Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mingling 101

Recently I was asked to do a presentation on networking for June 1st. Fortunately this is a topic I've presented on before and we have a great presentation that Deanna has developed that I can deliver. So no worries there. Then my hostess sent me a question that echos questions I've heard from other people - ok, so I've left my cube and I'm confronted with a room full of strangers, what do I do, how to I start a conversation with a total stranger? Do I try and join a group, exactly how do I do that?

These are all great questions and I'll be doing an extended article on this for the ABI site in the next week or so, with research and references to other sites, etc. But for now I thought I'd share my own personal philosophy of mingling. You see I'm very good at picking up strangers - airports, movie lines, bookstores, etc - if you leave me alone for a few minutes and come back I'll usually be talking to someone. One of my former bosses would always leave me with the piles of luggage while he went off to do calls, when he came back I'd be deep in a conversation with the person next to me as if we were old friends. Yet if he stayed with me nothing would happen. He would ask me why and I'd tell him - when you're here I talk to you. Drove him nuts.

While some people are extremely goal oriented - they have a target list of people to meet and do research on those people and plan what they want to achieve at an event - which by the way is excellent if you are entering an event with a goal, meeting new people for me is more for fun.

So , how is it done? How do I approach mingling at large events? This process assumes I'm alone - I'm very different when I'm in a pack of co-workers, etc. If I'm alone- I always do two things.

1. The first is I look for people who aren't speaking to anyone. The person standing alone looking awkward. My mom gave me a great book year's ago - the story was Everyone's Lonely - and the theory in the story was that if you assume everyone else lonely then you've found the secret to happiness. If you make someone else less lonely you will make yourself happier. So if I see someone alone I smile, make eye contact and then move to step 2.

2. I ask questions. I just go up and introduce myself. Hi, I'm Jerri works great. Next come the questions:
  • What's your name?
  • What are you doing here? Are they at this place/event for the first time, or have they been before? If it's the first time then I ask why they came? If not, then why did they come back?
  • Where are you from? I have a huge advantage here - I've been in 43 of the 50 states and I've traveled abroad - so I can almost always find a link. It's also a big advantage having been from New Jersey - it's amazing how many people come from NJ, have family there, have been there, or loved the Sopranos. My home town was the town Tony Soprano's mother lived in - people love that. So it's good to build a bridge and find something I have in common with the other person.
  • What do you do and where do you work? Obvious questions but with strangers it's a good ice breaker. If I know the job they do I talk about it or ask questions - oh, I'm in marketing too, what specifically do you do in marketing? If I don't I try to find out more about their job? So, you're in banking - what exactly do you do? Do you enjoy it? How long have you done it?

Once the conversation has gone on for a while I try and see if we have other areas in common:

  • Are you a movie fan? When I first moved to Lancaster PA my boss decided I needed someone in the company to be my advocate - someone the other employees would respect. Since it was a small town and I was an outsider in many ways, he wanted someone who would help me be accepted. He sent myself and the head of Operations off on a road trip for a day to a Water Company Seminar. In the car the silence had gone on for a while until John turned to me and said - you don't like movies do you? Well I love movies and we talked about them all the way to and from the meeting. And that was it - I was in.
  • Do you like to travel? Always interesting to hear about people's vacations and trips. I have a list of places people have told me about that I'd still like to see. And if you show you're truly interested they will talk for quite a while.
  • What are your hobbies? Again it sounds trite but people are really interesting when they talk about what they love to do.

And that's how I mingle. I seldom talk about work related issues - unless I am asked. I never try to sell anyone anything in that first conversation - it's all about relationship building. And I try to never have a personal agenda. I'm not mingling with people because I need a job, a sale, etc. I don't go in expecting anything. What I do look for is interesting conversation.

So what is my advice for people emerging from their cubes and wanting to mingle:

1. Practice - don't go into that first mingling opportunity with an agenda. Look for someone nice and practice introducing yourself and making small talk. And if they aren't interested move on. And if things get awkward - just excuse yourself to get a drink or use the ladies room. And when you come back in move on to someone else.

2. Don't be afraid - remember everyone is lonely and hoping to talk to someone nice and interesting.

3. Be well read - I read about 4 magazines a week religiously - Newsweek, People, Entertainment Weekly, and Time. Monthly I read Fast Company, Interview, W, Martha Stewart, O (Oprah's Magazine), InStyle. I check Google News Once a day to check the headlines. Plus I read about 5 books a week. All that reading provides lots of interesting nuggets for conversation. And if I fall behind on my magazines I read them on the plane and give them away to strangers - a great in flight conversation starter. You'd be amazed how you can make someone's day by offering them a People Magazine on a long boring flight.

