Take advantage of every opportunity.
I began my career as a hairstylist. Now that I am decades into my next career, I am often asked, “Patricia, how did you become a speaker, author, and executive speech coach?” The simple answer is by noticing and taking advantage of every chance that turned up, that seemed interesting and intriguing. Opportunity does not knock just once. It knocks all the time, though you may not recognize the sound. One opportunity is to learn from successful people by finding out how they achieved their success. Behind the hairstyling chair, I learned from my clients. As a speaker, I learned about the companies and industries I was hired to speak to. Now, as an executive speech coach, I learn how innovative executives build their companies and how marketing executives design and promote campaigns. And get paid! What a bonus. The secret is to be genuinely interested and ask questions.
Ask good questions.
Successful people will share their knowledge and experiences with you if you ask good questions that stimulate their thinking and responses. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions. The key to connecting with others is conversation, and the secret of conversation is to ask the right questions. A conversation can lead to a relationship, and a nurtured relationship can produce amazing results.
When I am in meetings and conferences, I like to ask questions that the speaker is interested in answering. Recently, at the Professional Speechwriters Association Conference, James Clapper, retired Director of National Intelligence, was delivering a presentation with his speechwriter. In the Q and A, the other audience members were asking questions about their collaboration. I asked, “Sir, you have had a long and impressive career. Would you tell us a story of when you were most proud or most terrified?” He liked the question so much he gave us stories of both situations.
A couple of decades ago, at a Young Presidents Organization (YPO) Conference, I asked broadcaster Lou Dobbs, “What is the best part of working for Ted Turner?” He thought for a few moments and replied, “He thinks through each decision he has to make so well that even if it is not the best decision, it is never a bad decision.”
At another event, I asked Bud Friedman, the founder of the Improv Comedy Clubs, “Is there such a thing as natural talent?” His reply: “Yes. However, there is no overnight success. Jay leno was naturally talented, and it took him 15 years to get established.”
Here are two questions we need to ask ourselves on a fairly regular basis: “What can I do to contribute to my profession, to my employer, and to my professional association?” The other question is, “How can I be professionally accountable?” When you can do this, you’ll get so much more than you give. For example, as a President of the National Speakers Association, it is usual to visit NSA chapters while in that role and during the year preceding your year. During that time, I delivered 23 chapters’ presentations. Most NSA Presidents stop when their year is up. I did not. To date, I have delivered almost 500 programs. Yes, I made a contribution. However, I have also made many friends and have enjoyed areas of the country and experiences I would not have gained if I had not said, “Yes.”
Be inventive in selling yourself and your profession. Learn to network, one on one, by asking good questions and talking about what you do in a memorable way. Sometimes it’s appropriate to fade into the background. Most of us are shy in some situations. To be professionally recognized, learn to stand out and speak up. When you are in any situation where you’re meeting new contacts, how do you introduce yourself? When others ask what you do, can you tell them in a way that will stick in their minds? I challenge you to come up with one sentence that people will never forget and will compel them to ask you to say more. In Silicon Valley, when asked, “Patricia, what do you do,” I reply, “I help brilliant engineers like you become corporate rock stars.” Their reply: “How do you do that?” “That depends. Do you report to your senior management? Speak at User meetings? Deliver client demos?” We then have a conversation focused on what is helpful and of interest to them. To be perceived as interesting, we need to be interested.
Why not take advantage of Patricia’s Special Report 12 Ways to Maximize Your Networking Opportunities
Develop your persuasive powers.
Being successful requires knowing how to influence others. President Dwight Eisenhower, said, “Leadership is the ability to decide what has to be done and then getting people to want to do it.” Do you influence?
One of my earlier speaking clients was Horst Schulze. This amazing man was President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton. Schulze instituted a company-wide concentration on both the personal and the data-driven sides of service: He coined the company’s well-known customer/employee-centered motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” That is the set of specific service values and standards on which The Ritz-Carlton employees base service through the present day.
Under his leadership, the hotels earned an unprecedented two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards and grew from four to forty U.S. locations. He told me he advised prospective employees, “Our guests pay our prices to have an experience, and it is your job to be part of that experience. You will never say, ‘That is not in my job description,’ and you will never bring your own problems to work.” Obviously, that worked at the Ritz Carlton.
The true secret of being persuasive is to realize that everyone is more interested in themselves than in us. They will make decisions for their own vested self-interest. Focus your suggestions or services in a way that is appealing to those you are addressing.
Take the initiative.
Reach out to people who perhaps don’t look or think like you. I remember attending a five-day conference where the audience members were ministers and lay preachers. As I walked into the breakfast room on the first morning, I looked around to see 200 strangers with whom I would spend the next five days. I made the decision to find the table of attendees who were the most unlike me. I sat down with two Mennonite families, and, over the course of the conference, we became great friends. As I got to know them and enjoyed their conversation, I asked if they would mind telling me what they believed in and why. I realized that, as fascinated as I was to meet them, they were equally fascinated to talk to me.
If you are in the elevator or employee cafeteria, take the initiative to introduce yourself and ask which part of the company they work in. If you recognize an executive or Board member, again take the initiative. At a trade show, do not wait until people come into your booth; invite them.
Every stranger is a friend you have not yet met.
Who is reading Deliver Unforgettable Presentations? My Rock Star brother Robert Fripp
Robert is an amazing speaker. Watch his amazing presentations.
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