Friday, August 6, 2010

Professional Business Women of California Conference: Workshop Session I

I will admit that when I first looked through the schedule, I wasn't very excited about any of the seminar session breakouts, so I decided to attend the workshop track. Leave it to PBWC to make sure I wasn't disappointed!

For Workshop Session I, I attended Chris Melching's Paddle Your Own Canoe: Tips for Selling Yourself.

This is something that comes up every now and again as a blogger and someone that is very active on twitter as well, but I will admit I haven't really thought much about creating a brand. When I'm online and writing, I'm usually just sharing my experience - no matter what area it's in. I see so many blogs that start up and try to have a specific focus, and fizzle out after a half dozen posts or so. I don't write enough as it is, and would rather just write about what is on my mind or interesting things I've done than worry about it fitting into my "brand".

Chris Melching, though, reminded us that anything you put on line is your brand. If you think potential employers aren't checking out your online presence before your interview, you're wrong.

Melching covered the standard excuse given for not doing self-promotion, "I don't want to brag", with a great Kate Hepburn quote: "If you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move."

This is where things get tricky. Most of us, including me at times, sit and wait for promotions, for changes in career direction, new opportunities to simply appear. While that does happen, it's rare and you cannot depend on it.

So, paddle your own canoe! Think about ways you can stand out, and never forget the silent messages you send, for example, what does your listening face look like? Apparently, 55% of an impression is made up from body movement, so if you want to show someone that you do care about what they are saying!

1. Make a good impression
  • Try to keep an open body - never let hands touch!
  • Make eye contact, even in groups
  • Talk about what you can do, not what you can't do
  • Don't complain or dwell on the negative (this one can be so hard!)
  • Smile more
  • Come up with possible solutions
After attending this workshop, I tried to think more about my own passive face. Often when I'm working at my desk, or just thinking about something while I'm walking down the hallway, people will ask me what's wrong. I now realize that my "thinking" face reads like a "sad" or "upset" face and I am slowly trying to change that habit (which is hard to do, while thinking about something else).

2. Build up your online presence to extend your presence beyond those you interact with on a daily basis. (side note: when she asked for a show of hands of women that used twitter, blogged or interacted on Facebook... only a small number of hands came up!)

3. Act as if...

Act as if you're already important. Walk up to someone and start a conversation as if you know (for sure) that they want to be talking to you.

Act as if you're confident, and before you know it, you will be!

Keep in mind that the minute you walk into a room, you're in the spotlight and you are being judged! A women executive that Melching interviewed said that within seven seconds she is already trying to figure out how to either get you out of her office, how to help you, or how to get something from you. Seven seconds!

It is important to always put forth a professional presence so you are prepared for these quick judgments people are making (even if they aren't aware they are making them). Make sure you are put together, organized, engaged and smile.

Some tips for making this happen:
  • Open up your body, you'll appear more confident
  • Slow down your pace and listen often
  • Smile (often!)
  • Project strength in how you look, act and sound at all times
  • Ask questions, stay focused (put the smartphone down!)
  • Become contagious and change people's pulse when you speak (easier said than done, right?)
  • Use large gestures
When you are speaking you can be a train wreck inside, but still project confidence on the outside by:
  • Exhaling
  • Acting calm
  • Not fidgeting
  • Smile
  • Not touching your face
  • Being purposeful
  • Pinching the table to focus your energy, and conveniently this keeps you from touching your hands together and keeps your body open. (I've tried this, it is an amazing way to focus actually)
Ask someone you trust what your strengths are, so you are aware. Ask what you do well, what you should do more of or less of.

Of course, I'm generally thought of as an animated person (which is why I do need to watch my focus expressions), so I need to take some of these tips in stride. If I started making incredibly large hand gestures along with animated facial expressions, it would likely become a very strange experience for those I was talking to. On the other hand, I do often find myself closing up in meetings and these simple reminders can help me make sure what I'm showing others is indeed the message I'm intending to show.

4. Build selling into your everyday conversations. For example, if someone asks, "How are you?", don't answer with "fine", but rather something along the lines of "I'm fantastic. I'm really excited about this project I've been working on..."

5. Be succinct. Well, if "fine" isn't a succinct answer, I don't know what is ;-) But, what Melching is talking about here is giving folks the highlight reel. When someone asked how the meeting went, don't start on about how Bob was late, you didn't have the slides ready, then your flight was rescheduled, and then your luggage was lost.... oh, wow, I'm boring myself here! Get to the point and provide the nitty gritty details later, if they are asked for. Small bites:
  • What did you do?
  • Who benefited?
  • What were the results?
  • What are you trying to ask, get, etc?
  • Stay focused
  • Share your passion
  • Avoid "um, er"
  • Share your passion
  • Increase your energy in your voice
This is an area that I have trouble with. I practiced these skills for awhile right after the conference, but realize now that I'm already slipping back into some bad habits. I'm glad I'm revisiting this with this blog entry so I can start to make this a habit!

6. Know what you want and then just ask for it. If your manager doesn't know you want an international assignment, you can't be disappointed that they give the assignment to someone else on your team.

7. Encourage objections. This will help you flesh out your own ideas, find out who agrees with you and let you learn about what is on other people's minds.

8. Clarify your next steps. Be specific, especially when you're seeking advice or something else from someone.

9. Get frequent reality checks from others - back to the "what's working? what should I do more of? less of?"

10. Grow and sustain your network! Make sure you stay in touch, and not just when you need something. This applies for personal relationships as well as business ones. Try to check in once a quarter and build your network by introducing people - they will return the favor to you someday.

