Turn Small Talk Into Big Opportunities

Does the thought of small talk make your blood pressure rise? Whether it’s from annoyance or fear, this is a common reaction. However, mastering the art of polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters (as defined by Oxford Dictionaries) is an important part of succeeding in the business world.

The author enjoying small talk at a conference.

Small talk can lead to big opportunities if you smile and play your cards right.

How can you turn small talk into big opportunities?

  • Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: Does your company’s CEO have memorabilia from a baseball team in his office? He’s probably a fan. When you share an elevator ride with him, that’s a good topic to bring up. Note what your co-workers display in their work areas; these items are usually important to them and make excellent conversation starters.
  • Listen: We’ve talked before about the importance of listening, but we can’t stress its benefits enough. Be present in a conversation. Don’t spend the time someone else is talking forming your response; listen to what she’s saying. It could be interesting, it could be useful and it could even lead to an opportunity. Perhaps Sally in accounting or a fellow business professional at an event has a connection to a job opportunity you’re eyeing or with a company you’d like to bring on as a customer.
  • Have a Conversation, Don’t Pitch: You’re heading out after a long day, and the CEO happens to be heading out at the same time. Be friendly, say hello and put your aforementioned knowledge of his favorite baseball team to use. Don’t spring your great idea on him as he’s heading to the parking lot. Use chance meetings or opportunities to say hello and build rapport. You’re more likely to be given a platform for your ideas if the right people know who you are and what value you bring to the company. Aggressively cornering them at the Holiday party isn’t the right way to make that happen.
  • Help Others First: Influential people, online or in real life, are used to being asked for favors by people they don’t even know. Be different: offer to help people in your network when you can. Be genuine, show interest and care about other people. Don’t offer to help someone only to expect something in return, or only offer assistance to those in a position to help you. We live in a global, mobile world today, so you never know when you’ll need someone’s help later on — like Sally in accounting.

Related reading: How to turn small talk into smart conversation

Start viewing small talk as an opportunity to get to know others around you instead of a waste of time, and you may be surprised at the results. Remember to pay attention to your surroundings, listen, be conversational and help others first. Your efforts will pay off in the long run in business and in life.

What small talk tips would you add?

Do you enjoy networking events?

A converted networker,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small talk, your communication needs or otherwise):
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Trick Out Your Tweets: Tips to Stand Out on Twitter

Do you tweet? (Or as someone once asked me, “Are you on that Tweeter thing?”) Does it feel like you’re accomplishing anything? Or, at the end of the day, are you just confused what the buzz is about? (If you haven’t heard, Twitter recently went public, and it was kind of a big deal. –> Twitter’s IPO Created 1,600 New Millionaires)

Twitter bird

All this buzz over a little bird?

Whether you’re tweeting  for personal or professional reasons, the following tips should help you stand out from the crowd.

–> Join the conversation! You may notice that CCC is always asking you to join the conversation. What exactly does that mean? Talk to people! Respond to tweets that interest you. Retweet them to share them with your followers. Favorite them for later reference. Thank others for retweeting you. Search hashtags that interest you or your company and jump into discussions that you can add value to (not necessarily with a sales pitch though).

Social media is all about getting social, so talk to people as much as possible. Try not to just broadcast information all day long. People are social creatures; they want to interact with you. I’ve connected with some of the coolest people just by thanking them for a RT and asking a question or commenting on something in their profile. Profiles are dynamite for conversation fodder, which is why it’s so important to have a good one. –> What’s in a social media profile? Everything. Profile and cover pictures are another fantastic icebreaker. –> Why do you want to be an egghead?

–> Forget the rules — Everywhere you look, someone is laying down the law about something on Twitter, or social media in general. Tweet every hour. Don’t tweet more than 5 times per day. Automate. Don’t automate. Schedule. Don’t schedule. Don’t self-promote. You have to self-promote. Respond to people immediately. Unplug once in a while. Send direct messages. People hate DMs.

egghead avatar on Twitter

Show your personality on Twitter. Don’t be an egghead.

