The Social Media Side of a Networking Event

It’s the holiday season. That means year-end networking events.

They always seem like a good idea when the invitation arrives, don’t they?

Yet when the appointed hour comes, I often regret my affirmative RSVP.

Except I didn’t this month when I dragged myself away from a compelling work project at 6:30 one evening and made myself go to the event I said I would attend.

It was a professional networking event of my son’s high school, for alums and parents to get to know each other and share ideas.

To honor my commitment, I intended to stay for 30 minutes. But happily and unexpectedly, that extended into a fun-filled 90 minutes.

Why? As I reflected on it, there are a few ways to make the most of a networking event.

In particular, think about the social savvy aspect, or social media element, of the people you meet and the conversations you have.

  • Have a goal or two. Why are you attending? What do you want to accomplish? For me, I wanted to meet local professionals related to my son’s school to feel more connected to the school and the local community. I wanted to meet interesting people and hear what they were doing.

In part, I was inspired by marketing strategist Dorie Clark‘s advice in Harvard Business Review about networking with people outside your industry. She makes a compelling case for deliberately exposing yourself to diverse points of view.

And just like social media is about sharing and giving, the same is true for a networking event. Approach it from the perspective of how you can help others.

How do you do that? Here are a few ideas.

  • Scan the attendee list. Look up a few people in social media to see who you might want to meet. What have they posted about recently? How can that be a conversation starter?
  • Scan the latest news. Know what’s happening in the world that day. See what’s trending on Twitter. You’ll be better able to engage in conversations and ask people for their thoughts.
  • Wear something that makes a statement. Pick something that you feel great in. A bright color, an interesting tie or a fabulous pin can help you connect with people. And you’ll stand out in photos that are posted in social media.
  • Stand in the doorway for a moment when you arrive. This helps anchor you and lets you scan the room to see who you might want to meet.
  • Put your name tag on your right side. This was something I learned in grad school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. When you shake hands, your name tag becomes more prominent and easier to read.
  • Grab a beverage. Stick to one drink and sip it slowly. Hold it in your left hand, so your right hand is ready for shaking hands.
  • Have a question or two ready. This will depend on the group. For mine, I asked about how people were connected to the school.
  • Introduce people to each other. Make a point of connecting people you know to each other. Say something great about each person that provides a conversation starter.
  • Look for small groups. It’s easier to start conversations with one or two people. You can start with a comment on the food or the venue or something interesting they’re wearing.
  • Post about the event. Take an interesting photo, add a caption about something new you learned and share the spirit of the event.
  • Share content about the event. If the event has a hashtag, search it and share relevant and appropriate content.

How do you make the most of a networking event?

What If?

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Have you ever spent a day trying not to cry?

For me, there are always moments that prompt tears. Our national anthem at a school event. The doxology at church (with the gender-neutral, more inclusive lyrics for me). Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation ceremony.

Thank goodness for sunglasses. Because one of the last things I want to do is reveal my emotions in public.

After this week’s experience, though, I wonder if that’s because I go to extremes to avoid being labeled as an emotional woman.

But it may be pointless to try, because as a woman I’m going to be labeled anyway. And I can’t control that.

I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions. And there’s power in that.

What made me want to cry for an entire day this week? None other than the TEDWomen 2016 conference. Phenomenal speakers with ideas worth sharing took the stage, with the theme of “it’s about time.”

I was drawn to TED for many reasons. As a communicator. As a lover of ideas. As someone profoundly saddened by our national conversations – on race, on religion, on gender, on guns, on others. 

As in, people who don’t share the same worldview. People who can’t or won’t listen to each because they’re so busy screaming about how the other group is wrong. And not even wrong, but deluded, dumb and not deserving. Of a voice. Of dignity. Of empathy.

What if our conversations in the world could be more like what I saw, heard and felt on the TED stage?

  • A famous singer talked about channeling her pain from the abusive household where she grew up into her music.
  • An actress shared how she fought back against cyberbullying and violence.
  • A couple who work to improve a Nairobi slum spoke of the randomness of how privilege or poverty are bestowed.
  • A journalist and author talked about the death threats she received when she came out as a lesbian.
  • A rape survivor and the perpetrator shared the stage and their agonizing experiences.

Throughout each electrifying talk, a common question emerged: what can I do?

What if I made it a point to seek out different points of view? To listen to a different newscast or podcast. To get out of my social media stream and hear different voices. To seek out people with more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

What if I spoke up more forcefully to inappropriate comments? The next time someone says something offensive about another group of people, I will ask why they think that and why they would say that.

