Talking to Strangers

**I meant to post this while at the NSCA conference, but when I saw the $30 charge for internet I reconsidered.  Sorry, it was either $30 internet or $15 gym/spa. Not a hard choice at all.  I hope you enjoy!

networking

Photo Credit: http://diversitymbamagazine.com/our-best-networking-articles-2012

Talking to Strangers

The scene is set and the people came out in droves.  You find yourself in the midst of years of experience, loads of passion, and maybe best of all like-minded peers and mentors.  If you’re as lucky as me, then I am describing the environment at your yearly professional conference.  As a strength coach, I think we stand out in the fact that our mentors in the field are so willing to teach the “secrets” to any coach, young or old, that shows a real interest.  If you make a true effort to learn and most of all connect,  you would be impressed with the outcomes and relationships that can develop as a result.

So, another year, another conference.  You know that this is a great opportunity to meet people and make professional connections in your field, but you leave every year with regrets and some IwishIwoulda’s.

So what happened?

You failed to plan.  Just like anything else, in order to get the most out of your conference experience you must do some prep work first.  First and foremost, let me tell you that I am not preaching from a pedestal hereThat aforementioned scenario of regret was all my experience.  Admittedly, I was horrible at this whole conference thing and to be even more honest, I still am not great at it.  In the past, I was shy and didn’t make any connections, I wandered aimlessly from lecture to lecture with no real plan, and I wouldn’t dare ask a question.  I have improved in these areas, but I can surely do better.  This year I will.

Recently, I read a retweet from a “online mentor” of mine Coach Joe Kenn aka @BigHousePower  (An “online mentor” is someone who I don’t necessarily know personally, but I use them as a resource, often unbeknownst to them).  The retweet was about networking and was titled “The 5 Secrets to Networking” by Angel Ramos http://www.slideshare.net/ucfaramos/the5-secretsofnetworking

It was very thorough and full of great concepts and ideas on the topic.  After viewing the presentation, I was inspired to plan for my upcoming conference in a different, more informed way.   What I would like to do is reiterate the four points, which I felt were most useful:

  1.        “Know Before You Go”

If you are registered for your conference, you are often given access to a detailed schedule, with names of the presenters.  This year I reviewed the list and based on the topic and my particular needs/interests, I began to outline my day.  This way I am not wandering around making last minute choices about what I want to learn the most.  After I created my schedule, I began to do some cursory research on the presenters.  In some cases, you may already know some presenters or at least know of them.  In that case it would be a good idea to hop over to their website or social media page and see what they are up to most recently.  This way you will have something current to speak to them about should you run into them, say in the elevator… you never know.

2.       “Make a Goal”

Decide that you will make at least 2-3 connections per day before you leave the convention hall.  It is so easy to go back to your comfy room or occupy your time in a new city, but remember why you are there.  Don’t shortchange your experience.

People are generally there for the same exact reasons as you, so consider that to be a very friendly environment for random conversations with strangers.  Once you realize this, it becomes much easier to begin a conversation with another attendee.

Remember to introduce yourself with a firm shake, say your name clearly, and repeat theirs.  Ask them basic questions at first:

  • What do you do in the field?
  • What are you interested in getting out of this experience most?

Be sure to be genuine and actually listen to and care about what they have to say.   When you don’t, people can tell. It’s obvious!  The 80/20 rule works well here. Listen 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time.   While engaging in the conversation, listen for opportunities for you to be able to help out in any way.  Perhaps you or someone you may know could help this new contact in some way.  If you can provide value, you immediately become a solid connections for others.

3.       Attire

There is some room for interpretation for this in my profession.  We are dealing with sports performance, exercise, movement, etc.  I don’t think it is necessary to show up in a suit and tie unless you’re the keynote speaker, but if your reading this your probably not. I would suggest that you represent your business or university by wearing athletic gear or a nice polo.  Like I said, there is room to play with here because of the nature of the profession.  With that said, there are limits.  What you should not wear are tank tops, flip flops, shirts with foul language, etc.  Remember your not showing up to some college course in your sweats, socks and sandals like back in the day.  You may meet your next employer at this presentation or the person who will introduce you to your next employer.  If you are a professional in my field I and many others would prefer that you looked like one.  To the general public you represent not just yourself, but you also represent our profession.  You have a responsibility, so don’t blow it by poor representation.

4.       Build and Maintain Relationships

Once you meet new people it is a good idea to keep track of where you met, what you talked about, their contact info, where they work, etc.  That way you can stay connected in a more informed and effective way.  Stay in contact.  Please remember:

“Networking isn’t about giving to get.  It is about paying it forward, and building relationships.”

Networking 2

Photo Credit: http://www.artfulvagabond.com/artful-quote-h-jackson-brown-jr-day-188/

Change Your Attitude

I want to talk about something we all know, but for some reason very few of us put it into practice.  Great thinkers from our past have written quite a bit about attitude.  This knowledge has been recycled and reworded countless times since, but for some reason we don’t follow through with the recommendations of our predecessors.  I suppose it is because the concept is so simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.

PIC FROM: http://coachforyourdreams.com/5-positive-attitude-tips-3/
PIC FROM: http://coachforyourdreams.com/5-positive-attitude-tips-3/

As I progress, things become much clearer to me.  By surrounding yourself with others who excel in your field humbles you and serves as a reminder of how little you really know.  Especially, when those same mentors mention how much they are still learning.  Oddly, this realization brings forth a sense of comfort and confidence because you begin to learn to ask the right questions.  You begin to seek answers to the important questions in life that have the power to completely transform you and change your approach to just about everything you embark on.  I read often and as of late I continue to stumble across a common lesson, often hidden within the pages.  This lesson is so powerful, that when learned and practiced, it could completely change your life.  The best part of this lesson is that it is no secret and better yet, its implementation is completely within your control.

Only you have the power to determine what attitude you will have.  Your influence is the final influence.  Nobody else can make that choice for you and this can never be taken from you.  The best part is that genetics plays no role in this.  You hear people often use genetics as an excuse as to why they aren’t as good and why they fail at something.  There is no way to back out of this one.  It is you and only you.

 

Pic from: http://kenanaonline.com/users/Intilaaqah/photos

 

If you make the conscious decision to change your attitude and mentality about the things you struggle with, you will completely change the game!  When you master this basic process you can accomplish anything.  I am often inspired by Eric Thomas, a man who was homeless in the streets of Detroit who came out on top, graduating with his masters and is now working on his doctorate, while turning the motivational speaking game upside down.  He often mentions his attitude when he was picking through the garbage for food.  It wasn’t about where he was it was about where he was going.  He chose to not dwell on the dismal reality of current situation.  Instead he focused on where he wanted to be and that kept him in the empowered mindset that got him out of there.  Are you stuck feeling sorry for yourself?  If so, wake up!  The world is at your fingertips and we are all waiting for you to grab on and take what’s yours.  He also says something else that I decided to make one of life mantras;

“You don’t got to, you get too”

Realize that the way you speak is the way you are!  Stop saying you HAVE to practice (insert any word) today and realize what a great blessing it is that you GET to practice (insert any word) today.  Think of all the people that would die for the chance to be in the position you are with the opportunities you have.

Mindset and attitude are everything.  I coach a lot of individuals and not many get this.  Take the time to inventory your disabling mindsets and figure a way to transform them into empowering attitudes.  I am truly blessed to have learned this lesson at 31 and my hope is it reaches all of you at a much younger age.  You are in control of your thoughts, so change your attitude and change the game.