Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts: What’s your networking style?




Networking is a survival business communication skill no longer just for the MBA student, career professional, or entrepreneur. Anyone—artist, job seeking international, or mid career professional—who wants to have a meaningful conversation with an audience they care about, must bring a differentiated message, and do so often. Nina Gass of Marketing and PR explains how Paris Hilton, George Foreman, and Michael Jordan did this, but how you also can, and must, in order to stand out. This, friends, is smart networking.

Smart networking tells your audience that you are deliberate, proactive, and that you care about THEIR interests first. This is no different than many of our daily interactions (business or otherwise) with people in the world around us. Imagine showing up to your favorite Starbucks, the Starbucks where everyone knows your name (most importantly, your drink), and now contrast this to a Dunkin’ Donuts drive through experience where you may never have seen the person’s face. Which company are you likely to remember?

You are more likely to remember the experience, and therefore the company, where a human connection took place, and consequently an emotional experience was developed. The bigger question, then, for you is: how would you like your networking audience to remember you? As a Starbucks experience, or Dunkin’ Donuts?

If you sense you’re Dunkin’ Donuts, don’t panic! Many of us are, without even knowing it. Let’s look at some practical tips to keep it real, focused, and effective.

1.       Know yourself. This means you should have a purpose for why you are networking in the first place. It means having a differentiated message. Go back to the Nina Gass article we talked about. You can also learn more in our recent posts on networking and personal branding.

2.       Be likeable. Are your eyes darting around furiously, scanning the room for other more interesting prospects while you are talking to Joe Smith? Or are you giving this person your full attention? Is it possible you can give more than you can receive on this occasion? Be open to the happenstance nature of networking. We recommend you check out “Never Eat Alone”, by Keith Ferrazzi.

3.       Be prepared. Having a strategy in an organization is business 101—if you have business goals for yourself, why shouldn’t you have a strategy? As it applies to networking, this means you should do some research on who you will meet and try to learn their interests. After all, how can you contribute to a discussion if you do not know them, the challenges facing their company, what will be happening for their industry in the next few months, and so on. These points are all important as you try to stand out and explain why your skills and contributions have some real  benefit for their business.

Know yourself. Be likeable. Be prepared.

Above all else, if you can focus on your human side with others, you will have succeeded in creating an emotional connection that overshadows the worth of a successfully communicated value proposition. Anything short of this, and you may find that you are leaving people with a bad aftertaste. And this is the Dunkin Donuts style we are trying to move away from.

A note to internationals and English as a Second Language Speakers: You might find networking events  particularly difficult if you are new to your surroundings, or uncertain about the protocols governing networking. We have seen these tips help for first-timers:

1.       Shadow a friend, when going at it for the first time, especially someone good at networking. Have him or her introduce you to others.

2.       Learn the tricks of the trade. We have referenced two sources in this blog post alone. Our previous posts are full of steps to effective networking in addition to recommended texts and resources.

3.       Start small. By having conversations with a new person (someone at the laundromat, the office building security guard, the receptionist, your neighborhood mail delivery person), you will break down the walls of fear that accompany new conversations.

4.       Invest in personal development. If you find it is too difficult for you to attain these skills alone, and you must get adjusted soon for immediate career goals, enlist the professional help of a trainer or coach. Your return on investment will be worth every penny.

Whatever your profession or career level, smart networking is critical not only for cultural adjustment, but for your upward progression. And whatever your approach, don’t forget to be human!



The Trouble with Branding…Language Stereotypes and More



While branding is often described by marketers and career experts in progressive terms, the branding effect can work in reverse, proving harmful to one’s career and professional reputation.  This is particularly true for English as a Second language (ESL) speakers when language and cultural stereotypes are perpetuated through professional communication.

By popular definition, branding, and most notoriously personal branding, is described as “the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. The personal branding concept suggests that success comes from self-packaging.” (Wikipedia)  But the opposite is also true—success can be hindered by stereotypes evident in packaging that is grammatically inaccurate, lacking in persuasion, or culturally inappropriate.

Since packaging includes your business cards, e-mail stationery, writing content and style, voicemail, and a number of other verbal and written forms that identify your professional self, it is of the utmost importance that this information be: accurate, intelligible, polished, and communicated persuasively.

How we package ourselves to the outside world is especially significant in a global business communication context. There are several reasons why this is so.

