Tag Archive | "communication"

7 Face-To-Face Networking Mistakes That Could Kill Your Professional Image

Despite all the online ways to link up with potential clients, I still believe making in-person connections needs to be a part of every business owner’s networking regimen. When you’re face-to-face with people, you can form bonds more easily because they get a more complete picture of who you are through your voice, body language, and appearance, reports Forbes.

That’s powerful and wonderful … unless you get careless.

While face-to-face networking can result in prospects gravitating to you, it also holds the potential to drive them in the opposite direction. Could your networking habits be turning off other professionals and causing you to lose out on business opportunities?

Avoid these networking no-nos:

1. Interrupting conversations. “How rude!” That’s what I think when someone walks up without apology and interrupts a conversation I’m having with another person.  Although discussions won’t typically be too in-depth at networking events, it’s still in bad taste to cut off conversations between others.

2. Practicing the “hard sell.” Want a surefire way to make connections eager to avoid you? Then push your products and services right from the start when meeting them. Doing so makes you appear aggressive as well as desperate—definitely not the impression you want to make!

3. Complaining. Remember, you’re there to connect with other professionals. While commenting on the venue location, décor, hors d’oeuvres, or other amenities can help ease you into a dialogue with someone, it can have a negative impact if your words are uncomplimentary. Others might perceive you as snide and ungracious.

4. Being all “me, me, me” and not taking an interest in others. Sure, you’re doing great things and everyone should know more about that. But you’ll do yourself a greater service if you forgo making yourself the center of attention and instead listen to what others have to share about their businesses. By asking open-ended questions and turning a keen ear to their needs, you can assess whether or not they may be a viable prospect. And then later you can follow up to share more about what you can offer them.

5. Having a few too many cocktails. Woot! Yes, networking functions often come in the form of mixers with a bit of a party atmosphere. But I’ve seen otherwise polished professionals turn into hot messes because they didn’t control their alcohol consumption at events.

6. Speaking ill of someone else in the room or about your clients. No, no, no. Don’t EVER do this. You never know who knows whom. Need I say more?

7. Dressing like you don’t care. Although many networking events are relatively casual, take care not to go too far with the informality. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, I recommend erring on the side of slightly overdressed. Worst-case scenario will be that you look a tad more professional than everyone else. No one will think less of you for that.

Done with attention to making a first-rate first impression, face-to-face networking can open doors to lasting professional relationships. Put your best, most engaging you out there every time—and take care to avoid networking missteps that could turn off prospective customers.

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6 Authentic Ways to Inspire Other People When You’re Not Great With Words

In order to succeed, almost everyone–whether business owner or employee–must not only stand out but also be inspirational. Leading requires the ability to encourage, to motivate, and to inspire, reports Inc. 

But what if you’re not comfortable speaking to groups… or even to individuals? What if finding the right words is something that always seems to elude you?

That’s okay. Instead of using words, inspire others through action. Here are some genuine ways to be inspirational–and to have a lot more fun in the process.

1. Don’t try to talk. Just do.

Words are often quickly forgotten. What most of us say isn’t particularly interesting — but what we do can definitely be.

So spend your time doing instead of talking. Actions are memorable. Actions are inspiring. Actions inspire other people to follow your lead and take actions of their own.

And that’s especially true when you…

2. Do unusual things.

Draw a circle and put all your “stuff” in it. Your circle will look a lot like everyone’s: Everyone works, everyone has a family, everyone has homes and cars and clothes….

We like to think we’re unique, but roughly speaking we’re all the same–and similar isn’t inspiring.

So occasionally do something really different. Backpack to the next town just to see how many people stop to offer you a ride. (Don’t take them up on it, though, since unless you appear to be in distress the people eager to give you a ride tend to be the last people you want to ride with.) Try to hike/scramble to the top of a nearby mini-mountain no one climbs. (Do yourself a favor and take water along.) Compete with your daughter to see who can swim the most laps in an hour. (If you live in my house you’ll lose really, really badly.)

Or work from a coffee shop one day just to see what you learn about other people… and what you learn about yourself.

Whatever you do, the less productive and sensible it is the better. Your goal isn’t to accomplish something worthwhile. Your goal is to collect experiences.

Experiences, especially unusual experiences, make your life a lot richer and way more interesting–to you and to other people. You can even…

3. Do the occasional stupid thing.

I know. You’re supremely focused, consistently on point, and relentlessly efficient.