What if I was more curious about people and their stories? What has their journey through life been like? What experiences shaped them? What do they struggle with? What brings them joy?

What if I used every means of power available to me for good? How can I encourage people to reach higher? How can I help people expand their networks? How can I empower people to open doors to more opportunity?

What if I took action? While I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I do know it starts with better educating myself on multiple perspectives about what’s going on in the world. Kimberle Crenshaw‘s eye-opening #SayHerName is where I’ll start.

Hearing from so many inspiring people reminded me that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others, every day.

As Kennedy Odede said during his talk with Jessica Posner Odede, “We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together.”

Who are you walking with?

What’s Your Story?

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Stories bring people together in powerful ways.

I was reminded of this at a recent leadership offsite.

Following a day of focusing on the future and identifying imperatives for the coming year, we gathered around the dinner table.

The talk turned to people’s stories, their families and the paths to where they are today.

We heard about teachers, farmers and ranchers. We heard about people who were the first in their family to attend college. We heard about struggles and triumphs. We heard about hard work and dedication.

It was an inspiring slice of largely American history. One especially sage colleague remarked about how far each of our families had come in just a few generations.

It’s easy to lose sight of that in our fast-paced, always-on 21st-century world.

I wonder what life was like for my great-grandfather, Neils Peter Larsen. Born in Denmark in the late 1800s, he was the youngest of 9 children.

With little economic opportunity on the Danish isle of Laeso, he left his country as a young teen. As a cabin boy, he sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco.

Some years later, he became the captain of his own ship, the St. Katherine. My grandmother and sister share her name and adventurous spirit.

That’s the ship pictured above, temporarily stuck in the ice in the Bering Sea in the early 1900s. How cold must it have been that day? How likely was it the ship would break apart as the ice moved? How scary was it to walk across the waves?

Or maybe it was just business as usual in that line of work.

According to the San Francisco-based Pacific Telephone Magazine where my mom was featured as an employee in the 1960s, “Captain Larsen made history with voyages to Alaska during the Yukon gold rush and later with the Alaskan fisheries.”

I can only imagine what those experiences were like today, as I gaze at my family’s framed sea charts from California, Hawaii and Japan that line my walls.

It’s absolutely incredible to think how far sea navigation has come in little over 100 years – from large paper charts to electronic navigation systems. What amazing advancements will the next century hold?

My great-grandparents honeymooned by sailing around the coast of China. That chart hangs in my parents’ house in Connecticut, complete with pencil markings of an uncharted island my ancestors discovered on their journey.

These stories and the ones I heard from my colleagues remind me of the hard work and determination that are the hallmarks of our country.

They remind me that when things get tough, there’s always a way through – or around or over.

They remind me that the future is exciting and that we’re each creating it, one day at a time.

We have what it takes. We got this.

As I contemplate a visit to Denmark, I’m inspired by the serendipitous family reunion that the multi-talented photographer Denice Duff experienced on a magical trip to Italy.

While looking for her great-grandmother’s house in Sicily, she had the unexpected good fortune to meet family members she never knew she had.

This heartwarming story may be one of the reasons I recently picked up a book called The Storyteller’s Secret.

In this captivating read, Carmine Gallo says that, “since the next decade will see the most change our civilization has ever known, your story will radically transform your business, your life and the lives of those you touch.”

Why is this important? Because “ideas that catch on are wrapped in a story,” he says.

Stories connect us, inform us and inspire us.

That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons behind the golden age of television, with so many compelling shows. This is why it’s so exciting to work in an industry at the intersection of entertainment and technology.

This is where great stories are told that entertain us, help us make sense of the world and prompt us to think about our own stories and the difference we’re making.

(And this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own.)

Speaking of stories, I can’t wait to hear from the speakers at next week’s TEDWomen 2016 conference. Fittingly for me, it’s in San Francisco, close to where I was born and where my daughter is attending college.

What’s your story? How are you writing it every day?

Is Everyone Faking It?

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Yes, everyone is making it up as they go along.

And that means you can, too, as you work toward your biggest goals.

I’ll tell you why in my post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

I’m a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this year, sharing all the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

Some of my fellow ambassadors, pictured below, were featured alums at the Annenberg NETworks event this fall with students and recent grads.

What a fun evening it was, full of interesting people and fascinating conversations.

#FightOn!

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Cut Email Time in Half with this Simple Trick

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Need a simple hack to motivate yourself to slog through your email backlog?

Here’s a great one from author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg: as fast as you can, write a one-sentence reply to each message.

But don’t send them right away.

Just read and write a sentence in response that “expresses an opinion or decision.”