Overall, I really enjoyed this workshop. While I realize out of the attendees there, I was one of the few with an established online brand, that doesn't mean I can't do more to focus it. I can certainly work on the being succinct part - how long is this entry?

Do you have any other good tips for selling yourself?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monk's Kettle Ninkasi Beer Dinner

I was so happy to be able to participate in the San Francisco Bay Area debut of the draft beers of this delightful Eugene, Oregon brewer, Ninkasi, back in March.

Ninkasi, a relatively young brewing company, is named after the Sumerian Goddess of Fermentation and they have played around with some of the first recorded beer recipes while doing their brewing. Happily for us, they sent their primary brewer, Jamie Floyd, to teach us about each of the beers we tasted.

The Monk's Kettle has started a new tradition of giving the diners a welcome beer - and I can't think of anything more welcoming than a gratis beer! We were welcomed with Spring Reign, a seasonal American Pale Ale coming in at 6.0% ABV. The beer had gentle hops and a crisp flavor that, unlike many pale ales, mellowed and really grew on me as I sipped it while chatting with my friends, BJ, Rod, Cory & Mark, awaiting the first course. This was what Jamie referred to as a "session beer", and I could definitely see that. Easy to drink at 35 IBUs and not *too* strong.

The wait was well worth it, as we were served the most delicious cream of mushroom soup any of us had ever eaten in our entire lives. The soup, made from locally grown organic portobello muhrooms, was garnished with fried truffle shallots, with a tarragon reduction - simply amazing. Each of us agreed that we would've been happy if the soup was served for each course :)

The best part about this soup? It completely changed the complexion of the beer - bringing out a before hidden essence of peaches.

Chef Kevin Kroger really outdid himself with this course and we were certain we'd be let down by everything else that followed - wow, we were wrong!

The next course, coconut curry with Ocean Garden shrimp served over a Thai basil rice cake was seasoned with fresh ginger, Thai basil and mint. I found the curry lightly spiced and creamy, the shrimp was amazingly tender - perfectly cooked! Perfectly matched as well with the Total Domination American India Pale Ale (6.7% ABV), which was soft, citrusy, light and very drinkable. I swore I tasted lemon grass in the beer, too. I was surprised I enjoyed this beer so much, as it came in at 65 IBUs, and I tend to not like "bitter" beers, but this beer was very drinkable... perhaps another session beer? I can see why this beer is the #1 selling 22oz bottle in Eugene, OR. I've been keeping my eyes peeled at my local bottle shop for it myself.

Jamie Floyd took a moment here to share his IPA philosophy with us, which I find lines up perfectly with my taste preference. He realizes that hops operate on a logarithmic scale and you have to be able to find the correct balance of bitter, flavor and drinkability. Lots of brewers can make an IPA that tastes great in a 6oz pour, but Jamie only sells in 22 ounce bottle so he has to brew beers that will taste as good on your last sip as they did on their first.

And this is when true joy began - our next beer, Tricerahops Double IPA (American Imperial India Pale Ale - 8.8% ABV). This beer had an amazing hoppy flavor without the bitterness I've come to associate with hops. It can be done! It was smooth and a pleasure to drink, though at 8.8% ABV, it is better to be enjoyed in small quantities.

How could things get any better? Our waiter brought out the next course - cumin rubbed pork tenderloin, goat cheese mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. The pork, like the shrimp, was cooked to perfection - tender and juicy, with a rosemary-orange glaze. Again, this course was cooked with tarragon - an herb I believe I've been greatly under estimating! The beer was paired well and the food and the beer accentuated one another.

Our fourth beer was Believer Double Red (American Red Ale, 6.9% ABV), which was inspired by one of my favorites - Deschutes' Jubelale. Apparently Jamie and his crew had been working on the recipe for this beer longer than anything else in their lineup, and it was their first winter seasonal. I found this beer to be more of a brown than a red, with hints of dates and a smooth easy taste. The Believer Double Red was paired with Igor Novara Dolce Gorgonzola with roasted garlic cloves and an Italian and Thai basil reduction, with toasted cashews and Metropolis bigio bread. Always a fan of blue cheeses and roasted garlic, I could not have been more delighted by this course. The flavors blended together nicely and brought out the date flavor of the beer. Another course I wouldn't have minded being repeated ;)

The fifth, and final, beer was the one I had been most looking forward to: the Oatis Oatmeal Stout (7.5% ABV, 50 IBUs). I am a huge fan of oatmeal stouts, regularly drinking some at the Tied House in Mountain View. Actually, it may just be that I'm a huge fan of oatmeal, which I eat nearly every morning and have since I was a kid.

Ah, but back to the beer! It was a creamy brew, with coffee tones and a distinct nutty flavor (I could've sworn it tasted like cashews, but that was probably the last course still lingering). The Oatis Oatmeal Stout was originally their second winter seasonal, but the beer became so popular it is now a permanent fixture in their lineup. Jamie and the gang do like a clear beer, but they try to avoid filtering as it can take out some of the lovely flavors, so they have been experimenting with using a centrifuge on this beer. I do have to say I loved the results.

Chef Kroger paired this beautifully with a tarragon chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwich with an Oatis Oatmeal Stout infused chocolate sauce. I don't think you can ever go wrong with an ice cream sandwich, but I would've never thought of putting tarragon into cookie mix. This was surprisingly tasty. It was a bit like tarragon was the "secret ingredient" in this beer dinner, as it popped up so often and is usually a neglected herb - but it really worked and helped accentuate the bear flavors.

All in all, another palate enticing affair! Can't wait til the next one - oh, that's tonight! :-)