And you’re also really, really boring.

Remember when you were young and followed stupid ideas to their illogical conclusions? Road trips, failing the cinnamon challenge, trying to eat six saltine crackers in one minute without water… you dined out on those stories for years.

Going on “missions,” however pointless and inconvenient, was fun. In fact the more pointless the mission the more fun you had because that made it all about the ride and not the destination.

So do something, just once, that adults no longer do. Drive eight hours to see a band. Buy your seafood at the dock.

Or do something no one thinks of doing. Ride along with a policeman on a Friday night. (It’s the king of eye-opening experiences.)

Pick something it doesn’t make sense to do a certain way… and do it that way. You’ll inspire other people to take chances of their own — and to not worry about what other people think.

4. Embrace your own cause…

People care about–and remember–people who care. Stand for something and you instantly stand apart — and inspire people.


5. But don’t ever talk about your cause. 

People who brag are not remembered for what they’ve done. They’re remembered for the fact they brag. (That’s why the first — and second — rule of doing good is to never talk about the good you do.)

Do good things because those things are good for other people. Don’t worry: the less you say, the more you will inspire others, because they’ll know you do what you do only because you care.

6. Get over yourself.

Most of the time your professional life is like a hamster wheel of resume or curriculum vitae padding: you avoid all possibility of failure while maximizing the odds of success in order to ensure your achievement graph tracks ever upward.

Inevitably, that approach starts to extend to your personal life too.

So you run… but you won’t enter a race because you don’t want to finish at the back of the pack. Or you sing… but you won’t share a mic in a friend’s band because you’re no Adele. Or you sponsor the employee softball team… but you won’t actually play because you’re not very good.

Personally and professionally you feel compelled to maintain your all-knowing, all-achieving, all conquering image.

And someday, without noticing, you’re no longer a person. You’re a resume.

Stop trying to appear perfect. Accept your faults. Make mistakes. Hang yourself out there. Try and fail.

Then be gracious when you fail.

When do, people will be inspired, because people who are willing to fail are rare–and because people who display grace and humility, especially in the face of defeat, are incredibly rare.

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Why You Should Ditch the Keyboard and Meet in Person Instead

Face-to-face communication is a dying art, or so it seems in the digital age. The majority of our communication with clients now takes place over email and instant messaging. While digital communication certainly has its advantages, experts warn their overuse may lead to some fundamental flaws that could derail your success, reports Entrepreneur.

Michael Diettrich-Chastain, a business consultant in Asheville, N.C., who helps business leaders understand the human side of their business, says while digital communication now prevails, we should beware the consequences of avoiding face-to-face meetings altogether. Diettrich-Chastain says some important elements of communication are lost in digital exchanges. Although phone conversations now sound an intimate way of connecting, even these don’t allow for body language and eye contact that are only available to you in an in-person meeting.

“All of these elements of communication help shape the conversation,” says Diettrich-Chastain.

There are many benefits to face-to-face time, including:

Convey importance. 

“If you’re meeting with a client, an in-person meeting tells your client your intentions are serious,” he says. Showing up in person tells your client the meeting is valuable to you because you’re willing to spend your time, and theirs.

Less room for misinterpretation. 

“A face-to-face meeting is most important when there can be no room for interpretation regarding the exchange of information,” says Diettrich-Chastain. The loss of tonality and body language in an email conversation can lead to misunderstandings. Face-to-face exchanges remove these elements for error, making it more likely that your message will come across as you intended.

Reading thought and emotions.

Facial expressions and body language can tell the story in a way email and phone conversations never can. Face-to-face interactions mean you can read these physical cues and change the way you’re presenting your information or open the door for you to ask, “What do you think?”  If you see a furrowed brow sitting across the table from you, you may want to clarify what you just said to avoid confusion, something you would never know existed if you were simply sending an email.

Immediate response. 

Forget sitting around waiting for an answer to your email. A face-to-face sit down means you’ll get a response right away. This can be particularly important when working on a time-sensitive project.

Capture attention. 

When communicating over email or even over the phone, it can be difficult to gauge how interested someone is in what you’re talking about. Are they checking their email while you’re talking on the phone, or just skimming your email? People’s attention spans are higher when they’re meeting in person rather than reading an email or even listening to someone over the phone. In a face-to-face meeting, there’s nowhere to hide. Disengagement is obvious, while the opposite – a head nod or smile – can instantly show you engagement and agreement.