And if you can exercise control over the situation in your response, you’ll be more motivated to continue, Duhigg says in his book Smarter Faster Better.

Then you can can go back into your draft messages and add the rest of each message – salutations, specifics and signoffs.

This is a terrific example of two ways Duhigg says you can generate motivation.

The first is to “make a choice that puts you in control.” And “the specific choice itself matters less in sparking motivation than the assertion of control.”

The second is to “figure out how this task is connected to something you care about.” If you can “explain why this matters, then you’ll find it easier to start.”

Duhigg’s book is full of fascinating science behind motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data.

You’ll learn “the secrets of being productive in life and business” – not only for yourself, but also for your colleagues and your kids.

If you’re looking for an interesting and insightful summer read, this is one to download on your mobile device or pack in your beach bag.

Should Grit Appear Effortless?

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If you’re gritty, should you let it show?

That was the essential question in The Atlantic‘s article this month, Is Grit Overrated?

In it, Jerry Useem applies Angela Duckworth‘s research on grit to our careers.

Grit, the persistent pursuit of a passion, is key to accomplishment. Yet most people would be happy not to know how hard you worked.

Useem cites research by Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London. It showed that people prefer perceived natural talents over those whose striving and hard work is more apparent.

Why? Here Duckworth has a best guess. It’s that “we don’t like strivers because they invite self-comparisons.” And we can often find ourselves lacking.

Or perhaps it’s because the effortless and frictionless experience is desirable in all areas of our lives. This is especially true in the customer experience with our favorite brands.

Think of the level of technology we interact with on a daily basis. The networks that carry our communications. The electric and computing technology that fuel our cars. The social media that connect us around the globe.

We want and expect an effortless experience. Every time.

In addition to the complexity of our lives that demands an effortless experience, history and human nature play roles. “Make your accomplishments appear effortless,” is one of The 48 Laws of Power that Robert Greene penned.

Greene cited the Japanese tea ceremony and the contributions of Sen no Rikyu in the 16th century. The art of the tea ceremony was heightened by its seeming effortlessness. Showing the effort behind the work ruined the effect.

Greene also drew from the Renaissance court writings of Baldassare Castiglione, author of The Book of the Courtier in 1528. Castiglione advised members of the royal court to carry out their duties with “sprezzatura, the capacity to make the difficult seem easy.”

He went on to write, “practice in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.”

In our world of social media, where people appear to live perfectly curated lives, this takes some reality checks on the back end.

When the actor Rob Lowe took his oldest son to college, he advised him beautifully when his son expressed doubts about his ability to succeed. Lowe describes this in a tear-jerking chapter of his book Love Life.

“Dad, what if it’s too hard for me here?” his son asked.  “None of the other kids look scared at all.”

The elder Lowe’s response is something we should remind ourselves of every day: “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

As you pursue a passion with perseverance and balance it with the appearance of effortlessness, remember this: It takes tremendous work behind the scenes to accomplish anything great.

Don’t ever give up. Keep your grit to yourself. And make sure your children understand the hard work that happens beneath the surface.

12 Things I Learned from Blogging Every Day for a Month

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At the beginning of this month, I started an April adventure. What was it? To complete each of my daily dozen tasks every day for an entire month.

Why did I do it? To experiment. To create change. To get more done. To make decisions. To enjoy life more.

Here’s what I learned. Most of it was from blogging every day for a month, the one activity I did faithfully every day.

1. It’s easier doing things on most days, rather than every day. Sometimes the day’s schedule precluded doing everything on my list. And some activities shouldn’t be done daily, like lifting weights.

Days when I traveled called for extra creativity. For exercise, that meant getting in some steps while waiting at the airport. It also meant packing lighter “athletic” shoes that would fit in my bag so I could use the hotel fitness center.

They were a pair of slip-on Keds that took up a sliver of space in my bag compared with my usual workout shoes. A podiatrist might disagree, but they worked for 30 minutes of walking on the treadmill. The longer-term solution? When I replace my current workout shoes, I’ll get a smaller, lighter pair.

The benefit of doing an activity every day is that you don’t have to think about it. That makes it easier to do on a consistent basis. But once it’s become a habit, it’s easier to do it on most days of the week, rather than every day.

2. To make a new habit stick, focus on just one each month. Some days had a breathless quality of racing through activities to check them off the list. Some were already automatic, like taking vitamins. But others required chunks of time, like blogging, reading, exercising and sleeping. Even doubling up on activities didn’t fully do the trick.

What will work better? Focusing on one area each month. That’s inspired by Gretchen Rubin‘s year-long happiness project. She focused on one area of life each month for a year. In the final month, she combined all of her newly established habits and rituals.