1.       With less communication face to face, people have less information from which to make inferences. Subtle details, such as a signature, writing style, phone communication style, or social media profile, may be the only “pieces of you” your audience has. So, these pieces should be arranged with care. 

2.       Social media IS communication and identity, regardless of how involved your company may be. You are an individual contributor with an identity within the company AND outside. It’s important to guard and develop both. This means having a well developed Linked In profile, Google page, and the like.

3.       While English remains the global language of business, it’s important to keep your English packaging error free and culturally appropriate. Try getting pointers from a trusted colleague—we advised an approach here a few posts back.

Thankfully, you can largely control these outcomes. Don’t settle for less than excellent—your professional reputation may be on the line.

Got questions? We got answers. Submit your comments, or contact us here.



Bad Presentations Equal Bad Manners



There is no substitution for preparation when it comes to giving presentations that show you mean business. As an international, you may have been surprised by this emphasis on presentations your American colleagues so strongly endorse. We have found that this emphasis varies TREMENDOUSLY from culture to culture, leaning much stricter on the American side. Time to buckle your seatbelts!

Preparation is king- Please do not try to avoid this. You need to know your material flawlessly–by preparing for it. There is no room for sub-par in American business presentations, especially in a competitive, aggressive economy. Even the insanely great Steve Jobs prepares thoroughly for every keynote and public presentation—we told you about his presentation secrets a few posts back.

We’ve identified three main reasons why preparation is king: lack of preparation shows lack of knowledge, which in turn shows lack of competence, and this can damage your credibility; your audience will not feel respected by ill preparation; and, you might never get a second chance.

Going back to our previous post, we asked you to think about the amount of time you generally spend preparing for presentations. We gave you the following choices:

  1. The 5 minutes in the elevator on the way to the meeting.
  2. One hour before in my hotel room.
  3. Over the weekend, for a few hours here and there.
  4. A week ahead, with intermittent practice.

If you picked A and B, you’re like most people. B we can work with, and C and D, you’ve clearly got this piece figured out. But let’s talk through a game plan for the slackers, the time constrained, and for those of you who were frankly surprised by this cross cultural shift in thinking.

While there are no shortcuts per se to preparation, thankfully these approaches are more effective and less time consuming than rote memorization.

1. Start with the end result of your presentation-Yes, we said “end” first. Knowing this and internalizing it during your minimal preparation period will keep you focused on the contributing factors to the end goal.

2. Keep the contributing factors to three- If you don’t have three, or have more than three, STILL STICK TO THREE. Human memory cannot take more than this.

3. Write an outline- visual aids facilitate memorization. Even if you really are prepping for this in the hotel room one hour before the presentation, use the back of a napkin or the small notebook provided on the bed table. Seeing the outline will help you grab hold of it mentally.

4.       Verbally practice (out loud) the beginning and end- You want to start strong, so people will like you and warm up to you at first. You want to end strong, since these words are the last portion people will remember; it’s also where the call to action lives.

5.       Keep it simple- Do not go beyond more than you are asked. Be practical with the time you do have. The above steps can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less.

We know you want to be successful—it’s why you’re reading this blog, and why you’ve gotten this far in the post. If you cannot commit to the minimal steps above, you might end up like this guy…

We hope you don’t.

Until the next post…



American Business Presentations: 3 Important Features



Presentation challenges for speakers of English as a Second Language (ESLs) are at their root cross cultural. With much already written on this topic of cross cultural business communication (check out these powerful insights from Google book “Intercultural Communication for Business”, here), we’ll be talking about three key areas of American business presentations which are most challenging for ESL speakers—linearity, hard sell, and eye contact.

1. Linearity- Whether verbally or in writing, the progression of an idea to its full development is approached with vast differences cross culturally. Much to your own perplexity as an ESL, you may have been told at some point to “get to the point” when you’ve only gotten halfway through. Americans prefer a linear approach to communication, with a case presented, steps detailed in logical or chronological order and an outcome stated at the end. This is often the case in business writing. Try the following framework to communicate ideas simply:

-C.A.R. (Challenge, action, results)—order your information accordingly, internalize, share in this simple format. You should be able to use this with ANYthing!

2. Hard Sell- Perhaps it seems weird to present a conclusion or business case upfront, go through the details, then share the recommendations. After all—can’t the audience draw their own conclusions? Try to imagine, however, that your busy decision maker only has half the allotted time to sit in on your presentation. If this were the case, you might never get to present good stuff at the end, or you would have to awkwardly rush to get there.

