Posts Tagged ‘Gina London’

Gina London – The Message is clear: Soft skills are a critical part of success

September 3, 2017

Back to school

It’s back to school time for the kids!

While we prepare to deal with the school-run surge in morning traffic, my daughter Lulu and the rest of Ireland’s students are (blessedly) preparing to sling on their book bags again.

Which reminds me, I spoke last Tuesday to a high level group of HR directors from an assortment of top tech companies.

Why do these professionals remind me of schoolchildren? – because we grown-up employees have a lot in common with not-yet-grown-up pupils!

The HR directors shared some of the biggest issues employees say they’re facing.

Top concerns centered around well-being and communications. They’re connected – and they’re issues children face as well.

When I lived in Italy, Lulu went to Aliotti, the most progressive primary school in town.

There, under the guidance of director Donata Baroni and English instructor Pavlina Checcacci, students are taught so-called ‘soft-skills’ alongside other subjects as part of core curriculum.

You can’t teach only knowledge anymore,” Pavlina says. “Twenty years ago, you went to university and studied a subject like engineering. The methodologies didn’t change for about every 10 years. Now it’s every five years. So, when you get out of school, what you learned is already out of date. Today, we need people who can communicate. That makes the difference.

If two people have the same amount of knowledge, yet one also has soft skills and the other one does not, the difference in their success is significant. Your success in business starts in primary school,” Pavlina says.

Likewise, here in Ireland, John Doran, guidance counsellor at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, is championing his own approach called ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘, which, he says, “encourages students to adopt a growth mindset and to communicate with confidence“. It is currently being taught in 120 schools in Ireland and Europe. “If we don’t consciously teach young people to communicate, find their voice and create a literacy around emotional intelligence, we may end up with a generation in a fast-changing world that is unemployed, under-employed, or unemployable” John states.

Here in the business world, it’s high time to get serious about soft skills.

They’re not soft, they’re critical!

Let’s compare some student approaches to what we can do in our own professional lives:

1 Learn to give and receive constructive feedback

Here’s an example from Aliotti: Each child draws a picture. The artwork is put up on the wall. Each child is given a Post-it note and instructed to write one thing they like about the picture, one suggestion of what to do differently next time and then another thing they like.  The classic “compliment sandwich”.

At an early age and with a distinct twist, the children aren’t allowed to simply write something they “don’t like” in the middle. They must frame the criticism as a suggestion for the future.

Each artist reads the feedback aloud and thanks the writers.

This approach is structured and it’s a big deal – Imagine how more effective our business meeting debriefs would be if we had all learned, as children, how to organise our thoughts this way.

Productivity would surely increase if we spent less time getting personally offended and defensive from feedback. Learning not to punish the past but empower the future is a trademark of effective communicators.

2 Learn to work in groups

The HR directors who gathered at McKesson Cork’s remodelled offices, checked out the new “collaboration pods” – designed to get employees away from individual work stations and come together as teams.

More and more firms are updating work environments this way.

Similarly, John’s ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘ programme encourages group sharing for his students and Aliotti’s Pavlina says they’re committed to stop requiring children to work quietly alone.

When in your life will you sit in a room of 30 adults and not take opportunities to discuss things? We can’t prepare kids for a reality that doesn’t exist.”

3 Learn to be kind to others and yourself

Studies show the number one factor in team effectiveness is emotional sensitivity to the others.

Learning empathy is key because effective teams make sure everyone speaks and contributes to get a lot of ideas on the table and build consensus around the best idea.

‘Ways to Wellbeing’, stresses techniques to help develop more positive and constructive relationships. “We help them change their emotional state from one of fear and anxiety to one of effort and application” says John.

4 Learn how to learn from your mistakes

Aliotti concentrates less on grades and more on the process of problem-solving.

Pavlina puts it this way: “Life is all about the mistakes and errors and learning from them. So, we don’t just correct tests, we ask questions like ‘What did you do? Why did you do that? What can you do differently next time?’

We find the child who gets perfect grades and never makes mistakes may actually have difficulty as they get older. Children who learn how to try again and again may have an advantage.

Top university business schools like Stanford and Harvard are also adding highly interactive classes and exercises to develop these types of people to people skills. Your place of employment can introduce them too. After all, we’re all students in this school called life.

