5 Tips to Help You Remember Names

“Oh, I’m terrible with names.”

How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself.

There's enormous value in a name!
There's enormous value in a name!

As self-fulfilling prophesies go, this may be one of the easiest.  If you tell yourself and others that you’re not good at remembering names, you probably won’t be.

I, on the other hand, am great at names.  I’m not bragging here. I really am.

Recently, I was the featured speaker at the Enterprise Start-up Awards in Limerick.  I was introduced to dozens of people in rapid succession.   I met contestants, academics, and some very high-profile people, including one with a famous family name of perhaps the most influential entrepreneur in Ireland, but all people matter, so all names are important.

I remembered them all. Especially, Jerry, the technician, to whom I was introduced during the set-up, long before the event began.  Later, during the program when my mic wasn’t working properly, I looked up to the control booth and asked for him by name, “Jerry, is there another microphone?”  Smiling, Jerry zipped down with a new mic in hand.  I, then, introduced him to the audience and asked everyone to give him and the other stage hands a well-deserved round of applause.  An opportunity to recognize the efforts of someone, made stronger due to the fact that I remembered his name.

I don’t deploy “memory palaces” or other fancy mental gymnastics to partner a person’s name with a rhyme or anything.  Think “Fancy – Nancy” or “Burt in the Red Shirt.”  No way.  I am not that clever or quickly creative.

But, simply, here is what I do.  I find it really works.

1. Slow down and really focus on the person’s name. Chances are, when you’re introduced to someone, you may have other things on your mind.  Turn that off for a moment. Make the moment matter.  Genuinely look at the person’s face and let the name sink in.

 2. Repeat the name over and over in your head while you’re looking at them. I’m not talking a mindless repetitive mantra here,  say it to yourself in a thoughtful way.  Find meaning in the name. Is it a name of someone you’ve met before, perhaps a relative or a dear friend?  Jerry happens to not only be the name of the technician, it’s also the name of my step-dad for whom I have enormous love and admiration.  That helped the memory stick.

3. Say the name back to the person.  Don’t let yourself off easy, with a simple, “Nice to meet you.”  Add “Nice to meet you, fill-in-the-person’s-name-here.”  Obviously, you don’t want to over-use the person’s name as an obvious measure to remember, but here is a great opportunity.

 4. If it’s an unfamiliar name, take time to try to learn it properly; don’t simply nod and gloss over the introduction. In today’s global marketplace, this is especially important.  Here in Ireland, I am learning that names written in Irish, “Caoimhe” for instance, are said differently than I may first   (“Quiva” is how that name is pronounced.) I also do a lot of work in Africa and am learning a range of great new names there as well.  My business partner’s wife’s name is Olaseyi.  It is pronounced “Oh-lah-SHAY-ee” and it also has a lovely lowering  in pitch on the final syllable.

The point here is not to create a fuss, but to demonstrate your sincere interest in expanding your horizons – embracing the new  - and getting it right.  This can build rapport along with improving your memory of the name. 

 5. Take a moment to ask a question to the new person. Try to learn something about them.  Repeat their story along with their name. Now you have something to remember along with the name. Rather than overloading your memory, this gives the name something to stick to which makes it easier for you to recall the name when you need it.

After the awards ceremony, the head of the Limerick Institute of Technology Foundation, Kieran MacSweeney,  wrote to me:

It was an absolute pleasure meeting you yesterday. The inspiration of your talk was only surpassed by the warmth of the sincere friendship you extended to everyone.

Thanks, Kieran, I credit that, in part, to taking time to remember names.  It’s a good place to start.

So, don’t tell yourself or others that you’re just no good at remembering names. It’s a blow-off comment that won’t really get you off the hot seat.  Take a breath and discipline yourself. Try.

Like anything worthwhile, it will take practice.

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights  Reserved. 


How every BODY communicates whether or not you speak.

What are you doing while you read this? Are you leaning back in your chair with your feet up on the desk?  Are you sitting up erect and tall on the edge of your seat?  Are you standing? Are you walking on a treadmill?

