December 18, 2013

Six Tips to Make Small Talk with Anyone

If you're an introvert, like me, then you are probably constantly finding yourself in social situations. Social situations are icky, bothersome, and require extra effort for an introvert - we would just rather sit quietly in a corner, sipping our martinis.

However, sometimes it is important to interact with other people. Extroverts have a difficult time understanding why introverts are so pissy and stand-offish. So in order to survive the human race, once in a while it is good to make small talk. Here are six tips to help facilitate this:
  1. Start something, get off your butt. Go talk to someone, anyone. About anything.
  2. Look for common interests. Conversation goes so much better when all involved know what is being talked about.
  3. Don't get too personal. You've just started this conversation! Nothing can kill it quicker than asking about so-and-so's goiter. Or offering up stories from your visit to the mental hospital.
  4. Keep the topics broad. By doing this, you are allowing the creative conversation process to flow. Who knows what interests you may discover in common, or new knowledge you may attain by keeping the flow loose.
  5. LISTEN. Don't just keep your mouth shut and formulate a response as the other person is talking. Actually stop and listen.
  6. Know when to call it quits. Maybe it's late and he's tired - let him go! Or maybe she is being just a bit too creepy, or he is really crude. Or the conversation turned into religion and politics. Whatever it might be, know when it should be over and politely excuse yourself.
Remember these helpful tidbits next time you're stuck at the workplace Christmas party or Cousin Melvin's Bar Mitzvah. And good luck!

December 16, 2013

Hiring for Attitude Performance Breakdown Chart

This chart is from Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy, and is fairly simple, makes a lot of sense.

(click the photo for a .PDF copy)
The general concept is this: that both Attitude and Skills determine what type of performer any given person will be. Obviously one wants High Performers - those who have great skills and a great attitude. The below notes are mine, and have nothing to do with the book.
  • Talented Terrors have a great skill-set, but a poor attitude. One wants to avoid these people because, although they can do the work, they will be problematic. People will avoid working with them, thus decreasing productivity.
  • Bless Their Hearts are the opposites of Talented Terrors: They are great to work with, but have little or no actual skills. They are quite useless but, bless their hearts for trying. Having these people around will eventually cause morale issues because why is that person getting paid to do nothing or to do a job he obviously can't handle?
  • Low Performers are the worst of all types. They have a poor attitude and a poor skill-set. These will kill morale and productivity.
  • Good Performers fall somewhere in between poor and great on both attitude and skills. This represents most of the individuals one will work with. Attitude and skills can vary, but for the most part this person is stable and does well.
  • High Performers, the holy grail! Great attitude, great skills, these individuals are probably working in "The Zone" - they love what they do, and they do it with an artful skill. They boost morale wherever they go and are great producers.

December 12, 2013

5 Tips to Be a Persuasive Speaker

Shamelessly lifted from Jason Dorsey's June 13, 2012 article at Success Magazine, I actually had the opportunity to apply these five tips to my presentation at my social club's 2013 Annual General Meeting. The speech was a rousing success, even I was impressed!
  1. It's not about you - it's only about the audience.
  2. Omit needless Power Point - especially slides with more than 10 words.
  3. The unexpected will happen - ignore it.
  4. Don't write - and memorize - a speech, word-for-word.
  5. Close strong, no matter how you feel it went.
I feel that I have to note, this was truly the first successful presentation I'd given at the club. I can personally speak to every single point above.
  1. The first thing I thought of, when preparing my presentation, was what I wanted my audience to take away from it. I was then able to tailor it to meet any potential questions which would arise.
  2. I personally find digital slides to be a waste of time, precisely because of so many meetings where it is essentially being used as a projected book. And so I spent weeks designing my 15-slide presentation to ensure that it wowed, not bored, my audience with graphs and dynamic information.
  3. We did have some technical details, some people talking (initially), and other distractions. Such things put me off during previous presentations. This time I worked through or with the issues and they resolved themselves!
  4. Since I spent so much time working on my presentation, I knew the topic backward and forward. I had the slide show to keep me on track, and so was able to go the direction I needed to go without stumbling.
  5. When I was finished, you could have heard a pin drop. I made my point - our numbers were down and our club was slowly dying. I closed my presentation with one further slide - a tombstone with our club's name on it. "Don't let it come to this," I said.
I have given six total presentations at our club. Five were horrible experiences which left me - and my audience - often confused. At best, they were mundane. By using these five principles, I gave a presentation so strong that people were still commending me a month later. Nobody left unchanged. And now, in small part because of that presentation, our club has turned around and is succeeding in ways we never thought possible again!

December 2, 2013

Jackie Chan's 7 Traits for Success

I'm not a big Jackie Chan fan. Actually, I pretty much can't stand him. I do respect him, to a certain extent, for the work that he does and for the integrity with which he carries himself. When I read this article in the February 2011 issue of Success Magazine (partially archived here) I have to admit that I gained a little more respect for him.

Jackie Chan's 7 Traits for Success
  1. A willingness to crash and burn (even if you crash and burn, you will still learn something).
  2. A discipline for fitness.
  3. A disdain for wasted time (i.e., stay interested in many different things and learn as much as you can).
  4. A need for alternative opinions.
  5. A set of high expectations.
  6. An accurate moral compass.
  7. A relentless sense of humor.