It’s time to learn soft!

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Gina London: You are who you choose to be, so change is possible

July 5, 2017

Best mans speech

It was my brother’s wedding and as the best man,” my Dublin taxi driver tells me, “I’m supposed to give the toast.”

Now, I’m not a reserved individual. I’m normally outgoing and confident. I’m a national handball champion,” he says. “But when I stood up to speak, I suddenly blanked. I couldn’t remember a word. I looked down at the notes I was holding but my hands were shaking so much, I couldn’t read. I bombed.”

That was 21 years ago, he says as the taxi nears my destination. My handball-champion driver says he lives in dread considering that one day in the future he will be expected to give the eulogy at his elderly father’s funeral.

Do you label your public-speaking ability or leadership style by a single experience? During the recent Fine Gael debates, one of the candidates stated: “I am what I am” when asked about himself.

Are we? Is it that all there is?

I am who I am” sounds like a passage from God in the Bible or Popeye in the cartoons,” retorts Alan Weiss, PhD, an American thought-leader in career coaching and consulting whom the New York Post describes as “one of the most highly-respected independent consultants in the country” and whom I interviewed via email.

His latest book, co-authored with another notable American executive coach, Dr Marshall Goldsmith, is Lifestorming, Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life. Between the two of them they have written more than 100 books on human behaviour.

Your past does not define your future.

When I asked Alan if he wanted to share any Irish experiences he may have had, he wrote: “I love the joy of the Irish and I loved driving through the Northwest, but I never had a question answered without the prefix, ‘After 800 years’ of British oppression‘.”

I hear that prefix all the time, too. Of course, experiences from our past may be part of our story.

But we can learn from them and move forward. They do not need to define us.

We can change.

Acting in any way and denying the ability to change and alter for the right occasions bespeaks someone who is so completely inflexible and self-centred as to be oblivious to others.” Alan says. “Who chooses to be boring?

I would expand upon that adjective by adding, fearful, or timid, or cynical, or whatever other limiting label we – or perhaps others – may attach to ourselves. We do not have to stay married to it. If a personality label is holding you back, take action to start unloading it now.

You can change.

Character can be developed. Lifestorming identifies six building attributes which can be improved on with respect to others,” Alan says.

There is no balance between competence and warmth. They are both rheostats. Not on/off switches.”

Leaders are made, not born. Most of the literature shows that the critical feature of successful leadership is flexibility, not some perfect style.”

Machiavelli said that successful people adapt their manner to the times.

Consider a single bold action to reboot your character in a positive way

For instance, I met Alan four years ago, when I was living in Italy. I had read a couple of his books and reached out to him to say how much I appreciated what I had learned.

If you ever come over here to visit,” I tagged, “I’d be delighted to buy you a cup of coffee.”

A few months later, he and his wife came over on summer holiday and I caught up with him in the marbled lobby of the Four Seasons in Florence where they were staying.

He didn’t take me up on that coffee, but he did give me invaluable advice.

Understanding that my inability to speak Italian at a professional level was limiting my ability to properly network and develop my own consulting business, Alan encouraged me to seek out an English-speaking country.

I did. And now, after two years living here in Ireland, it has made a world of difference. I am grateful.

So, to my taxi-driver, don’t wait until your father is dearly departed.

Take charge of your fear of delivering a speech in public. Write a rip-roaring eulogy for your dad.

Invite over loads of friends and family. Present your speech to everyone gathered while your dad’s alive to hear it.

He’ll thank you for it and you will thank yourself for taking the step toward changing your personal outlook.

What about you?

What is your limiting label? What can you do today to shed it?

We are who we choose to be.

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Emojis and other informal communications: Why you must say it with feeling!!!

July 3, 2017

EmojisRecently, US President Donald Trump visited Israel’s holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Having visited there myself, I remember it as heart-wrenching experience.

Trump signed the guest book, “It is a great honour to be here with all my friends. So amazing and will NEVER FORGET!

The short message touting “all my friends” with the unlikely upbeat “amazing” adjective angered some, with it being described as adolescent or thoughtless.

Media outlets contrasted it with a variety of more eloquent notes written by US government officials who visited in the past.

When you write a thing like that in a place like that, it’s permanent. But so, too, for those of us whose jobs haven’t put us in the White House!

