Meetings, Body language and the art of making a great first impression

Believe it or not but despite all our sophistication when we meet someone for the first time our primal instincts are doing most of the work for us. In the brief few seconds of a first meeting the senses have assessed this new person and hard wired the results to the brain. So while we are still enouncing the H in Hello our primal auditor has already decided if this person is a threat, safe or a possible mate. Obviously we then start to filter the results and process them through our own filters so a possible mate gets scrapped because the wife card is played by the committed part of the brain. A dodgy character may be given the benefit of the doubt because he is wearing a sharp suit and looks like he is wealthy, the new co-worker’s intention to stab you in the back and take your job may be missed because you have a soft spot for bald men, and so on.

So while we are still saying the rest of the syllables of hello lets open our eyes and really get the measure of this person.

Try to disconnect from knee jerk tried and tested prejudice

We all have preconceived ideas about ‘certain types of people’ generated from our own experience or that of our peers and we tend to try and saddle the new person with some sort of label. This is a natural process as we are more comfortable with new people when we have placed them in some sort of category.
We need to try to turn this off or at least discount the judgement otherwise we only get a 2 dimensional impression of this person that is lost amongst all the others in the same category. So if you have just met a ‘dizzy blond’, ‘smooth talking salesman’, ‘corporate climber’ or an ‘arrogant egotist’, hang in there and try to get the true measure of the person. Of course you may have been right the first time round!

Look at the person in front of you!

You see this happening at networking events where upon introduction one or even both parties will look away. For example: In the middle of a handshake one or neither of the people shaking hands are making eye contact with each other. The rules of a manly handshake are to make eye contact, shake hands firmly and even smile.
Not making eye contact in an initial meeting is an indicator of dishonesty or disinterest. And of course you miss the opportunity to study and connect to the person.

As all people are different then it follows that every encounter will be different. Be open to what your senses are telling you about the meeting and remember that it takes hours to achieve the same level of connection that a good handshake can achieve in less than 4 seconds.

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Crafting that perfect Elevator Pitch

Whether you run a conference venue, the corner café or an SEO Company, when faced with meeting people or prospective clients you have to know what to say and how to say it to get them eager to want to know more, book their next conference at your venue or have their regular lattes at your corner café. Obviously perfecting your elevator pitch takes a lot practise, the best place to start is in front of your mirror or in the shower, but we will look at some points that will help you get it right from the start. By know you’ve probably figured out that it is called an elevator pitch because that’s how much time you have to get someone hooked.. just as much time as it takes before they step out of the elevator that you are sharing..  about 30 seconds!

Where do you start? Start by writing down a short description of what it is you do or your company does. Try to avoid jargon and phrases that only you and your colleagues will understand. Keep it simple is always the best motto and yes another point that you probably think is an old cliché but still legend – Less is more!

With this short description in mind you can now start crafting your pitch. Remember that 80% of your success depends on your opening line so make sure this is good! One technique that we’ve found works well is to try and not make it sound like a pitch. You will definitely not get the desired excitement if you sound like you are reciting your biography! Start in a conversational manner with the problem you are trying to solve, aka the value you are offering, then follow through with the way the current alternatives are lacking, and then bang you’ve hit the sweet spot!

We like to think of the elevator pitch as your verbal business card. This is importantjust like a business card doesn’t seal the deal for you, neither is the elevator pitch meant to sign, seal and deliver that fat contract. It is meant to entice, draw them out, like bait on a fishing line. It is what happens after you’ve delivered that killer pitch that matters most. One thing you need to remember when networking or meeting people your most valuable tool is to be a good listener.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Now comes the time where you have to be prepared for follow up questions so that you’re not caught off guard, and can respond with some quality answers. Try to exude confidence and passion but not too much you don’t want to scare people off by coming across as desperate.

You might want to adapt your pitch to your audience. Different people will respond differently to what you have to offer, how you say it and how they respond. It is a good idea to practise with your friends, you should have friends that are very different in their approach to things, and these are the best to practise on. At the end of your pitch ask them to mirror back to you what your company does. This will be a good testament of whether your pitch has nailed it or not.

Lastly don’t forget to close. You need some way in which your new contact can get in touch with you, a business card, a facebook connection, your web address or physical address. But make it something that they won’t lose, dump in the nearest bin or forget about.

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How to run effective Meetings and Conferences

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

         Benjamin Franklin


Most meetings lack in the arena of inspiration, they are habitually boring and unproductive. Some conventions get the folks involved all excited but have no follow through. Your meetings don’t have to be this way. Here are some ways for making your conferences count.

