Does technology solve your communication problems?

Does technology solve your communication problems? Clever advertising and marketing might have you think so.

The temptation to grab a new app, invest in a new piece of software or hardware can be all very tempting…BUT it is not a magic wand.

Let’s be honest, life gets pretty hectic – both in the personal and professional sense.

Managing a pretty packed schedule; juggling business commitments, making sure to spend quality time with the family, as well as plugging in some “Me Time” is pretty much part and parcel of daily living these days.

It’s one big juggle.

By strategically embracing a few key pieces of tech it can be easier to keep all the balls in the air.

Note I said easier, not easy!

But it can also be a burden around your neck as you wrestle to get your head around how it operates and the intrusion it can often make into your life.

Technology makes it easier

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, Skype, WhatsApp, Trello, Dropbox, LinkedIn and…

…the Nespresso machine is part of our daily toolkit.

In a world where you have virtual assistants,  independent freelance experts, speech recognition and a myriad more timesaving options to choose from there is one thing that jumps out at me…

Despite all the changes and the new technologies at our fingertips, there is one thing that never changes.

That is the need to master the simple art of communication.

Communication

The need for strong communication skills remains as vital today as ever. In fact, you could say that this is even more important today.

And here’s why…

BECAUSE despite all the time-saving devices, fancy ways to send and receive messages,  the impactful way to connect comes down to genuine, authentic, respectful communication.

Communication is a two-way street

The need to feel connected is a strong human emotion.

We communicate with words and the words we choose can make or break a connection.

Choosing the right words can only be done when we understand our audiences, their perspective, their needs and the nuances of different demographics.

When we listen, we start to understand and that’s when the magic starts to happen – real communication that runs two ways.

Technology is wonderful, but nothing beats a face to face conversation, picking up the phone or doing a live interactive video call.

Being able to relate

If you stop to think about it, the need to connect on a relatable level is why things like Facebook live and video communication is so popular.

The audience gets to see you which helps them relate. As they hear you speak your words they feel directly connected provided you are using words that resonate with them.

Communication styles can be developed and honed with practice, but they always need to sound natural.  Building a relationship is something that needs a human touch no matter what kind of technology is being used to deliver your message.

If you’re struggling with making connections you may like to grab my FREE e-guide The Five Essential Steps to Networking & Creating Connections .

Fly like a dragon,

Michelle

 

The future viability of LinkedIn and how it affects us all

Instead of writing a new post, this week I want to re-share a brilliant write by Samantha Bailey . The article is an excellent explanation of the future viability of LinkedIn and how it affects us all.

I’d urge you to follow the link and check out this very indepth and informative article.

Samantha Bailey is a highly experienced Data Analyst with an impressive range of related specialist skills, including Research, Forensic Analysis, Data Analysis and Analytics.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts once you’ve read the article.

Yvonne

PS Need help creating a stellar online profile? Check out this course.

ARE YOU TRULY CONNECTED?

Being connected is vital for your business success. Connections and networks are the life blood of business and community.

You don’t need to have a zillion friends on social media. It doesn’t involve lots of contacts on LinkedIn either.

It means having authentic connections.

To be authentic relationships need to be nurtured, yet so often they are neglected. Worst still ignored until someone finds themselves in a time of need.

So, how do we maintain connections?

Let me ask you this question….

Do you like to receive mail?

I’m talking about letters, postcards, invitations etc. Not the kind that brings bills and other boring stuff.

Real, good old fashioned snail mail.

The kind of stuff that comes addressed to you personally. Handwritten, rather than typed or printed.  Something to hold in your hand. To feel the texture of the paper between your fingers, and even, sometimes, to smell the paper.

I love proper mail! But these days, it’s all too rare. My post box hardly ever yields very much of interest – apart from boring bills and even most of those come electronically.

I vividly remember, as a child, staying with my Grandma in Green Hammerton and waiting to hear the thud of the mail landing on the mat. That was back in the days when the postman pushed it through the slot in the door. Letters would tumble onto the carpet, we’d rush into the hallway to eagerly see what had been delivered.