If you write as a habit without thought or intention, it can become a liability. You don’t want to communicate unconsciously. But that is precisely what many of us do.

Let’s explore two sides of the coin:

1: Uber-informal  – I made up that term, but you know what I mean.

A new business contact sent me an email on Wednesday. It has one, two, three, four smiley face emojis and one thumbs-up emoji. (And yes, I had to look it up, the preferred English plural for emoji is emojis.)

I use emojis too. Generally, however, I reserve them for casual emails to friends or social media posts.

For business writing, while I always aim for a friendly and warm tone in my word choice, I probably wouldn’t pop in an emoji unless I know the client very well and believe they are the emoji type.

To be fair to the person who sent me that emoji-filled email, we had met briefly face-to-face at an event I spoke at recently and since I have an amiable, energetic style of delivery, he must have presumed – correctly – that I would welcome them.

Decide what works for you. For instance, I can’t bring myself to use “LOL”, but I unapologetically roll out an exclamation mark when I want to add enthusiasm to the written word. Compare, “It was great to meet you yesterday.” with “It was great to meet you yesterday!

Sometimes, I even go for more than one. But never five out of respect to author Terry Pratchett who wrote that five exclamation marks is the “sure sign of an insane mind”.

Our written style of business communication is changing. Don’t be a dinosaur and dismiss new forms of expression as a “fad” – like an older member of the Sunday’s Marian Finucane Show panel I sat on did as we discussed social media. The influence is real. If you want to be relevant, consider social media writing style tools.

2: Uber-formal  – The other side of the business-writing coin is devoid of emotion.

One of my clients, preparing to establish a new company-wide email protocol, sent me a sample email to review. Without revealing who it’s from, here’s my review. “Dear all, IT will be changing our printer in the morning to badge print setup. Instructions are below on how to use the badge printing. ‘Bob Smith’ will also be around in the morning to answer any queries. I have also left some leaflets on the stationery press for your reference. Best regards,”

At face value this is fine. It’s a straight-forward “informative” business email. It delivers information. Nothing else.

But, if you consider the themes we have been exploring in my column for the past several weeks – employee engagement, leadership warmth, kindness, and building a sense of one-team, there are a variety of things that could be applied here.

1 Salutation/Greeting: A desire to establish a protocol around emails may include a single, directed salutation. “Dear all” for every e-mail is fine. Realise however, that over time, no one sees this anymore. The reader’s eyes simply move directly to the next sentence. Consider an agreed upon range of salutations, or deliberately allow salutations to be customised for the reader.

2 Body: This is very straightforward, as I mentioned. I wonder if the body would change once the audience’s reaction is considered. Does everyone understand what is happening with the printers? Do they know this change is coming? Will anyone possibly be confused by this? What will happen next when someone reads this? If there are concerns that could be perceived before writing, then referring to concerns in the body would demonstrate care.

3 Sign Off: Same as with the salutation. The way a written correspondence is signed off can become so rote as to have people not even see it. Even within protocol, here’s another opportunity to connect in a thoughtful variety: “Have a great rest of your day”, “Kindly”, “Cheers”, etc.

4 Bonus: What if you make “new email protocol” a campaign? Have people submit their top three “Greetings and Sign-offs for internal and external emails. Announce all the entries. Then announce and reward winners. Introduce some fun and engagement.

You can align your written communications to reflect your professional corporate brand. Becoming a more deliberate communicator means learning to tailor your communications style to the appropriate audience and platform.

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Take AIM at your audience and make them like you

May 24, 2017

LikeableToday I am going to talk about likeability.

It’s something you should strive for when you’re presenting in a business setting. Practically every business communication event involves selling something. If not directly a product or service, then at the very least, a point of view.

You are likely hoping to persuade your audience of something or trying to motivate them to do something, aren’t you? Therefore, finding a way to demonstrate that you care about the people with you in the room when you present is precisely the way to encourage them to care for you and your position.

Last week, when I emceed the Irish Centre for Business Excellence conference, keynote speaker, psychologist, and author, Owen Fitzpatrick, reinforced this idea as he explained how influence is best achieved when you spend time asking questions of and taking an interest in the other person first.

In short, we teach people how we want to be treated.

