Creativity is not genetically encoded. Anyone can learn to think creatively. The key is to use both the left and right hemispheres of the brain: logical and intuitive, respectively. Start by immersing yourself in a problem. Use the logical left side of your brain to understand what you know about the topic. Then switch to the right side by distancing yourself from the issue and mulling over the information. Exercise is a good way to access the visual nature of the right hemisphere. It often leads to an “ah-ha moment” where you see a new solution. Then switch back to the left hemisphere to challenge your creative breakthrough with rational thinking.
It’s one thing to give a smooth presentation. It’s another to move the people in your audience to do something. To accomplish the latter, figure out what you have in common with the people in the room, and speak to the audience at that level. Think about the values, interests, shared experiences, or challenges that you share so you can reference them in your dialogue. This is tougher to do with a broad audience like a group of seminar participants from a variety of organizations and industries. The overlap won’t be immediately evident, because there are so many perspectives and backgrounds to consider. So you’ll need to work hard to find it, but that work will pay off.
The first thing someone notices about us is our appearance and behavior. It is important to watch both of these things in order to make a good first impression. There are, however, other elements that define how others see and react to. These elements combine to create your leadership image. To be considered a leader, you need to present yourself as one. These elements can get you on your way.
Be In Balance: Smart leaders know how to strike a balance between being strong and supportive. You have to balance between being able to take a joke and commanding respect and authority. Being able to juggle these two is important but difficult. If take either to extremes you will lose your employees’ respect. Be firm and confident but be supportive. You get more from building people up than by tearing them down.
Avoid Self-Absorption: If you have employees, suppliers, or partners, your business is a team effort. Isolating yourself is never a smart business move. Strong leaders are inclusive, not exclusive.
Communicate With Clarity: Being a strong communicator means communicating with clarity. That includes the spoken word, the written word, and images and body language. If you are not comfortable with your communications, practice. Even the most brilliant idea will fall flat when communicated poorly.
Many people assume that when they ask for feedback, people will offer their thoughts candidly and directly. But that often doesn’t happen, especially in public settings and high-stakes situations. To force people to open up, no matter how reluctant (or passive-aggressive) they may be feeling, set one key ground rule: “Silence denotes agreement.” Explain that silence doesn’t mean “I’m not voting” or “I reserve the right to weigh in later.” It means “I’m completely on board with what’s being discussed.” You must then commit to enforcing the rule. If someone — even a powerful team member or friend — buttonholes you after a meeting to express reservations about what was said, tell them, “You should have spoken up at the meeting. Now everyone is on board and the ship has sailed. Next time, say something.”
After your next conference or networking event, social media tools can help you follow up with the people you really want to make a part of your professional network. Harvard Business Review recommends you try these strategies:
- Install a business-card-processing app on your smartphone that can scan cards with a camera and convert them to contact information.
- If you meet someone and hit it off, connect right away. Send your pal a tweet from your smartphone right then and there.
- At the end of each trip, make a “keeper” pile of business cards for people you want to stay in touch with, then use your business card app to capture them.
- Use your business card app’s social networking function to send each person a LinkedIn connection invitation.
- Send your “keepers” a personal e-mail saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and suggesting when or how you’ll follow up.
There is an amusing group of cartoons going around social media in which an occupation is named ad illustrations show “What I think I do,” “What my mother thinks I do,” “What my friends think I do,” and “What I really do.” While the images are very funny, they do illustrate a serious question. Do people know what you really do?
This has become even more difficult as people have titles such as “consultant” that doesn’t say anything about what you do and is more and more being used by network marketers looking to hide what they do. In networking meetings you hear 30-second introductions that say “I help you get more customers.” That’s wonderful but it doesn’t tell me what you do.
People won’t hire you if they don’t know what you do. Here are some tips to ensure people understand your business:
- Be specific: tell exactly how you do what you say. Describe your product or service.
- Use examples: If what you do is abstract use examples and comparisons to illustrate what you do.
- Be honest: Don’t exaggerate what you do. If you sell products for a network marketing company don’t tell people you coach them to build better lives.
Despite the proliferation of digital tools, the business card is not going away any time soon. Your card, and how you use it, can have a big effect on how you are perceived and whether or not you get a sale. Follow these tips to maximize your impact:
- Always Keep Some On You: You never know when a networking opportunity may spring up. A casual trip to the bank or running some errands could lead to a chance encounter with someone whose business might benefit you or your business. When such chance encounters happen, having a business card on hand makes information exchange seamless, as opposed to worrying about finding something to write your information down on.
- Exhibit Proper Etiquette: There is in fact a right way and a wrong way to handle a business card exchange. For starters, if someone hands you theirs, offer them your own. Conversely, when handing out your business card, request the other person’s. When you receive a business card, don’t just bury it in your pocket. Instead, take a few moments to examine it. This shows the other person that you are interested and take them seriously, as you would want to be taken.