A conclusions-first style is accepted American business practice for many presentations. Run it by your American friends and mentors, then try it on for size. Your audience’s approval should give you enough confidence to validate this new approach.

3. Eye Contact- A common complaint (from your American peers) is sustained eye contact—at the slides! To connect with your audience at an emotional level, person to person, you must sustain eye contact with everyone in the room for most of the time. This level of direct communicating is expected in American business presentations; anything less can be met with scrutiny, distrust, or questions as to your credibility. In order to do this effectively, you would have to prepare and internalize your material beforehand (we’ll talk more on this in our next post).

On many of these areas of presentation, we agree it’s a war of wills. It often boils down to: understanding it as a norm, accepting it as a norm, and embracing it for yourself so that it’s absolutely normal. Practice makes perfect.

Stay tuned as we continue on this topic in our next post! To get you thinking ahead of time, please prepare by asking yourself the following: How much time do I prepare before a presentation?

ANSWER choices:

A.      The 5 minutes in the elevator on the way to the meeting.

B.      One hour before in my hotel room.

C.      Over the weekend, for a few hours here and there.

D.      A week ahead, with intermittent practice.



Saving Face in E-mail: Three Critical Ingredients



Are you frustrated by an increasing lack of good e-mail etiquette among your own team members? Maybe you find response time slow, questions unaddressed, or your clearly expressed needs for direction largely ignored?

Let’s face it—this hurts! It is especially damaging when done repeatedly in front of the same peers. To add to this, you might operate in a project based work environment where four and five-person e-mail exchanges are common to your daily routine. This means there is an audience for virtually every point of communication; the pressure is on to communicate not only well, but authoritatively.

How can you be sure that your e-mails carry authority? Below, we chronicle three common complaints and clever approaches to solving them.

I. Response time is slow.

Question to writer: How explicit are you in your timeframes and “reply needed by” language? Compare the following expressions, from weakest to strongest.

  1. I look forward to hearing from you on this next step soon.
  2. Please let me know your thoughts when you get a chance.
  3. Thoughts?
  4. I’d like your thoughts on this soon so we can proceed.
  5. I need your replies to these updates by the end of day today so we can proceed.
  6. If you have updates, please share these by 5 p.m. E.S.T. today or I will not be able to integrate them; please hit “reply all”. Call me with questions.

We could certainly add to this list, but hopefully we have made the point. Please take careful notice of the last example. In this type of expression, you have the last word, whether colleagues reply or not. The hope is that they DO reply, and you certainly need their input, but if they don’t, the onus is on them and not on you to take action.

II. Questions unaddressed

There may be a strategic reason why your questions were not addressed by colleagues. Maybe they were non-essential, buried in the middle or beginning of your e-mail (and lost by readers at the end), or simply ignored for various reasons. While time and space prevent us from conjecturing too much, let’s focus on a few preventive measures.

  1. Keep all main questions and calls to action at the end; this is where people expect them.
  2. Be firm in your need for answers if necessary. Address specific people by name if you expect they may be able to answer better (or if they need a firmer reminder).
  3. Follow up by phone. Sometimes people are plain busy and multiple points of contact, or reminders, can help. It also establishes accountability.

At all times, keep in mind the sensitivity of others, your particular corporate culture, and your follow up. Summarize the answers provided in a “reply all” e-mail if this adds value to the group collaboration.

III. Need for direction ignored

Is this your first time addressing Phase X of a project? Communicating as the point-of-contact with the client? Dealing with billing issues? It’s probably reasonable to assume you need direction from peers (especially your manager, or the project lead) as you begin to touch on unknowns. There could many reasons you’re not getting it, such as the possibility that your manager may be overwhelmingly busy, or they are simply not mentoring you well, and that needs to be addressed on their end. Though maybe, just maybe, they are giving YOU room to grow and prove yourself. Here are some general tips to take direction in the absence of one.

  1. Make suggestions; don’t ask for guidance or permission. COMPARE:
  • There is some delay with the budgeting, but the client would like us to begin with at least some phase of the project. I’ve never encountered this before, so could you please provide me with some direction on next steps?
  • …phase of the project. I’m going to set up a kick off call tomorrow and will send out an e-mail to Joe and Jane ASAP so we can get started. There could be other ways of going about this—your thoughts welcomed.

Chances are, you are following previous patterns here, or a good hunch on how to best proceed based on your now 2.5 years at the firm. Is there anything terribly wrong with that?

