Saturday, 3 December 2011

TFPL Connect Event: Achieving Prosperity, how to grow with what you have - and a bit of networking!

On 28th November 2011 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an event run by TFPL Connect. TFPL Connect is a network of people who work in information/knowledgeand records management. Events are run regularly throughout the year to encourage networking and give us the chance to all meet up in a nice venue, listen to what is normally an excellent speaker on a topic of general interest, and then afterwards there's a chance to mingle, chat and enjoy drinks and nibbles.

This was the first event by TFPL Connect that I had been able to make it along to, so I was a little bit nervous on the one hand about what to expect - but equally eager to try and put all the networking skills and tips into practice that I have acquired over the last few months!

On arrival at the lovely Crowne Plaza in Blackfriars, we were given our name badges and invited to have a drink before the talk began. It was a little daunting when I walked over to the bar area, bravely armed with only my name badge, and was faced with various small groups of people, all of whom looked as if they knew each other. However, although part of me felt like running right out the room(!), I forced myself to take  glass of wine and move through bar towards the room where the talk would be held. From just listening to the conversation around me, I felt a little better when I realised that a lot of the people standing in groups had actually arrived together, as opposed to already becoming acquainted in such a short time! After a few minutes, I caught the eye of a lady also on her own stood not too far from me, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and introduce myself!

One of the things that I was told about at a session on networking skills was to break the ice by making a joke about being on your own, for example. So after introducing ourselves to each other, I made some remark about how I hate the start of events like this, when you feel the pressure to be talking to someone but just can't quite break through! This definitely broke the ice between us, and we had a chat about very general things - our jobs, our organisations, our commutes. After about 10 minutes, a lady known to the lady with whom I was already speaking came over, and so suddenly I found myself with 2 new acquaintances. Shortly after this, it was time to take our seats. I was expecting a lecture-style seating arrangement, i.e. rows of chairs, but in fact the room was set up in tables of about 8-10 people, and we could sit where we wanted. I ended up sitting with the lady whom I approached earlier on one side, and another unknown person on my other side. About 6 other people joined our table, none of whom I knew at all at this point.

The talk was all about influencing people and communicating effectively, and I am very happy to say it was given by none other than the very talented Nick Davies of The Really Great Training Company. Some of you may remember earlier in the year when I wrote a blog post on a fantastic session on networking that this man gave at one of our firm's internal training sessions. The fact he was speaking at this event was a big draw for me, as I knew he would be superb. He did not disappoint!

First of all, we talked about the 4 things that people do wrong when trying to influence or persuade others. Then we looked at the 6 ways in which people are persuaded to do something. Finally, we looked at the 2 essential things to do in order to persuade people! Nick called this the 4-6-2 method and it made for a witty, sparky and thought provoking hour.

One thing Nick said is that all too often, people focus on the want rather than the need, but rather, a savvy negotiator focuses on the NEED and WHY people are asking for whatever it is they're asking. If you can behind that, then you are in a stronger position to negotiate with the person. I found this quite an interesting concept. The automatic reaction we all have is to want to meet the want, or try and find a way around not meeting it. But it's a different matter to dig a bit more and find out why a person is asking for whatever it is they're asking. I think if you are armed with that knowledge, you are better equipped to handle the situation to your advantage.

Another interesting thing we looked at was all the ways in which people are influenced into wanting a particular thing. Nick gave the example of how marketing execs play on these typical characteristics. For example, if we think something is scarce, we automatically feel we better get it now before it runs out - so when we see a sale advertised on TV, we are often pressured into making purchases we might not have necessarily made, for fear that the offer will be gone completely. Social pressures also play a big part in how we behave - Nick gave an excellent example of how if you see a sponsor sheet and everyone has sponsored £10, it's highly unlikely you will sponsor more (don't want to be seen as flash), but you won't sponsor less either (don't want to be seen as stingy). Even as adults we succumb to social pressures like this.

Authority and likeability are 2 other ways in which we're persuaded. So if we see someone on a plane with lots of stripes on his shoulder and he tells us to get off the plane, it's far more likely we will listen to him than to a cleaner! Equally, our friends can persuade us to do things because we like them, we have trust in them and we want to please them.

It's all very interesting to me and I would definitely love to learn more about this kind of thing; about how we influence each other and how the human mind actually works! I think it's particularly relevant as you move up the ladder in the workplace - I think to have this kind of understanding of people would definitely be a bonus.
If someone asks for a payrise, it would be all too easy to focus on the 'want' and think how to get round of it. A little more probing, however, could reveal the actual need, and why they want this - and that might then put you in a better position as a boss to negotiate.

Nick maintains that the 2 key things to succeed in persuasion are trust and credibility. If someone gains credibility in their job, we have confidence that they know what they are doing - but this credibility is meaningless without trust as well. You need to build up a relationship with someone to get them to trust you. This is particularly pertinent to me, where building up a relationship with the IP team at work has been vital in terms of getting them to use me. It didn't matter where I came from and how many years experience in the law library I had. They needed to learn to trust me and see that I was reliable, and that I followed through on requests, and only then did they start to use me! Nick stressed the importance of not relying solely on email to build these crucial relationships - and I couldn't agree more. He said that people need to see you; they need to get to know you as a person rather than just a line of type. Even a phone call is better!

After the session with Nick ended, we had the opportunity to head back to the bar and have another drink, and actually do some more 'networking'. I spent about an hour talking to 2 people who had been on my table. Neither of them were remotely connected to the legal world, therefore it was really interesting for us all because we have very different perspectives on research. As a law librarian, I am very focused on cost and time-efficiency, while the people I were speaking to came from medical research/consultancy backgrounds, and provide a very different service to the one I provide. I think this is one of the most important things about networking - the exposure that you get to people in the information world, but who have a totally different working day! I had no idea that there were so many different facets to the information community - it's only once you get out there and widen your horizons, that you truly realise how diverse the field is.

All in all, I am really pleased that I attended this event. I was able to put some of the tips on what to do on such occasions into action, and I met some really interesting people. It's definitely increased my confidence for the future at such events. Although daunting, I think I can appreciate now that once you have broken the ice, one opportunity leads to another - and as a rule, everyone is there for the same reason, and if someone else is on their own, it's very likely they will be all too happy to chat!

I also very much enoyed the insight into negotiation and persuasion given to us by Nick Davies. A worthwhile and very enjoyable evening indeed.

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