1. Begin with a Purpose
Decide first what it is that you want to achieve. If you don’t begin with the end in mind your meeting will fail to have the desired structure and you won’t achieve much. Too many meetings are held for the sake of meeting instead of being outcome based. Make every assembly matter – or don’t meet at all.

2. Micro-Meetings are Time Savers
Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice-president of search products uses micro meetings very effectively. When setting aside your normal meeting time cut it into smaller segments of 5 – 10 minutes each. Instead of including everyone in the meeting unnecessarily rather have a small meeting with the key people on a particular subject or project.  Using micro meetings also means employees don’t have to wait for a week or so before being able to meet on a pressing matter.

3. The Importance of Agendas
This follows on from having a purpose before the meeting. Make sure all the relevant persons have the agenda beforehand. Even though agendas should be flexible they do ensure that individuals think about what they want to achieve in the meeting and help people to stay focused.

4. Stick to the Clock
Cover only what needs to be covered and stick to the relevant topics and discussion points on the agenda. Own your meeting, take charge and keep your meeting moving forward. When you find someone pontificates, the best way to deal with it is to acknowledge the person’s experience with the subject but to suggest raising the issue at a later stage. Discourage politics, use data. Get the constructive input you need from everyone present. Avoid favouritism in the decision making process but make use of facts and data instead. Use timers in your meetings to impose structure.

5. Have an Action plan for moving Forward
It is vital that everyone leaves knowing the next step and when the next meeting will take place. Assign individuals to keep track of the progress of things decided during the meeting. Keep everyone involved updated on the development of the various projects. Deliberate action and delegation ensures follow through, without this the meeting was a waste of time.

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Conference Venue Greening – Tips to keep your Conference Environmentally Friendly

When attending a Conference or Team Build at Intundla Game Lodge & Bush Spa, you can’t help but notice that you are surrounded by nature. While situated in the heart of Dinokeng we are close enough to Gauteng and Pretoria to give that “away from it all feeling” without even having to think of getting your passport stamped. Staying this close to nature creates a special affinity for the environment and a desire to ensure that there is a legacy for future generations.

Conference Venue Greening is not a difficult process it just takes a bit of planning, special consideration and keeping the environment top of mind for all delegates attending the conference.

Pre-Conference preparation

Think before you print – use electronic correspondence in favour of printing and faxing. When paper needs to be used for example leadership guides, delegate handouts, etc. use recycled paper printed with environmentally friendly inks and look out for carbon neutral printing services for your professional printing needs.

Local is lekker – Make use of local suppliers for your venue decorations and custom conference branding such as T-shirts, pens, lanyards, etc. Support community development initiatives and look out for the Proudly South African label. www.proudlysa.co.za

Organise your drive in advance – rather than let people get to the venue on their own steam, organise green transport, and provide taxi/bus options that are green friendly or facilitate the organising of a company carpool.

At the Conference

Use energy efficient options such as LED lighting and plasma screens. For the low-tech option use dry-erase boards rather than flip charts.

Most venues have water filters so ask for their water served in glass as opposed to plastic bottles. If plastic bottles are to be used ensure that the venue has recycling in place to dispose of the waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

Make sure that recycling bins are obvious and placed throughout the conference venue.

Allow the venue to take care of any printing needs to reduce travel emissions.

Rather than importing fast foods and disposable plates use the venue restaurant and ensure that meals are served on china and silverware.

Local foods have less transport emissions and choose a vegan or a vegetarian menu over meat options as they have lower greenhouse emissions than produced by animal farming.

Using the Accommodation

Re-use linen and towels to reduce water consumption and detergent use.

Take it all a step further

At Intundla Conference Venue we will help you reduce your Conference carbon footprint and put down some roots in the heart of Dinokeng by supplying trees to buy at wholesale prices. We only add R 10 which we will donate to our local charity.

Find out more about reducing and offsetting your carbon emissions from Climate Neutral Group (http://climateneutralgroup.com/en/) and become a climate neutral organisation.

Buy Carbon Credits – Carbon credits create a market for reducing greenhouse emissions by giving a monetary value to the cost of polluting the air. Emissions become an internal cost of doing business and are visible on the balance sheet alongside raw materials and other liabilities or assets, find out more (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit) 

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Mastering the art of networking for conferences and events

One of the top reasons for attending a conference is networking. Swapping cards and showing industry peers that your face is the face of your company and that you are open for business. Increasing your circle of influence through face to face contact and nurturing those contacts is still the number one way to expand your client base.

