Three Tips for Controlling Your Reactions

Gut reaction. Emotional response. Whatever you call it, it shouldn’t be a stretch to find a time when you’ve experienced it. Encountering an event of displeasure often causes a flood of immediate reactions derived from a place of thoughtless spontaneity. Unhelpful, to say the least.

As Jonathan Haidt illustrates in The Happiness Hypothesis, we are the rider on our elephant’s back. It can be a lofty challenge to control the quick and powerful swings of the elephant’s movement but learning to take charge of our elephant is a gradual process. Here are three steps to get you moving.

elephant-reactions

It’s annoying.
You’re engrossed in finding type combinations, finding the perfect image and… *biiing*, you’re interrupted by a pressing email. Pushing you out of your attentive state (we’ll revisit this in #3), you now have to handle that project that was supposed to be due next Friday, this Friday. Before handling it, you emotionally react, “That’s so annoying!”

So what? To start, you personally being annoyed is much different than an email (1s and 0s) that is annoying. The email you’ve received is in most cases, unaffectable, and in all cases, inanimate. On the other hand, your reaction is very much adjustable. You have become annoyed because of the email and thus have the ability to reverse course. Being willing and able to accept you are the one who is causing your own annoyance allows you to adjust and resolve with a more effective trajectory. That email didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s difficult.
Whether you’re the new kid or a seasoned vet, receiving an overly difficult or complicated task can cause a rush of emotional distress. Almost instantly you spill out, “This is too difficult.”

Think about the things you do that seem to come to you naturally. What is it that you do exceptionally well? You know all the steps; you know all the possible outcomes. When you receive a seemingly difficult task, you really receive a problem without a clear path to completion. Instead of shuddering in the shadow of the task, plot your course. What steps can you take to clear out a path? Where can you apply what you know and learn what you don’t? The difference between a task you can breeze through and one you stumble over is clarity.

It’s boring.
It’s 2:15 p.m. Tuesday is droning on. You’re glazing over a monotonous project. Perpetually distracted, you can’t seem to hold attention to what you’re doing. “This is boring…”

The default perception of boring most likely coincides with dull. And you might be right. But we can find a common thread to the pesky (inanimate) email in how we react to it. Take a wider view and decide what is boring and who is bored. Don’t hinder yourself. Being bored isn’t about a bad project, it’s a lack of attention. Try seeking out a unique approach to the typeface you’re required to use. Involve yourself in finding a dynamic image to fill a lackluster placeholder. Finding a detail or an approach to the project that you can find actionable and involved focuses your attention and reduces boredom. Sometimes you need to create an angle that allows you to be attentive, and that’s OK.

In the end, it’s not about what happens. It’s how you react to what happens. Your elephant may jerk left, and then jerk right, but it’s up to you to recognize a misdirection and bring your elephant back to center. Roll through the punches with an approach you can control and you’ll be surprised how little you flinch.

 

Networking for Introverts: 7 Tips for Your Next Event

networking_introverts

Have you ever been uncomfortable in a room full of people? Do you revel in the thought of just reading a book by yourself on a Friday night after a long week? Do you get more accomplished alone than in a group?

You might be an introvert.

Introversion often gets confused with shyness, but being outgoing and introverted are not mutually exclusive. In the case of introversion and extroversion, we are talking about the amount of stimulation that recharges you. Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains:

“Introverts…may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Introverts are needed in every industry and marketing is no exception. As marketers, we need to listen to our clients’ challenges to make informed and customized suggestions. Great ideas don’t always come from a group brainstorm, sometimes they occur during a solo walk to the café or while you’re enjoying a dinner by yourself

One area where introversion presents challenges is networking. I confess: talking shop to strangers is usually the last thing I want to do after a long workday.

If you’re an introvert and find yourself anxious leading up to a networking event, here are a few tips:

Bring a friend
This helps get your feet wet. If you are really interested in a topic or hearing a speaker but dread the awkward “mingle” time full of small talk, bring your extroverted friend to start conversations.