Similarly, at boarding school, I’d anxiously await the mail distribution. Grabbing my letters I’d dash off to read them in a private space – voraciously reading the news from dear friends and family so far away.

Those letters, complete with exotic stamps from a country far away, used to sustain me through the often lonely moments of boarding school life. The best stamps on my mail came from Kenya and Liberia. Stamps from Spain meant a letter from my best friend.

Mail connected me to those I valued, loved and cared about.

Responding to each letter, postcard or note was a delight.  Choosing the stationary for my replies. Walking to the post office always with a spring in my step. Licking the stamps (even if the glue did taste horrid!) that would carry my letter to a far flung corner of the globe. It was a ritual that kept me connected.

Fast forward many years………

Online communications

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs etc have replaced the personal relationships of letters, cards and even phone calls.

Today we tend to see and share more of what’s happening in our worlds – there’s also lots of over sharing!

The flip side of this coin is, although there is a lot of sharing going on how much do we actually take in? I mean do you pay the same attention flicking through the digital space as you would to a letter, or to a phone call?

Of course you don’t. There’s so much to look through and hey, yesterday’s posts are now outdated.

So are we really more connected?

Umm, I don’t think so. In fact, I’d say definitely not.

We are only connected in the sense that we are voyeurs. We’re looking in and observing.

Kind of like a Peeping Tom, except we’ve invited this voyeurism by allowing the connection request.

These are not real, authentic connections because there is no real response.

Most are too busy scrolling down the newsfeeds to give stuff more than a cursory glance.

5 reasons why responding in the digital space makes good sense

  1. It is only when you respond that you’re truly connected. By responding you are demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to read what has been written.
  2. A written word of response is far more valuable that just a LIKE. It’s showing the person on the other end, that you value them. That you have made the time to read what they have shared and to frame a response.
  3. It’s an effective and inexpensive way to nurture your connections. We always remember people who make time for us.
  4. For people who live in isolation and have very little real-time interaction, often for reasons beyond their control, a response can mean the world. It lifts their spirits and helps them feel connected.
  5. LIKES are easy.  It’s a simple matter of clicking a button. So even if you are time poor a quick like does not go astray – not as good as a comment, but better than just scrolling past.

connected-love-writing-letterOn a personal level, I also regularly use good old fashioned handwritten cards to personalise messages.

They’re becoming rarer these days, and (I never have to lick the stamp!), but I know all who received them truly  appreciate the time taken to scribbling the note. Same as I love to receive them too!

Do you still write handwritten notes? I’d love to know if you do.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with digital communications and social media. I used it every day. It’s a vital part of my business.

Cheap and effective.  It’s also a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends and family far away.

The key is this – treat your connections with respect and courtesy – that means responding regularly and with authenticity.

Your business grows when you make genuine connections with your target market.

Michelle

P.S Want to be part of a private Facebook group that is supportive, motivational, aspirational, refreshing and talented ? Join us in The SMART Circle


LinkedIn Networking – The Missing Link

Love it or not, LinkedIn has been a standard bolt-on tool to business networking for long enough that it’s now an expectation.

Maybe, like me, you buckled under the expectation of peers, colleagues or clients, and ended up on LinkedIn because it just said too much about you not to be.

Like, ‘Really, you’re not on LinkedIn?!’ accompanied by the sort of facial expression reserved for inspecting fossils and other oddities from antiquity.

I’m enough of a dinosaur to remember the advent of cellular phones.

That was back when the first mobile phone (the ‘transportable’) weighed a ton, cost the earth, and was commonly known as ‘’the brick” for its unlovely looks and hefty weight. I expect you can still find one in a museum somewhere.

As a fledgling Vodafone sales rep it was my job to convince the reticent that they could not do without one. Never mind that lugging one of those things around gave you arms the length of an orangutan’s.

A day now without our mobile feels like a limb is missing and we can barely function.

Can we function without LinkedIn?

Sure. And quite happily.