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9 Habits Of Profoundly Influential People

Influential people have a profound impact on everyone they encounter. Yet, they achieve this only because they exert so much influence inside, on themselves, reports Forbes.

We see only their outside.

We see them innovate, speak their mind, and propel themselves forward toward bigger and better things.

And, yet, we’re missing the best part.

The confidence and wherewithal that make their influence possible are earned. It’s a labor of love that influential people pursue behind the scenes, every single day.

And while what people are influenced by changes with the season, the unique habits of influential people remain constant. Their focused pursuit of excellence is driven by nine habits that you can emulate and absorb until your influence expands:

1. They think for themselves

Influential people aren’t buffeted by the latest trend or by public opinion. They form their opinions carefully, based on the facts. They’re more than willing to change their mind when the facts support it, but they aren’t influenced by what other people think, only by what theyknow.

2. They are graciously disruptive

Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, “What if?” and “Why not?” They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.

3. They inspire conversation

When influential people speak, conversations spread like ripples in a pond. And those ripples are multidirectional; influencers inspireeveryone around them to explore new ideas and think differently about their work.

4. They leverage their networks

Influential people know how to make lasting connections. Not only do they know a lot of people, they get to know their connections’ connections. More importantly, they add value to everyone in their network. They share advice and know how, and they make connections between people who should get to know each other.

5. They focus only on what really matters

Influential people aren’t distracted by trivialities. They’re able to cut through the static and clutter, focus on what matters, and point it out to everyone else. They speak only when they have something important to say, and they never bore people with idle banter.

6. They welcome disagreement

Influential people do not react emotionally and defensively to dissenting opinions—they welcome them. They’re humble enough to know that they don’t know everything and that someone else might see something they missed. And if that person is right, they embrace the idea wholeheartedly because they care more about the end result than being right.

7. They are proactive

Influential people don’t wait for things like new ideas and new technologies to find them; they seek those things out. These early adopters always want to anticipate what’s next. They’re influential because they see what’s coming, and they see what’s coming because they intentionally look for it. Then they spread the word.

8. They respond rather than react

If someone criticizes an influential person for making a mistake, or if someone else makes a critical mistake, influential people don’t react immediately and emotionally. They wait. They think. And then they deliver an appropriate response. Influential people know how important relationships are, and they won’t let an emotional overreaction harm theirs. They also know that emotions are contagious, and overreacting has a negative influence on everyone around them.

9. They believe

Influential people always expect the best. They believe in their own power to achieve their dreams, and they believe others share that same power. They believe that nothing is out of reach, and that belief inspires those around them to stretch for their own goals. They firmly believe that one person can change the world.

Bringing It All Together

To increase your influence, you need to freely share your skills and insights, and you must be passionate in your pursuit of a greater future.

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10 Habits Of Ultra-Likable Leaders

If you want to be a leader whom people follow with absolute conviction, you have to be a likable leader, reports Forbes. Tyrants and curmudgeons with brilliant vision can command a reluctant following for a time, but it never lasts. They burn people out before they ever get to see what anyone is truly capable of.

When I speak to smaller audiences, I often ask them to describe the best and worst leaders they have ever worked for. People inevitably ignore innate characteristics (intelligence, extraversion, attractiveness, and so on) and instead focus on qualities that are completely under the leader’s control, such as approachability, humility, and positivity.

These words, and others like them, describe leaders who are skilled in emotional intelligence. TalentSmart research data from more than a million people shows that leaders who possess these qualities aren’t just highly likable, they outperform those who don’t possess them by a large margin.

Becoming a more likable leader is completely under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ). Unlike innate, fixed characteristics, such as your intelligence (IQ), EQ is a flexible skill that you can improve with effort.

What follows are 10 key behaviors that emotionally intelligent leaders engage in that make them so likable.

1. They Form Personal Connections

Even in a crowded room, likable leaders make people feel like they’re having a one-on-one conversation, as if they’re the only person in the room that matters. And, for that moment, they are. Likable leaders communicate on a very personal, emotional level. They never forget that there’s a flesh-and-blood human being standing in front of them.

2. They’re Approachable

You know those people who only have time for you if you can do something for them? Likable leaders truly believe that everyone, regardless of rank or ability, is worth their time and attention. They make everyone feel valuable because they believe that everyone isvaluable.

3. They’re Humble

Few things kill likability as quickly as arrogance. Likable leaders don’t act as though they’re better than you because they don’t think that they’re better than you. Rather than being a source of prestige, they see their leadership position as bringing them additional accountability for serving those who follow them.

