Winter 2006: Making a fantastic impression on people

Thank you for reading the February 2006 L’Epée Coaching & Consulting Newsletter.

The start of the New Year is usually a time when people make firm resolutions in the hope of bringing about effective change in their lives.

Knowing that, perhaps its time to seek help in identifying your goals and the strategies you can implement to achieve them. With the help of a coach, 2006 can become the year when you see those firm resolutions through to a rewarding end.

A qualified coach provides support and experience in identifying goals and new challenges. A coach can also provide valuable insight what it will take to meet those goals. Moreover, a professional coach can offer an impartial, objective view and suggest the necessary adjustments needed to see it through. Finally, a coach can ensure your values and behaviors are aligned with the goals you have set for yourself.

If you are eager to break new ground in 2006, both professionally and personally, seriously consider enlisting the help of a professional coach

Networking Power Lunch

In October, I introduced a new series of Power Lunches aimed at giving participants a forum to share experiences and knowledge about effective networking. Each lunch has been devoted to a specific networking topic and allows participants to examine and analyze the networking situations, while receiving feedback from the facilitator and each other.

At the January 24th Networking Power Lunch participants learned How to Make a Fantastic Impression on People. The lunch looked at how to make an excellent impression on people just by making them feel comfortable. Though it may seem easy enough, mastering this simple strategy can allow you to make the most of your networking.

The February 28th lunch, Networking across cultures Part I, will focus on our desire and capacity to network successfully in a foreign environment and will integrate a cross-cultural dimension to the networking and self-marketing situations we encounter.

Calendar

February 1, 8, 15, 22 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)
February 6 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
February 8 Culture matters: can you pass the test. EBA educational event (www.ebaprague.cz)
February 28 Networking Power Lunch: Networking across cultures Part I
March 6 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
March 21 Networking Power Lunch: Networking across cultures Part II

Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)

The Prague Speakers Toastmasters Club is a member of Toastmasters International and the District 59 European Toastmasters. The club was founded in September 2004 and hosts a good mix of Czech and international members. This diverse environment allows people to improve their communication, speaking and leadership skills, as well as meet new people and profit from new experiences. All meetings are in English, though being a native English speaker is not necessary to join.

What you’ll take away from the experience

Whether you’re a professional, entrepreneur, student, or stay-at-home parent, Toastmasters offers a fun and effective way to improve your communication skills. The supportive environment can help you improve your self-confidence and overcome the fear of public speaking. Moreover, you’ll learn skills that will give you an edge in any endeavor you choose to pursue. Regular training sessions, constructive evaluation and the opportunity to put this valuable knowledge into practice encourages speedy results. And even the most seasoned members find new and challenging opportunities to enhance their skills.

Coming up in April!

Join us for the Division D Toastmasters Conference in Prague on April 8, 2006.

See experienced Toastmasters from Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic compete in the International Speech and Evaluation Contests.

You’ll meet dynamic, interesting people and become acquainted with Toastmasters on an international level.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this excellent learning and networking opportunity, visit the Toastmasters website at http://www.toastmasters.cz/prague.

Communication Tip of the month: Making a fantastic impression on people

Jana is a social butterfly. In the past five years she has gone to most of the social events the golden city has had to offer and in more than one way has become the epitome of Prague’s vibrant social life.

At the beginning she was self–conscious and didn’t feel comfortable with her social skills and ability to network efficiently. But after spending several evenings studying the social dynamic between the diverse groups of people she met and mingled with, she soon learned to move, greet and interact comfortably with practically anyone she met. Her blooming self–confidence soon allowed her to watch and learn how others behaved at the various mixers she was invited to. Studying the way people interact with one another and observing them to get along, or not, was something Jana consciously did at every opportunity. It was a great way to learn how to behave with others, and more importantly, how not to.

She eventually noticed John making the rounds at one of the business mixers they were both attending. To the casual observer, John seemed to be doing all the right things when it comes to making a good first impression: shaking hands, introducing himself and passing out business cards. However, to Jana’s well–trained eye, John may have been making an impression, but it certainly wasn’t a good one.

