High-Level Networking 101: How to Spark a Conversation that can Lead to Long Term Impact

Everyone knows that high-level networking is a critical part of building a successful business, project, or brand.

Decision-makers at all levels want to feel confident in the person they are hiring or bringing on board for their projects, and in many cases, all it takes is one chance meeting to seal the deal.

It is also common knowledge that high-level networking is awkward. That uncomfortable feeling of scanning a room and deciding who to walk up to, what to say, and how to present yourself.

High-Level Networking is a true art form, that requires both practice, and trial and error in order to find your own secret sauce.

I attend lots of events, so I am always on the giving and receiving end of that first greeting.

Here are some high-level networking tips that can help you break the ice, keep a good conversation flowing, and ensure a rapid follow up -@lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

Dress your best, be unique and spark confidence:

Simply put, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, your confidence shines through.

Need I say more? I also recommend wearing something unique that grabs the attention of others.

In my case, I typically wear one of my custom made African pieces because it’s both flattering, and also always acts as a conversation starter allowing me to share a bit about myself right off the bat.

You may have an article of clothing or accessory that always gets complimented, wear that and it will almost always serve as an icebreaker.

Do your homework

Make sure you find out as much about the event as you can before going. Who is organizing it, who is attending and what opportunities are you looking for?

Prepare different pitches you can potentially deliver to attendees, bring the appropriate materials (brochures, pens, business cards, etc), and focus on your goals.

Knowing what you want to say and showing up prepared will increase your confidence, showcase your level of seriousness and leave little room for frivolity.

Be natural, not transactional and pushy

People like to joke, smile, converse and mingle without feeling pressure, and the most impactful connections start like that. 

You want people to be attracted to your personality, and not feel hounded by business right from the get-go. The key is to place an emphasis on relationship building.

Earlier this year at a crowded event, I ended up sitting next to a lovely woman, sharing a few laughs over coffee while the event carried on.

Later, I learned that she is a very high ranking official at the UN, but our relationship had already been solidified in a friendly, convivial tone. When you get to the event, go get yourself a drink or a snack, relax.

Don’t focalize on the VIPs. 

Please, you do not want to be the first one to bumrush the speakers after they immediately after they finish their presentation- they will not remember you.

I have watched attendees wait fifteen-thirty minutes for their chance to simply say hello or offer their praises to my clients, wasting an opportunity to make more meaningful connections in the room. 

Networking Tip: Meet the people sitting next to you, because those are usually the ones who will be on the stage at the next event – @lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

If you would like to introduce yourself to one of the heavy hitters, patiently wait your turn. Know what you want to say, find a reason to follow up, and find the best method to get in touch.

Have an appropriate business card etiquette.

Effective networking is not about collecting or distributing a million cards, so the first thing you do should never be to hand out or ask for a business card.

After you have established a connection and potential for collaboration, that is a good time to hand them your card. If they do not have one, but you wish to follow up, ask them for their email address or phone number on the spot.

If that does not happen, connect immediately following the event on social media with a follow-up message.

Follow up within 24 hours

Most people forget that networking does not stop at the event, it requires diligent and thoughtful follow up.  Jot down notes during the event about the people you have met, and write them the next day to recap your conversation and propose a next action point.

This could be as simple as staying in touch, suggesting a meeting, or a direct ask about something which was discussed.

Since people are busy and attend many functions, it needs to be done within 24 hours to ensure they remember you and your conversation. 

Finally…

Always remember to stay calm and cool. Chances are slim that you will land your dream job or sign a big investment deal at a high-level networking event, but they are great places to plant the seeds that can grow into your next opportunity. 

Always remember your value, make friends, and have some fun. It may turn out that people start lining up to hand you their business cards!


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Live the Life You Want: Become a Successful Remote Worker with these tips

Do you like having a flexible schedule? Want to be able to attend a yoga class in the middle of the day? Do you like wearing your PJs until 4 p.m.? Do you want to be able to travel and two weeks paid leave is simply not going to cut it?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider working for a remote company or on a remote team.

Personally, I have chosen this lifestyle, and I am building a remote company called Baobab Consulting. My team spans four countries (USA, Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa) and even people based in the same country do not see each other very often.