Pump yourself up
You are awesome. Staying at home or hiding in the corner is not only stunting your growth, it is doing the world a disservice. Your voice is needed because you are the only one with your perspective and experience.

Find another introvert
One-third to one-half of the world’s population is introverted. That fraction decreases in social settings, but I guarantee you will still find one. Introduce yourself. It can be as simple as “Hi, my name is…” or “Hi, what brings you here?” Focusing on making one meaningful contact is less intimidating than trying to meet X number of people.

Choose an event that incorporates activities
Check the event description or contact the organizers to see how it is structured. During the Diversity in Tech event I attended two weeks ago, the facilitators from Resilient Coders instructed us to get into small groups for a variety of activities. After some individual work and small group discussion, we all heard from each of the groups. This balance of alone time and outward discussion allowed introverts and extroverts to have their voices heard. Jiaorui Jiang, a fellow introvert I met at the event, felt the same way.

“The fact that it’s called a ‘networking event’ is intimidating actually,” Jiang said. “I would much rather go to events that are talk or activity focused so at least I know whoever is attending and I have similar interests and have things to talk about. But if I don’t feel like networking, I would really appreciate a safe space where I can get some alone time and not being judged.”

Shut your phone off
This one is difficult, but important. We have become so addicted to our mobile inboxes, newsfeeds and texts that walking around with faces glued to screens has become the status quo. It’s too easy to hide behind your screen and avoid interaction. Turning your phone off is a good reminder and challenge to talk to the actual sentient humans around you.

Practice your elevator pitch
If your barrier to attendance IS talking about your work, practice. Ask a coworker to hear your two or three sentence speech about what your company does and your role in it. Then ask a friend to hear the refined version. Are you missing anything? What questions might come up for someone who has never heard of your company or position?

Be interested
Seek out the speakers or attendees on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. See what common interests you have and come up with questions to ask. Find people volunteering at the event and ask about their organization. You can even come up with a blog topic related to the event and use it as an excuse to talk to people. Introduce yourself by saying, “Hi I’m writing a blog on XYZ, can I get your opinion on …”  That’s what I did!

Also, read Susan Cain’s book or listen to her TED talk.

How to Survive a Tradeshow on a Broken Foot

The sun was shining. There was a crisp bite in the air that signaled winter was soon approaching. I rounded the corner on Heath Street (riding my beautiful mint green 2016 Genuine Buddy Scooter), on a mission to get to a couple of media meetings, when suddenly… I flipped.

After a brief five seconds on the ground, facing oncoming traffic, the adrenaline kicked in. As people started to crowd around me and help move my scooter away from the Green Line train tracks, I jumped up.

Do we need to call the ambulance?!” one guy shouted at me.

No! Please don’t. I’m fine.” I said.

Luckily, my scooter was unscathed. I hopped back on and very carefully (at 5 mph) got myself to the media meetings and gave the reporters walking tours of two large hotels.

After a weekend of limping around, two x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I fractured four bones on the top of my foot and was sentenced to six weeks in an air cast.

Six. Weeks.

Stephanie Ross sits on her scooter at RSNAWhile the boot put a damper in my wardrobe, it also put a damper in my schedule. I had a tradeshow in Chicago in two weeks, and not just any tradeshow – the largest radiology meeting in the world, drawing 58,000 attendees annually. I was worried I was going to miss it. It was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Sweden-based client and a first experience for me with tradeshow media interviews.

I had to go. And where there’s a will… there’s a way.

My colleagues, client and family were reluctant to see me go. Trade shows are on-your-feet, exhibit hall-giant, evening event experiences. Still, I made my way to Chicago and spent three days with my crutches and my client. Was it tiring? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Here are 5 tips for how to survive a tradeshow with a broken foot:

 1.     Triple check with your airline about special assistance.

Call your airline ahead of time requesting wheelchair service on both legs of your trip. Make sure they will have a wheelchair waiting for you at the gate when you arrive. Then, call again to make sure everything is set – wheelchairs, pre-boarding and arrival. Sometimes, they forget to enter it or there is some sort of miscommunication that forces you to not get pre-boarding and hobble alongside the inpatient passengers (I’m looking at you, American Airlines). Pro tip: remember to carry cash to tip the employees who wheel you around – it’s not an easy task.