For instance, Jana quickly noticed that John’s voice, already loud, had the tendency to increase in volume with every drink, which he downed easily. Listening to his conversations, she learned a lot about him and his life in Prague. He spoke openly about his business, even going so far to joke about his business with the secretary. But at the same time, Jana noticed that John never had much time or interest in finding out about anyone else. He was so engrossed in making a great impression that he didn’t notice that he had talked one of his interlocutors into a corner. Not only did he cut her off from the rest of the mixer, he wasn’t perceptive enough to notice that she kept looking anxiously over his shoulder for someone to come over and rescue her. John definitely made an impression, but not necessarily the one he wanted. Obviously, all he managed to achieve that evening was to be perceived as a rude and unpleasant person and someone most people wanted to get away from. While many of us attend parties and mixers just for the fun of it (or for the food), it’s impossible to ignore the potential and possibilities these social gatherings offer. They offer an excellent platform that makes it relatively easy to promote oneself and one’s company in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

But, as Jana noticed at the many mixers she attended, there often exists a wide gap between the professionals, the amateurs and the clearly incompetent.

So, how can you make a fantastic impression in a way that promotes you or your company successfully?

As we all know, human beings are social animals. We are in a constant state of social interaction. And the golden rule to social interaction is to treat other people the way you would like to be treated. Rather than trying too hard to impress the biggest fish at the party, the best way to make a stellar impression is to simply focus on something you think the person you’re talking to would like to talk about. Being able to make others feel comfortable is one of the most important ways of leaving a lasting impression.

The ability to make people around you feel comfortable is something anyone can learn. At its most basic, it is about establishing rapport by finding things in common. We are naturally more attracted to people who think and act in the same way we do.

The challenge occurs when we meet someone who expresses himself in a way that is difficult to relate to. To overcome this, it is important to try to synchronize yourself with the person you’re talking to.

This aptitude of synchronizing ourselves with someone else and creating a climate of trust and understanding isn’t always easy. To be on the same wavelength we need to be able to see things from the other person’s point of view (without necessarily agreeing with it). And try to communicate with them on an emotional rather than on a rational level. We are more likely to feel positive about someone with whom we have related to on an emotional level than otherwise.

In a situation where people come from different cultures and backgrounds, creating synchronicity can sometimes be tricky. If the apparent similarities are too vague to focus on, another easy way to develop synchronicity is to “match” the other person. This is as simple as adopting parts of the other person’s behaviour, such as gestures, facial expressions, forms of speech, tone of voice, etc. When done subtly, a feeling of rapport between people can be created.

The ability to listen and show interest in what someone is saying is another sure–fire of making a fantastic impression. We all know how pleasant it feels to have an audience listening to us attentively. However, contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity! It is a conscious effort that requires focus and active involvement. People trust and appreciate a good listener much more than a good talker. Being able to give someone your full attention will go a long way in establishing a favourable lasting impression. Here are a few ideas on how to become a more attentive listener:

  • Try to maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to. Glancing around a room or down at the floor is a sure sign that you’re not interested in what someone is trying to tell you.
  • Ask questions. If you are not sure what someone is trying to say, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Do you mean …?” or “Did I understand you to say …?” It’s also a good idea to repeat what someone has said in your own words to confirm that you have correctly understood.
  • Keep an open mind. Listening for statements that happen to support our own opinions and beliefs or that we find personally interesting is something we often do, without even being conscious of it. Try to avoid it.
  • Give feedback and engage people around the conversation. It is important to show people that you understand what they are saying by making relevant comments. Simply nodding your head and adding an occasional “I see” or “That’s interesting” might give the person you’re speaking to the impression that what they are saying is going through one ear and out the other. Instead engage the speaker and those around you by making the effort to think and comment on what’s being said. People who are able to rise to the occasion socially have a talent for connecting with people on an emotional level. They make an impression by making others feel comfortable and by actively listening to the people they are speaking to. Finally, they know that the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

Enjoy the party!

This article was written for the Prague Club Magazine: http://www.clubmagazine.cz/2005_05/interview/Karin/Karin_eng.htm and published in their November 2005 issue.

Yours truly,
Karin