.@lizgrossman87 shares some tips on how she's living her best life as a successful remote worker. Learn more... Click To Tweet

This structure has allowed the company to grow sustainably, cutting costs like office rental and transportation, which can allow for more exciting company retreats and meetings surrounding our projects.

While there are clearly many benefits to working remotely, there are certainly challenges too. Here’s how to set yourself up for success, produce results and make your mark in a remote position.

Be a self-starter

If you are someone who needs constant reminders or supervision to complete your tasks, you should find an office job. Remote work means you will not have coworkers eyeing your screen, and you will not have office chat or visible competition that will push you to get your work done.

You have to be able to motivate yourself to get up out of bed on time without an official 9 a.m. clock-in. (Although you can always check in from your bed when you work remotely!)

Be able to work random hours

Especially if you work on a global team, you will need to be prepared to take calls at strange hours. When everyone is home, our team time difference spans nine hours, and it gets even more tricky when we are traveling.

In order to make meetings happen, someone usually has to get up extra early or stay up very late. It is not uncommon to receive work calls/texts at midnight. Just make sure to balance your personal/work time and set yourself limits that make you and your family feel comfortable.

Have exceptional digital communications skills

 My team is constantly connected via WhatsApp, Google Suite, email, you name it. We are building systems that will allow us to all remain on the same page and keep our productivity.

If you are someone who prefers oral communication or hates texting, you will need to flex the digital muscles to be successful on a remote team.

Be disciplined and force yourself to have a routine

When you make your own schedule, it can be easy to have weekends flow into weekdays, to take long breaks in the middle of the day and work late hours in the night.

This is one of the major perks of remote work, but it can often be a trap that decreases productivity. Even though some remote companies may maintain a standard 9-6 workday, they do not build in a routine.

Decide on one that you can stick to that makes you feel professional and productive, but will allow you to live your flexible life.

Build a community at home

Most of our friends and family in more traditional office jobs are around other people for a minimum of 40 hours a week. It can become easy to rely heavily on them for normal socialization or to discuss work-related issues.

We are not trying to put too much pressure on our loved ones, so it is critical to find another social or professional outlet.  Go to a local coffee shop and meet other remote workers, join a co-working space, or even join social clubs to build relationships with like-minded people.

Build a community with your remote coworkers

At Baobab, we predominantly use WhatsApp for this. We send birthday shoutouts, selfies, articles and news that relates to our company values and team.

Also, the team uses social media to encourage one another and to share news about our team and teammates. We also plan biannual team retreats, where we bring as many people together as we can for work and recreation

Remote work is the future, and I encourage everyone to consider the benefits, but also the potential pitfalls.

If you are interested in joining a remote team, Baobab Consulting is always looking for talent, so please check out our website for more!


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6 Practices Every Entrepreneur Should Adopt In The New Year

As the year closes and everyone rushes to accomplish all their 2018 goals (and set the next ones for 2019!), now is a great time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons we can take away.

Being an entrepreneur has its ups and its downs.

The low when your proposals do not pass through or a client decides not to re-sign you. The high that you get when you finally sign a contract for a new project or when you win big for a client.

For me, this year has been one of immense growth. I visited new countries, launched new projects, finished old ones, won clients, and lost clients.  

I have recruited and trained a reliable, loyal team across six countries. Throughout this year, I have learned several lessons which I hope will serve entrepreneurs — myself included — in 2019.

1. Build your support system and nurture it

The reality is some days you will feel like crying, some days you will feel like celebrating, and some days you will feel like quitting.

Find people who help you keep your balance, give you honest feedback, and cheer you on. These can be friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs, teammates, neighbours, mentors, or mentees.

No matter who they are, make sure to dedicate time to nurture these relationships and make sure they are mutually beneficial.

2. Know your value, and what projects are worth your time

This is one of the most difficult things I have faced as an emerging entrepreneur this year. As I am selling services, not products, it can very hard to put a price tag on my offerings.  

Many times instead of money, potential partners will offer you “a platform to sell yourself” or “connections” to new business. But at the end of the day, accessing these platforms may be positive, but will also require more work to close revenue-generating deals. In 2019, set your minimum rate and stick to it.

Decide which platforms are really worth offering your precious skills — and have a clear idea as to what outcomes you wish to have.