So I’ll take my daily dozen, with a few tweaks, and assign each to a month over the coming year. The month of May? It’s a tossup between healthy eating and sleep.

Four years ago, on Mother’s Day, I became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers after losing nearly 50 pounds. And while thankfully I’m not the person who regained all of the weight and more, I would not keep my membership (within 2 pounds of goal) if I went to a weigh-in today.

It’s a struggle, this constant vigilance and self-care. The words of a Weight Watchers leaders still ring in my ears, “It ain’t over ’til you’re over.” How true.

So this May will be the month of healthy eating. Back to the healthful simplicity of the “power foods” – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy and lean protein.

3. Clarify what you most enjoy by analyzing how you spend your time. What do you most love to do? One of mine is writing. It’s usually a guaranteed flow state, every time.

My April adventure clarified this because blogging was the one activity I did daily (other than taking vitamins, which I’m choosing not to count because it was already a well-established habit and takes only a minute to complete).

Whether it’s writing a report a work, or an inspiration for a community charity organization or this blog, I love to write. So I’ll focus on areas where I can do more than that.

4. Celebrate progress. One of my purposes in blogging daily was to clarify the focus of this blog. It began as an exploration of the future of corporate communications. Then it evolved into a learning journey, with a focus on the data analytics aspect of a career pivot.

And while I didn’t fully crystallize the focus of this blog, I did make progress. I know what I can take off the list. While I’ll still devote learning time to reading blogs and books about data analytics, along with some online courses, that specifically won’t be the focus of this blog.

I’ll continue to write about learning in general. It’s something we’ll all need to do throughout our lives, regardless of the the specific subject.

In my work, I’m intrigued by the intersection between data science and communication. As I find a way to link the two in an interesting way, that may be the subject of some future blog posts.

5. The more effortless you make your goals, the easier is it to accomplish them. With WordPress on my MacBook, iPad and iPhone, I could draft and post to my blog wherever I was. My Spanish is app is the same – all I need is 10 minutes and I can do my lesson for the day. My library is with me all the time with my Kindle app. And so on.

This is where I was especially proud of my employer and the vision to connect people with their world, everywhere they live and work. (Opinions on this blog are mine.) This is a great enabler – perhaps the great enabler – of what’s the most important in each of our lives.

Other enablers? Keeping my yoga mat and workout gear in my car. Having my PFD (personal floatation device) stacked beside that for standup paddle boarding sessions.

6. Complimentary activities help you get the most out of your day. For me it’s walking on the treadmill and reading (or streaming favorite TV shows on my DIRECTV app).

Thinking about 3 things I’m grateful for in the last 24 hours while brushing my teeth (thank you, Shawn Achor).

Maximizing family interactions by sitting in the dining room while I’m reading or writing or whatever so when my teens stroll by and want to engage (yes, they can be like cats), I’m there. This works in an office environment with colleagues, too.

7. Don’t try to do too much. Yet doubling up on activities only works to a point. Sometimes I struggle with enjoying the present moment. Being fully there. Not racing ahead to the next thing that I feel needs to be done.

By consciously limiting the number of things and activities I commit to, I know I’ll do better in that smaller set of activities. Given my goal to blog daily, I feel the quality of my posts wasn’t always what I wanted it to be. I didn’t have time for research, for reflection and for revising.

But I did learn some helpful strategies. When I finished one post, I’d start a new draft post and jot down my ideas in a brief outline. Then when I re-opened it to start writing, the initial thinking was already done.

This goes back to the principle of taking small steps. It also relates to my Spanish studies. While I’m not devoting big chunks of time to it, I can spend a few minutes a day. Studies are showing this goes for exercise too.

8. If something isn’t working for you, let it go. I don’t have to do everything. If something isn’t a fit, I can let it go.

This is one of the reasons I’m excited to read Angela Duckworth‘s book on Grit when the pre-order downloads to my Kindle app on May 3. This guru of tenacity and perseverance says it can be okay to quit. Just not on your hardest day.

One of my daily dozen was 2 minutes of power posing, inspired by Amy Cuddy‘s book on Presence. I’d like to think it made me stand up and sit up straighter during the day, and to take up more space. Why? To feel more confident and live life more fearlessly.

But I don’t need to do it every day. I can save it for times when I have to give a big presentation or otherwise tackle a tough challenge.

9. Relationships with people are more important than checking tasks off a list. When my daughter or son wants to talk with me, I stop what I’m doing (as hard as that can sometimes be) and I listen and chat.

Here I’m inspired by Shonda Rhimes and her Year of Yes. Whenever her daughters asked her to play, she’d stop what she was doing to spend time with them. It doesn’t take long. But it means so much.

