Episode 14 of Augurs on the Town features a conversation with Teresa Thomas, an award-winning connector, presenter and author on networking, connection, joy and well being.
In this fun and dynamic video Teresa and Josh talk about how COVID has changed networking, some of the do’s and don’ts of networking, the intersection between networking and marketing as well as what moved Teresa to author a book on joy entitled “Enjoy the Small Things”.
Josh Becerra: Hi, everybody, this is Josh Becerra from Augurian. This is Episode 14 of Augers on the Town. I’m here with Teresa Thomas. Hi, Teresa.
Teresa Thomas: Hi.
Josh: Thanks for being here. Let me give you a little bit of background on Teresa. She’s the founder of Win/Win Connects. She connects people, possibilities and purpose. As an award-winning connector presenter, networking expert, and author of two books: Win/Win Networking and 50 Fun Things, Enjoy the Small Things. You are also named 2019 women in business champion through the Small Business Association of Minnesota and 2019 50 over 50, exemplary leader by AARP and Pollen. Last thing I’ll say is Teresa believes networking is really about seeing the interconnectedness between all of us. It’s about listening and noticing the ways we can lift each other up. I am super excited to be talking to you today.
Teresa: I’m excited to be here. It’s good to reconnect with you, Josh.
Josh: I know, I think when we were prepping for this, we were realizing 10 years ago, we met at an event and then we connected on LinkedIn and a few other things, but really haven’t done a ton of networking together since then, but that’s kind of the power of networking, right?
Teresa: That’s absolutely the power of networking. Our lives, our careers, our businesses change, but our network is there for us and we can reconnect. Sometimes people get embarrassed like, “Oh, I haven’t talked to this person for 10 years,” or whatever, but everybody wants to know that they were remembered and recognized so I say let that go. We’re not in high school and have to act cool like, “Oh, yes, I don’t remember who you are anymore,” and more like, “Hey, I remember you even if you don’t remember me, you made a good impression on me.” Of course, it’s going to feel great. It was good me connecting with you.
Josh: Well, in 10 years you get a little more gray in my case, and grow out the COVID beard. Sometimes not as recognizable as I used to be, but thanks for being here. Speaking of COVID beards and change and crazy stuff, let’s talk about COVID and networking. I love networking, I love going to events and meeting people and getting to know people. I haven’t been able to do much of that recently with COVID and it’s really changed the way we’re working and the way we’re networking. For you, thinking about COVID, and networking, what are some of the positive impacts you’re seeing in the networking space due to COVID?
Teresa: I see a lot of positive impacts. I’ve challenged some of my own assumptions. For example, everything I used to do was all in person. I had this sense that in-person about networking was better and more effective than online networking. Online networking was this thing you did to support your in-person networking. I’ve had a paradigm shift and how I’ve seen that and now I see them as both very, very valuable and they can integrate, and they can also be on their own. There are people like you, I’m sure too, that you’ve never actually met, but you’ve networked online and have a really great synergy and connection with them and so it’s–
Another positive thing speaking of that is I’m now able to connect with people anywhere. If I do an online event, we can have people anywhere connecting and that feels really, really powerful, but we’re all learning, we’re all shifting to this new way of networking and now we are thinking about reintegrating. I was like okay, what’s that going to look like?
Josh: Yes, let’s talk about that. I’m sure that there are those who might be feeling a little nervous about re-entry into this newer, different-looking normal. Do you have any tips for people that might be feeling nervous about re-entry?
Teresa: Yes, well, I think everybody is going to feel a little nervous because it’s been a while, so you are not alone. Even pre COVID, whenever I do workshops, even people that were super extroverted would come to me and say that there’s certain things about networking that made them nervous. To just realize you’re not alone in that nervousness. One of the really good things that we can carry forward with us when we reconnect is I feel like in the past year, COVID has forced us to really look internally and like what are we doing? Everything’s changing and we’ve become way more intentional. That benefits us with our networking because we used to just go along and do things because it was just what we do. We’d go to an event and go be part of a certain group because they are part of our routine.
Our routines have been completely shifted so now we’re thinking, “Okay, who do I miss? Who do I wish I had in my circle? How do I want to connect? How am I going to go about that? What is the purpose behind it? How got to do I want the look and feel? It’s no longer just mindlessly going to coffee meetings. I think we’re been a lot more thoughtful now.
Josh: Yes, I think that’s true. I you’re absolutely right and it’s super smart because before you just, “Hey, I have these series of groups or events that I go to on a monthly basis.” Now we have this pause to say, “Do I want to reengage with that group? What was the real value I was getting from that?” We can be a little bit more intentional with our time and who we’re really trying to connect with. I think that’s super smart.
Teresa: Yes, and we have. We’ve also realized the value of our time. I feel like once we reconnect, it might be a little crazy for a while. One thing I will say is you’re an extrovert, I’m an ambivert and for people who haven’t heard that term before it’s somebody who’s got qualities on both sides and is pretty much in the middle.
Introverted side of me liked and was like, “Oh, I get to do this one on one with online networking,” but the extrovert side misses that human connection in the same room. I’ll say that wherever you are on that introvert/extrovert spectrum to just be aware of it and notice yourself for how you reconnect. I have heard from some of my friends who are more introverted just like, “There are a lot of the things I liked about being locked in and I really want to reconnect but there’s some social anxiety because it’s been a while.”