Change your mindset and remind yourself you are a trailblazer, a changemaker, and the only one with your unique experience - @lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

3. Have a routine

 Even if your schedule is often crazy, and you may have to jump on a plane or train with 24 hours’ notice, do your best to stick to a routine.

Maybe that means having your cup of coffee while checking emails first thing each day, doing yoga, or taking a midday walk. When you are in your home base or abroad, find workspaces you can come back to that give you a sense of regularity.

I recommend joining coworking spaces such as Impact Hub or using the Croissant app to find cool spaces in different cities across the world.

4. Let business be business

Sometimes, friends or colleagues will come to you asking for help with something which will require your time, expertise, and resources.

By nature, I am someone who cares about others and wants to see other people shine but this year I learned I simply cannot always give my time and energy away for free.

Remember, your true friends will understand if you say no to their requests, and you can always try to help in other, less consuming ways. Furthermore, be bold in demanding what you deserve from your clients and partners. Asking for timely payments or resources to do your job is not being greedy — it’s business.

5. Unplug

This is the most difficult rule for me to follow, as I am someone who always wants to get rid those red notifications on my iPhone and always wants a clean inbox.

Fact is, as an entrepreneur, your to-do list will never end, so sometimes you have to know when to stop checking and unplug. When you are with friends, be with friends.

When you are exercising, put on a podcast and just listen. Do not work 24/7, because that is simply not sustainable.

6. Celebrate small wins and don’t sweat the failures

 As entrepreneurs, we are visionaries. We see the big picture impact we could be having, and often feel frustrated we have not signed the multimillion-dollar deal.

We forget that entrepreneurship is a journey, a series of small wins and big failures we learn from that will lead us to the end goal. Along the journey, make sure to celebrate at every step, and give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.

I encourage everyone to apply these lessons to your own careers and lives, set goals, and track your progress throughout the next year.

Change your mindset and remind yourself you are a trailblazer, a changemaker, and the only one with your unique experience. Use it to be the catalyst sparking the change you hope to see in the world.


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6 Ways To Participate In The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – As A Non-Diplomat

If you’re in NewYork this September…tis’ the season to network with diplomats.

Every September, the Big Apple is buzzing with diplomats, world leaders, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, foundations and even celebrities, who come to participate in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The General Assembly is one of the six organs of the United Nations, and the only one in which all 193 Member States have equal representation.

All members are called to discuss global policy issues in the General Debate. This year is the 73rd session, and the debate theme will be ‘Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.’

@lizgrossman87 highlights 6 ways you can participate in the @UN General Assembly, even if you're not a diplomat. Click To Tweet

UNGA 73 opens on 18 September 2018, with the first day of the high-level general debate set to happen on Tuesday, 25 September 2018.

The debate is scheduled to last for nine working days, and will be presided by Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, an Ecuadorian politician and diplomat. She is also the 4th woman in history to be elected President of the General Assembly.

This year on September 24, the  Nelson Mandela Peace Summit: UNGA High-level Plenary on Global Peace will be held to commemorate the centenary of his birth.

There will also be high level dialogues on the fight against tuberculosis, the prevention of non-communicable diseases and many other topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

But what if you aren’t a UN delegate?

Fear not. UNGA is a gathering where anyone can make contacts, learn about current events, and even contribute to policy making. So how can you get involved and join the conversation?

Here are a few tips on how to get in on the action.

1. Attend side events

Because so many people travel to New York for UNGA, organizations capitalize on this and host their own related events to dive deeper into the topics they work on.

In recent years, major campaigns such as Global Goals Week and Climate Week NYC offer opportunities for gatherings on the sidelines of the General Debate. You can also use the UNGA Guide to search by keyword, date and sector to find relevant events, or browse Eventbrite.

2. Contact your permanent mission

You can get in touch with the permanent mission to the UN of your country to see what events they are hosting or partnering with.

Sometimes, you can get lucky and snag a ticket or pass if they have extras simply by inquiring.

3. Hang out in the lobby of the Millenium Hilton New York One UN Plaza

 Set yourself up working remotely, having coffee, reading, or swiping through your Instagram feed from the lobby of the hotel where most of the diplomats are staying. You may start up interesting conversations with some VIPs (or those who know the VIPs) just by being present.

Disclaimer: don’t break any federal or international stalking laws, and don’t be too aggressive, especially when someone is clearly working or busy.