2. Pick up the phone. Making a mistake with a client is serious, and if your need for direction is critical, use other modes of communication to get answers quickly.

3. Document patterns and scenarios that repeat themselves. Save these in bulk for a longer discussion with your mentor and check out our post on self advocacy beforehand.

We have seen these strategies help the busiest and most Blackberry-obsessed clients maintain authority and respect by taking charge of their communication. Don’ you want to be in that number?

Let us know how it goes, and how we can help.

And remember to always “Promote your best communication.”

Best of luck!



5 Tips on Personal Branding for International Students



You must have heard about personal branding at this point. I’m sure you have a sense for what it means. FastCompany calls it the “Brand of ‘You’”. But have you ever wondered how to create it? How does a career-seeking international student apply personal branding—in the interview, networking, or in setting up their profiles on Linked In?

Let’s first start by assessing your personal branding toolkit. We want you to do a simple experiment, right now.

Pretend there is a highly valuable recruiter or employer in front of you, take out your wallet or purse, and hand that person the closest form of professional identification that you can find.

1.       Did you find a business card with your university contact information?

2.       Did you find paper, receipts, and a pen (which you might use to exchange your contact info)?

3.       Or did you find your own personalized stationery—personal business cards and a notepad with your name, e-mail and all relevant contact info?

If you are in the latter group—congratulations! You’re ahead of the curve when it comes to personal branding. But most international students fall into groups one and two, so it’s time to think about upgrading your personal branding wardrobe.

The lesson learned in the above experiment is that of readiness, a crucial ingredient in personal branding. After all, the early bird catches the worm. Now check out some of these tips to become the “early bird.”

1.       Create Personal Stationary- make your own set of stationery. You can get that for dirt cheap, or free, at Vistaprint. Why do this, you ask? University sponsored cards are great, but they are only around for a limited time. Personal cards allow for expanded info (your unique value prop, your target market, alternative forms of contact). If you share conversation notes with someone, why not have your personal info sprinkled all over that, too? You want to be top of mind, EVERYWHERE!

2.       Use a Gmail e-mail account, if you don’t already have one. Recruiters seem to prefer this—it has an elevated branding above other forms of e-mail and may have fewer chances of being blocked in spam filters versus other. Check out what the Brazen Careerist gripes on about regarding this very topic in a recent post.

3.       Get on (and use!) Linked In. Worried about your English or saying/doing the wrong thing? We agree—there are a lot of ways to go about this clumsily, and first impressions can hurt you. Tell your school Career Services office to bring in Springboards for a workshop on “How to Leverage your Personal Brand through Linked In.” Details here .

4.       Develop a unique value proposition. You want to have a very clearly articulated statement about your unique value to a potential employer and a few words to capture who that employer might be by industry, corporate culture, client base or other factors.

5.       Rehearse the UVP out loud constantly. You want this to roll off your lips effortlessly in an unplanned discussion when someone asks what you’re looking to do. Plan on someone asking you what you want to do and encourage this question often. The power of networking is boundless.

These are just a few tips to get you going! Don’t forget to share with your friends and let us know how it goes.

Happy networking,

Springboards



Phone Meetings Gone Wild? Don’t forget social graces.



Few if any business meetings are face to face today. Teams are multi-cultural, spread out across the globe, and sometimes put together over night. Imagine yourself in the following scenario from a quickly growing consulting firm in Boston.

A third of your project team is in California, and the remaining third spread out among New York and Boston. The average project load has tripled for everyone, and the company is also bursting at the seams. Yet, high expectations remain for quality, strong communication skills, and harmonious relationships.

Lately, meetings (99% phone based) have been so rapid-fire and outcomes driven, you’re starting to forget team members’ names! There’s just not enough time to focus on relationships when the work needs to get done. And you know where this is going…

Many complex and interrelated issues of company growth, quality control and job satisfaction can be looked at through the lens of communication. Much business research points to such connections as obvious (Check out Businessweek’s response to the popular and compelling Watson Wyatt 2009 study on organizational communication.) But if ever pain is felt in social graces being cut, it is during routine team meetings conducted over teleconference.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings, both face to face and phone-based, can be mastered and appreciated for their unique opportunities to bring you together with other people for a common purpose. English as a second language is no excuse (not when you have access to the Springboards blog.) Whether you are facilitating or participating, here are a few ways to get you back on track and feeling human again:

1.       Time Reference—Fine, you’re busy and we get it. It’s possible that this really does have to be a super quick, 10 minute phone meeting. Try to start with an apologetic explanation of such: “Hi everyone. I’m sorry but this meeting has to be super quick, so I’m going to have to drive much of it for now. Feel free to connect with me individually after if you have questions. Moving on…” Try to limit this maneuver, and spend other meetings (even sacrificially) focusing on the process of communication.