IMG_1717
Just what am I saying that I'm not saying? ;)

How do you sit during a meeting that you are NOT leading?  Do you lean in toward the speaker and nod at appropriate times?  Do you smile slightly in encouragement?  Do you look at your phone that’s under the table? Are you texting someone?

Take a look at the pen you are using.  Is it something you are proud of?  Or is it some ratty thing you grabbed from the junk drawer on your way out the door – or did you have to dig to the bottom of your purse and pull out an empty container of TicTacs and a couple crumpled Kleenex before you could get to it?

Where are your eyes when you are first introduced to someone? Looking kindly and directly at their own eyes while you think about what they must be feeling?  Looking down at their shoes?  Looking down at your OWN shoes?! ;)

Are your shoes polished or scuffed?  Are your clothes sharp and appropriate? How about your hair and nails?  Clean and shiny or slightly off?

Your appearance, your posture, your expressions are your choices. Every moment of every day.  I’m not talking Top Model here, obviously.  And we don’t have to all be carbon copies of some business image stereotype.    But we can and should take responsibility for our choices.   They are sending messages to others whether we want to believe it or not.

Last summer, as I arrived to lead a presentation training session for a large group of sales managers, I noticed one woman in particular.  She was leaning back in her chair with a scowl on her face. Her arms were tightly folded across her chest.  More than unhappy, she looked downright angry.

Oh, oh,” I thought.  “This gal is going to be a challenge.

But, interestingly, this woman was, in fact, one of the most active participants of the group.  She really dug in, crafting and delivering a dynamic introduction using the methodology I taught.  After the session, I took her aside and told her I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged she was considering how off-putting her demeanor had been at the start.  She told me she had been told this before, but didn’t realize she could actively take steps to change it.

Yes, you can change.” I said, “But it will take active commitment and effort.

She departed the room walking taller and smiling at me as she waved goodbye.

Taking ownership of your appearance and your behavior are all part of being an engaging and effective communicator.

If you want the part, then you must look and act like you do.

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 


Why Communications should be the CORE of every business.

b2b-sales-team

I am typing this from Huxleys, a cozy café in Heathrow airport that just served me a very tasty veggie breakfast.  I’m my way to Lagos to work with executives from one of the top financial institutions in West Africa.

You might wonder why I would travel all the way from my home in Cork, Ireland to Nigeria. It’s not simply because Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, it’s because these executives “GET IT.”

They understand what I confidently tell everyone:

Improving Communications, improves the bottom line for EVERY BUSINESS.”

Recently, an executive who participated in a strategic communications workshop I gave, invited me to speak at a conference geared toward tech educators.  At first, the marketing team offered some push-back saying, “but she’s not in the tech industry….”  In the strict sense, that’s true. But I do have a variety of tech-industry clients who all understand that communicating effectively crosses all industries. All geographic boundaries.

No matter what business you are in, you must communicate to sell your products or services.  I’ll give you a quick review.

1. Phone calls.

Seems too basic, doesn’t it? But how many times have you rambled when you should have been succinct?  I hear a lot from clients who work in multi-nationals – and struggle with cultural speaking styles, pronunciation, word-choice, etc.  If you’re spending time writing an email to clarify the points made during a phone call, you’re not efficiently and effectively communicating.

2. Emails.

While personal life may be through Snap Chat, Instagram and Twitter,  a lot of business correspondence is still being sent via email.   How many issues do you raise in a single email?  How are you accommodating for the fact that you’re not able to use tone of voice and body language to help get your messages across?  And unless you’re Hillary Clinton, your organization is probably able to track and archive everything you send as part of their system.  And yet, the strategy and methodology that should support these messages is practically always overlooked.

3. Meeting management.

They are still a necessary evil for most organizations, so why not purposefully create a system to make meetings run in a more smooth, effective, and dare I say it, funway? Meetings are a great way to engage people and they’re too often run in a perfunctory, going-through-the-motions way.  This can and should be addressed.