4. Be yourself - if you're a quiet person then look for another quiet person to chat with. Don't struggle to be the center of attention.

5. And if you do have a good conversation going on and see another person standing alone invite them to join in with the conversation. Be a person that bridges people together. You can say, Suzie was just telling me about her trip to Puerto Rico, and let her continue. When there is a natural break ask if the new person has been to Puerto Rico and introduce youself to them. And if you are part of a host company do make an effort to introduce people to each other.

I'm always looking for more tips - so what are your best tips on how to mingle?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Key Learnings from the Churchill Club Event

Last night the Anita Borg Institute was one of three women's organization acting as hosts at an event held by the Churchill Club. The tradeoff was very good - we helped promote the event to our constituency in our newsletter and the Churchill Club mentioned us in their promotions and gave us a table in the lobby for our materials. The most popular item on the table? Our research report - all the copies I brought were immediately picked up. I should have brought a whole box.

The event featured a panel discussion with four women representatives from KPMG, Adobe, McKinsey and Duarte. The panel was facilitated by Ann Hummer Winblatt. I enjoyed their discussion a great deal through I did have reservations when the conversation came to the fact that 3% of the Fortune 500 had women CEO's. 3% is not even close to where that number should be.

I did enjoy the panelists each sharing what they've learned. I'll share their lists with you:

Gerri Martin-Flickinger of Adobe Systems
1. Listen
2. Get in your own head as a leader
3. Do what you'll say you do.

Nancy Duarte, Duarte Inc.
1. Don't believe in lies
2. Learn to tell stories in a compelling ways
3. Find the thing in the world you are best at and focus on that.

Barbara Carbone, KPMG
1. Stretch and take challenges
2. Be a sponge - learn anything and everything from everyone
3. Connect with people and develop lifelong relationships

Janaki Akella, McKinsey & Company
1. Dream Big
2. Be open
3. Aspire to be a valued and unique individual

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Working with Your Vendors

One of the things I've learned in my 20 years of marketing is how important it is to have a close, personal relationship with your vendors. I recently had a conversation with a vendor who told me that I had an old fashioned view of vendor relationships. While so many others view vendors products as commoditized, I maintain that it is just as important to have that human relationship. I am very loyal to good vendors, and I have found over time that they are loyal to me.

Here are some examples. A few years ago my tradeshow company had a dispute with our shipping company. I wasn't paying that much attention to that part of it and when my tradeshow person said he could save us some money with a new shipper I allowed him to switch. Biggest mistake of my life. The new shipper allowed some other exhibitor to put their materials into our shipment, packing carelessly and breaking the stair rail on our two story booth; their driver lied and cut the line at the next tradeshow causing our shipment to be moved to the very end of the line, and he then somehow managed to lose 2 of my very expensive leather chairs. When I found out I was beyond livid. I immediately searched the show for my old shipper, apologized profusely, rehired him on the spot, then hunted down the new shipper and fired him. I also itemized the costs of all the damage he had caused (we had to replace the chairs and stair rail and pay overtime to the booth builders because of his being the last one to the show) and deducted them from the half payment we were making to the "new"shipper for getting us to the show. Because my tradeshow people had always been good to me I forgave them but I forced the two companies to reconcile to the point where they would at least both support me. So I've learned that when you have a great vendor you stick with them - you may save a few dollars by switching but you can get burned on the other end.

Another example is our printer. They have dealt with a great deal of nuttiness on our part - especially last year - we gave them a lot of tight deadlines and they always came through. When other people send me solicitations or suggestions for other vendors they end up deleted - it is worth a penny or two a copy to know that everything will get delivered on time and in perfect condition.

On the flip side - I am also very willing to take care of my vendors - I make sure they get visibility with ads in our programs, invitations to our local events, etc. So many smaller businesses today are struggling I want to be sure that my vendors survive.

One story I've heard about a not good vendor. A friend went on a trip to a Skating event earlier this month. When they arrived they discovered that even though the tour group had prepaid the hotel through their tour coordinator the hotel had their reservations but no record of the prepayments. It turned out that the vendor had disappeared - taking the hotel deposits with her, plus all the prepayments for the next event in January. It served as a reminder to me that good vendors are like gold. Sadly my friend is out several thousand dollars, had to pay for her hotel room twice and can no longer attend an event she's been to every year for the past 15 years. She had the Bernie Madoff of Travel Agents.

