out why. I could relate to that little turtle. It had a goal, to get to the other side of the road. It was taking the steps to accomplish that goal but was having a hard time reaching it. It would take a few slow steps but then a car would race over it and it would start to turn around to come back. It was as if fear was making it turn back even though the goal was in sight.

As a Once Timid Networker, I used to go to networking events just like that turtle. I had the goal, I knew what to do, but as soon as I was surrounded by other networkers racing around, exchanging business cards, making appointments in their calendars, and talking to others I would get nervous and overwhelmed and fear would take over. At times, I even tried to head back to the door just so I could get away. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever observed someone feeling that way?

Like that turtle, I needed a rescuer, someone to help me reach my goal. I began to realize that if I could be open and honest with a trusted friend or two, they could be my rescuers and help me when I needed it. At first I was their shadow. I stayed close and met the people they met and moved on when they moved on. I observed every detail, the questions they asked, what they did with the business cards they collected, even their body language. I wanted to be as comfortable as they were and move through the room effortlessly, like they did.

It became easier and gradually I would move away to talk to someone but then come back to my rescuers side. I would make it a goal to venture out and try to meet one new person. The next time I wanted to meet two new people. I did this over a period of time and then one day I realized something changed.

A few months ago I went to a networking event. My rescuers were there and I waved across the room to them when I arrived. I looked around the room and got my bearings but I didn’t rush to my rescuers’ side. Instead I looked for the new person, the timid one, the one who was overwhelmed and paralyzed in the middle of the room. They had their goal, which was why they were there, but they were eyeing the door with that all too familiar gaze. I wanted to help them feel at ease the way my rescuers had helped me.

When I left that night, I realized I never did share more than a sentence or two with my rescuer friends. I missed them and felt bad because being by their side had become such a habit. But I also realized I had grown. They had helped me cross the busy road. They had helped me reach my goal. For that I am so grateful. To my rescuers, Chad and Steve, thank you so much.

Now please excuse me, I’m off to go look for more turtles…

Tara Schmakel- The Workroom at Tara's

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's what you do NEXT that counts!

Have you ever done something you regretted? Maybe you said or did the wrong thing? More than likely it was unintentional. Growing up, of course we make mistakes. One time when I was quite a bit younger, I had exercised rather poor judgment. When I talked to my mom about it, she said something that has stuck with me until this day. She said, “Tara, you made a mistake. But it’s what you do next that counts.” I live by those words. In fact it is my all time favorite quote.

There was such wisdom in my mother’s words because she knew me better than I knew myself at the time. She knew that I would withdraw. She also knew that I was a perfectionist and that in my eyes what I had done amounted to failure. She helped me see beyond what I had done. Those words helped me to look forward instead of back.

Sometimes we do something minor and sometimes it huge. Regardless, people handle things differently. At times we can become paralyzed by our actions. We may feel overwhelmed and instead of taking those “Baby Steps” we don’t do anything and that can make it even larger than it needs to be. Remember that any movement is progress.

Is there something that is paralyzing you right now? Do you feel hindered by something? Remember, it’s what you do next that counts. Break it down into steps. For those that know me, know that I am partial to making lists. If I can see my task broken down and itemized and then placed in order, I am able to think clearer and can see one thing at a time to make the progress needed. I even add things on to the list that I may have forgotten. As I cross things off, I am able to celebrate my successes. That celebration moves me to the next item on my list. It gives me energy to see the steps crossed off and instead of being paralyzed I am fueled to move forward.

As a once timid networker, becoming paralyzed used to be a regular thing, but now I know when I hit a bump that threatens to slow my progress, I make a list. And every time I cross something off I say, “It’s what you do next that counts”!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Tiara Experiment

I have a soft place in my heart for mentoring. I wanted to take a moment to tell you about one of mine.

Four years ago, I was attending training to be an Assistant Director for BNI. My role within the organization was to support chapters and to help them grow their businesses and chapters through word of mouth marketing with regular chapter visits. I was very nervous because as a timid networker, I was still borrowing the belief of others. I truly thought I was there by mistake. But I wanted to learn as much as I could before they figured out who I REALLY was. I somehow thought they had missed the fact that I was so incredibly nervous every time I had to speak in public!

Sue Henry took me aside one day after training and she told me that she thought I was going to be a good director and that she believed in me. I think I remember feeling very uncomfortable by the attention but I also liked it and thought she was so kind to be so nice to me. She then told me two things that have stuck with me until this day and I attribute my comfort with speaking to these two things.

