As a Lifehacker, you must be attuned to the changing trends in the workplace. The uncertainties in the U.S economy put into question the idea of a “stable job”. You might be also more keen on pursuing portfolio careers or perhaps setting up a business in lieu of the traditional climb-the-corporate-ladder career path.
The only way for you to cope with a changing workplace is for you to leave your desk and meet people who can help you attain whatever you want from your career – with or without the threat of recession.
So, the best career investment that you can do now is to go to networking events. This will give you a chance to meet corporate executives and entrepreneurs who can give you job leads, serve as your mentors and/or become your business partners.
1. Be selective
Some events are worth it, some are just useless, you need to choose the networking event which is aligned with your goal. Choose an event where you can find the experts in your field and/or where you have a higher chance of meeting your potential employers.
Do your research first – surf the net for information about the event and ask your friends and colleagues for feedback on the networking events they have went to themselves.
2. Have clear, well-defined goals
List down what you want to get out of this networking event and then make your own schedule that will meet your goals.
For instance, Rossana Llenado, founder of online tutorial company Ahead Interactive (AI), invests on attending networking events as this helps her in building her business. So despite her initial concerns on cost and spending time away from her four kids in Manila, Llenado left for California to attend the four-day convention of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in San Diego.
Llenado went to IABC conference and participated in the workshops and met up with business contacts in the U.S.. This is in line with her goal to put AI as one the world’s premier provider of online tutorial services. She came home, with a lot of ideas on how to expand AI’s reach and is now busy fine tuning her operations.
3. Build relationships
Instead of indiscriminately handing out and collecting business cards, use networking events to meet and establish long-term relationships with potential employers or business partners. Networking organizers advise that you focus on making “meaningful connections” with few people – those who have the right vibe and you’re comfortable working with.
You also need to avoid being too aggressive, asking questions like “so do you have any job openings?” or “are you interested to buy my products?”
This will turn off a lot of people – hard selling won’t sell here. Just be cool and discuss with them your common interests and goal. Exchange business cards and keep those contacts “warm” by sending e-mails or inviting them for coffee where you can discuss your proposal.
4. Pay it forward
Go to the networking events with the mindset that you will bring value to the table – and not to pass around your resume and sell your products.
Yes you can find job leads in networking events – but not on one go. You need to establish trust and confidence among the people that you meet in these events. When approaching someone, you need to consider how your skills and interests can help in solving his/her business problem.
5. Treat networking as a career investment
Going to these events is not cheap. You need to invest both time and money, and the cost gets higher if the event is being held overseas.
You need to discern the difference between value and cost. If the $1,000 you spend going to networking events will bring you triple that amount either in terms of business revenues or career promotion, then the event will have paid for itself.
That said, if you’re broke or had to get a second mortgage just to attend the event then you better skip it, and save for it so you can go there in the future. Besides, a high price tag will not necessarily mean that is of high value – to you. Many people spend money to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is a high value event for many people, but do you think going to Davos will help you attain your specific career goals?
Whatever career path you want to pursue, everything in the end will boil down to having solid relationships with present and future colleagues and partners. While social networking sites may have helped in expanding your work and social circles, meeting people face to face will build trust and confidence that will pave the way to better opportunities.
Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.
You have to work hard to develop the right skills
If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.
1. Make your presentation short and sweet
With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.
JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.
2. Open up with a good ice breaker
At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:
Tugging on their heart strings
Dropping a bombastic statement
Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons
You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.
3. Keep things simple and to the point
Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.
4. Use a healthy dose of humor
Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.
It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.
5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting
Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.
6. Practice your delivery
Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.
7. Move around and use your hands
Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.
8. Engage the audience by making them relate
Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.
9. Use funny images in your slides
Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.
10. End on a more serious note
When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.