4. Internal presentations.

Notice here I specified “internal” presentations.  Professionals often make the mistake that unless they’re presenting to clients or an external audience, they don’t need to be strategic or have polish.  Wrong!  Every time you open your mouth is a chance to practice effective and engaging communication.  Your peers and colleagues see you all the time.   What do they see? How are you leading?   Internal presentations are critical for career building.  Take them seriously!

The list goes on and on and includes areas that perhaps you are accustomed to consider as “communications oriented”: Customer service,  external presentations and media relations come quickly to mind. But what about thought-leadership? Taking ownership of developing your own executive brand?

We’re so busy speaking and writing to each other, we take the art and science of “Communications” for granted.

If you think you already have it down. Think again.

Last week, as I participated in the European Tech Summit in Cork, Ireland, I was struck by how much  I learned-- in spite of the lackluster delivery from too many of the presenters.

Renowned blogger and Forbes contributor, Meghan M. Biro summed it up at the conference when she said,

We’re all human.  Connect as a human and build your community from there.”

I agree.  And it takes training, time and practice.

As a veteran CNN correspondent, campaign manager and international communications consultant, it has taken me decades to become an “Expert.”  And because I understand that communications is a life-long learned skill, I am still excited about learning something new every day.

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.


Lost in Translation. An American Business Distraction in Ireland.

 Oh. Em. Geeee! Jack and Jimmy as Gary and Nuno!!! Ha-lair-ee-ous!!

1430839207_nup_168636_0380_jack-black-jimmy-fallon-zoom

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Ireland.  I'm drinking Irish black tea and writing a proposal to speak and train on communications for an upcoming international tech sales conference.   But then - ineffective multi-tasking alert! - I notice that my sister, who lives back home in the States, has sent me an email with a video attached.  The subject line is “Watch This Now!”  Obedient sister that I am, I do.  And Whoosh! Down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction I go.

The video is from this week's Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jack Black covering the 1990 music video “More Than Words” by Extreme.

I start laughing out loud like a mad woman.

The twenty-something barista guy is now looking over at me like, "what the heck is so funny..."  And I jump up and say ...

 ME:  (still laughing) "You know that 'More Than Words' video?' from that 90s band Extreme?'"

HIM:  "Er, no, not really.”

ME:  (no longer laughing) "Well, okay.. So, you know this American late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon...?"

HIM:  "Nope.  But I’ve heard of Jay Leno.”

ME:   “Yeah, Leno retired. This is the guy who replaced him..Okay, so what about the American actor, Jack Black...?”

HIM: “Oh yeah, 'School Rock' or whatever, right? He was funny a long time ago.”

ME: “Yeah, well, he’s still pretty funny.. And anyways, well, those guys are singing a cover of that song from Extre..… oh never mind….”

Okay... break over.  Back to work!

Lesson learned. Stay on task. Watch videos after work.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


Networking Takes Time - but you CAN get it right!

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The young man’s message to me this morning sounded so desperate, I paused from the presentation I was preparing.

On my Facebook business page, I have hundreds of followers whom I don’t know personally.  They may have heard me speak at an EDGE Communications Seminaror found me through my website or blog or some other means.

Occasionally someone will reach out to me directly with a question or comment and I welcome that.

Today’s message really touched me,

Please, I just graduated college. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money.  Can you hire me?”

No, I’m so sorry. I cannot.   But I remember that same feeling of  uncertainty when I was about to graduate.  I was involved in a variety of activities at Indiana University. I had decent grades.  Although I dreamed of becoming a television journalist, that was NOT the job I had lined up upon graduation. Far from it.

My first job out of school was as a classified ads receptionist for the Orlando Sentinel.  People called me to sell their couch, their car, their whatever. In today’s era of Ebay and Craigs list, this job doesn’t even exist anymore!  Eventually, I did land my dream job as a CNN correspondent. But it took time!

It’s May. Many college seniors are preparing to graduate. And like my young friend today, they too, may be looking ahead at a sea of uncertainty.

So, this is the advice I gave the earnest sounding and polite young man today and I hope it encourages you too today.