The last thing a busy person wants is one more digital platform to keep pace with. Who really wants an already bulging to bursting in box pinging with new notifications that someone has checked out our LinkedIn profile, changed their profile pic or has worked at ABC Inc. for exactly 12 months today (should I send flowers, a cake)? Not me!

Yet I’m on LinkedIn. I may have landed on there simply to shut up my eye-rolling business associates and to disprove the theory that I’m a relic from the Land that Time Forgot, but given enough time, even a curmudgeonly crustacean like me, has to ‘fess up and say that it hasn’t been all bad.

OK, so it’s been more than worthwhile, once I’d sussed out the Missing LinkedIn Link. Because once you get a handle on LI it does open doors. No apologies for the pun.

What’s the Missing Link in LinkedIn?

To be fair it’s not missing. But it’s easy to miss amongst all the self-promotional fluff and flannel on there.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, you just have to use it, using good old fashioned networking skills. That’s the missing link to LinkedIn networking and opportunity creation (and not just for yourself).

These networking skills are a lot different to just mouse clicking like and periodically updating your profile brag sheet. Not that you shouldn’t have a great brag sheet. You should!

And you should be supporting your network with likes and comments and contributing with shares and posts of your own. But that’s just maintenance of presence stuff. And if that’s all you want LinkedIn for that’s fine. At least folk can find you if they want to.

I’m a salesperson so I expect a better ROI on my time and I want to be a bit more proactive than simply waiting for someone to fall over me.

I’m also an authentic person and I don’t want to engage anyone, however strong the connection, in any way that’s not authentic. I want to enjoy my connections.

Otherwise, it’s just too boring. LI doesn’t need to be a deep and meaningful experience for me. But it does need to be meaningful to be worthwhile – and that’s where the true value lies within LI.

Never lose an opportunity

Over the years, LI has proved to be a source of some choice opportunities that would not have come my way, had I not had a presence on that platform.

The alternative – not being on LI – would have simply meant that I’d have been unaware and unavailable to those opportunities and introductions. And that’s a key point – I’d have been ignorant of what I’d missed out on.

Ignorance may be bliss, except when it’s costing you an opportunity. A state which results in looking on (green-eyed) at your peers and competitors and thinking “she has all the luck” or “how does he get all the breaks” or “I can’t believe that dufus got that job/contract/client ….”

Are You Missing a Link?

If you’re already on LinkedIn and thinking “Huh, it’s been as much use as a chocolate teapot” in terms of opening doors for you, it’s possibly because you’re not actively using the medium to its full potential.

Maybe you haven’t found the Missing Link to making it work for you.

It’s kind of like having a membership to a club and never using it or turning up to any functions and then deciding it’s useless because you haven’t met anyone.

When Michelle and I started out with Dragon Sisters, we used to run networking workshops.

It was never a surprise to us that successful, competent business people, were just as cowed by the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers, as the less experienced workshop participants.

It just didn’t come naturally to go in cold and to engage, interact meaningfully and to come away with a value-adding experience from in-person networking events or functions which presented networking opportunities (in our book anywhere anytime is an opportunity to connect and network).

On line and offline the same networking principles apply, and that includes using the LI opportunity effectively. Putting in the missing link in how you use LI means you never lose an opportunity. But to do that you need to make sure you have a profile that makes you shine!

The Bigger Picture

Don’t be vain about who you invite to, or accept at, your LinkedIn table. Remember that helping out youngsters and start-ups can be rewarding in many ways.

Focussing only on a certain level of professional connection out of a sense of self-promotional reflective kudos can be counterproductive, as can the obsession with the number of connections you have.

Michelle and I have always believed in paying forward. We were lucky that seasoned professionals helped us when we were green, young and didn’t know what we didn’t know.

My LinkedIn connections include bright young things who have worked for me. Anytime I can give them a leg up I will.

Funnily enough, I sometimes get offers from companies reference checking my past employees and even the odd synergistic new connection from those managers and directors.