My daughter and I have had lots of chats this month – on the road and at home as she’s been choosing her college. It’s been a learning experience. Sometimes you don’t end up where you expected, but there can be a whole new world of possibilities. It all depends on your perspective.

10. Intense activity can’t solve all of your problems – or the world’s problems. There are still sad moments. Anxious moments. Frustrating moments. We live in a world that seemingly gets crazier and more unpredictable every day – with events that are beyond our control.

Keeping busy all the time won’t solve those problems. But it will help you make progress in your own life. And that’s what makes us happy.

11. We can still control an awful lot in our lives. Our minds – with thanks to Carol Dweck and her growth mindset concept. What we do – or don’t do – every day. How we show up and share our gifts. What we choose to do and who we do it with. Being clear about what we can control and what we can’t.

12. Love is all there is. My sister Katie shared this with my last year during a very sad time her family’s life. This was a favorite saying of her mother-in-law Sylvia, who was unexpectedly near the end of her life. It makes me smile through tears to think of Sylvia, Katie and the rest of the family.

But in the end, what could be more true? Love really is all there is.

As someone who’s all about achieving goals – sometimes with a relentless zeal that my immediate family enjoys teasing me about – this one made me stop and think. Especially this month as I figured out how to cram a lot in every day.

Life truly is about the people and the relationships.

And there’s always something to love about others. No matter who they are. It helps to remember that everyone is carrying a heavy load and traveling a difficult path, even if their life appears perfect on their Instagram feed. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and to others.

Because love is all there is.

What’s Your Birthday Ritual?

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How do you celebrate your birthday?

As I contemplated mine today, I wondered what others do. Yes, there’s the fun of celebration, cake and congratulations. Yet what else makes the day extra special? What sets the stage for your next year ahead?

I’m not sure if this relentless focus on goals has to do with being a Taurus or an ENTJ. Or maybe the two are related.

But regardless, here goes . . .

Looking back. Just as I do as New Year’s Eve approaches, I reflect on the last year. I handwrite a list of highlights. How do I remember it all? My calendar and Evernote are helpful in jogging my memory.

This has a few benefits. First, I get to enjoy reliving the best moments of the year. And second, it makes me realize I accomplished a lot more than I might have thought.

Giving thanks. It’s easy to forget the blessings in our lives. A daily list of 3 things I’m grateful for in the last 24 hours has helped bring those blessings to the fore.

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor recently suggested a great twist on this. While you brush your teeth at night, think of 3 things you’re happy about.

And on a birthday, it’s the perfect time to take stock more broadly of what you’re grateful for. Family. Health. Career. Optimism. Perseverance. Possibilities. A favorite pet. Cupcakes. Anything that makes you happy.

Looking ahead. The logical next step is to look to the future. What’s exciting about the year ahead? What was learned in the previous year that can help shape the one ahead?

What are the bright spots that you can build on? This is a great concept from Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their bestseller Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

This is where you look for small things that are going well, you learn from them and apply them more broadly.

Enjoying the moment. What would make your day special? What would you most enjoy doing? While I love my career and my work, I take a vacation day on my birthday when I can. And I try to resist my usual tendency to over schedule.

What did that mean for today? Looking back and looking ahead. Enjoying a workout by the beach. Stopping by a beautiful local library. Spending time with family. Talking with my mom. Responding to heartwarming birthday wishes. Writing my daily blog post. A nice dinner with my husband.

Remembering my commitment not to over schedule, we’ll go standup paddle boarding and on an excursion over the weekend. I’m savoring the unusual feeling of not being rushed. The to-do lists and chores will still be there tomorrow.

Reading about what others do on their birthdays gave me a few new ideas.

Danielle LaPorte has 10 great ones. My favorite? “Make some outlandish wishes based on how you want to FEEL in the coming year. Desired. Free. Top of your game . . .”

Kevin F. Adler offers up 9. My favorites? “Have a party the evening before your actual birthday.” “Go on an adventure.” And “do something special that you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t.”

This got me thinking about bringing something special into every day. Why wait for your birthday? What you can to do to enjoy every day?

Does Progress Make You Happy?

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What’s the secret to being happy?

A terrific post in Inc. this week by Josh Linkner explained why happiness is progress.

There’s something about moving toward your most important goals that’s more fulfilling than anything. Because life truly is about the journey, rather than the destination.

If you lead others, clearing the path for progress is one of the most important things you can do. Making measurable progress each day is what gives people a sense of accomplishment. Teresa Amabile covers it well in The Progress Principle.

How does progress make you happy?