2.        Praise—“That was a really good point Henry made.” “This is an important question—thank you for asking it.” It is nice to be thanked or to receive praise for hard work. Try to see whether you are doing this at all, how much, and whether there are opportunities for you to do so in a balanced and meaningful approach.

3.       Praise with names—Even better! People like to hear their names; it says that their contributions are valued and their voice was heard. If you are leading the call, the project, or have some technical authority on this case, give credit where credit is due. This will strengthen the team work ethic and could help add to a sense of collective ownership (good, if lack of collaboration or detrimental competition have been past issues).

4.       Manners—Please, thank you, excuse me, sorry. Are you using these at all? Too much? Try to strike a balance. At the very least, be aware of common courtesy, which often goes out the door when the tough gets going.

5.       Close out strong—“Good meeting. Thanks everyone.” “That was very productive. Thank you for all your hard work so far—hang in there.” Try to offer a positive, or true-to-life, comment about how the meeting went, and thank team members for their efforts. It’s the last thought they’ll take with them, right after the to-dos have probably been given.

Small touches to focusing on the process of communication might just save you and your team. Don’t skimp on this!

Did we answer your questions? Do you have a topic you’re dying for us to post on? You know what to do.

Thanks for tuning in.



Dominate Team Meetings…One Gesture at a Time



Ditch your grammar book, and leave Business English basics behind. Dominating team meetings requires the use of very subtle gestures.

In our last post, we talked about some of the nuanced and strategic business communication tricks that international professionals should apply in a U.S. meeting setting. Going beyond this, we suggested that the pressure is on for those in consulting, since clients are ultimately paying for an intellectual product—and good intellect must be voiced!

If you’re not a consultant, we still think you should read this. Thinking and behaving like a direct contributor to your company’s bottom line is generally a positive way to walk into work and bound to get you places faster.

Before going any further, we suggest you (consultants and non-consultants alike) brush up by quickly revisiting our last post here.

And now that you’ve brushed up, let’s talk about other ways to steal the show:

4. Making well with the time- Are you the first person to get to the meeting? Are you chronically late? Do try to show up early, which has several advantages. Being punctual shows you respect the meeting facilitator and view the topic with seriousness. Would you be late for an interview?

Getting to the space early also means you can get comfortable with the room, warm up by chatting with someone else who may have arrived early, get a head start on the agenda if the facilitator is there, and perhaps most importantly, pick your own seat at the table. This topic deserves its own section; see point five below.

5. Choosing your seat at the table- This one’s a biggee! Table position is a psychologically complex assignment and much has been studied and written about it. We picked one admired blog post here, “Where to Sit in a Business Meeting . . . and Why It Matters.” Whatever is appropriate to your situation, choose carefully.

6. Taking advantage of follow up communications- Did you share an idea, and no one heard? Or worse, someone heard and maybe took credit for it by way of suggestion later on? The fact is, all suggestions in a meeting are the intellectual content and property of the group, regardless of who says it. There are ways, however, that you can promote your ideas and put yourself out there in more forthcoming approaches.

Some companies use formal protocols to document minutes, assign one person to do a follow up summary e-mail, or have one eager soul put summary points on the white board. Whatever the case, take on one of these new roles, or suggest that such a protocol exist to keep everyone on board. (You should only do this if staying on board is a legitimate need for the group.) In this follow up, you could include a section for meeting attendees, topics discussed, and main points made by each attendee (your name and ideas included). Since this would be a public correspondence, your name and ideas would be appropriately recorded for all to see.

Do be consistent! This can be a laborious task, but persistence and consistency is key.

7. Appearing comfortable- In the last post we mentioned two ways—hand gestures and posture–in which body language affects your ability to contribute and engage comfortably. Now we want you to imagine yourself sitting upright, using powerful hand gestures…in front of an open and empty table. How comfortable do you imagine you would be? Now picture yourself holding a pen, with a notebook in front of you, or a cup a coffee in your hand. Doesn’t that feel better?