2.     Rent a scooter or wheelchair

Ahead of your tradeshow or conference, check the website for accessibility services. Most of the time, these large venues allow you to rent a scooter so you can zoom around. The rental was $50/day and it was extremely worth it. I was able to scoot around the tradeshow floor to meet with different reporters and exhibitors (and I was never late, since the scooter was wicked fast).

3.     Wear a comfortable shoe

That’s right. Shoe – singular. You depend so much on your healthy leg when you have a broken foot, it’s important you wear a shoe that’s comfortable. Learn from my mistake: that cute black, Italian leather heel that you thought would even out your lopsided stance doesn’t.

4.     Identify spots for you to sit during slow booth time

Similar to locating the nearest emergency exit when boarding a plane, you should locate the nearest chair, bench, table or clean floor for you to sit. Tending to a booth at a trade show is tiresome – you’re on your feet for hours at a time. If the healthiest feet need rest, you better believe your broken foot will need some too.

5.     Use the boot to network

As I stood at my client’s booth, my foot and I were met with sympathetic glances that soon turned into friendly introductions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer the question: “how did it happen?” However, one of the positive outcomes was how many booth visitors we engaged with because of the ugly, gray boot.

Can you wear the boot again next year?” my client asked.

“Sure,” I said, “Maybe.”

(Disclaimer: I’ve been boot-free for 46 days and counting. The boot, however, was unable to introduce me to or attract potential boyfriends. Bummer.)

Big Game. Big Ads.

February in Boston. The Celtics are off to a great start. The Bruins are holding down third in the Eastern Conference. Sox pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 10 days. But, this weekend, it’s all about football. For the seventh time since the 2001 season, the New England Patriots are in the championship game.

Of course we’ve all been wearing our Pats gear* for the past two weeks in preparation for the Big Game. But we’re communication professionals as well, so we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited for the ads as well. In honor of the unique art form that is the Super Game ad, we thought we’d take a look back and recall our favorites from past years…

Reebok “Office Linebacker with Terry Tate” (2003)
Matt: I loved this – physical comedy, great dialogue and they never tried to sell me something–it was just fun and memorable.

terrytate

Doritos “Tea Party” (2013)
Amanda: It’s light hearted, makes you smile, and who doesn’t love one of the most delicious, dirtiest snack foods!

teaparty

Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (2010)
Stephanie: Snickers has done a great job with these spots because viewers EXPECT these “You’re Not You…” commercials and always look forward to who will be featured next. Betty White is seriously the best.

bettywhite

Monster.com “When I Grow Up” (1999)
Kevin: It was epic at the time. Nothing but copy cats since. Solid and simple concept, executed masterfully.

monster.com-grow-up

Ameriquest Mortgage “Surprise Dinner” (2005)
Keith: I love the contrast of visuals in this one. The white color palette and the sweetness of the situation until it all turns in an unexpected way. 

cat

Volkswagen “The Force” (2011)
Christine: Just brilliant. I love the fact that it’s in the eyes of a child. Simple yet memorable!

force

Always “Like a Girl” (2014)
Katherine: This one is my favorite. The spot has stuck with me because of its authenticity, empowering message and courage to take on serious social issues.

likeagirl

E-Trade.com “Wasted $2 Million” (2000)
Jonathon: 17 years later and this is still the first ad that comes to mind for me. The cost of ad buys had been big news in the months leading up to The Game; E-Trade capitalized on the news stories and put out this bizarre yet perfectly on-message spot.

monkey

We’re all looking forward to the new crop of ads this year. And, of course, GO PATS!