For many, this “be likeable” notion might not come naturally. Instead, we focus on our proof points and logic to carry us through. Sorry, folks, because I do want you to like me but, blech – that is often super boring.

But knowing some need a structure to dial up on “likeable”, I teach my clients to apply a logic-based methodology.

Derived from communications lecturer JD Schramm of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, this approach helps you get systematic in your presentation preparation – especially if you’re not naturally inclined to consider others.

Gina London - Fuzion Communications

The methodology is boiled down to three simple letters: AIM.

Audience. Intent. Message. In that order.

1 Audience

Take a moment to consider who is in your audience.

Are they new-hires or veterans? Senior management or the executive board? Women or men? Both? Other? Do they prefer Elvis or the Beatles? PCs or Macs? Coffee or Tea? For my Irish audience, Barry’s or Lyons?

When CNN first promoted me to anchor, they sent me to an anchor-training school in Dallas, Texas.

I didn’t realise there was such a place. There is. One thing the trainer told me back then in Texas particularly stuck with me.

He said that no matter how dry or dense a story may seem, someone out there watching will be emotionally affected by it.

Every story has a ‘hope, dream or fear’ attached to it,” he said. It’s important to try to see the pictures inside their heads.

I sometimes ask clients to write their presentation agenda.

Next, write a second agenda from the audience’s point of view. Then I have them throw out that first agenda and begin again from the second one.

This is what I mean by truly considering the others’ points of view.

2 Intent

Your intent is never simply to inform.

If you’re just doing that, then you might as well simply put your information in an email and hit the send button. You must be trying to motivate or inspire your audience to some sort of action.

Define your goal very clearly. Too often I see this one overlooked.

The goal is too broad and ill-defined. What is it exactly that you want your audience to do after you’re finished speaking? Even if it’s just to agree to another meeting. That’s okay. Be very specific.

3 Message

Only after you have dealt with points one and two should you move on to craft your message. Like intent, this must be clear too. Write it down. One sentence!

Here’s the definition I learned from organising campaigns:

A message is “Brief, Memorable, Repeatable, Emotional and Data-backed“.

But it’s not only the data. While supportive, taken stand-alone, data dumps, as I already mentioned, are often dry and boring.

Your message is your ‘call to action‘ – your spoken declaration of your written intent, your motivation!

State it clearly and state it often. Don’t assume your audience is just “getting it“.

If you know your AIM, before you start writing, you will be better at framing and outlining your talk.

A client wrote to me just this week proclaiming that he now realises “this isn’t going to be an easy fix. It will take serious effort“.

He’s right!

Here’s a prime example from one of the readers of my column:

The 82-year-old writer shared that he learned how “to think and speak more clearly” through communications training.

He applies the training all the time, including just last Saturday when he said a few words at his 80-year-old sister’s birthday party in London. “Communications training has become a way of life.“, he wrote.

To my client and you lovely people reading today: Exactly.

Applying AIM and becoming deliberately more likeable to your audience will take time. But I promise, it is worth it.

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Gina London: Become a more deliberate communicator

May 2, 2017

Today I ask this question: What three adjectives do others likely use to describe you?

I often have my clients first write down how they would like to be described and then square that up against how they imagine they currently fare.

That’s the challenge today in my “The Communicator” column in the Your Work section of the Sunday Independent.

360 feedbackIf you’ve ever had a 360 report done on you, you know what I’m talking about.

If you haven’t, reach out to me or your employer to get one. It’s kind of like President Trump’s 100 Days gauge, without hitting the front pages. Reality. Check!

What we think about ourselves is less important that how we’re perceived by others.

It’s helpful to identify what traits or behaviours of ours may be holding us back.

It’s also important to not get defensive, but to get determined once you identify it.

Don’t cop out with the old, “Well, that’s just how I am” excuse. Instead, to use this expression I’ve learned since moving here to Ireland, “Cop on!

It’s a lot like when my mom used to make me sit down at the piano in our dining room and practice every day for an hour. She would set the clock on the stove and I wasn’t to get up from the bench until the buzzer rang. Except sometimes, like the cheeky eight-year-old I was when I first started taking lessons, I would sneak over to the stove and move the alarm forward a few minutes to hurry it along.

Naturally, my mom had no idea that somehow in our home, the passage of time was magically accelerated. Ha!