Psychologically, there are a lot of reasons why that feels better, but we won’t get into it here. We just want you to feel, and APPEAR, comfortable to your colleagues when you’re at these meetings, and we know this works. Now go! Dominate that meeting with prestige.

We’re excited for some of the recent feedback we have received from Springboards’ blog veterans, and we know you’re watching. But we could go far deeper with these topics if you brought some of your thoughts public (hint, hint…share your comments).

Please stay tuned for future topics on dominating teleconferenced meetings. You want your questions answered on this topic? You know what to do



Meetings as a Second Language…from the Consulting World




Meeting participation is one of the most challenging forms of communication for English as Second Language (ESL) speakers in the consulting world. When collaboration and idea promotion have become the hallmarks of how many consulting organizations conduct business, to NOT do so is frowned upon. (Check out what the Boston Consulting Group and L.E.K. Consulting say on this topic to prospective hires.) As employees, you are encouraged to “speak up” and “speak out”, sharing ideas generously and as is edifying toward helping clients solve complex cases. This is what clients are hiring you for, after all.

But saying and doing are different things entirely, and group settings can be downright intimidating or confusing to ESL speakers. This is especially true when it comes to contributing, leading, interjecting, and so forth.

If you are an ESL speaker, the following areas hopefully provide a good starting point to engage more meaningfully, and tactfully, at in person meetings:

1. Hand gestures: Where are your hands and what are they doing? Are they under a table (bad) or resting on top (good)? Hands should be free to gesture and interject at a rapid-fire moment. If colleagues are having a hard time hearing you, make it easier for them to see you. Some forms of interjection can be seen when a person stretches their hand out toward the middle of the table (they’re about to make a point), or they extend an open hand, palm down gesture pointing toward the last, or current, speaker. In this last case, they may be trying to finish a point and thwarting someone else’s attempt to interrupt (down boy!). While gestures deserve a blog post on their own, for now it will help to remember: hands above the table; fast hand movement signals a desire to interrupt and can grab attention.

2. Body posture: Are you leaning into the table so you are literally squeezed in there? (bad) Are you slouching? (bad) A straight, leaning-forward posture shows that you’re on board. This posture also physically gives you advantage when you want to make a point, as you are closer to the center of the table. Slouching, off-balance, or leaning postures suggest nervousness, lack of confidence, or insecurity. Try examining your seating (and standing) postures in front of a mirror and find what is most comfortable for you.

3. Detecting lulls: This is truly difficult, but it CAN be done. A lull in the conversation may be rare, particularly if there are a few avid speakers in the group who love to share their ideas. It’s likely there may not be more than one or two thirds of a second free in between sentences. Once you do find it, it’s prime time to jump in with your ideas. We recommend checking out Tom Ashbrook with NPR’s On Point–he has mastered the art of finding “the lull” and interrupting tactfully.

Notice how subtle and nuanced these strategies can be! There has been no mention of actual verbal communication technique (or grammar!) at this point yet.  And as you can see, “saying” and “doing” are quite different; the “language of meetings” presents some fairly unique obstacles to the ESL speaker.

In our next post, we want to tell you about other ways to make your voice, and presence known, at meetings. We’ll talk about: Making well with the time, Taking advantage of follow up communications, Appearing comfortable, and Taking on new roles.

Did this answer a burning question? Do you have another burning question?  Do let us know how we can help by dropping us an e-mail here. And stay tuned for more tips on meeting engagement in the next post!



Wikileaks, BP, and Tiger Woods: Small talk secret sauce.



Do you suffer at small talk? Is it hard to socialize or make conversation with American colleagues? Or maybe you’re great at adding on and making fabulous contributions, but you struggle to engage a discussion from the start. While there’s no small talk formula per se, there are some helpful clues to be seen in three top American news stories this year—the Wikileaks information breach (130 million Google search returns today), the BP oil spill, and the scandalous Tiger Woods coverage.

Americans love conflict. It’s the pulse behind all reality TV shows (Hell’s Kitchen, the Biggest Loser) and the draw to our three stories above. There’s something compelling and climactic about these events; they are the water cooler topics of today.

Perhaps you have overheard some of your American colleagues chat openly about the Wikileaks information breeches, or the BP oil spill, and the relevancy it has for their own lives, their work and the entire industry. Surely you also have an opinion about this? How could you not?! Check out the latest story on Wikileaks versus Bank of America here.