  1. Get your CV PERFECT.

Yes, every word better be spelled correctly.  Yes, the lay-out should be clean and simple. But it’s not enough to have lists and bullet points. Make your CV is the story of you. Google “Engaging resumes” and get some ideas. Whatever materials you hand out when you meet someone in person, make sure it reflects the “you” you want to be!

  1. Ask for introductions. And be “introducible!”

We're not born understanding what “Networking” means. Some think it’s only being interviewed for a job. It’s more than that. It’s getting yourself out to places where you can meet interesting people. Join Toastmasters or attend a free meeting at BMI.  Talk to the people there. Tell them about yourself. And that means you better be able to talk about what it is you would like to be involved in. Practice what you would say about yourself. Out loud. Ask the people to whom you have been introduced to introduce you to more people. Get names and follow up. You MUST take the initiative. Not the other way around.

  1. Understand that networking TAKES TIME in the initial phase.

I moved to Ireland in September. The first place I met other grown-ups  was at my daughter’s school. I advise you not to be overly aggressive, but yes, this kind of place is most certainly one of opportunity.  So, I casually mentioned upon meeting parents, that I am a communications consultant. One parent happened to work for a large multi-national beverage company. He asked if I provided training sessions. I said, “Yes!”  We chatted a bit more and in November  I met with the training director of that organization. I submitted a proposal to provide presentation training in advance of an event in February. I did NOT get that opportunity.

But! Because, I believe, I had continued to check-in in a kind – not desperate – way, with the training director, she reached out to me again in early March about another opportunity in April. I submitted another proposal.  And, voila, this past Monday, I was delighted to work with five executives from that company.  Mind you, my initial meeting was in NOVEMBER!

  1. After the initial phase, your Networking can increase in momentum.

Since Monday, I received my training evaluations.  They were extremely positive! Each participant said they would recommend my training to others.The training director already emailed me to propose additional follow-up dates. Yey! How you handle your networking meetings and, of course, how you perform, can accelerate your momentum.

Don’t wait for a single perfect meeting.  Meet as many people as you can. If anything, it helps you practice how you present yourself and your goals.

The journey from dreaded job to dream one is rarely a fast one.    But is will pick up momentum as you make connections who help you make more connections and on and on.  Think of your network as growing waves of concentric circles. They get wider, faster as you go along.

But first, you have to work hard to drop that solid stone in the water to set the ripples in motion. The trick is to get going.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 


7 Communications Steps to Making Your Organizational Change a SUCCESS!

Communications is the key to the success of any organizational transformation or change.

Time For Change

This week I was interviewed as a communications expert to be part of a university’s upcoming interactive textbook on business.

Students will read a variety of case studies, answer a quiz about how they would theoretically handle the described situations and then watch a video from an expert who gives their take on what the realities are.

I’ll keep you posted when the book comes out . Until then, here’s a sneak peek on how I explained the importance of a putting an input-gathering communications and messaging plan in place before any organizational change is announced or implemented.

Change communication is a whole area of study in of itself.  If you don't have time for that, here are some quick and important considerations to bear in mind!

1. The communications plan is the foundation of any change.

If the foundation isn’t laid properly, the whole change campaign will collapse.  This results in extra, unplanned and not-budgeted time and resources that will have to be dumped into the change project – to try to rebuild the foundation.  The change outcomes will likely never be as strong as they could have if the plan had been executied right the first time.

And yet, communications strategies are too often overlooked. Executives may think successful change rests on the simple merits of the change itself. But that’s wrong. Information alone is not enough to convince and persuade employees that the change is in their best interest.

2. The number one thing is to allocate the proper time.

Your “transformation lag,” as some businesses call it, is at least an 18-month process before the “official announcement.”  The trouble occurs when the change announcement is made first and then the buy-in is attempted.  Successful change happens in the opposite order.

3. Developing the proper messages around your change idea is critical.

This should never be done in a vacuum.  The person or small confidential team that develops the change idea – MUST spend time writing out the benefits and positive reasons behind this effort – and prepare for EVERY possible objection AND then craft positive responses to them.