But, like learning to play the piano, you also can practice taking incremental steps toward changing your behaviour as I discuss in today’s column.

Experts agree leaders are made not born. So now that you’ve been born, let’s get together to make you better!

If you have an A. B. C. (Appearance, Behaviour or Communication) question for me – please write to me here (gina@fuzion.ie) or in care of the Sunday Independent and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column!

That’s your first homework challenge – make it a great week!

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

Gina London: Your posture and smile are key

May 1, 2017

Presenting

Mae West is quoted as once saying, “I speak two languages. Body and English.”

As a communications consultant, I work with executives and organisations on improving all facets of communications. Body language is a key component of that equation.

Recently I worked with a director at the Ireland office of a large multinational. The organisation’s annual sales conference was coming up and she was preparing her presentation.

Together, we watched a video of her in action previously. Or not in action.

During this presentation, although she clearly had command of the topic and delivered her words smoothly, we agreed she did not connect with her audience.

The video cut out towards the audience and showed their reaction – or lack of it. Most of the people were sitting passively with their arms crossed. Not at all engaged.

While my client delivered powerful and emotionally-charged words, her body didn’t match them.

Her posture behind the podium was rigid, her face devoid of emotion.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you naturally communicate well in presentations.

If you don’t believe this, have someone record you speaking at your next meeting, then watch it – with and without sound.

You’ll learn a lot about yourself because we generally don’t acknowledge how much of our communication is done through expression, gesture and posture.

Here are a few things you can try:

1 Power up your posture

Many people in pressure situations hide behind the podium and hold on to it for dear life.

If there’s no podium, nervousness may cause them to rock on one foot or shift their weight from side to side.

It can be very distracting. If they come out from behind the podium, they may race back and forth. Stage presence is executive presence.

I encourage my clients to ‘plant‘. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart, plant your feet solidly and distribute your weight evenly. Feel comfortable.

Now deliver your introduction in strength and poise while standing still. If you want to address another part of the room, try turning your body from the waist.

Lean forward and stretch out your arms to make a point. If you do move, do it purposefully and please stop for a bit before you about-turn.

Staging is challenging for many people who either stand like statues with moving lips or run like frightened deer.

2 Use your eyes to make contact – and more

A client of a large telecommunications company once told me that a former coach advised him to look slightly above the heads of an audience during a presentation. No way!

Acknowledge the humans in the room. If you see someone out there you didn’t know was attending, say hello to them. Make the event personal.

I sometimes place large photos of people’s faces showing various degrees of boredom (like most business audiences, unfortunately), in empty chairs around a room for a client to practice looking at them.

I can always tell if my clients really look if they notice that among the face photos is one of Marilyn Monroe and another of Elvis Presley.

Another way to engage your audience with your eyes is by changing their shape – your eyes, not the audience.

We do this naturally when we’re speaking with friends. If something is compelling, we may narrow our eyes. With something surprising, or exciting, our eyes become wider and our eyebrows go up.

Don’t turn off those lovely windows to your soul when you speak before a business crowd. Your product or service should be exciting too.

3 Broaden your smile

My client who watched her past video with me was really struck by how unhappy her face looked. Imagine what the audience felt. No wonder they didn’t laugh at her jokes.

For most of you out there, smile more than you think you possibly can, and you’ll probably be about halfway there. And, guess what? Even if you don’t feel happy, smiling makes your endorphins kick in so it will help relax you and make you feel more at ease when you present.

Oh, and before any of you comment that my column photo “screams negativity” as a friend of mine, who’s a dentist, not a communications expert, wrote to me, please let me add that the study of body language, or kinesics, emphasises three Cs. Pay attention to Clusters, Context and Consistency to help you better gauge others’ intentions and help you become more engaging to those others.

Arms crossed doesn’t always mean defensive.

So, for your next presentation, remember, your body is not just a vehicle to move your head from room to room.

Start practising now in those inconsequential situations – and then you’ll be geared up for the next big communications crunch.

Your audience, minus Marilyn and Elvis, will take notice and thank you.

Gina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

This column is part of ‘The Communicator’ series that Gina writes for the Sunday Independent

 

100 years of Ford and Engaging Body Language

April 24, 2017

100 Years of Ford in Cork, Ireland

On Friday last I interviewed Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the Executive Chairman of the company that bears his family name.