 

*Full disclosure: I’ve been a lifelong 49ers fan. Joe Montana > Tom Brady

Fighting Crime with Social Media

It was a typical weekday afternoon, my husband and I both were busy wrapping up our days at work when he received an alert of activity at home. He quickly asked if we are expecting a delivery and before finishing the sentence I hear “he’s trying to break into our house!!” We both looked at the security camera footage and could hear the intruder trying to gain access into our house by the front door, back slider and two windows. The burglar noticed the security cameras and quickly took off.

The police department posted the photos on Facebook and received and unbelievable response. Within an hour the post had 17,000 views, 187 shares and 6 phone calls to identify the man. Thanks to our security cameras and with the help of our small community social channel the burglar was identified, will be charged and is also connected to another break in within the area.

ctblog

Almost Missing My Flight Restored My Faith in Humanity

It’s 6:25 p.m. and the back of my neck is prickling with sweat. My flight leaves in 17 minutes. Not boarding, leaving. In the 30 minutes that have elapsed since being in line, I have moved approximately 12 feet closer to the TSA official checking IDs and boarding passes.

I start doing the math. If it takes me another 15 minutes to get to the scanners, I will have 60 seconds to get my luggage and sprint to the gate. Not possible. I start to think about all of the money I will have to pay for another flight, the inconvenience for my family picking me up and I realize that I cannot miss this plane. I will have to rely on the goodness of other people.

I spent most of my queue time talking myself out of this option. I don’t want to be that person. After all, I am the one who left work late, took a Lyft Line rather than a regular ride and knew that the TSA is short-staffed. I don’t deserve to get the expedited version of the bag check experience. Despite that, I start asking my fellow line-mates if I can pass.

flight_800“Excuse me, I’m nervous that I will miss my flight, may I go ahead of you?”
“Sorry, do you mind if cut in line to make my plane”
“My flight takes off in 16 minutes, could I…?”

Each time I brace myself for anger, frustration and annoyance; and each time, I am pleasantly surprised. Everyone lets me pass, including the one or two slightly peeved travelers. Not only that, many of them seem genuinely concerned for me. One guy loudly announces that I should ask the entire line at once, after which the remainder of the line moves over to let me through.

The humanitarian aid does not end there. Once I go through the screening booth and collect my belongings I decide that I do not have time to put my sneakers back on. As I round the first corner of the terminal, I slide several feet in my socks and I realize this was not a good idea. Naturally, I continue running shoe-less anyway.

I’m approaching the third turn on my route as I hear “Miss! Miss!” My driver’s license had fallen out of the overflowing pile of belongings I am clutching to my chest. A nice gentleman not only alerts me of the issue, he goes out of his way to pick it up and hand it to me. I try my best to quickly and genuinely thank him so I could continue around the corner. I make the turn, looking for gate 38 – the one all the way at the end. JetBlue attendants are holding the door to close the tunnel as I swiftly slip in, phone in hand.

So yeah, I’m grateful for humans.

Burdens of Growth

Written by our Summer 2016 intern, Cara Kingsley.

Boston SkylineRed brake lights illuminate highways, and cars come to a halt in the middle of morning commutes. Rush-hour becomes unbearable with large sums of people packed into public transportation. If commuting feels long now, just wait 15 years…

Cities globally are experiencing the painful impact of population increase. Our growing population has far-reaching implications for cities trying to maintain sustainable living. According to a report from the business group A Better City, in the Boston area alone “another 80,000 cars and trucks will crowd the roads every work day by 2030, a nearly 5 percent increase from 2010 levels.”

Not only will the increase in commuters increase travel time, but it will also cause rapid decay for a city’s roads, transit, air quality and quality of living.

“There are many areas that will need some substantive attention if our infrastructure is going to keep pace with our economy,” said Richard Dimino, CEO of A Better City.

The growing population will need improved:

  • Utilities
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainability (especially regarding air pollution)
  • Housing
  • Transportation

Who’s going to fix these problems?