Consider the BP oil spill, which took months to “wrap up”; the conflict intensified exponentially as it evolved. And Tiger Woods, though he has somewhat reeled from public disclosure of his extra marital affairs, continues to pull up in engine searches months later alongside words “scandal”, “affair”, “mistress” and the like.

Has anything like BP, or what happened to Tiger, taken place in your own country? If so, what types of responses have your fellow citizens had? What is the general consensus people have now about these issues, and present day topics of a conflicting nature? Your answers and opinions are very valuable and interesting to your American colleagues. In fact, your opinions and values are such a strong part of the diversity mix—people love to hear from you! Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought alike at work? Or how unfortunate it would be if there was a richly diverse group, but still, only the 30-50% of people who look-act-and-think alike did all the thinking and talking? If you are willing to contribute openly on contemporary topics, this is one way (among many others) to great conversations and relationship building.

Last point. Small talk is not small, but big. This is where much of the real relationship building actually starts, the secret sauce. Now go find yourself some top controversial topics of the day…and gather your thoughts.

Keep us posted!

Do you suffer at small talk? Is it hard to socialize or make conversation with American colleagues? Or maybe you’re great at adding on and making fabulous contributions, but you struggle to engage a discussion from the start. While there’s no small talk formula per se, there are some helpful clues to be seen in three top American news stories this year—the Wikileaks information breach (130 million Google search returns today), the BP oil spill, and the scandalous Tiger Woods coverage.

Americans love conflict. It’s the pulse behind all reality TV shows (Hell’s Kitchen, the Biggest Loser) and the draw to our three stories above. There’s something compelling and climactic about these events; they are the water cooler topics of today.

Perhaps you have overheard some of your American colleagues chat openly about the Wikileaks information breeches, or the BP oil spill, and the relevancy it has for their own lives, their work and the entire industry. Surely you also have an opinion about this? How could you not?! Check out the latest story on Wikileaks versus Bank of America here.

Consider the BP oil spill, which took months to “wrap up”; the conflict intensified exponentially as it evolved. And Tiger Woods, though he has somewhat reeled from public disclosure of his extra marital affairs, continues to pull up in engine searches months later alongside words “scandal”, “affair”, “mistress” and the like.

Has anything like BP, or what happened to Tiger, taken place in your own country? If so, what types of responses have your fellow citizens had? What is the general consensus people have now about these issues, and present day topics of a conflicting nature? Your answers and opinions are very valuable

Do you suffer at small talk? Is it hard to socialize or make conversation with American colleagues? Or maybe you’re great at adding on and making fabulous contributions, but you struggle to engage a discussion from the start. While there’s no small talk formula per se, there are some helpful clues to be seen in three top American news stories this year—the Wikileaks information breach (130 million Google search returns today), the BP oil spill, and the scandalous Tiger Woods coverage.

Americans love conflict. It’s the pulse behind all reality TV shows (Hell’s Kitchen, the Biggest Loser) and the draw to our three stories above. There’s something compelling and climactic about these events; they are the water cooler topics of today.

Perhaps you have overheard some of your American colleagues chat openly about the Wikileaks information breeches, or the BP oil spill, and the relevancy it has for their own lives, their work and the entire industry. Surely you also have an opinion about this? How could you not?! Check out the latest story on Wikileaks versus Bank of America here.

Consider the BP oil spill, which took months to “wrap up”; the conflict intensified exponentially as it evolved. And Tiger Woods, though he has somewhat reeled from public disclosure of his extra marital affairs, continues to pull up in engine searches months later alongside words “scandal”, “affair”, “mistress” and the like.

Has anything like BP, or what happened to Tiger, taken place in your own country? If so, what types of responses have your fellow citizens had? What is the general consensus people have now about these issues, and present day topics of a conflicting nature? Your answers and opinions are very valuable and interesting to your American colleagues. In fact, your opinions and values are such a strong part of the diversity mix—people love to hear from you! Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought alike at work? Or how unfortunate it would be if there was a richly diverse group, but still, only the 30-50% of people who look-act-and-think alike did all the thinking and talking? If you are willing to contribute openly on contemporary topics, this is one way to great conversations and relationship building.

Last point. Smalltalk is not small, but big. This is where much of the real relationship building actual starts, the secret sauce. Now go find yourself some top controversial topics of the day…and gather your thoughts.

Keep us posted!

