By Benjamin Haslem
Your choice of words and the emotional response it elicits in the reader can either make your message highly effective or a disaster.
The meme at left was posted by a friend on Facebook.
It was originally posted by a group called Young Mums.
I am the father of a boy who is severely allergic to peanuts. He has to carry an epipen with him. One peanut consumed, without a shot of adrenaline from the epipen, could kill him. Thankfully, we have never had to use the epipen.
So I came to the meme with a certain lack of objectivity.
I am also a passionate opponent of the anti-vaccination movement, which poses a grave risk to public health.
My initial take on the meme was one of anger. To my eyes it was cheapening the risk posed to some children by peanuts.
The words "because someone might be allergic" smacks of condescension or a sense that people are being put out or inconvenienced, especially when contrasted with the message below.
It also suggests the danger posed by peanuts is not very high or even exaggerated.
However, my friend argued that he read it as along the lines of (to paraphrase) "why is it that as a school community we can organise to ensure our playgrounds are safe for kids with peanut allergies but we can't make parents vaccinate their kids?".
That's a reasonable interpretation for someone who doesn't have a child with a peanut allergy.
But the problem with the meme is that the choice of language doesn't convey that message.
By Alexandra Mayhew
No doubt throughout your career you will be invited to many networking events, you’ll be offered membership to networking groups, and most likely be asked to join a networking database “at a very reasonable cost”. Each of these door-opening activities has merits, but I’m here to tell you it’s not just a numbers game – it’s all about the strength of the relationships you form. Here are some tips so you get the most out of your networking.
1. It’s not ‘who you know’ it’s how well you know them.
I’m one of the few who are happy to openly share my contacts (with their approval). I do this not only because it’s a nice thing to do, but I recognise that while someone may take a name from you, they cannot take the relationship.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re a successful networker because your LinkedIn profile reads 500+ connections or your database is four-plus digits long – the value in contacts is trust, will they do you a favour because they know you, because they trust you? Make the effort to have deeper relationships, as opposed to a long list of names filled with people you can’t place.
2. Don’t just ask for favours.
Give people information and opportunities that don’t necessarily benefit you.
This will help you develop a good rapport and continue to build the relationship – meaning when you do need a favour he/she will be more willing to lend a hand.
Not to mention, again, it’s just a nice thing to do.
3. Get outside of your industry events
A mistake a lot of people make is networking with their own kind.
Get out and go to something outside of your industry, you’ll not only meet a whole new bunch of people, but you’ll probably be the only person in your industry working the room.
4. Go it alone (to events)
Yes, it can be awkward walking into an event by yourself, and even the most confident of us can struggle with jumping into a group conversation with a whole bunch of people we don’t know – however if you go with people you know you’ll use that familiarity as a crutch and not put yourself out there as much, meaning you’re not going to meet as many people.
So get awkward and get connecting.
Volunteering for a good cause means you’re not only do you feel great doing something good for the world, you can create deep and meaningful relationships working with people from all walks of life – and trust me, when you’re trying to organise an event for hundreds of people on a shoestring budget outside of work hours, you develop resilient relationships fast.
(Not to mention you’re up-skilling in the process).
6. There is such a thing as LinkedIn etiquette – practice it
When you connect with someone you’ve recently met on LinkedIn start a conversation with them, that is, don’t just ‘connect’ and ignore.
Provide your connections with useful information, like groups you’ve joined or interesting people you think they might like to follow. Say something useful. Post interesting and useful content (and not just your own).
Comment on their posts and ‘like’ their job promotions and so on.
Most importantly, where you can, and meet with them outside of the digital world (i.e. in the real one).
7. Don’t pitch yourself as a product
Many people may disagree with me on this one, saying have an elevator pitch for yourself, but I passionately believe you should not enter a room and give the same 30 second finessed spiel you’ve given hundreds of times. You know why I think this, it’s because you don’t sound genuine when you pitch yourself (as opposed to a product), and people (especially Australians) don’t appreciate that.
Ask about someone else’s life first, talk about things other than business (in some cultures this is custom), and if the opportunity presents itself, tell them a bit about what you do, and generally assume they know absolutely nothing about your industry so explain it as though you’re explaining it to your nan.
But say it differently, honestly, and personably every. single. time.
By Benjamin Haslem
In a past life, the PR firm I was working for nearly lost a certain new client because a junior member of staff had a weak handshake.
The 'wet fish' wasn't the only problem. The potential client complained the young man was also ill-informed about the "latest trends in digital marketing", (not a problem as Wells Haslem!).
But leaving aside the junior's lack of knowledge (and the new client's penchant for the firm grip), this anecdote drives home the importance of body language in face-to-face communications.
As I stress in media training, a US Study some years ago found physiology or body language (how you sit, stand and gesture) makes up 55 per cent of the communication process. Tone and inflection, how you sound, 38 per cent. Actual content seven per cent.
Body language coach, Carol Kinsey Goman, says there are five key areas you should focus on:
Letting the audience see your passion - Allow your natural enthusiasm for what you do, your product or company come across in the tone of your voice and emphasis and your animated expressions. But don't go overboard; keep it in check by limiting most of your gestures to waist height and definitely not above the shoulders.
Look confident and warm - One non-verbal cue can convey status, authority, and confidence. Stand tall, hold your shoulders back, keep your head straight, speak clearly and in a lower vocal range. Then you need to use the other cue to convey warmth, empathy, and likeability: open palm gestures, lean slightly forward, give people eye contact when they talk, smile and mirror their posture/gestures. (If you find it difficult to look strangers in the eye, an old salesmans' trick is to look at the bridge of their nose.)
Make sure that your verbal and non-verbal messages are aligned - Most of us know that shaking your head while emphasising a point gives the impressions you don't actually believe what you're saying. Neuroscientists have actually identified brain waves that occur when we are shown gestures that contradict what’s spoken. This is the same brain wave dip that occurs when people listen to nonsensical language (you may as well speak gibberish!).
Watch the audience to gauge how you are being perceived - How your audience behaves indicates interest, receptivity, or agreement while disengagement behaviors signal that a person is bored, angry, or defensive.
Engagement signals include head nods or tilts (the universal sign of “giving someone your ear”), and open body postures. When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their whole body. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they may angle their upper body away – giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if they sit through your entire presentation with both arms and legs crossed, it’s unlikely you have their buy-in.
And finally, the handshake - Dr Goman writes: "Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. We are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. It’s a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond".
I'm not a big fan of the wet fish and yes judge people (possibly wrongly) if they have one. But I am far more put off by someone who shakes my hand but looks away.
Dr Gorman provides these handy tips:
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