She first asked me if I knew the song “I whistle a happy tune” from The King and I. She then with her lovely, soothing voice started to sing the words…

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect-I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows-I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

By the time she was done, I was in silent tears. It was as if she read my mind. My chest felt so tight as I held back the sob. I was afraid and I didn’t want people to notice me because I didn’t want them to see through me. I decided that I was hindering myself with my disbelief in who I was and I realized my body language was part of it. I needed to stand up straight with my head up and smile a confident smile.

She next told me a story about Princess Diana and how she had watched Diana change from a timid princess to a woman of power before her death. It was as if she received confidence from that lovely tiara. Sue then told me how she would pretend to put on a tiara before she would speak. She found she stood up taller and had more confidence in herself. She encouraged me to do this exercise as well. What she didn’t know was that I had always wanted a tiara!! In fact I thought they were so pretty with their sparkles but didn’t think I had ever done anything to warrant one. I immediately “put one on”.

I will tell you, it worked! Sue had given me a reason to have the most beautiful tiara I’ve ever seen… even if it was only in my own head. Since that time, as a Once Timid Networker, I’ve acquired a collection of beautiful virtual tiaras!!

My now very dear friend and mentor Sue, has coined this beautiful empowering exercise, “The Tiara Experiment”. Her goal is to touch 1 million lives this year. If you could use a tiara or know someone who could, by all means take one of mine, I’ll share! Please, visit her website and help me tell others about Sue and her Tiara.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baby Steps

Today I feel inspired to write about Mentors.

When a child learns to walk it happens in stages. At first they just stand with the support. As they get stronger they actually pull themselves up and are able to support themselves as they cling to something. They get excited when they actually stand with no support and we hold our breath almost counting the seconds that they keep their balance and stand on their own. Next they walk with us, sometimes stumbling. But when that happens, we pick them up and hold their hand and encourage them to go again. And won’t you agree that as they take their first steps we watch and cheer wanting them to succeed. We encourage them to try again and we clap at each little trip they make. Again and again they are able to walk on their own and they get stronger and can go farther.

And then everything changes… they walk, they run, they jump, they play and as onlookers who helped them reach that goal we watch and beam with great pride at their success and growth.

Throughout my life I have had people who have inspired me and stirred my heart to be more. Some have pushed me and some have pulled me. Others have guided me as if holding my hand at every step. Some have stayed with me through my successes and others have helped me get up when I’ve fallen down. Sadly, some have left for one reason or another, leaving a mark on my life. And there are a beloved few who I feel will always be there and will look on with encouragement and pride.

Why did they help me? They saw something that I didn’t know existed in me and they believed in me. As a Once Timid Networker, not only did I thrive on that guidance but I have also learned to crave it.

For those of you, who see “something” in a person, please allow yourself to be lead by those thoughts and become a mentor. Let them borrow your belief until they can make it their own. For those of you who are timid… allow yourself to be led, supported and be cheered on. You will be surprised at what will happen. I was…

To my family and my very dear friends (you know who you are), thank you!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flowers and Nuts

I love flowers! I also love gardening. There is something about digging in the dirt that decompresses me instantly. I’ve been thinking about which annuals to plant and where to put them. Some flowers are very compact and will stay that way as they grow. There are others that will spread if allowed. Of those flowers that spread some can be coaxed in the direction you would like them to go. Some will even train themselves once put in the right direction and will cling to an object, eventually becoming a beautiful topiary that stands alone.

This Once Timid Networker was at one time a very compact flower. I used to stay very close to what was safe and what I knew. Venturing in a new direction when it involved people was incredibly intimidating. I wasn’t afraid of trying new things necessarily. I had always been very driven and goal oriented. But talking to people I didn’t know was very challenging. Learning how to network however gave me the ability and opportunity to spread myself out a little more and meet new people. Not much at first but I learned the words to say to represent my business, The Workroom as well as myself, in a way that showed confidence and belief in what I was saying.

My friend Iain Whyte of Big Man Talking and author of Life, Business and Speedboats, explains how to get those words together and prepared. He calls them your Hazelnut, Walnut and Coconut speeches.

Hazelnuts- This is the small nugget of information. What you do plus one benefit.
Walnuts- Use this when someone wants you to elaborate on your Hazelnut by asking to tell them more you can promote a certain product or service with a little greater detail. Usually you only want it to be a sentence or two including a benefit.
Coconut- This would be 1-2 minutes about your business, usually used in a more formal type of setting such as a BNI meeting or another roundtable introduction at some other networking event.