- Be Smart About Your Card’s Design: The look and feel of your business card can say a great deal about you. Cheap, plain business cards that look like they came from Kinko’s or cookie cutter cards from VistaPrint are not going to leave a lasting impression. Gaudy business cards, on the other hand, can be too garish and off-putting. You need to strike the right balance between aesthetic appeal and the quality of paper stock you print your cards on.
- Include A Slogan In Your Design: A 5-8 word slogan that succinctly describes your business in a catchy or smart way will help your business card stick out. For example, Target, and their slogan, “Expect More. Pay Less.” Just four words sums up the philosophy of Target clearly and concisely. Strong slogans like this add to the effectiveness of your business card and help build brand recognition for you and your business. It also becomes crucial when someone looks at your card several weeks later to remind them of who you are.
- Network: Ordering 1,000 business cards then waiting for prospects to come to you will only prove futile. Business cards are a tool for active networking. There is always something going on in the business world, regardless of what kind of business you’re involved in, so seek out networking opportunities by checking online and keeping your ear to the ground, then get out to these events and start delivering your business cards with every handshake you make.
- Follow Up: If you received a business card from someone you are interested in doing business with, use the exchange as an excuse to conduct a follow-up phone call. If you don’t take initiative, you risk the chance of that prospect forgetting about you. For many, business cards tend to get easily lost among all the paperwork and miscellaneous paraphernalia that adorns their desk. As a result, it might be a long while before they get back to you — if they even do at all.
Whether you have to present to a corporate meeting, a networking group, or a workshop most people at some point will need to make a presentation. It can be nerve-racking but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these tips to get better results from your presentation.
- Prepare: You will not be able to pull off a dynamic presentation by the seat of your pants. The foundation of any presentation is the amount of preparation the speaker puts in behind the scenes. Develop a topic, flesh it out into concise, relevant and specific bullet points that back to the central theme and develop a narrative arc to follow. Then perform a handful of dry runs — in front of the mirror, a friend or colleague, your partner, your family, etc.
- Open Strong: There is a saying in the writing community that you need to capture your readers within the first few pages or even paragraphs. Apply this idea to your presentation. Whether you use a concrete example or start with a joke the first 2 to 3 minutes of your presentation can make or break your audience’s interest in what you have to say, so make it count.
- Keep It Short: Be wary of long-winded presentations that seem to have no real direction or purpose. You have probably sat through such a presentation on more than one occasion. Pare down your presentation to its slimmest, trimmest, most refined form. Each bullet point should pack a meaningful punch that, once delivered, leaves the audience in anticipation for the next verbal blow you have to deliver. If your audience is reaching for their cell phones, you’ve lost them.
- Move: Don’t stand behind a podium. Relax, move around, wander about and most importantly, make eye contact with a handful of the members of your audience. Locking eye contact with someone will not only hold their attention, but others nearby will also pick up on the subtle action and find themselves drawn in more to your presentation. Remember, when it comes to presentations, periodic contact with your audience is a necessity.
Monitoring your social media presence is incredibly important – but many business owners and marketers are concerned it will take too much time. In fact you can keep up with with what people are saying in less than 10 minutes a day. Here are some simple steps to take to keep up while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
- Check Twitter for chatter about your company ( 2 minutes ): Use tools like TweetDeck or Twitter Search to monitor conversations about your company in real-time.
- Use Google Alerts ( 1.5 minutes ): Check Google Alerts for your company name, products, executives, industry or brand terms. To set this up, enter your search terms in a Google Alert and select to receive updates as they happen or once daily. Now, when people blog about your products, an alert will be sent to your inbox.
- Use an RSS Reader to check Flickr, Digg and others ( 2.5 minutes ): Also set up RSS feeds for searches on your company name and industry terms in other social media sites. Similar to monitoring LinkedIn and Twitter, your Reader will serve as a great place to centralize your searches.
These three tips will keep you up-to-date on what is being talked about on social media without taking up your entire day.
Most people respond better to visuals than the spoken word alone. But, not all visuals enhance a presentation: Inaccessible graphs or nonsensical clip art will detract from your message. To create visual aids that give your presentation impact, engage your audience, and make your points stick, Harvard Business school recommends these rules:
- Keep them simple. If your audience can’t understand the visual within 30 seconds, remove it.
- Don’t get too artistic. Only use graphics and icons to reinforce key concepts. Don’t try to pretty up the presentation with irrelevant pictures.
- Edit heavily. Each slide or handout sheet should only convey one concept. Include no more than six lines of text, or else it’s no longer a visual.