Consistency and persistence with networking is the key to success – the old school sayings about taking hard knocks, getting back on that horse and practice makes perfect are still very much alive in this field.  For some it looks easy, even natural and contacts seem to line up to hand over their A list card, but for others it can be a sweaty palmed, fumbling, stumbling nightmare where generic cards are hard won.

Networking can be as easy as you make it or as hard as you make it – the choice is up to you. Preparation is always a confidence builder, as is applying a few skills.

1) It’s not about you (it is really but you won’t get the results you want by being too obvious about it)

Develop the mind set of “I am going to find out about people – their business and their interests”. This takes a lot of pressure off feeling like you are going in for the hard sell or feeling like you have to impress. Most people like talking about themselves and those that don’t still feel comfortable talking about their business. Focus on them first by asking questions, be genuine, make good eye contact, don’t interrupt, remember what they said ( this will come in handy later) and then lead the conversation to your field so you can have your turn. It is not required to immediately try to do business with this person, just find common ground.

2) A solid contact is engineered not spontaneous.

Know who you need to meet at the conference venue or networking event. Remember that you don’t have to go for the jugular, besides the top players can be hard to get quality time with and while you lurk in the background waiting for your chance to pounce your credibility will start to dwindle. Court the connected players and look for an introduction to the kingpin through a 3rd party and if it comes with a bit of edification, the quality of the contact will be enhanced.

Placement and timing are also important – if you are trying to network while your prospect is trying to snag the last piece of sushi, you will only get lip service at best.  Wait until the registration has been signed, gift bags collected, sushi squared away and move in when their attention switches from getting organised to looking for someone to talk to.

3) Play the numbers

Picking off the singles takes time, requires more effort and you could get stuck with a clinger. Conversely approaching the big group with the popular people and getting any decent networking done will be difficult unless you can cull a few off the main group. Groups of 2 can be closed, rather approach smaller groups of 3 or 4, here you will get better results and be able to build strong relationships.

4) Watch the language

Understand that while you are out to get some decent contacts the person you are currently with is doing the same. Have your elevator pitch ready so you can deliver a concise professional picture of your business and get them interested so you can give more detail. No over selling, complaining (about anything), going off topic uninvited or giving out too much personal information. Time is short so don’t over-deliver and watch out for the handover signals when it is time for you to move on or when they want to speak to someone else.

5) Complete the contact cycle

Having lots of cards collecting in a drawer is not the same as having contacts. The amount of time that passes after contact is made erodes the strength of that contact. Don’t let all the hard work come to nothing – be the first to get in touch. This is where your listening skills come in handy and the contact can be easily refreshed.

Remember that this is a process and developing the art of networking takes time and you need to be willing to grow and learn to get better.

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How to Effectively Integrate Social Media into your next Conference

If you are in the Conference and Event Industry chances are good that you’ve had to struggle with the issue of delegate engagement. By using Social Media effectively you can create better delegate participation and create relevance and meaning at your next event.

Whether big or small, Events are great platforms for creating conversations around your Brand, Conference, Speakers or Specific Topics. Because Social Media is just one big conversation, it is easier than you think to integrate this into your next event.

More and more Companies are using Twitter and #hashtags to create a BUZZ around their events before and even after the event has taken place. It centralizes the event and allows the delegates to discuss the event, topics, and speakers, and for marketers it is an opportunity to effectively measure the success of the event.

First let’s look at the infamous #Hashtag

What is a #hashtag?
It is a simple keyword or phrase, without any spaces and with the # (hash) sign in front.

How does the #hashtag work?
#Hashtags act as the facilitators to any conversation and ties the conversation into one stream. Even if Twitter users are not connected otherwise, their tweets and talk about the same topic will then appear in the same Twitter stream. If you then search Twitter for a specific topic in Twitter Search the conversation about your search will appear, e.g. #conference.

How to choose your next Event’s #hashtag

  • Make sure you keep your #hashtag short. When tweeting about an event or topic you are only allowed 140 characters, so give your delegates room to manoeuvre.
  • Create your #hashtag as soon as you’ve planned your event. This allows for time to create a buzz around the event. Consider having an incentive for using the #hashtag and promote this at registration of the event.
  • Be strategic when creating your #hashtag and collaborate with partners that already have a big following. This way you will generate more impressions faster.
  • Check for availability to make sure you’re not picking a #hashtag that is already in use, and be careful not to hijack words and topics of a sensitive nature and best avoid using sentiments like love.
  • By using industry keywords you can gain the interest of a larger network. For instance if you notice a #hashtag of interest used in a tweet that appears in your main Twitter feed you might start following that conversation purely out of interest.
  • Create different #hashtags for the various breakaway sessions. This makes conversations around specific topics easier and more fluent. Some speakers might prefer to also have their own #hashtag.