But that’s not enough – the messages must be tested… 

4. So, identifying stakeholders – in tiers – is next and this requires the most delicacy and protocol.

You’re essentially building a political outreach campaign. What’s the number that you need to win?  Different than elections, you’re going to strive for more than 51 percent for your victory. You want to get as many people on board – before you make the official announcement.  This all must be done in the proper order.  Think of concentric circles.  Protocol is key here. You must be careful NOT to offend anyone in this process.

Your first tier of stakeholders is what we call in campaigning, the "Influencers." Like the name implies, they have to have a lot of clout and influence among identified next tier stakeholder groups.

Depending on the type of change – you can also consider influencers who are  “Third party advocates.” Here, think of a major vendor or client or board member who may not be part of your organization ,per se, but who is respected, well-known and influential anyway.

Test your messages with this group and gather intel and responses from them. Incorporate their feedback.

5. Stakeholder fan out.

Next come the other tiers as dictated by their levels of influence and respect, size, etc.  You’re doing all this in the “message testing” phase –and while you’re doing that, you’re gathering their input, showing them you value them, and re-calibrating your message if you need to. And! getting all important pre-roll-out buy–in!

The goal here is that by the time you roll out whatever your change is, you have critical mass of stakeholder buy-in – you have vetted your message and benefits, objections properly – that you will have success.

6. Campaign roll-out rewards.

Your change campaign doesn’t end there – you can’t make the announcement and walk away. You should also have a calendar of milestone small reward moments built in.  Incentives to encourage implementation.   This is the test drive area.

7. Over time, you can institutionalize the change.

Be ready with the frame work for writing the change into manuals, handbooks, whatever.. but this comes after success in the previous steps.

For Change Communications to be successful, you must devise a two-way street.  Getting stakeholder buy-in on message and benefits early, BEFORE announcement and implementation may seem like a lot of work, but it will dramatically increase your rate of success – and that saves time and money!

I’m so grateful that you are reading my essays. I write inspirationally about better communications, business and life empowerment. If you would like to read regularly, please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and feel free to also connect at LinkedIn, via Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Copyright Gina London 2015. All Rights Reserved. 


Five Birthday Wishes for YOU!

Okay, this photo is from Lulu's birthday - not mine - I don't think I have photos of recent birthday parties.. I'll have to fix that!
Okay, this photo is from Lulu's birthday - not mine - I don't think I have photos of recent birthday parties.. I'll have to fix that!

On Saturday, I will mark another year of adventure on this planet.  And from the pages of my “I wish I would’ve known then what I know now,” book,  I am going to blow out the candles on my cake making wishes – not for me – but for you!

These wishes express my current attitude toward life.  They are not traits I was born with. They are some of the approaches to life I have chosen to develop over the years.

Life is full of choices.  How you act and react in your professional and personal life is truly up to you.

I share my wishes now. I wish for you to:

1. Be curious. Don’t breeze through your day narrowly focused on only the tasks at hand.  Take a moment to explore and wonder about other people and places and current events. This is not the simple “be informed” approach, it’s a way to make yourself probe further. It’s training yourself to ask the why about things. Nurturing curiosity is a great way to engage. In your community. In your profession. In your friendships.  And that brings me to number two.

 2. Ask follow-up questions.   How often during a conversation, are we waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can offer the “Yeah, that same thing happened to me only better” story?  Instead of responding to a potential client’s or customer’s story with your own, ask a follow-up question.   “What happened next?”  “How did that make you feel?”  “What is going to be done?” I learned this during my interview days as a correspondent for CNN, but it also has so many practical applications.  Asking a follow-up question not only can provide you with helpful  and interesting information, it also tells the person you really care to hear more from them.  People like to talk about their experiences. Listen to them.

3. Be kind, first. Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. Offer a “good morning” to a stranger tomorrow as you walk to your office.  Ask the barista how her day is going, and mean it.  Take two minutes to chat with your client or prospect about the weather or their family or their health.  Many people  I find that most, not all, people will respond to kindness – in kind.