Honestly, it all boils down to common sense. Would you contact someone 30 times a day? Probably not, so don’t do it on Twitter. Would you say that to someone’s face? Probably not, so don’t say it on Twitter. The problem with rules is that you can become paralyzed by them. Pay attention, treat (or tweet) people with respect and you’ll be fine. Plus, you’ll start to find your style and settle in. One good rule to follow? Give people a heads up when you’re going to live tweet an event or webinar, participate in a Twitter chat or tweet a lot more than normal. (h/t @kathyyoho)

–> Be Yourself. Stay true to your self (or brand self); do what’s comfortable to you. Basically, let your personality show. People shouldn’t be surprised when they meet you in real life, because you’re really different from your Twitter persona. It’s difficult to keep up a fake persona anywhere online, so don’t waste your time. Plus, when people find out who you really are (positive or negative difference), it can be unsettling and hard to trust you. Would you want to work with, hire someone or recommend someone who’s put up a false front? Neither do other people.

Automation also falls into this category. To automate or not to automate? If you’re going to automate tweets, make sure that you trust the source completely. It’s not that a blog or site is likely to post offensive content (although that happens); they may blog about a topic sometimes that you don’t want to share. Also, if you schedule, it’s imperative that you (or someone you trust) have access to modify or delete these tweets before they go out. Some brands have gotten into hot water this year due to pre-scheduled tweets that went out as scheduled when they were no longer appropriate.

Live Nation Twitter disaster

Live Nation scheduled tweets to go out during a Radiohead concert and didn’t adjust them when tragedy struck.

–> Treat (or tweet) others with respect — Don’t say something to someone (or even retweet something) that you wouldn’t say to their face. Remember, everything that happens online affects your life. (Thou shalt not destroy your reputation online.) You can delete a tweet, but you can never really delete a tweet. It’s stored somewhere. That doesn’t mean that you have to avoid sarcasm or never joke around. Just make sure that people understand the situation. If you’re pissed off about something, venting on Twitter isn’t a good idea.

Also, don’t smother famous people or standouts on a particular platform. Feel free to follow and engage with anyone (that’s why they’re on Twitter), but don’t ask special favors of or get upset with people if they don’t agree with you or respond immediately. We’re all human; sometimes we miss tweets or are busy in real life. Think about it. Would you want to engage with people when you have 500,000 followers if all they do is ask you to RT them, donate to a cause or recommend them to someone? No, you wouldn’t. So remember to treat others as you’d want to be treated on Twitter and elsewhere. Life usually works out when you do.

Join the Conversation

What do you think?

What would you add to my tips?

Anything you’ve learned after tweeting for awhile?

Twitter bird courtesy of Twitter
Egghead graphic courtesy of Digg with me blog
Live Nation tweet courtesy of Sharilyn Johnson’s Twitter stream

Tweeting since ’09,
Jaime

Tweet us! (or tag us, add us to your circles, pin us, message us… You get the drift.)
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50 (More) Things I’m Grateful For…

It’s been too long. I’ve had it in my mind to write this post since I published my first 50 Things I’m Grateful For… post last year. I kept finding cool things to blog about, and before I knew it, more than a year had passed. So here goes…

I’m grateful for (take 2)…

The sun sets on Lock 3

     

I love classic cars 

Wilson -- my idea generator

water view

Alright, so there’s my second list of 50 things I’m grateful for. (If you want to browse the first list, here you go.)

Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear about what you’re grateful for! No matter how tough life gets, we can all be grateful for something. Share your list (however big or small) in the comments below, hit me up on a social network or tag me in your blog post.  Cheers!

Grateful & blessed,
Jaime

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What Makes You, You?

WordPress.com’s Weekly Writing Challenge: A Pinch of You got me thinking. What makes you, you exactly? All of us are made up of a special mix of physical traits, intangibles and, shall we say, character flaws. So what’s your recipe?