So the moral is take care of your good vendors but always keep an eye on what's going on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Check Out My Guest Blog on Non Profit Conversations

One of the great ways to increase visibility is to do writing as a guest blogger, guest columnist, etc. It's a great way to gain access to a different audience. I wrote a blog post this week for NonProfit Conversations. The blog post was all about how the Anita Borg Institute launched a new program - Savvy Geek Chix. Enjoy.

Nonprofit Conversation -

The Marketing of Earth Day

What a great job has been done this year by the media companies for Earth Day. What used to be an event that only the staunchest environmentalists and school children paid attention to is now a global event. Every TV show that can has had an Earth Day Theme. Oprah herself devoted an entire episode to Earth Day, the giant garbage swirl the size of Texas is an image that will stick with me for a long time.

Earth the movie opened today - a must see. We're going to see it this weekend - hopefully. Anything that reminds us that we are not the center of the world, and that increases our appreciation of nature, is a good thing.

And HP had signs up the last two weeks outlining activities at all of its locations for the employees.

For myself, I spent today at home - not using gas, taking a walk to the library, looking carefully on what can be recyled, donated and re-used rather than tossed into the garbage and ending up in a landfill.

So, what did you do for earth day?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The 10 Day Event Countdown

When doing a program the final 10 days are probably the absolute craziest. That's when your plan either comes together or falls apart. We're in the 10 day countdown to Women of Vision and as Hannibal used to say on the A-Team - I love it when a plan comes together. I can't talk to the other parts of the plan but the Marketing plan has come together beautifully.
  • The ads are done, the print program is finalized, the proof copy has been slightly tweaked (one ad looked a little dark in the print run), and the printer has 10 full days to get the printing done - piece of cake for 680 24 page programs. This is weeks of work by multiple companies and it is finished.
  • The videos are in final review. The winner videos look terrific, the soundtrack sounds good and we will make that deadline.
  • The PR firm has kicked in and are doing the outreach - inviting local and national print, radio, tv news and online media to the event. We already have two media people coming so the hope is more will come.
  • All the signs are with the designer except for our one last minute item - the seating chart. Signage is usually done last since it is quick to produce and so forgiving when you need to make last minute changes. We actually had all the sign content to the printer on Friday.

So does this mean I get to relax this week? Sadly no, still to be done - the post event press release, finishing the event script and doing the run through, prepping the photographer who'll be doing the shots at the event. But I can say we're in better shape than last year.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marketing Yourself: The First Steps of a Job Hunt

I was interviewed earlier this week for an article that will be appearing in the Sacramento Bee soon. In it I talked about how you should help other people find a job. It made me stop and think about advice I would give to someone who needs to find a job. Here are a few items- I'll add to these tips over the next few months:

1. Figure out what you want to do. This sounds easy but you do need to give it some thought. I will admit the first time I was laid off I was really worried and I focused on just get a job. The second time I was a bit more relaxed - I had a good severance and I was a bit calmer. So I focused on answering these questions:
  • What do I want to do? What am I best at? What gives me the most pleasure at work?
  • Where do I want to be? Do I want to stay in this area or, since I'm changing jobs, do I want to move somewhere else?
  • What sort of company am I looking for? Enormous Multinational, small startup, midsize, etc?
  • What do I not want to do ever again?
  • How much travel do I want to do?
  • What do I value most in a company - free dinners, good work/life balance, workout facilities?

Those questions will give you a start. Write all the answers down and really look at them. Then write your resume to appeal to the companies that are the best fit. Don't have a lot of training experience in a marketing resume - unless you want to do both (I learned that lesson). Make sure you are selling yourself in this resume. Then start researching companies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hitting 400 in LinkedIn

About a week ago I realized that I was at 388 connections in LinkedIn. Ever the completionist (and a big fan of numbers ending in zero) I made it my goal to hit 400 in the next week. So how did I go about it? First I went to the LinkedIn contacts section and looked at people that LinkedIn thought I should know. I was glad I did - a number of old friends from graduate school and some of my early jobs had joined LinkedIn and I immediately connected with them. I also realized that I hadn't connected with everyone I had worked with at our recent event -Savvy Geek Chix. So I sent invitations to all of them. And I reached out to people I had connected with on Facebook but not on LinkedIn - hey if they are my Facebook friends then LinkedIn is a logical step.

And all of these worked. Last Thursday I rolled over to 400 connections. So, what does that mean to me? Well first off I love being connected to everyone - periodically I like to scroll through and just drop people notes and greetings. And given these dark economic times it's always good to have a way of keeping track of people - everyone's job status changes so quickly. I feel a little more secure in knowing that people have linked to me, recommended me in some cases and are there for me -just as I am here for them if I can be of any assistance.