 4. Deploy the power of the smile. Connected to number three is this wish:  A lot.  Even if you’re upset, nervous or angry. Your brain is wired to be constantly scanning for your smile muscles to engage. Research shows that even if you fake a broad smile, your endorphins will kick in and you’ll feel better.  I love this one.

 5. Be bold. Sometimes if you think too much, you’ll psych yourself right out of an opportunity.  Submit a “Call to Papers” blindly for a conference you found on Google.  Call the publisher of a newspaper whom you have never met and ask for a seat on that VIP rodeo train trip. Each of these I have done. (That executive I reached out to on-line is now a client.  I will be speaking in June at the 16th International Conference on Human Resources. And the publisher who just happened to pick up the phone at 4pm on a Friday because his secretary was gone for the day - was so blown away that I called him directly – he put me right on that trip and I made many wonderful connections that day.)

A friend told me today, “only fools follow rules.” So, while you may feel foolish about daring to toss a tweet to someone you wish to engage, Give it a go. Be respectful but get creative.  It won’t always work, but it certainly won’t if you don’t try.  And just think how foolish you’ll feel  wondering what might have been.

These may not be the secrets to the universe, but  I sincerely wish you for to experience first-hand  the little life-changers behind these wishes. Speaking of secrets, I also hope that the notion that of, “if you tell someone your wish, it won’t come true,” is just a myth!

So, catch these wishes, take hold and turn them into action and a lifestyle. Let me know which ones resonate with you and what others you have adapted into your own lives.

Happy birthday to me - and you!
Happy birthday to me - and you!

Every day is a chance for a fresh start. Happy birthday!

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.


Writing to Engage – Some Simple Strategies!

When I interviewed master crime-writer Elmore Leonard years ago, he gave this advice to would-be writers, "If you want to write well, write a lot. Something might even work out."

writers-block

Okay, practice makes perfect, maybe.   And while you're out there practicing, it's nice to have some  general guidelines to help speed up the process.

So, as a former print journalist and veteran CNN correspondent who has written thousands of stories, here are some of the strategies I share with my executive clients - many of whom are working to enhance their professional profiles by creating a body of written work for on-line and mainstream publications.

  1. HEADLINES - Make your headline as compelling as you can!

Think short and catchy.  You may write one headline at the beginning of your article and then find you can re-write it more simply and “grabby” after you are finished – like a quick wrap-up.  In journalism, for example, editors, not reporters, write an article’s headlines. It’s a distinct skill.

a. Pique your readers’ curiosity–Writing a headline that makes readers curious to learn more and turn to you for answers or insight is a great way to build an audience.

b. Link your cause to a celebrity or a news item- Obviously, you don’t have to always link your relevance to someone who is more famous than you (as I shamelessly did by putting Kim Kardashian in my headline about headline writing). In one week alone I saw more than a dozen writers referencing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to wear the same clothes every day as a launching point for their own observations.  In campaigning, we call this finding a solid “third party advocate” – someone who supports your message and is highly visible.  In the same vein, linking your point to a current hot news event or topic is common sense – but too often a missed opportunity.

c. Be emotional and/or fun – Most of us will welcome a quick read if it appeals to us emotionally. Research shows people make decisions first from their subconscious, which is where emotion resides, and then back that up with their conscious mind with rational logic and reasoning.

 2. LEAD (or LEDE) PARAGRAPH – You grabbed them with your headline now really grab them in your lead. You’ll want to spend as much time on formulating your opening paragraph as you do your headline.  There is no single right way to do this. Here are a few ideas:

a. Teaser - This can be as simple as a quick “teaser” introduction, in which you essentially tell your reader here’s what you’re going to get and why it’s important in a couple of sentences – and then the rest of your article fills in the details.

b. Provocative question - Or you can lead with a provocative question that asks your reader to imagine a scenario or something that makes them sit up and want to read more.

c. Startling fact – Hit your readers with the gotcha fact – like how the UK is surprisingly  lagging behind other counties in digital training – or what the shocking future statistics for digital security risk may be if processes aren’t changed. Then fill in with the “what can we do about it.”