To attend the @UN General Assembly, you can set yourself up working remotely, having coffee, reading, from the lobby of the hotel where most of the diplomats are staying. Click To Tweet

4. Register to attend or volunteer at related conferences

In the same spirit of side events, some major conferences also happen on the sidelines of UNGA, such as the Social Good Summit, Concordia Summit, World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, Goalkeepers and more.

These may be by invitation only or involve a registration fee, but you can also reach out to the organizers to see if they need any volunteers. Getting your foot in the door is the first step.

5. Just show up

Some of the most meaningful connections you can make during UNGA is when you just show up. Even if you don’t have a ticket or you don’t know the organizers,  If you are confident enough, sometimes you can just walk in and sit down like you own the place.

If you need security clearance to get into the UN headquarters, you may just meet a kind stranger who is willing and able to escort you as a guest.

If all else fails, and you remain outside, you may still be brushing shoulders with people you can network with.

6. Use social media to contribute to the debates

 Most UN agencies, leaders, and attendees tweet, publish live videos, and share their thoughts during the debates. Follow the UN on Twitter for updates, as well as the different agencies most relevant to your interests.

Different events, sectors, agencies and groups use different hashtags, but you can follow the overall debate using #UNGA and #UNGA73.


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Liz Grossman: Lessons learned from the 2018 Impact!Africa Summit Johannesburg

In order to change things, I had to show people visible role models - Regina Honu @ragyare Click To Tweet

In June 2018, Johannesburg was brimming with over 400 social entrepreneurs who traveled from all over the continent for the Impact! Africa Summit. This inaugural gathering was hosted by Ashoka Africa and the British Council. It was an event with an aim to drive solutions to empower African women and reduce barriers.

These two organizations are the renowned powerhouses when it comes to social entrepreneurship. Joining forces, they truly made waves in promoting collaboration across contexts to solve Africa’s most pressing challenges.

Tibagu Bruktawit of Whiz Kids Workshop in Ethiopia said, “If we want to bring change, involve more young women, make it easier for them to be here.”

And Ashoka Africa and British Council did just that. According to Pape Samb, Executive Director of Ashoka Africa, “[their] mandate is to make sure everyone is a changemaker around the world,” and that cannot be done without empowering women.

Impact! Africa drew some of Africa’s most successful female changemakers. This gave them several platforms to share their stories and inspire the next generation of leaders.

Furthermore, Ashoka and the Open Societies Foundation launched the Women’s Challenge by the Challenging Norms, Powering Economics Initiative by Ashoka, Open Societies Foundation, and UN Women.

At the Summit, twelve finalists gathered to discuss empowering individual women and removing systemic barriers they face. Solutions included taking an intergenerational approach to ending harmful practices, increasing retention rates for girls in school, and increasing gender inclusivity in economic opportunities.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from some of Africa’s brightest female champions:

 

“In order to change things, I had to show them visible role models – Regina Honu, Founder of Soronko Solutions, Ghana.  

Having someone to look up to and model your path after is critical to developing as a leader. Surround yourself with those who inspire you, study their successes and failures, and strive for greatness.

Sit with someone you don’t know from somewhere else so that you learn something new.” Sylvia Banda, a serial entrepreneur from Zambia.

It is easy to remain with people you are comfortable with, those who know you, your community, and your solution. Take opportunities to learn from different perspectives to broaden your mindset about your projects.  

“There is no end to the supply of people driven by social innovation.” Amma Sefa Dedeh Lartey, Founder of Reach for Change, Ghana.

As social entrepreneurs, we must remember that you are not alone. While sometimes it may feel like an uphill battle trying to change mindsets and think creatively to transform our communities, we have a whole community at our fingertips to lean on.

Sit with someone you don’t know from somewhere else so that you learn something new - Sylvia Banda Click To Tweet

“Don’t underestimate the power of an individual!” Parminder Vir, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Nigeria.

Sometimes the challenges we are facing may seem insurmountable. They are too massive to tackle and we may feel that our own contributions can only do so much. But all it takes is one voice to stand out and break the mold. And remember, one mosquito in your bedroom can ruin your entire next day’s productivity.

“Imagine if we work together, the impact we will have on the continent.” Vivian Onano, Global Youth Advocate from Kenya

Collaboration is key, and female changemakers must learn to leave their silos, build a strong network and support fellow women.  But we must also consider our male partners, and work alongside men to ensure they are also part of the solution.