He was here in Ireland, along with his terrific wife Lisa and equally terrific sons Will and Nick, two of their four children, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ford establishing a manufacturing plant in Cork.

In the University College Cork auditorium packed with pensioners from the factory, business students, and local dignitaries, we had a “fireside chat” about the future of mobility, technology and leadership.

I’ll write more about what he said on the topic of leadership, for my next week’s column in the Sunday Independent, which will also happen to be close to the 100 day mark for the presidency of Donald Trump, leader of my birth country, the United States. But, meantime, back to the Ford Company leader, if you weren’t in that auditorium to see him speak, you missed something critical: seeing how he delivered.

To me, Bill Ford exemplifies the skill of using body language to enhance a presentation.

Bill Ford at UCC

He didn’t hide behind the lectern when he gave his opening remarks like so many other CEO’s I have interviewed.

He didn’t pace around the stage. He didn’t rock or bob on his feet as he stood. He was poised and confident in the centre of it, angling his body to different parts of the room as he addressed them.

He didn’t read from a fumbling set of papers.

He looked directly out into the audience.

And perhaps most of all — he smiled!

His body language was a critical component of how he so compellingly connected with that audience.

Go online or if you’re here in Ireland, get over to your newsagent and pick up a copy of The Sunday Independent and discover my top three tips how you can become more engaging in that way too.

And, of course, shameless plug, that’s one of the communications skills I train and coach here in my directorship role with Fuzion Communications. So, I’m happy to help you and your organization power-up.

Like the Ford Company says, “The Future is Unwritten.”

And much of how your future gets written is up to you!

Great relationships equal great communications.

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

 

Five great tips to ensure you can remember names

April 13, 2017

Tips to remember names

Oh, I’m terrible with names.” How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling

How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling

Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling prophecies go, this may be one of the easiest to fall prey to. If you tell yourself you’re not good at remembering names, you probably won’t be.

I, on the other hand, am good with names. I’m not bragging here. I really am. I may not be great – I do occasionally have to be reminded of one – but I am good.

Recently, I was the featured speaker at the Enterprise Start-up Awards in Limerick. I was introduced to dozens of people in rapid succession.

I met contestants, academics, and some very high-profile people, including one with a famous family name of perhaps the most influential entrepreneur in Ireland. But all people matter, so all names are important.

I remembered them all!

Especially, Jerry, the technician, to whom I was introduced during the set-up, long before the event began. Later, during the program when my mic wasn’t working properly, I looked up to the control booth and asked for him by name: “Jerry, is there another microphone?

Smiling, Jerry zipped down with a new mic in hand. I then introduced him to the audience and asked everyone to give him and the other stagehands a well-deserved round of applause. An opportunity to recognise the efforts of someone made stronger due to the fact that I remembered his name.

I don’t deploy Derren Brown-style “memory palaces” or other fancy mental gymnastics to partner a person’s name with a rhyme or an object.

Like ‘Fancy – Nancy’ or ‘Burt in the Red Shirt’. No way. I am not that clever nor quickly creative.

But, simply, here is what I do. I find it really works.

1 FOCUS

Slow down and really focus on the person’s name. Chances are when you’re introduced to someone, you may have other things on your mind. Turn that off for a moment. Make the moment matter. Genuinely look at the person’s face and let their name sink in.

2 REPEAT

Silently say the name over and over in your head while you’re looking at them. I’m not talking a mindless repetitive mantra here, say it to yourself in a thoughtful way. Find meaning in the name.

Is it a name of someone you’ve met before, perhaps a relative or a dear friend? Jerry happens to not only be the name of the technician, it’s also the name of my step-dad for whom I have enormous love and admiration. That helped the memory stick.

3 SPEAK

Say the name back to the person. Don’t let yourself off easy, with a simple “nice to meet you“. Add “nice to meet you, fill-in-the-person’s-name-here.”

Of course, you don’t want to over-use the person’s name as an obvious measure to remember, but here is a great opportunity.

4 LEARN

If it’s an unfamiliar name, take the time to try to learn it properly; don’t simply nod and gloss over the introduction. In today’s global marketplace, this is especially important.