 3. PERSONAL ANECDOTE or STORY

You should already understand the idea of adding in a personal story.  Try to make your descriptions as vivid as possible. The key to any story, however, is to relate it back to the point you are making so there’s an applicable take-away for your reader.  Don’t make your reader infer.  Spell it out for them.

  1. NUMBERED LlSTS

If you have three main points, don’t just state them in your narrative. Make them stand out by creating a bulleted list.  This helps your reader find their take-aways easily. You can then even put that back into your headline. “My top three tips for X” ….

  1. LESS IS MORE

Just as with an oral presentation, most essays or articles are best written if they don’t get put the audience to sleep with too much information. If your essay is very  dense, consider breaking it up into two or even three entries.  Imagine you are writing a book, and think about where your chapters would come. One main point per chapter works best.  Tease your audience in a final graph that you are going to write more  - keep them interested.

  1. SIMPLIFY

Are there implications or lessons to be learned from your article that will appeal to more than your immediate professional colleagues? If you want to broaden your audience, steer clear from using too much industry jargon.  Imagine you are writing to a family friend or a dear aunt. Make it interesting for them and it can still have the same appeal for your intended audience.

  1. CREATE A SENSE of URGENCY

Is there reason why someone should pay attention to your article?  What might happen if someone does not follow or consider your point?  What will happen if the status quo continues in a particular line of business? This does not mean a false sense of urgency, but if there is a poignant reason for your audience to pay attention, tell them!

  1. CHUNK WRITING

I don’t always write “linearly” – if I know I want to include a particular point in the middle of my story, I may craft that paragraph as a stand-alone right away and come back to it later.  Or while I’m thinking of a topic, I may think of a perfect “wrap” or “go-home” line and write it down before I forget and before I write anything else.  I may think of a compelling lede line only after I have written everything else.  Imagine the paragraphs of your essay as shells in the “shell game.” When you re-read your finished product, you might move one graph above another if they seem to support each other in a better order.  Play with your structure. It’s your creation. You are an artist creating for an audience.

 Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 


The unlikeliest place to find Customer Service

I’ve been sick all this week with what appear to be flu-like symptoms and a lung-wrenching cough that is erasing almost all of my usual good humor along with my voice.

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I went to the doctor’s office and he wanted to run some tests. However, Irish labs will not conduct an analysis if the patient’s submittal form doesn’t have a PPS Number. Being an American citizen recently relocated to Ireland, I still don’t have a PPSN (much like a Social Security Number). The only way to get the desired digits is to pay a visit to a government office.

So, today in addition to feeling dreadful, I felt an additional sense of dread about going to the PPS processing office.

Pick any country and any bureaucratic agency, they all seem to be filled with endless lists of indecipherable requirements, endless lines of people and an endless supply of mirthless clerks who are just waiting for the moment they can pounce on you and deny your request – no matter what it is.

In spite of my sub-par well-being, I dress in regular street clothes, not some slouchy track-suit or jammy-pants that I see way too many grown adults wearing these days. I also daub on a bit of make-up to offset my pale pallor. The PPS room is packed with a mix of people speaking a myriad of different languages. Most look, to my overly critical eye, as if they are here to obtain a PPS number for some kind of menial employment. Indeed, I overhear a man speaking with his friend that he is going to be a dishwasher at a local restaurant. I glance down. He holds a passport from a small eastern European country. I take a little morale boost thinking that my American passport will give me some leverage.

I then tried to strategize about which of the clerks seated behind protective Plexiglas exhibited any sign of humaneness.

Wait a minute! The curly haired guy appears to be smiling at his “customers” on the other side. That portly red-haired lady appears to be nodding, not shaking, her head to the couple speaking with her. And then there’s the middle guy. He is leaning back on his chair, nodding toward his clients with what appears to be a friendly laugh. Not stereotypical drones, instead, theses clerks all seem to be taking an interest in their clients and enjoying what they do. In turn, the “customers” all appear to be leaving the office happily.