4. They’re Positive

Likable leaders always maintain a positive outlook, and this shows in how they describe things. They don’t have to give a presentation to the board of directors; they get to share their vision and ideas with the board. They don’t have to go on a plant tour; they get to meet and visit with the people who make their company’s products. They don’t evenhave to diet; they get to experience the benefits of eating healthfully. Even in undeniably negative situations, likable leaders emanate an enthusiastic hope for the future, a confidence that they can help make tomorrow better than today.

5. They’re Even-Keeled

When it comes to their own accomplishments and failures, likable leaders take things in stride. They don’t toot their own horns, nor do they get rattled when they blow it. They savor success without letting it go to their heads, and they readily acknowledge failure without getting mired in it. They learn from both and move on.

6. They’re Generous

We’ve all worked for someone who constantly holds something back, whether it’s knowledge or resources. They act as if they’re afraid you’ll outshine them if they give you access to everything you need to do your job. Likable leaders are unfailingly generous with whom they know, what they know, and the resources they have access to. They want you to do well more than anything else because they understand that this is their job as a leader and because they’re confident enough to never worry that your success might make them look bad. In fact, they believe that your success is their success.

7. They Demonstrate Integrity

Likable leaders inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but likable leaders walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day. Even a leader who oozes charm won’t be likable if that charm isn’t backed by a solid foundation of integrity.

8. They Read People Like A Book

Likable leaders know how to read people as unspoken communication is often more important than the words people say. They note facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice in order to get what’s really going on with their people. In other words, they have high social awareness, a critical EQ skill.

9. They Appreciate Potential

Robert Brault said, “Charisma is not so much getting people to like you as getting people to like themselves when you’re around.” Likable leaders not only see the best in their people, but they also make sure that everyone else sees it too. They draw out people’s talents so that everyone is bettering themselves and the work at hand.

10. They Have Substance

Daniel Quinn said, “Charisma only wins people’s attention. Once you have their attention, you have to have something to tell them.” Likable leaders understand that their knowledge and expertise are critical to the success of everyone who follows them. Therefore, they regularly connect with people to share their substance (as opposed to superficial small talk). Likable leaders don’t puff themselves up or pretend to be something they’re not, because they don’t have to. They have substance, and they share it with their people.

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24 Tips for a Killer Business Communication System

Choosing a business communication system for your company is no small task, reports Small Business Trends.

Whether you’re a solopreneur working from home or a growing business with a full-fledged office and staff, your business communication system is what gives you access to your customers, suppliers, and anyone else you might need to contact.

Here’s a list of tips for choosing a business communication system that will help your business thrive.

Understand the Critical Importance of Communications

Picking out a business communication system isn’t something that should be taken lightly. So don’t just pick a provider because it has a recognizable name or was the first company you came across. Do some research to make sure you’re getting the best value and the features that your business needs.

Be Able to Communicate from Anywhere

Few small business owners today stick to just doing business from one location. And with a cloud communication system, offered by some VoIP providers like Nextiva, you can access your business communication system from a variety of devices. You don’t have to stay put in your office.

Find a Provider with Good Support

Customer support is one of the most important factors you’ll need to consider when choosing a communication provider. So talk to other business owners, read reviews, and do some online research to find out which providers have the best support for their systems.

Focus on How You Want That Support Delivered

More specifically, you should find out exactly how the providers you’re considering offer support, and make sure they align with your preferences. Yaniv Masjedi, VP of marketing for Nextiva, said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends: “Some people like receiving support over the phone and some people would rather communicate with you over Twitter, Facebook, live chat or email. So if you prefer to communicate with a company in a particular way, look into it and ask people at the company,” he said.

Ask Where Service Reps are Based

For those who prefer to receive customer support over the phone, Masjedi says that the location of agents is often an important factor. If you want to make sure that your customer support reps are based in the U.S. or in a particular geographic area, specifically ask that when doing your research.

Call Their Customer Service Department

One of the best ways to get all of this information is just to call companies directly. You can use this to gather information, but also take your own experience into account. Masjedi says: “Call their customer service department and see what it’s like. Are you waiting on hold for a really long time or do they answer the phone right away? Waiting on hold for 45 minutes when you’re having an issue with your communication system is the last thing you want to experience.”