Of course now that I'm at 400 and breathing a sigh of relief to have reached that number - my newest invitation to connect has arrived - number 401. So on we go to 500. Cheers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday in the Park: Speaking at the SWE Picnic

Yesterday started out a long drive - San Jose to Sacramento to be precise. Because I am perpetually worried about being late I left for the three hour drive (there's always traffic everyone says) at about 8:15 - assuming I would arrive in the park at 11:30 - plenty of time to figure out where the picnic I was the featured speaker at was. And the fact that it was Easter weekend was also lurking in the back of my mind - would the whole world have taken a three day weekend - and if yes which three days. From the moment I left my driveway to the time I got to the park the only time I stopped was at the single toll I encountered. I never even hit a red light. So there I was in the park an hour earlier than planned.

McKinley Park in Sacramento is really just lovely, their only flaw is a complete lack of a parking lot. Which on most days was probably not a problem but the fact that the park was hosting a Pancake breakfast, a massive easter egg hunt and about 20 other smaller events did not help. However, after circling the park 4 times I finally figured out that you could only park on one side of the street, changed direction and managed to locate a space not far from the picnic location - the tables near the tennis courts. It was such a pretty day I walked around the park enjoying the fresh air, the sunshine and the people watching. I settled near the tennis courts and reviewed my speakers notes, envisioning how I would be working with the audience and enjoyed the vigorous games of tennis that were taking place. Better than Forest Lawn.

Around 11:30 I called Allison, my contact, to see where exactly the picnic was taking place and settled in our section - Area 1. I had been watching with some consternation the setting up of a large bouncy house with an extremely loud engine/pump thing that was inflating it. I found myself praying that this would not be running the entire picnic. My prayers were not answered- that darned engine ran the entire picnic and straight through my talk - my voice is a wreck today.

Anyway, Allison arrived and we set up what we had available and settled into people watch and wait for everyone and the food to arrive. We were thrilled to literally see the Easter Bunny hopping down the trail towards us - but he was derailed by a group of small children. Definitely a classic moment. More on him later.
The group arrived and we all ate the lovely picnic lunch. I was fed first since I was speaking during dessert. The group I was speaking to was the Sacramento chapter of SWE - Society of Women Engineers. We had about 20 people - including several children, students from area colleges and several professional women. Everyone had a great deal of interest in our topic - The Imposter Syndrome.

The talk went really well. I spoke about the Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Celebration. Our initial exercise had everyone standing up and sitting down as a read a set of conditions - you had to stand up if you matched the condition - i.e. you have children, you're over 40, you've ever felt that you were unqualified for your role. I think it was a great icebreaker (cheers to Kim McLeod who taught me that icebreaker method) - each time people stood up they looked around to see who was like them - and it drew some big smiles.

I talked for a while about the Imposter Syndrome, what it is, what the "symptoms" are, and ways to overcome it. I was glad everyone was so focused on me, though I was momentarily distracted when I saw the Easter Bunny run by on the trail midway through my talk. Not something you see when you're inside HP speaking. Then we did a breakout session where they broke into groups and discussed ways they would overcome specific situations. The groups did a great deal of talking, then we all came back together and shared our experiences. Each team did a great job presenting and had really well thought out answers.

We did a general Q&A session and then everyone turned to the most important work of eating desserts. Yes, I went off my diet and had an Easter Cupcake. Finally I said farewell and headed home. It was a great group that was very open and shared a lot of their feelings and insights on the concept of the Imposter Syndrome.

I was able to stop by and see Kim and take a break from my journey on the way home. I was exhausted and having dinner with her and relaxing a bit was just what I needed before making that final push to get home. All in all a great day in the Park. Now if I could just have gotten one of the engineers to sabotage the engine of that darned bouncy house.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Making Videos for Women of Vision

I spent all day Friday and Monday in an editing room working on the videos for our upcoming Women of Vision event. The work is intense but very sporadic. We started by watching rough cuts of each of the videos then going back through them and stopping and questioning almost every point and making edits. It's slow but fascinating work - and gave me time to get some other work done during parts where we waiting for our editor - Patrick - to make the necessary changes. Since I had written the script I knew what the video was going to say but it always amazes me how many different ways you can represent a statement visually.

