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

New Blog!

The shell of The Once Timid Networker is now live.