Thankfully there are companies that are working hard to resolve these issues and promote sustainability. But getting news of these solutions, technologies and research to intended audiences is difficult. While it’s easy to rail at the challenges urban centers face, there seems to be less acceptance of solutions, especially information from start-ups and smaller companies seeking momentum and adoption. So how do these companies reach their audiences?

B2B marketing is complex. The suggestions below can help communicate solutions the burdens a growing population create for urban infrastructure, and can help the companies providing the solution reach influential audiences.

  • Public Affairs: Public affairs as a platform to achieve strategic goals is a must for organizations activating change. Raising challenges and presenting solutions to the general public may drive goodwill and awareness, but does it motivate influencers who can make a difference at a corporate or governmental level? A public affairs initiative can elevate a corporate story from news to cause-related, or uncover opportunities to speak to government leaders influential in specific industries. Pro Tip: “Keep this fact top-of-mind: Behind any public policy challenge, are real people. When policymakers are your target audience, it’s all about the ‘show’ and less about the ‘tell.’ Provide tangible demonstrations of the strong support for a given policy solution and your issue will gain traction within the halls of power. A robust, nimble public engagement program can accomplish this by educating and, more importantly, activating constituencies relevant to policymakers.” – Saleem Cheeks, Counselor, Public Affairs
  • Digital: How well does your website perform when searching for keys words related to your product or service? How accessible is your site across devices? Taking a critical look at your website and SEO efforts, and improving both where warranted, can increase your awareness as potential clients search businesses in your industry. The more convenient and efficient it is to find your business, the more brand recognition and credibility you will receive. For example, there are many companies that help builders and architects comply with the myriad codes and regulations for the sustainable housing market. A strong digital presence helps a business rise to the top of what can be a cluttered environment. Pro Tip: “In this world where the number of devices are multiplying like rabbits, everything needs to be fully responsive. Today, more than half of internet traffic is from a mobile device. If your site isn’t conducive to this environment, then you’re going to lose a huge number of visitors.” –Erin Mooney, front end developer, digital
  • Advertising: Brand your solution with clarity, and in a way that drives affection relevance and trust. A strong brand voice and image drives brand loyalty, and helps prospective customers understand the offerings and values of a company. Sustainability is a popular subject and there is a lot of competition among companies that provide solutions. Pro Tip: “Big ideas rule the landscape. Public art captures attention. Create your own “advertising” channels by owning content when you create, promote, insert and measure… then repeat.” – Kevin Hart, Partner, Creative Director 
  • Public Relations: Driving brand awareness is best done through strategic public relations. Create two-way conversations between you and your public. Ensure your communication is dynamic. Use social media, blogs and other content to stimulate an audience’s interest in your business. PR helps inform consumers and businesses through digital media, media, special events, experiential marketing, content marketing, community relations and more. Pro Tip: Forming the right story – one with resonance and repeatability – and surrounding target audiences with it helps raise awareness and condition the market for solutions to sustainability challenges. -Mark O’Toole, managing director, PR

News and information can travel fast in today’s world. As urban density increases and human travel slows down even more, how will your story rise above the congestion?

Epidemic Models and Your Brand’s Story

Think of the last influential brand story you came in contact with. Got one? Perfect. Need a little help? How about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the eccentric Old Spice Guy? Now keep those in mind.

The mathematical theory used to predict the spread of diseases is known as epidemic models. The simplest model has two parts, an infection rate (the spread of infection from contagious to non-contagious) and a removal rate (the rate at which those infected become no longer contagious), each with a given value of 0 to 1. After the introduction of one infected individual and a removal rate of 0, the disease follows what is known as a logistics curve.
logistics curveThe infection spreads and slowly gains traction. As more and more become infected, the curve turns upward and eventually reaches a plateau as those who are contagious come in contact with less and less of those who are not.

Now think back to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the The Old Spice Guy. Graph their virality and you will have an outcome very similar to the logistics curve.