Watch out for the next edition of Impact!Africa, which will take place in June 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. 


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Intercultural collaboration: The secret to unlocking innovation and growth

Understand everyone’s goals and work together to achieve them Click To Tweet

According to the Harvard Business Review, “diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth. ”  Because of technology allows us to communicate instantly, everyone can access diversity.

The world is becoming a global village, largely because we no longer need to spend hours, weeks, months or more transmitting messages. We can access information and people within seconds, allowing us to build companies, teams, and relationships with those that used to be unreachable.  This phenomenon is a game changer for social entrepreneurs and professionals.

If one does not consider the interconnectivity of the world and the need for diverse teams, one will fall behind and miss economic and social opportunities.  

For those who recognize this and seek to diversify partners and scale global businesses, it is crucial that we understand our ingrained mindsets surrounding our work habits, our communications skills and our overall view of success that come from the environment we grew up in.

Often, we do not even realize that we are behaving in a way that hinders our success, even when we have the best intentions.

I have done a lot of work promoting mutually beneficial relationships between Africans and Americans. During this time, I saw some of the major challenges that crop up in our intercultural relations stem from different communications habits.

For example, certain cultures rely heavily on writing, whereas others communicate verbally. The frequency of communication can also be affected by the environment, tone, vocabulary or communication methods used.

In certain contexts, different methods of communication are preferred- in an American office, email is the go-to, even when you could walk down the hall and ask a question in person.

However, in the offices I worked at in Senegal, if I needed anything, I took a walk to my colleague’s desk, chatted about family, the weather, the latest wrestling match, and only then asked about my work needs.  

In order to succeed in our globalizing world, the most important thing to do is increase your cultural knowledge of your collaborators. Certain aspects are relatively easy to learn- norms surrounding work attire, greetings in the local language, gestures/body language, or religious belief, for example.

Others take more time to truly understand intricacies such as social classes/ethnicities, relationship with authority figures, gender/family roles, work ethic and office behavior.  

Before my trip to Ghana last August, I made sure to do some basic research on culture, customs, and linguistics, but also knew I needed to continue to ask questions and joke respectfully with people during my stay to be better prepared to collaborate professionally and personally with Ghanaians.

Increasing cultural knowledge and working on intercultural awareness are actions to take to ensure you are building the most successful, inclusive, financially solid and sustainable programs with the top talent the world can offer.   

 

Furthermore, it is crucial to establish trust in any relationship.   A trust model dedicated to intercultural teams is based on ten dimensions; competence,  compatibility, goodwill, integrity, predictability, well-being, inclusion, openness with information, accessibility, and reciprocity.

Entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation by creating inclusive teams Click To Tweet

There are many ways to build this trust, paying special attention to which methods to employ given the nature of the team, be it in person, remote or a hybrid.

As I build Baobab Consulting, where most of our relationships are virtual, I mostly use WhatsApp, social media, Google Drive and email to share information and create team culture, but I take every opportunity to meet face to face to establish that physical connection, which in many cultures, plays a crucial role.

Even with cultural awareness and trust, there still may be some lingering stereotypes or assumptions we carry that we are unaware of. Let us not presume that two North Americans or two Africans on a team understand each other.

A woman from Senegal will have a completely different vantage point than a man from Zimbabwe, just as a woman from New York City’s will be different from a male colleague from Montreal. Even if there are some similarities between them that may help them bond faster, it is still necessary to follow the same procedures of intercultural awareness.

At the end of the day, no matter where you fall on the intercultural awareness spectrum, how many languages you speak, or how many cultural events you have been to, you must remember that personality can also play a role.

Sometimes, we work better with certain personality types and struggle with others, so this should not be discounted as you work together and build team dynamics. Take a free version of the Myers Briggs test to learn more about your personality and that of your teammates.

By creating inclusive teams and encouraging them to fearlessly and meaningfully contribute, entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation. To do that, we must make sure the right steps are taken to ensure that everyone feels taken care of, considered, understood and respected.

There will always be some level of tension and even conflict when we work together, but if we assume all parties have good intentions,  these snafus can be overlooked. Always remember the true mission of what you are doing. Understand everyone’s goals and work together to achieve them.


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