Here in Ireland, I am learning that names written in Irish, “Caoimhe” for instance, are said differently than I may first have thought. I also do a lot of work in Africa and am learning a range of great new names there as well.

The wife’s name of a business associate in Nigeria, for instance, is Olaseyi. It is pronounced “Oh-lah-SHAY-ee” and it also has a lovely lowering in pitch on the final syllable.

Where does your work take you? Wherever you go, the point is not to create a fuss about a new name, but to demonstrate your sincere interest in expanding your horizons – embracing the new – and getting it right.

This can build rapport with the person in addition to solidifying your recollection of that person’s name.

5 ENQUIRE

Take a moment to ask a question of the new person. Try to learn something about them. In your mind, repeat their story along with their name.

Rather than overloading your memory, this gives the name a story to stick to which makes it easier for you to recall the name when you need it.

After the awards ceremony, the head of the Limerick Institute of Technology Foundation, Kieran McSweeney, wrote to me: “It was an absolute pleasure meeting you yesterday. The inspiration of your talk was only surpassed by the warmth of the sincere friendship you extended to everyone.”

Thanks, Kieran, I credit that, in part, to taking the time to remember names.

It’s a good place to start to build a relationship – Business is built on relationships.

On Tuesday, CPL Resources, Ireland’s largest recruitment agency, held a conference in Cork to feature its latest research on ‘The Future of Talent‘.

It showcased how the best companies are getting the best people. Why jobs are being lost to machines – machines, like my iPhone, which are programmed to “know” your name.

Hello, Siri.”

Hello, Gina.”

Don’t let a machine beat you at having the human touch. I still believe people are the future of talent and if you’re a person, you can be better than Siri.

So, don’t tell yourself or others that you’re no good at remembering names.

It’s a blow-off comment that doesn’t get you off the hot seat. Take a breath and discipline yourself.

Try. You can remember names.

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

This column is part of ‘The Communicator’ series that Gina writes for the Sunday Independent

 

The importance of remembering people’s names

April 12, 2017

Remembering names

Early on in my professional career, I learned how important it is to get names right and here I will give you my simple tips to help you get them right too.

My first job in Washington was on Capitol Hill in a Congressional office. The Chief of Staff’s first name was Christopher.

It’s Christopher. Not Chris,” he corrected me after I erroneously referred to him in the more casual manner.

Christopher wasn’t being fussy. He simply preferred his name how he preferred it. We went on to have a very solid working relationship. I always respected him for reminding me. Nothing wrong with that.

Our names are possibly the most important part of our identity.  

Later on, when I began working in television news in Washington at WTTG, I carefully made it a part of my job to learn and remember the names of everyone I met. I even made a little spreadsheet – listing names, positions and something cool or interesting about each person.

One day, about a couple of months in, I passed a producer in the editing hall whom I had probably met only once or twice before. “Hey, Mark,” I tossed out as I walked by. I won’t tell you his last name, but the cool thing I had listed was his ponytail. Very un-Washington-like!

Hey,” he turned, “You’re new, right? You clearly make an effort to remember names.

He went on to leave WTTG to become the producer for The McLaughlin Group, one of the best-known and longest-running current affairs panelist talk shows in US television.

I never forgot Mark. Or Christopher and to this day, I try not to forget names.

Last week, I traveled to Shannon to work with a group of directors from an aviation company. One of the directors’ first names was “Iarlaithe.” I have learned plenty of great new names here in Ireland, but this was a new one for me.

You probably haven’t heard my name,” Iarlaithe said to me. “It’s unusual.”

Yes, it is. It even says so when you Google it.

An unusual Irish name that means ‘earl’ or ‘tributary lord,’” reads the citation.  The name is also Irish for the St. Jarlarth, who, research shows, was noted for his piety and his teaching ability as he founded a school in County Galway.

The current Iarlaithe I met last week is known to me for his ability with numbers and that he likes his curry very hot!

I find the more I focus taking a genuine interest in people and their personalities and stories that surround them, the more I will remember the names that go with them.

I’m not perfect, mind you. Last summer, when I spoke at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Conference, I tried to show-off and go around the large ballroom and name everyone to whom I had been introduced. I got 99 percent – notoriously missing one gentleman I had been having a wonderful talk with before I came up on stage!

Thankfully, he forgave me. And I’ll keep trying to focus more!