One day these bright young things will be directors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders themselves. That’s the bigger picture. Exciting, isn’t it?

Have fun networking!

Yvonne Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

Isn’t hindsight a fabulous and frustrating thing?

It’s fabulous when you can look back, satisfied with the choices you made, and frustrating when dissatisfied enough to think, ‘If I knew then what I know now … I wouldn’t have done that/I would have done this’, or whatever it is that you would change if you could.

Which you can’t unless you have a Tardis. And you don’t. See, a bit frustrating sometimes!

The biggest frustration is when there was a great opportunity – there for the taking – had you only known …

Which usually only becomes apparent when someone, other than you, beats you to the punch. In the words of Homer Simpson, this can be a ‘Doh!’ moment.

Yet there are those people in life, and in business, who never seem to slip up in this way. Not that we’re jealous (no green-eyed monsters here), but have thoughts like these ever bounced across your brain? ‘I should be so lucky!’ or ‘That guy has all the luck!’ or ‘How does she do it?!’

Is it luck, or do they know something you don’t?

What’s noticeable about these types of people is that they’re consistent. They rarely bobble up and down like a ping pong ball in a wave machine. There’s something that anchors them, keeps them on course, on point.

They have a specific mindset. We call it a Smarketing Mindset.

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.ConfuciusWe coined the term ‘smarketing’, because, in business, you have to have a consistent approach to everything, a specific mindset. If you don’t, you’ll find that the results you get peak and trough (like the ping pong ball), and your performance averages out at, well – average.

By your approach to everything, we mean just that: Everything you do and say. Every decision you make. Everything you think.

And before you think, ‘this Dragon Sisters lot sound like a brain-washing cult,’ one of the key things in developing a Smarketing Mindset, is honing your own, unique voice, to cut through the white noise of sameness.

Smarketing is simply a mindset that you can develop to constantly and consistently create and maximise opportunities – even the ones you may not have noticed (remember those are the ones we lost to that person with a charmed life?)

Some people are born Smarketers (OK there was an element of luck with them there). Most people become Smarketers by learning a system which gives them the same advantages: being one of those sorts who rarely miss an opportunity and, importantly, know how to create opportunity.

Smarketing is about strategy – not the sort you write down for your boss or your bank manager – the sort you live by until it becomes second nature.

It’s your personal formula of communication and promotion. It personalizes your sales, your marketing, your business. It sets you, and your business, apart from the rest.

If you want to make your own luck – it’s time to get smarketing!

Michelle & Yvonne

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

Networking – The Pain of No Gain

Recently I was invited to meet a new networking group.   The first person I met told me, ‘I don’t speak to customers,’ with a please-go-away glint in his eye.   His female associate said, ‘that’s right, he’s great at website design, but he doesn’t like talking to customers.’

It made me wonder why she hadn’t left him safely chained up in his virtual world, far, far away from the real-life people; with real-life egos to offend.   I wanted to tell him to relax; there was no danger of me becoming one of his customers.

What was his associate thinking?  Bringing him to a networking event was like inviting the Terminator to a peace rally – at best pointless; at worst, potentially deadly – the lifeless bodies of dead opportunities strewn around him.

By an almost spooky coincidence, I came across another website designer (on social media), who took our introduction as an opportunity – to immediately shoot holes in one of my websites.   Well, at least he recognised the opportunity.  Not that he had it for long.

Even spookier:   I am actually in the market for a new website!

Now I’m not bashing web guys or girls.   I have the greatest respect for web wizards.   Especially since when I started out in business, digital space was what you had between your fingers, and the web was what Spiderman had between his.

Things have changed a lot in that time.   Moreover, some things haven’t.   Like the need to attract customers to your business and the ability to recognise them!

Clearly, these two gentlemen were interested in this. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been putting themselves in the physical, or online, networking space.  It’s a pity then that having taken that step, it didn’t work out for them because they had no idea how to maximise the opportunity presented.

It’s easy to look on and cringe, or chortle, at those two scenarios.   You and I can smugly reassure ourselves that, of course, we would never so obviously muck up the chance of interesting a hot prospect in our business.

