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Get infinitely better at networking by knowing these 5 social cues

Five tips: looking for social cues to help increase your networking effectiveness.

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sales skills

Everyone can improve their networking skills

Networking is essential to grow your business. The more people you know, the more resources you have, and the easier it becomes to achieve your business goals. Networking almost always involves meeting people you don’t know or have some familiarity with.

Since the essence of networking is social in nature, you will increase your networking effectiveness by knowing what social cues to look for and how to act through learning about social cues.

1. Adjust your posture

It has been proven that if you stand up straight and push your shoulders back, you will appear more confident. People that network with others will find it easier to talk to you.

2. Mirror body language

Over time, when friends get to know each other well, they tend to adopt similar gestures, language, postures, and even develop similar breathing patterns. You can accelerate your rapport building process by mirroring someone you just met by displaying similar gestures, postures, and breathing patterns as the person with whom you’re speaking to.

This basic technique allows you to build rapport with strangers quickly and encourages them to open up to you. Keep in mind that although the term is called mirroring, you shouldn’t copy their moves exactly as they are doing it; if you do, it will be too obvious and the person will feel that you’re copying them.

The way to do it is to gradually make similar movements as the person with whom you’re focusing on, but delay that movement by a few seconds; if their hand moves to their hips, then slowly move your hand to your hips, etc. You can read up more about this technique by looking up this technique in any Neurolinguistic Programming Guide (NLP).

3. Approach opportunities

If you look around the room at a networking event, there are all kinds of conversations happening. If you’re kind of shy and want an easier way to break into meeting strangers, look for people that are bored. You’ll often see people on their cell phone, but when you see someone on their phone at a networking event, this usually means they are bored. If they had something better to do they wouldn’t be on their cell phone during the event, so you will typically have a warm reception if you talk to people like this.

You can also look for other kinds of approach opportunities such as ‘approach invitations.’ At a networking event, almost anyone that will make eye contact with you is open and interested in having you involved in their conversation. When people are strongly engaged and interested in what’s going on in front of them, they don’t look around. If someone you want to talk to is already in a group but makes eye contact, they are bored and/or want you to come into their circle. If you break into their circle, make sure to acknowledge the person that made eye contact with you first, and you will be easily welcomed by the group that you approached.

4. Smile

A great smile goes a long way. Not only will it help calm any nerves you may have about networking and dealing with lots of people at one time, it also makes you appear friendly and approachable. Have you ever had someone smile and approach you for a handshake versus someone with a smug expression approach you and shake your hand?

People usually find someone smiling to be much more friendly than those who aren’t, and people tend to do more business with people they like. The more you smile, you will also get more frequent approach invitations, and direct eye contact from others – just watch for this effect to happen to you.

5. The exit assist

Have you ever gotten caught in one of those long conversations that you can’t get out of? Maybe you don’t want to be rude, so you don’t tell the person you’re talking to that you’d like to leave and stop talking to them?

If you are ever stuck in a non-beneficial conversation but you don’t have the power to excuse yourself verbally, try turning your shoulders, pelvis, and feet slowly away from the person you’re talking to. You can keep your head pointed towards them during the first half of this maneuver. Turn your body in such a way to where it looks like you’re starting to actually leave.

Eventually, you’ll notice that because your body is turned so much away from the person you are talking to, that it will make it awkward and challenging for this person to continue to talk to you. Eventually the person will stop talking and let you get a word in. At this point you can interject that you do have to go and you’ll be able to leave the conversation without feeling that you’ve been overly rude.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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Business News

RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.

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An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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Business News

2020 Black Friday shopping may break the mold

(BUSINESS NEWS) Home Depot states their new plan for deals and discounts over two months, in place of a 1-day Black Friday event.

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Men shopping in an empty aisle, Black Friday to come?

Humans change and adapt – that’s just in our nature. Retail stores have struggled to maintain their sales goals for years as more and more people move to ordering online. Online prices still seem to be within customer expectations and often come with free shipping. Additionally, people that may have preferred to shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store have changed their shopping habits dramatically in 2020; it’s hard to social distance and be safe in crowded stores or in small aisles. Black Friday may be next to change.

Amazon and other big box store’s online ordering platforms have simplified getting what you need delivered right to your front door. According to Statista, “Amazon was responsible for 45% of US e-commerce spending in 2019 – a figure which is expected to rise to 47% in 2020.”

Retailers count on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday deals (the day after Thanksgiving), to bring in up to 20% of their annual revenue. It’s hard to just remove that option completely. But considering the times of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and especially avoiding large crowds, the tradition of Black Friday will need to look different this year.

It will also be interesting to see what supply chain disruptions from early 2020 will have the most effect this shopping season. We saw predictions in March that said the United States would see the biggest disruptions in about six months. Black Friday falls right on that timeline.

Home Depot has announced their plans to go ahead and give the deals over a two month span, starting in early November through December (both online and in stores with the possibility of adding some special deals around the actual Black Friday date) to help encourage a more steady stream of shoppers versus so many packing in on the same day.

The home improvement chain has actually seen a great sales year. This is likely due to people working from home and being interested in doing more home projects (and possibly having a bit more time to do them as well). As of May 2020, “The Home Depot®, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $28.3 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, a 7.1 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Comparable sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 were positive 6.4 percent, and comparable sales in the U.S. were positive 7.5 percent.”

Home Depot, along with many other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have confirmed that they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which may not be new for all of them but has always signaled the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

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