The concept is released, the sharing starts and the story begins its ascent as engagement rises. Bouncing from person-to-person, this is the most important stage of engagement. If the removal rate begins to rise, the story never reaches its potential audience and sizzles out to a standstill. With a successful story, it eventually clogs your news feed and maxes out on what’s trending. The story reaches its maximum potential contagious users.

What makes these stories different from the one you told last weekend? The difference is that these stories stick with their audience because they are memorable, vivid and tellable. The Old Spice Guy can be easily communicated to others. The concept is loud, causing a reaction and a connection. With a strong infection rate and a low removal rate, more individuals come in contact with the story and share its message.

A brand’s story is inseparable to its identity. An infectious story will stick with a brand—positive or negative. The Domino’s Pizza Turnaround is a wonderful example of a brand’s identity overcoming negativity through a story their users can connect with. Whether or not you choose to eat Domino’s, the story is crafted to be shared and remembered.

There is no formula for virality, but a memorable story starts at the first infection.

From Client to Partner: Tips to Create Lasting Relationships

shutterstock_75203164Like many, I waited tables during college. I worked at a local fine dining establishment, which mostly catered to out-of-towners, but had a fair number of local regulars as well. I could have easily gone from shift to shift making good money, but I quickly realized that the job was far more enjoyable when I started establishing my own “regulars.” Getting requested wasn’t just a matter of offering quick and friendly service, it was the result of making myself an integral part of the dining experience—my diners knew that I could recommend the best wine for their palate or what the chef may be offering off menu. By adding value to their dining experience, I became a trusted consultant, a partner if you will.

Years later as an ad agency account executive, I’m still in the service industry, and the same general concept applies in terms of adding value to the customer experience. Almost any agency can turn around a specific project request, but the good agencies form long-term relationships with clients based on trust. Given shifts in the marketplace, retainer-based agency of record relationships may not be as common, but years-long relationships can be built from project-based accounts by simply following a few guidelines:

  1. Don’t just take orders: Your agency is not Kinko’s, nor should it try to operate like one. Clients hire agencies for their design or strategic acumen (or both) to achieve objectives that serve their best interests. Offer recommendations and provide your perspective for “why” rather than simply asking, “what do you want?”
  2. Look for insights: You typically won’t spend countless hours researching the competitive landscape or digging into industry jargon if you’re not getting paid to do so. But keeping an eye on your client’s marketplace and competition as part of your day-to-day does prime you to speak in an informed way about your client’s business and recommend tactics or storylines they should explore.
  3. Think critically about design: We live in an age where design isn’t something that only luxury brands are thinking about. As marketing and design experts, “because it looks good” should never be a sufficient explanation of design intentions. As a brand advocate and steward, it is up to you to ensure a consistent and meaningful experience for your client’s customers—which means always thinking about the colors, shapes and other design components that define a brand.
  4. Be a good storyteller: Just as you should demonstrate thoughtfulness about design, you should be thinking about the story you’re telling. Whether B2C or B2B, marketing is all human-to-human and we all love a good story. Are you ensuring the stories you’re telling align to the brand? While you may not always be your client’s customer, put yourself in the customer’s shoes to ensure the words resonate.
  5. Become invaluable: By following the above items, you’re well on your way to becoming invaluable.  Beyond these things, it’s the details that matter and have impact. Pick up the phone instead of emailing or, better yet, schedule time for coffee with your clients. Be grateful. Be genuine. Be unexpected.

Becoming a reliable partner helps create an enjoyable and productive working relationship for both you and your clients. Not only can those relationships be long-lasting, but your “regulars” are more likely to refer you to others, resulting in even more happy clients.

 

A Year Without Connecting

connecting

I like being known as a connector.

While it’s a term open to various definitions, I see it as that person who develops relationships that bring value to others in one’s network. And yes, sometimes it brings value to the connector directly – maybe it’s a piece of new business or a favor repaid. But that is incidental; those who connect solely for personal gain are merely takers, not givers.