Tune in for my next blog post, a copy of an article that I have written for my column “The Communicator” in the ‘Your Work’ business section of the Sunday Independent where I will share some simple tips that will help you to remember better.

If there’s a career communications topic you would like to me to cover in an upcoming column, or if you would like me to help you or your organization – please drop me a line at gina@Fuzion.ie

Great communications equal great relationships!

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as a media commentator, emcee, and corporate consultant.

How to craft the perfect eight-second introduction

April 3, 2017

Gina London - Fuzion Communications

I just got off the phone with the CEO of a charitable organisation here in Ireland. He’s about to head to the US for a conference which will allow him to meet many potential donors. But most of these meetings will be the “reception or networking” type; casual events that aren’t set-up to be formal sales or pitch meetings.

He knows it’s essential he introduces himself in a way that is positive, interesting and leaves the other person wanting to know more.

So I had him rehearse his planned introduction for me. Thank goodness. Because his first go simply sounded like he was trying to pack in too much information. There were too many clunky, jargon words. It sounded like more like a brochure and not a relaxed introduction.

Together we re-crafted his introduction so he could quickly give his audience an upbeat, easy-to-understand interesting impression and then move the conversation back to them.

Knowing that there are exceptions to every rule, here’s my basic Intro How-To:

1 Write down your first thoughts.

Go ahead. Write whatever comes to your mind about yourself and your organisation. Aim for four components: 1. Hi, I’m (Name), 2. (Title) of (Organisation name). 3. We (What your organisation does). 4, (Question for the other person.)

2 Read that aloud and time it.

Do you sound jargony? Did you just go into company-speak? Assume every person is a lay person and think “conversational”. Would your eyes glaze over if you heard someone describe their business the way you’re describing yours? Get real and be tough on yourself.

Focus on your timing. You have between 4-8 seconds to introduce yourself and your organisation. I mean it.

Anything more for an introduction and you’ll sound forced.

Like my CEO, it’s trying too hard. You probably have included superfluous information. People may still be looking at you, but they’re likely no longer tuning in.

3 Give that a hard edit.

Okay. Now get out your scalpel or razor and cut! Cut out the jargon, the parentheticals, the disclaimers, the tangents, whatever. Your intro should be high-level and understandable. Go into more detail as the conversation unfolds. Not all at once.

4 Add a superlative – as long as it’s interesting and accurate.

Is your organisation the first, the largest, the newest, the something-est? If so, lead with that – in a friendly, not cocky way.

If you have to reach too far for this one, don’t force it. But at least consider it. Adding credibility adds interest.

5 Refine and rehearse.

Now re-time yourself. Do you have all four components? Are you under eight seconds? Say it aloud. Say it again. Say it again. Like you mean it. Do you sound effortless and conversational?

Don’t forget you’ll need to be able to say this without thinking really – as you’ll likely be surrounded by other “circles” of people at the conference or networking event. It will be buzzy and noisy.

So you should have this ready to roll. Be memorized but don’t sound rote. Make sure you have the question rehearsed.

Of course, it’s good to have two or three questions prepared so you don’t sound like a single-question robot.

Introducing yourself is not the time to “Give the pitch” or “Position your organisation.”

It’s your first impression – and even more importantly, it’s your chance to begin to get to know the other person. Relationships take time.

Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. So make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.

And remember how I opened this article by saying I was working with a CEO? These tips are not only for them. It doesn’t matter whether you are the top brass in an organisation or a new hire just starting out. You have goals don’t you?

Where do you want to be in six months? Six years? It’s largely up to you. Becoming a better communicator will help give you that competitive edge.

I can promise you that as someone who grew up in the tiny rural town of Farmland, Indiana (yes, that’s actually the name of the place), I learned a thing or two about crafting and delivering content after the rigours of delivering hundreds of thousands of live-shots during my career with CNN combined with my time as an international campaign strategist. I do not write or talk the same way I did as a girl.

Developing better communication skills is something we can all achieve.

The same way you are developing your competencies in whatever field you work in, you can also start focusing on how to re-train the way you speak about yourself and your work. You can become a more strategic communicator.

Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.

So, today, let’s start at the beginning. Make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.

Gina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

This is the first ‘The Communicator’ column that Gina has written for the Sunday Independent


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