Iain says “Use your nuts”! Because when you’ve planned what to say, are comfortable and familiar with the words, you will come across much more confident and professional.

A funny thing happens when you have that appearance, people listen to you. And each time you are successful, you become more confident, as well as practiced. You begin to blossom and train and coax yourself like those flowers hanging on to each triumphant moment. And after a period of time, you can look back and see where you’ve been but also that you have trained yourself into a towering form that stands on its own.
Tara Schmakel
The Workroom at Tara’s

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today I was remembered!

Today something happened that has set me beaming!

I was at Starbucks waiting for my coffee and noticed a lady sitting at a table by herself but obviously waiting for someone. I recognized her and jogged my memory for her name… Lesley! I had done some design work and custom sewing for her probably 15 or so years ago and always really enjoyed her. I stood there waiting and before I knew it, I was talking to her and she confirmed that she was the Lesley I knew. She recognized and remembered me and we did the exchange of business cards and “What have you been up to?” When I told her that I do custom sewing for homes, she immediately said, “I need you!” She then filled me in on some projects she would like my help with.

I have spent years reintroducing myself to people or worse, not followed up because, "maybe too much time has gone by and they won’t remember me". My insecurities have been grounded too! I can’t tell you how many times I have spent time with someone and gotten to know them and then when I saw them again, they had no clue who I was. I felt completely forgettable and unfortunately it had hindered me to quite a degree.
Have you or someone you know fallen into this trap? Is it keeping you from progressing in some way? Could you be missing out on business? What can you do to make talking to people that you have previously met, easier?
  1. Stand up tall and put a smile on your face! Having good posture not only gives you confidence but gives the appearance to others that you are. Smiling is just always good form. It makes you feel good and it’s contagious.
  2. When you make the move to talk to them, reintroduce yourself with not only your name but also a reminder of the conversation that you had held previously. If you remember the event or location throw that in too.
  3. Make eye contact. You can’t recognize someone you know if you aren’t aware of your surroundings and who is there.

Today I approached and spoke to someone I recognized from my past. To a confident person that may seem like a small thing. But to a Once Timid Networker, I realized I got out of my own way! It wasn’t hard and there was nothing to lose. The worst that could have happened was she didn’t know who I was. But that isn’t what happened. I am no longer that introverted, shy girl who wouldn’t look a person in the eye and it felt good. I sipped my first iced coffee of the year, and I as I drove away I had a little party in my head celebrating!

Tara Schmakel

The Workroom at Tara's

Friday, March 12, 2010

Networking Is Like Swimming

It's spring and you're heading to the pool for the first time of the season. It's finally warm out. No, it's downright hot! All you can think about is getting cool in the pool! You know it will be refreshing, you will be with friends or family that you have been looking forward to spending time with and you may even lose that glow in the dark look that you've been sporting all winter! You're ready to get in, but before you do, you test the waters with your toe... IT'S FREEZING. You know that you want to get in, but you can't just "jump in" like everyone is hollering out to you. So you go back on the deck to psych yourself up!

To a lot of people networking is just like getting into that pool for the first time. It's too cold and instead of just jumping in, they retreat for another time or until they are ready.

So what can a person do to ease into networking? Three things will help:

1. Think positive- If you think the pool is too cold, it will be. If you think the event will be intimidating, it will be. Tell yourself how great it will be and how good it will feel to have the sense of accomplishment! Just like you psych yourself to get into the pool, you can psych yourself for the event!

2. Dress for success- There are certain items of clothing that are suitable for swimming. It would be challenging to go for a dip if you were wearing a snowmobile suit. It could actually hinder your progress and weigh you down and you could even drown. If you are wearing something inappropriate for networking, you can also take a dive. Dressing according to your business is always a good idea, but many find it helpful to dress it up a notch. They find that little extra, gives them confidence, not to mention an edge over their competition. Also, don't forget your smile. The most important accessory you could put on!

3. Be prepared- To swim in a pool, you need to have the water ready. To network at an event, you need to have your words ready. Practice what to say when someone asks you what you do. Memorize a phrase or two that will just roll off your tongue. Once you are comfortable and a person is truly interested in what you do, you will find it easy to speak from the heart. You will also find it helpful to have business cards and your calendar along!

By practicing these tips and making them your own, it will become easier to attend a function, just like easing into the pool a little at a time. However, you may find you reach a certain level of comfort that you decide to just go all the way in. Whether you become numb to the effects of your mind or just reach a level of comfort, the result will be refreshing and satisfying and you may even build some relationships and get some business!

Tara Schmakel
The Workroom at Tara's

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