23 Oct

Communication hacks – 5 tips on how to navigate through the mine field of communication

Have you ever had a conversation with someone to then discover at a later stage that what you had said in that conversation was completely misconstrued?

Why does miscommunication happen? Well there are a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons to consider is how each of us filters information. At any given moment, we are subconsciously sorting through a huge amount of  data, more so these days with so many communication platforms continuously bombarding us with information. Some information we ignore and dump and some of it we take on board. This selection process or filtering system, which is  made up of our past experiences, belief system, culture and values to name a few, helps us process information and make sense of what’s happening around us.

So the next time you have a conversation with someone, remember you aren’t just talking to John or Jane, but you are communicating with a person who communicates through their own unique filter system. Their past and more recent history, their current state of mind, their mood. Here are a few communication hacks you can use to help you.

#1 – The onus is on you to ensure that what you are saying is being received correctly. Therefore, stating your case in a conversation and not considering the other person’s questions or opinion is a quick and certain entry into communication purgatory.

  • Allow for two way communication. Ask open ended questions, such as “How did you feel about that?” or “What do you think?” Probe them respectfully for their opinion not just for their blessing.

#2 – Ensure that the person you want to communicate with is ready for you. Trying to have a conversation with someone who is visibly distracted or busy is not going to end well.

  • If possible send them an agenda of what you want to discuss, prior to the conversation. This way they are able to prepare for you and get their “head in the game”.

#3 – Consider your own mood, body language and tone of voice. Are you ready and prepared for the conversation? Depending on the topic, perhaps you may need to re-schedule?

  • A good habit to get into before any meeting is to take a minute or more if you can spare to declutter your mind. Step into a quite space, close your eyes, breathe and concentrate on what’s ahead.

#4 – Speak in their language. Choose words, phrases, examples that they can relate to. Don’t use jargon words, technical words or speak in acronyms! They wouldn’t understand, nobody understands at the best of times. Remember it may be easier for you, but it’s not about you so just don’t do it.

#5 – Follow up. A simple action, but so seldom executed. This is either in person or in writing. Think of it as your safety net. It helps you to clarify your main discussion points, possible solutions, required actions and deadlines. Making sure everyone is “on the same page”.

Lastly, and probably the most important piece of advise. Always reflect on your past communication engagements. What went right, what went wrong? How can you repeat doing the things that work and what do you need to do to improve on the weaknesses.

30 Nov

Benefits of networking

I was at a networking dinner the other evening and seated next to me was a young lady fresh out of university. Half way through the evening she asked me a really interesting question. “What are the benefits of networking?”

My abbreviated answer to her was, “to connect with people”. She replied by saying that we could do that via social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other digital platforms. We didn’t need to waste our time attending functions and physically meeting people, we could very easily connect with people online in the comfort of our own homes (and probably in our pyjamas I thought).

She was partially right and also very wrong for many reasons I believe. These days we are so connected with people around us, but yet we are so very disconnected. People will boldly state that they have over a thousand contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, but what does that actually mean?

I may be old fashioned, but I believe that face-to-face networking cannot be replaced with online platforms. They should be used in conjunction with face-to-face networking, but never be a replacement. Have we gotten lazy with all of these alternatives?

So what are the benefits of networking? Actually let’s change that and ask, “What are the benefits of good networking?’

Networking in a face-to-face environment makes you focus on a number of key areas, which in turn benefit your business.

  1. Your mindset – Networking is not about you and how many business cards you can hand out or receive. It’s not about what other people can do for you, but what you can do for others. Going in with a “taker” mindset will set you up for failure right from the beginning, I can promise you that. Try to go in with a “giving” mindset. “How can I help these people?”How does that benefit your business? People like to work with people who care about others. Clients like to know that it’s about them and not about you.
  2. Your presentation – How you dress and present yourself to the crowd will determine how well you are accepted by the other party. Whether you like it or not, people will start developing an impression of you the minute they see you, even before you open your mouth. Make sure your dress code and non-verbal cues are showcasing the right message about you.How does that benefit your business? Creating good first impressions will start to build trust and eventually loyalty with your potential clients. Remember you are constantly on stage and how you present yourself will either attract new business or have them turn away.
  3. Your pitch – What’s the first thing that comes out of your mouth when introducing yourself and your business? If you cannot describe your business or the benefits of your business, you lose their attention.How does that benefit your business? Understanding your own business and confidently talking about the benefits, shows your potential client that you are confident, capable and genuinely passionate about what you do. That can be difficult to authentically showcase online.
  4. Your weaknesses – Attending a networking event can be extremely nerve-racking and overwhelming, especially if you don’t know anyone. Networking pushes you completely outside of your comfort zone into a a world of unknowns. There is no place to hide when attending a networking event, unless you spend the entire time in the loo. There is no screen to hide behind or virtual world to pretend in. Face-to-face networking builds your confidence and can set you apart from your competition if done correctly.How does that benefit your business? Finding ways to grow and develop your own skills and competencies will only benefit your business. The more you stretch yourself the better you become and the stronger your business becomes.
  5. The follow up – Networking doesn’t end when you leave the event. It has only just begun. What is your follow up strategy after the event? How will you re-inforce that first impression?How does that benefit your business? You start to build your own network of people who you admire, trust and support.

Nothing beats the good old fashioned face-to-face contact. If you want to grow your business and to create an everlasting impression, move away from behind the screen for a few hours and go and enjoy a cup of tea and some canapés with some other human beings. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.