Shop Around for a Good Idea of the Services Available

The market for business communication systems has expanded in recent years due to new technology. So there are plenty of options to choose from. Once you’ve called and asked about a particular provider, do the same for several other companies and then compare them.

Compare Prices Including Affordable Business Options

As the market has expanded, so have pricing options. VoIP services offer options that are often more affordable for small businesses. And as with any business decision, price should be a part of your determination.

Take Some Time to Uncover Hidden Costs

But you shouldn’t just take the price of each service at face value. Some providers offer introductory pricing or only offer certain prices if you sign into a long term contract. Look into those factors before just choosing the lowest price option.

Read Reviews and Look for Warning Signs

Reviews can be a great source for information about different companies. Do a quick search of your top choices and look out for any warning signs if people have concerns about support or reliability.

Understand Your Company’s Needs

With so many different features and types of plans, there’s something for basically any business. That means you need to choose a plan that is best suited to your type of business. If you need mobile options, choose a plan that includes those features. If you want faxing ability included, choose a plan that includes that. Think about the features you want and compare those specific plans from different providers.

Find a System that Fits the Size of Your Business

There are also plans that are best suited for different business sizes. If you have a few employees, you probably don’t need a system that’s set up for hundreds. But if you have a decent sized team, don’t just stick with the system you had when you worked at home by yourself.

But Also Seek Out Scalable Solutions

But even though you don’t want to pay for more than you need, a solution that can grow with your business is a definite plus. Find one that gives you the ability to add lines or team members. Or at the very least, don’t sign up for a long-term contract if you plan on outgrowing it within that time frame. Masjedi says: “So many businesses start small and then within a few years they have hundreds of employees. So you don’t want a phone system designed for ten employees or less. You want a provider that will support you as you grow.”

Learn How Often Updates Are Provided

With so much growth happening in the industry, you don’t want to miss out on new features that could be helpful just because you’re stuck in a contract. Before signing up for anything, ask about new features the company is working on and how often they update their technology.

Don’t Overlook Small Features

Even little features can make a big difference when it comes to your business communication system. For instance, Masjedi says that many of Nextiva’s customers really appreciate the ability to change outgoing or hold messages easily. If you have a little pet peeve with your current system, or something small that you wish you could do with it, ask about that when looking into providers. There’s no detail too small.

Take Your System Mobile

Mobile communication systems are becoming popular now that many of them are cloud based. Companies such as Nextiva even offer mobile apps that business owners can use to take calls on their business lines from anywhere.

Look for Options Like a Separate Business Line

For certain entrepreneurs, just having a separate number for business operations can be a big plus. Masjedi says that lawyers in particular tend to appreciate the ability to make and receive business calls on a separate line, even if they’re actually using their personal cell phone, because it lets them avoid giving out their personal number.

Explore Any Innovative New Features

There are countless ways to use different communications systems. So if there’s a feature or ability you’d like, there’s probably a provider that’s offering it. For example, Masjedi says that some businesses really appreciate Nextiva’s vFax feature, which allows them to send virtual documents as faxes even if you don’t have an actual fax machine.

Find Out About Analytics

Analytics can be another useful feature. Even if you don’t currently use them, they can help your business in a variety of ways. So it’s a factor that’s worth looking into.

Collect the Data to Grow Your Business

Analytics information can provide you with data that you can use to expand your operations. Masjedi offered this example:

“If you’re a dry cleaner and you close at 5 every day, but you see that calls are coming for some reason on Saturdays until 7, you’ll know that maybe you need to keep it open an extra two hours on Saturdays,” he said.

Use Recorded Calls to Train Employees

Many phone systems also give you the option of recording calls. You can use this feature to evaluate phone service and even use the calls to train employees and improve your service.

Draw on Technology to Optimize Your Team

You can also use call recording and analytics to keep an eye on employee habits. You don’t want to see team members spending all day on needless calls. So you can use the data to make sure everyone is on task.

Don’t Rely on Your Provider for Every Small Update

Another main benefit of VoIP and similar services is that they give users the ability to update parts of their service on their own. This doesn’t mean that you can’t call for service or help. But if you just want to update your outgoing message or something small, you can do it without having to sit on hold or call a company rep out to your location. So if that’s something that’s important to you, find a provider that gives you the option of managing parts of your account on your own.

But Make Sure They Will Help When You Need It

But good service is still essential to your operations. Make sure that your provider is open and available to help for anything you might need, not just a small set of options on on their pre-recorded phone menu.

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