For me, connecting is about being present, being available, being unselfish. It’s hard to maintain all those qualities, and I’ve known many for whom those are unattainable attributes.

The benefits have been wonderful.  I’ve connected clients with similar interests or opportunities to complement each other somehow. I’ve connected friends with groups where I feel they can offer value. I’ve connected colleagues to new opportunities. For a few years, I was even a Connector, a title bestowed upon a group of 200 or so Boston-area professionals as part of Boston World Partnerships, a networking group with a mission to “inform and connect.”

I love connecting.

But for the past year, I stopped connecting. No networking events. No searching LinkedIn to help find matched interests. No speaking or presenting. No creation of content to share with my network. Nothing.

I even played the least amount of basketball in the last 35 years. (Yes, I’ve made a lot of connections on the court.)

It wasn’t intentional, at least not at first. Connecting does not have an off/on switch. It comes naturally, or it doesn’t. It’s in your blood, part of your mojo.

Last year started with a heavy workload at the office, a lot happening at home, and a commitment to my position as chair of The Freedom Trail Foundation. Something had to give.

So first, I (mostly) cut out networking events. I was heads down, moving fast, getting stuff done at work, at home, for the Trail. It felt good to have free time, to know the end of the work day was not the start of the (net)working night. No early morning Chamber events. No late night mentoring activities. A relaxing summer, enjoying nights on my patio or weekends down the Cape.

And then, I started to feel the gap. Fall approached, and with it the usual parade of events and opportunities and activity that fill up one’s calendar. And still I stayed out, though it was getting harder.

And now, a new year. One in which I plan to connect again. Maybe not with the fervor with which I had participated, but finding opportunities high in value and that re-immerse me.

What did I learn, a year away from connecting? Well, that requires a list of course.

Seven Reasons to Keep Connecting

  • Free time is for later – Connectors fill their schedules; it’s their nature. When away from connecting, find an activity to fill your time. I did a few things: I caught up on some television series I had missed (Blacklist, House of Cards, Jessica Jones); I wrote a book of children’s poetry and actually plan to publish it; I coached 7th grade basketball. So I was busy but in different ways. But that sense of professional satisfaction that comes from connecting was still missing.
  • Nurture your network – Without feeding it, a network can wither. Just this week I got a nice LinkedIn endorsement from an old client and friend. It struck me that we’ve had lunch or breakfast three or four times a year for a decade, yet nothing in the past year. I miss that. Sometimes we just talked about kids, other times we helped each other with professional challenges. So stay ready, friend; I’ll be calling soon.
  • Become helpful to your fellow connectors – You hear things when you are plugged in. Maybe it’s a business opportunity for a client or a committee seat for a colleague. But you miss these opportunities when you are absent. Sometimes just being there is critical.
  • Experience the power of social interaction – When you connect with the right group of people, it’s fun. Socializing with a peer group is comforting and rewarding. Why do you think Norm kept going back to Cheers? Or I keep ending up having drinks with Chad O’Connor?
  • It helps to be known – Connecting is one of the greatest ways to raise the visibility of your organization. Being present at events important to you, your network and your business, generates awareness. And it spurs content creation, like this piece about spring break that I wrote after presenting at the first Master Slam.
  • Social media does not cut it – While I’ve by no means abandoned my network, I’ve kept up with it via social media for the most part – I’m pretty sure I’ve read every @HeyRatty tweet. We share Tweets, or post photos on Instagram and we know who our network is and what they are up to, but it does not match the benefit of having a physical presence. Social is fleeting; attending is meaningful.
  • Connecting is global – My agency’s participation in the IPREX network and my role as marketing chair keeps me focused on ways to help partners connect and engage online and off. I can only help make connections within the network better if I am in full connector mode myself.

So I’ll be there, at networking events, mentoring events, reconnecting with old clients, old friends, and will hopefully do it so it has value for my firm and my fellow connectors. See you out there.