Our number is called and we get the “middle guy.” His name is Peter and he has kind blue eyes that crinkle up when he smiles, which he does a lot. We’re here in Ireland because my husband is getting his PhD at a local university. Do we have a letter from the university stating that? No, we do not. My husband offers his university ID card and Peter doesn’t shut us down. Instead, he announces he’ll take the card. How surprising! How refreshing! We produce our passports, marriage certificate and Irish residence cards (click here for the tale of that immigration labyrinth) and Peter pronounces us PPS Number worthy. He patiently answered the questions we had about getting our daughter signed up later and gave us his phone number for further assistance.

Hats off to Peter and the other clerks working at today’s PPS office in Cork, Ireland. I don't know whether there is an incredible customer service environment created by management there or whether I witnessed a rare moment. But today those clerks demonstrated that true customer service is blind to attire, to station, and yes, certainly to the country of one’s passport. It is open to the unique needs of the individual who is seeking a service or a product. It looks to provide solutions, not barriers. And it works to encourage, not discourage the customer.

We look for good customer service in hotels, restaurants and shops, why not too in government bureaucratic offices? It can be done. And done well.

Till next time, when I hope I can speak and have a hack-free night, 

Gina

Copyright Gina London 2015.  All Rights Reserved.


Proof you CAN reinvent yourself on a trip to Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher

One of the most breathtaking experiences in Ireland occurs when you stand upon the Cliffs of Moher looking out over the Atlantic while the 702 foot (214 m) stone walls are rhythmically and dramatically battered by waves and wind.

cliffs ws
The Cliffs of Moher the day we visited them

Powerful and moving as it is, as I recently trekked them with my seven-year-old daughter, the cliffs would have been mere rocks if not for the rockin’ tour provided by our local Paddywagon guide, Michael.

Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest
Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest

Paddywagon runs a fleet of tour buses –departing daily from towns around Ireland like Dublin and our home here in Cork. I had been meaning to book an excursion for months but was afraid it might be a boring waste of money. Drive you to the sights with a few monotonous “on your left blah-blahs”along the way and that’s it. But no! Our driver Michael was an absolute raconteur. He regaled us with colorful tales of Irish history, sprinkled with juicy gossip, charming jokes and kindly folksiness throughout. He even sang us a few ditties that were high in personality even if they were a bit low on songmanship!

We, along with everyone else on the bus, were absolutely enchanted.

We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!
We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!

At the end of the day, before stepping down from the bus, I had to learn a bit more about Michael. We chatted and he told me he’s from Tipperary and worked as a professional engineer for years before he was suddenly laid off during Ireland’s (and many other countries’ ) recession in 2010. Michael described his life afterward:

I tried everything and then a friend encouraged me to get my bus drivers permit and I never looked back,

I logged onto Trip Advisor after we got home to tell everyone about Michael. What I found was that “Bus driver Michael” was already a Paddywagon celebrity. My review joined dozens of previous brightly glowing posts about him. While Michael may no longer be building roads and bridges, now, as he drives over them and tells his stories and sings his funny songs, he is building different kinds of bridges – those of warm memories and experiences - for tourists from all over the world.

Life is not about discovering yourself, it’s about creating yourself.

Coco Chanel once said that and I think life is a combination of the both. As you go through your life and your career, things will happen that you’re not prepared for; maybe you are unexpectedly laid off or fired.

And as you force yourself to update your CV and get back into the job market:

  1. You will discover you have a fortitude and determination you didn’t think was in you.
  2. Your discovery will give you the extra-strength and confidence to adapt and reinvent yourself in ways you may not have imagined.
  3. Stretch yourself. Maybe you won’t be in the same field as you were in before, but:
  4. You can create yourself anew.
  5. You CAN do it.

You are ready for the next chapter of your life. Life is certainly a journey, and if your journey takes you to Cork, Ireland – do yourself a favor and take a Paddywagon Tour.

lulu running

Ask for Michael, the engineer-turned-singing-tour-guide. Tell him Gina sent you. You’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.