The truth is, all of us, at some point, have missed an opportunity and are very likely oblivious to the fact.   The pain of no gain can show up much later, after the fact.   The more times we prod that pain point with the pointy stick of lost opportunity, the more it hurts – our business.

Image courtesty of 1shots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of 1shots at FReeDigitalPhotos.net

Being on the point (sorry, pun phobics) with identifying an opportunity, in any environment, is a habit honing exercise, enhanced by practice and experience.  And it takes skill to translate an opportunity to an outcome.  A win-win outcome.

Not being on point, can be a business breaker.   Crack out the Panadol!

Michelle and I have worked together for over a decade now.   Sure, we’re sisters.

However, the reason I work with her is that Michelle is one of the best business strategists I know, and I have been privileged to know some amazing ones.

One discipline Michelle insists on (she can be a bit bossy), is that we dedicate a proportion of our time each week, to talking about creating and maximising opportunities – for our business, our clients, and our Dragon Sisters collaborators.

Michelle has a little list of what I call her Dragon Disciplines relating to opportunities.

DD #3 resonates here:   “Your expert may not be the right person to develop all opportunities”.     

If you’d like a copy of her list of Dragon Disciplines, drop me a note, and I’ll send you a copy.

Yvonne



Yvonne ToeringYvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

 

4 Reasons Why You Should Always RSVP – apart from being good manners!

Don’t you just love the feeling of slicing open an envelope and carefully sliding out a personalised invitation with your name on it? Even better if it’s vellum, gilt-edged or embossed with a crest!20160225_141748-1

Even after all these years, and countless invitations, I still love that moment as the sharp opener slices clean the envelope to reveal its contents.

Those little moments of using my letter opener are becoming rarer and rarer.

Have you noticed an increased propensity for invitations to arrive by email?

Even wedding invitations turn up via email!

You can call me old-fashioned. I know electronic is better for the planet and more cost-efficient, but in my book, you can’t beat paper.

The days of snail mail envelopes are almost gone. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, they will be entirely obsolete.

Anyway, I digress.

No matter how an invitation arrives, it nearly always has RSVP on it (répondez s’il vous plait) and date to reply by. Of course, electronic invitations can get trapped in your spam filter or the junk mailbox, so you’re often none the wiser till it’s too late!

Responding is just plain good manners.

Yep! I can remember my grandmother always used to insist on Basildon Bond stationery to write RSVP’s and thank you notes. But, aside from not wanting to appear rude, there are other less obvious reasons why you should always RSVP.

#1 – Someone has thought enough about you to place you on their guest list. They want you at their event.

Give them the courtesy of knowing you appreciate being thought of. That’s the RSVP.

#2 – When we look at the business scenario – invitations are a way of saying “Hey, we value you. We’d like your company”. You’re being invited, you’ll be giving or gaining something from your presence at the event. Hopefully, you’ll do both!

Your RSVP, whether you’re accepting or declining, means you respect the business relationship.

#3 – If you repeatedly fail to respond, you could well find yourself scrubbed off the database permanently. When that happens, if you’re in business, it means the networking opportunities become more limited.

#4 – When you RSVP promptly (by the due date at the latest), you’re showing that you respect deadlines and value the organisers time.

Your appropriately timed RSVP is affirming that you’re a responsible and reliable person to deal with.

When sending an RSVP, if you need to decline, there is no need to go into any detail about why you are declining. A simple ‘regretfully unable to attend’ is usually sufficient.

If you are in the public eye or a position of seniority, you may well find yourself flooded with invitations.

Just because you’re invited does not mean you have to accept. It’s perfectly okay to decide what you will and won’t attend. Just make sure you RSVP to every single invitation that arrives with RSVP on it!

The easiest way not to forget is to do it immediately, or at the very least make a diary date and flag so you don’t miss it. It’s all too easy to forget when you get busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday living.

Michelle

P.S. Emily Post has this to say on RSVP’s

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.