How to promote your #Hashtag

  • Use all your marketing channels to promote your event and #hashtag and post regular updates about your event, e.g. let your audience know when you secure a new speaker.
  • Promote the use of your #hashtag before and during your event by using visual displays.
  • Prominently display the conversation feed during the event.
  • Consider printing a Daily newspaper with the best Tweets, this can also easily be turned into a fun contest.
  • Remember to set goals and track your success throughout your campaign.

Written by The Marketing Company

The Marketing Company

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How to Increase Delegate Engagement at Conferences

Go Viral at your next ConferenceIn our fast paced world it has become more and more difficult to engage delegates at a conference. If you have recently attended, or spoken at a conference lately, you will know that it is nothing new seeing most people focussed on their laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc. while the speaker is trying his/her best to share meaningful content.

So how do we overcome the challenges we are facing today? Do we fight them and demand that delegates don’t use any electronic devices during conference sessions, or do we look at how we can use modern technology to our advantage and to increase delegate engagement.

Any conference or event is the perfect setting to incorporate social media and to use this to increase communication among delegates, build your brand, increase conference energy and interaction, etc. You are no longer limited to the break rooms, coffee stations or the sharing of ideas over the buffet during lunch. You can get delegates to network and communicate over content from anywhere and everywhere at the conference without limiting them to one plenary session. Social media really is one Big Conversation, why not use this communication platform to power up your next conference.

Benefits of Building Social Media into your Conference or Event

  • Delegates are encouraged to share content that was meaningful to them. This helps them take something back to the office that will be remembered for much longer. It also increases their focus on the speaker and content in their search for meaning and value.
  • Delegates can engage over content while waiting for the next speaker, it is as easy and quickly as tweeting about the last speaker and topic.
  • If you get your speakers to participate you get an instant commendation for your conference from the leaders in your field which will grow your brand awareness and loyalty.
  • It makes engaging and connecting with speakers and other delegates so much easier, to the point and more effective.
  • You can build a following over the entire period of the conference with increased engagement as the conference progresses.
  • Using #hashtags correctly can benefit your conference/ industry/ product and gain exposure over larger networks and audiences.
  • Better audience engagement promotes vigour at the conference/event and this leads to enhanced delegate satisfaction.
  • The conversation doesn’t end when the conference flag drops.
  • You will gain better insight into how the delegates experienced the conference and comprehensive feedback about speakers and content. This will guarantee an even better conference the next time.

Look out for our Upcoming Article How to Effectively Integrate Social Media into your Next Conference.

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The 5 Biggest Conferencing Trends for 2013

The global financial crisis has initiated changes in the conferencing industry. Despite the financial pinch and the increase in the use of video conferencing as a tool, there is still no substitute for meeting face to face in a neutral environment.
This trend has ensured that conferences are still on the increase but the outcome of these meetings have more importance as measuring the ROI becomes the focal point.

Looking at business conferencing there are 5 trends for South African companies that will enable them to harness their resources during hard times and ensure business success through smarter events.

1) Cost of Conferencing

The considerations in securing a venue are the costs of using a local city venue against a more remote option but with accommodation included, or a happy medium that is close enough but still out of town. Traditionally the country venues are cheaper but with travel restrictions being implemented by companies the geographic range considered has been significantly reduced. 

2) Collaberation and Communication

With smaller budgets on the table for a conference package there has been a greater need for planners and suppliers to collaborate to ensure the company requirements closely matches the delivery of the tailored requirements.

3) Linking of Activities

To get the most from a conference more is being planned in a shorter space of time. A sandwich technique can be an effective tool for getting results by starting with a team build, having the conference and ending with a spa treatment or fun activity.
Kicking a conference off with a team building exercise is a good way to chip off the rough edges and get participants settled in each others company and accelerate networking.
Once the participants have been loosened up the goal of the conference is more likely to be accepted and adopted.
The spa treatment allows the take away points of the meeting to be cemented while relaxing and feeling spoiled. The fun activity is used to de-compress the participants and further interpersonal relationships. 

4) Video Conferencing

Having a fast Internet connection in SA has moved from being a luxury to an absolute necessity for a long time now. Technology has advanced and the use of video conferencing, which was clumsy and awkward, is now very much a viable tool. The global accessibility of experts through this medium has led to the increasing inclusion of third party management specialists in a video conferencing discussion. 

5) Greening

Along with PCO’s adopting a green policy and venues actively greening their product offerings, the financial cost cutting has furthered the cause of corporate Greening in that travel carbon emissions are reduced and lighter meals are being requested for delegates.

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