Here’s mine. Enjoy!

Shine Soup
aka Shiner / jshine / James Soup

It's a short mug, but height's overrated.

It’s a short mug, but height’s overrated.

Ingredients

  • 2 c introversion 
  • 1 c water (fresh, salt, chlorinated or bath)
Mother Nature's beauty

Enjoying the serene Alder Pond at the Goodyear Heights Metro Park. I love water!

  • 1 thinking cap
  • 2 candles, melted (preferably island/tropical scents)
  • 2 tsp mud (from a trail somewhere)
  • 1 tbsp adventure
incoming!

Incoming! Skydiving is a rush of adrenaline… and surprisingly peaceful.

  • 3 laughs
  • 1 infectious smile
Laughing!

Having a blast at my brother’s wedding!

  •  a chip off the old block
  • 1/2 c espresso (or more if needed)
rafting the Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas

Yes, I have an espresso problem. I even take it rafting.

Preparation

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Set out in the sun until desired temperature is achieved. Sprinkle with a bit of impatience before serving, but don’t wait too long!

relaxing on the beach

Soaking in the rays on Hilton Head Island…

If you make Shine Soup while watching The Bionic Woman, it just tastes better. (Ask Jaime Sommers; it’s true.)

Serve with homemade gnocchi, lasagna or other fine Italian cuisine. Oh, and alcohol.

leg lamp cookies!

They’re FRA-GEE-LAY… must be Italian!

Warning: Consumption of this food may force your brain into overdrive. Sorry, there’s no off switch, but the feeling should subside within 24 hours after eating.

Note: Do not make this recipe early in the morning. Trust me, it won’t turn out well.

Shine Soup is best enjoyed with a sibling, longtime friends or family.

Bonnie & Clyde... back in the day.

Bonnie & Clyde… back in the day.

What’s your recipe? 

Cheers from the chef,
Jaime

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How Elvis Can Inspire Your Success

If you didn’t notice, Elvis Presley’s birthday was Tuesday (January 8th). He would have been 78 if he were still alive today. Man, that’s hard to believe. Despite his untimely death, Elvis achieved considerable fame and status as the King of Rock and Roll. How did he get there? God-given talent, a lot of hard work, a little luck and three other traits you may have missed.

elvis_wallhanging

  • Be Yourself — Elvis resonated with so many people because he was true to himself. OK, it helped that he had an amazing singing voice and was considered a sex symbol, but he didn’t try to be someone else. People recognize authenticity (especially today) and are drawn to it. Represent your true self (sexy singing voice or not), and you’re likely to be more successful than trying to be someone you’re not. 

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Take Risks — Elvis didn’t invent rock and roll, but he became the central figure of a new music revolution being heard by the masses for the first time. Taking risks brings consequences, both positive and negative. While he was loved and idolized by legions of fans, others hated him for his shocking stage presence and delivering the devil’s music to impressionable teenagers. You normally have to take risks in order to taste success so remember that the next time you’re making an important decision.  
  • Embrace Versatility — Beyond the gyrating hips, Elvis became an icon due to his versatility. His silky smooth voice allowed him to become a cross-genre act before that was in, leaving an impression on country music, pop ballads, gospel and the blues. Hey, he isn’t the best selling solo artist in the history of popular music by accident. Throw in his trips to Hollywood, where he starred in movies and recorded soundtracks, and you can start to see a well-rounded individual. Be adventurous; expand your interests — and skills — so that you’re more of an asset. 

harum scarum

In summary

Be yourself, take risks and embrace versatility to increase your chances of success today. Clients, co-workers and business partners will be drawn to your genuine nature, appreciate your ability to try new things and take note of your interest in expanding your skills by branching out.

Hey, Elvis did and it worked pretty well for him. Talk about a brand! If you’re looking for help establishing or fine tuning your personal brand or company’s brand, I’d love to talk to you.

Are you a fan of Elvis? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via social networks.

Rockin’ those Blue Suede Shoes,

Jaime

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