One of our winners attended Princeton and while there wrote a compiler. So in that brief sentence you end up seeing on screen a shot of Princeton, the princeton logo and our visual representation of a compiler. Maybe 4 seconds on the screen but a good 45 minutes of work easily. And it was examined over and over. Another challenge is how do you represent someone from New Jersey vs someone from the Bay Area in their videos. I grew up in New Jersey and for the life of me I couldn't think of anything that would truly visually represent New Jersey easily - except of course for a New Jersey Tomato that would only make sense to me and not the rest of the audience. And of course how do you know if you are doing an accurate translation of a word (for yet another video) when you only speak one of the three languages you're working with?

So how did we solve those problems and many others? You'll have to come to the event to find out. Or keep an eye on this blog - I'll be posting links to the videos when they are up on Youtube.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Speaking Engagement: The Imposter Syndrome

On Saturday I am driving up to Sacramento to present on the Imposter Syndrom at a gathering of SWE's Sacramento chapter. While all presentations are a little daunting this one is more so because the persentation will take place at a picnic in the park so I will not have my crutches - the thoughtfully laid out powerpoint slides, charts, graphs, tables or cute cartoons that will illustrate my points. So I am reliant just on the words of my notes on the sheets of paper I'll carry with me.

The material for Saturday is so interesting that it seems to be laying itself out - my research on the topic - how people can believe themselves to be imposters at their jobs - is fascinating. I'm hoping the material I've gathered and the dialogue at the event will combine to make an entertaining and educational hour. Now I just need to find another 4 solid hours this week to nail the whole thing down. A great trainer once told me - for every 1 hour you are presenting spend 8 hours on preparation. I was able to spend 4 solid hours this weekend but I still have a ways to go. So fingers crossed as I prepare for Monday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marketing Yourself: What do I want to do when I grow up?

In writing about Job Hunting and finding a new job I've been doing a lot of research. We did our Savvy Geek Chix program last week and it was a huge success. Of the people in the room, a majority had taken our resume workshop and many were looking for a job - either because they'd been laid off or because they were in fear of being laid off.

So, to continue this series of posts I wanted to break down the job search into its components. The first of these is What do you want to do? When you tell your friends you are out of work and looking for a job they are all scrabbling in their brains trying to decide - what is it she does? My grandmother for years would say to me in the sweetest voice - "what is it you do dear?" even though I'd told her a dozen times or more. My boyfriend's sister-in-law, who's never worked in business, could simply not grasp what I did as a marketing person - she didn't understand the terms press release, collateral, etc. And my darling nephew, at the end of a long day of going about, responded to my statement of ask me anything, said in all sincerity- Aunt Jerri - exactly what is this thing you keep talking about - a trade show?

So if the people closest to me are unaware of what I do how much do my friends, and network really know about what I do, and even more importantly - what I like to do?

After my first layoff from the phone company I went to an outplacement firm. And they put me through a battery of tests to help me determine what I should do. I had become a little muddled in my last job - doing a combination of marketing, training, sales support (going with salespeople and presenting on key products that they weren't able to answer questions about), IT (how to teach sales people not to leave their laptops lying around? Steal them and lock them in your desk - they'll never forget them again). Once the tests were completed I was told I was suited for 4 jobs - Marketing, Training, Minister (of great hilarity to me since I am the epitome of the late Sunday morning sleeper- but something I'll talk about in the future) and Politician. So my personality profile said it - I am a Marketer. But a marketer of what? What did I know? I thought at the time I could only work for a phone company but the counselors showed me that marketing skills are applicable across a wide range of businesses. I interviewed at a variety of companies and got several offers but I decided to go with Telecom at the time. But, as I have learned in the last two years working for a non profit - my skills are very transferable. But I have kept my focus very steadily on Marketing.

So what does this mean for people who are out job hunting? First of all sit down and write out what you like to do - what brings your pleasure. In yellow page advertising one of the key tips is to highlight in ads the things you enjoy doing most that make you the most money. Those are the things you want people to focus on. If you are a programmer but what you love is managing a team - then target that. If you are an accountant but you really enjoy working on grant submissions - then focus on finding a company that specializes in grant submissions. It will be much easier to sell yourself to a company if you believe in the product you are selling - yourself. If you enjoy something that will shine through.

Then create a 30 second - one paragraph simple explanation of what you want to do - i.e. I am a highly skilled marketer with 20 years experience in Public Relations, Branding, Collateral Develpment.... - Tell people that's who you are and what you want to do. You're writing the sales pitch for them to use. So if someone says I really need a marketing person - your friends can say - I know someone who'd be perfect for that. Remember your network has become your salesforce and the product is you.