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Do you suffer at small talk? Is it hard to socialize or make conversation with American colleagues? Or maybe you’re great at adding on and making fabulous contributions, but you struggle to engage a discussion from the start. While there’s no small talk formula per se, there are some helpful clues to be seen in three top American news stories this year—the Wikileaks information breach (130 million Google search returns today), the BP oil spill, and the scandalous Tiger Woods coverage.

Americans love conflict. It’s the pulse behind all reality TV shows (Hell’s Kitchen, the Biggest Loser) and the draw to our three stories above. There’s something compelling and climactic about these events; they are the water cooler topics of today.

Perhaps you have overheard some of your American colleagues chat openly about the Wikileaks information breeches, or the BP oil spill, and the relevancy it has for their own lives, their work and the entire industry. Surely you also have an opinion about this? How could you not?! Check out the latest story on Wikileaks versus Bank of America here.

Consider the BP oil spill, which took months to “wrap up”; the conflict intensified exponentially as it evolved. And Tiger Woods, though he has somewhat reeled from public disclosure of his extra marital affairs, continues to pull up in engine searches months later alongside words “scandal”, “affair”, “mistress” and the like.

Has anything like BP, or what happened to Tiger, taken place in your own country? If so, what types of responses have your fellow citizens had? What is the general consensus people have now about these issues, and present day topics of a conflicting nature? Your answers and opinions are very valuable and interesting to your American colleagues. In fact, your opinions and values are such a strong part of the diversity mix—people love to hear from you! Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought alike at work? Or how unfortunate it would be if there was a richly diverse group, but still, only the 30-50% of people who look-act-and-think alike did all the thinking and talking? If you are willing to contribute openly on contemporary topics, this is one way (among many others) to great conversations and relationship building.

Last point. Smalltalk is not small, but big. This is where much of the real relationship building actual starts, the secret sauce. Now go find yourself some top controversial topics of the day…and gather your thoughts.

Keep us posted!

Do you suffer at small talk? Is it hard to socialize or make conversation with American colleagues? Or maybe you’re great at adding on and making fabulous contributions, but you struggle to engage a discussion from the start. While there’s no small talk formula per se, there are some helpful clues to be seen in three top American news stories this year—the Wikileaks information breach (130 million Google search returns today), the BP oil spill, and the scandalous Tiger Woods coverage.

Americans love conflict. It’s the pulse behind all reality TV shows (Hell’s Kitchen, the Biggest Loser) and the draw to our three stories above. There’s something compelling and climactic about these events; they are the water cooler topics of today.

Perhaps you have overheard some of your American colleagues chat openly about the Wikileaks information breeches, or the BP oil spill, and the relevancy it has for their own lives, their work and the entire industry. Surely you also have an opinion about this? How could you not?! Check out the latest story on Wikileaks versus Bank of America here.

Consider the BP oil spill, which took months to “wrap up”; the conflict intensified exponentially as it evolved. And Tiger Woods, though he has somewhat reeled from public disclosure of his extra marital affairs, continues to pull up in engine searches months later alongside words “scandal”, “affair”, “mistress” and the like.

Has anything like BP, or what happened to Tiger, taken place in your own country? If so, what types of responses have your fellow citizens had? What is the general consensus people have now about these issues, and present day topics of a conflicting nature? Your answers and opinions are very valuable and interesting to your American colleagues. In fact, your opinions and values are such a strong part of the diversity mix—people love to hear from you! Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought alike at work? Or how unfortunate it would be if there was a richly diverse group, but still, only the 30-50% of people who look-act-and-think alike did all the thinking and talking? If you are willing to contribute openly on contemporary topics, this is one way (among many others) to great conversations and relationship building.

Last point. Smalltalk is not small, but big. This is where much of the real relationship building actual starts, the secret sauce. Now go find yourself some top controversial topics of the day…and gather your thoughts.

Keep us posted!

nd interesting to your American colleagues. In fact, your opinions and values are such a strong part of the diversity mix—people love to hear from you! Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked, acted and thought alike at work? Or how unfortunate it would be if there was a richly diverse group, but still, only the 30-50% of people who look-act-and-think alike did all the thinking and talking? If you are willing to contribute openly on contemporary topics, this is one way to great conversations and relationship building.

Last point. Smalltalk is not small, but big. This is where much of the real relationship building actual starts, the secret sauce. Now go find yourself some top controversial topics of the day…and gather your thoughts.

Keep us posted.



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