Got to build that tool up, get that practice again, giving yourself grace. Then for the extroverts, I have a feeling the extroverts are going to be so excited to reconnect that they might bowl some people over. [laughs] If you’re super extroverted, just like, “Okay, I’m going to also listen. I’m going to observe.” People will probably be really cautious. If you’re a hugger, maybe people might not be ready for that for a while. I think we’ll have more of a self-awareness and a noticing like, “Okay, how am I feeling? I’m not alone in this and I do want to reconnect,” but more of a mindfulness in how we reconnect.
Josh: Yes, I really like that. We jumped right into this idea of re-entry but I do want to touch or spend a little bit of time on the online networking that’s now been developed. Do you have any tips or etiquette that you feel people should really be paying attention to when doing the online networking side of things?
Teresa: Yes, a lot of the in-person networking etiquette applies to online, to be responsive, to not push yourself. You’re still building a relationship. Even though you might not be seeing the person, they’re still a human being and so you want that to be reciprocal. Good salespeople know that they want to understand their client or the customer or their potential referral so just stepping back and not blasting your stuff like a mix.
It’s a conversation and hey I want you to know about this or hear this link but it’s as a balance, because I know– because pre-COVID before I really wrapped my mind around online networking, I probably was guilty of not having as much of a balance. Being a resource, sharing helpful information I think when I was online before, it was more like, “Oh, you need to know about this thing. You need to know about this thing,” which we’ve heard is like entering a party like, “Hey everybody. That’s all about me. [laughs] I’m not going to listen to anything you say, hey, nice to meet you. got to go.” That would be one of the etiquette things that I would share.
Josh: Cool. I definitely can relate to this in-person, person’s person networking. I definitely had a phase in my career where I was really profit-focused. I was just I’m in this room, I want to find the people I need to talk to who I think could possibly turn into business. That was my mindset. Now, I know that that’s why networking maybe has a bad rap. I know that you and your Win/Win Networking Guidebook, which is now in its second edition, is working to change that.
Why don’t you talk a little bit about that, the mindset or the approach that you recommend around networking, this difference between profit focus than maybe a different type of focus?
Teresa: Well, first of all, I do want to say that, that that’s good that they’re profit-focused. I will also say that I’ve been guilty about being too much the opposite like, “Oh, I don’t want to bother them and try to make a sale. Okay, well, I’m trying to grow a business, so there’s a balance. Again, it comes to that relationship building. I would say for myself, or for anybody, is to know what your goal is for your networking, and then look for that balance and be open to other possibilities.
You said in the beginning, you’re very profit-driven, “Let’s make a sale, let’s get a client,” but you probably ended up finding that you’ve made some great connections that referred you to someone else or that you learn from or that helped you stay in tune with the market and what they needed. Have that openness to other things that are possible. Sometimes, when people go in purely with such a solid goal of making a sale, they miss out on some things that might even be better than what they originally imagined.
Maybe there’s a funder. Like, “Oh, wow, I killed it because I pushed too hard.”
Josh: You end up going into a room and you’re like, “I just collected four business cards, “Yay, good for me and now I can leave.” Because you were so focused, on that objective, you may have missed the person who was in the room that could have been completely transformational for your business. I think that’s what you were talking about is, instead of having such a singular focus, being a little bit more open to what might be able to happen.
Teresa: We can all probably recall a time where we met somebody, and we were interested in something that they did, but they weren’t hearing what we were trying to say, because they were so focused, that they needed to say this certain thing, that it can kill it. It can kill that vibe, “Okay, I thought I’d want to do business with you, but you’re not hearing what I’m saying, or you’re not listening to what I do and seeing the connection.” That’s part of it as well. That’s what gives networking bad rap.
Because if everybody is going to network, and most people do have an idea that I’m building my business, I’m going to get a job, I’m going to make a sale. They have that but there needs to be more to it because not everybody in that room is going to be buying from each other. It’s remembering the connections that we have outside of it, developing that relationship, seeing where it goes in the long run is going to be exponential to being too singularly focused.
However, sometimes people- they land something really big in one meeting, but that’s the exception. That doesn’t happen that often.
Josh: One of the things that I’m curious about, I’ve heard that having a script or memorizing an elevator pitch is a good thing but at the same time, I’ve been in rooms where I just feel like, “Man, that person just got done talking with whomever and they came over here to talk to me, and I’m hearing them say they– It’s like– Where are you on that idea of a script or elevator pitches? How important is that?
Teresa: It’s good to know what you want to say, but I will say that everything I do with networking is helping people figure out what works for them, their specific goals, their personality. I don’t come across well in a script. I need to know my bullet point points. I need to be authentic in the moment, responsive improvisational almost.
That’s what works for me because it fits my personality and fits what people would expect of me because I do network. They know that I should be a good listener so that’s part of it. Other people are really good with their scripts and it fits them and it fits their personality. Think about someone who’s a plumber, they think you can get right to the point.
They can get right to the point and say what they do, and it’s not going to change. For me, my goals are always changing when I’m not working, but a plumber is like, “No, I just needed to know.” They might come across in a way that’s super memorable and it’s scripted and it fits for them. You might be in the same group with them and heard the same thing over and over, but it’s charming for them.
It helps you remember and tell other people. It’s really like, what fits you? What gives you results? If you feel like you try to do the canned one kind of an introduction and it’s not working for you. It’s going to come across and other people will feel awkward.
Josh: That’s what happens to me. I start thinking, wait, I didn’t say that one word. Now do I repeat, I get all flustered. I just like being authentic and unscripted. I found what works for me, but I do like this idea of do what comes most naturally. That’s probably.
Teresa: Yes, get your point across and how it fits you. I actually just thought of an example. This is probably one, it really sunk in. It was like 30 years ago and I was working for a higher education program and I needed to go in and talk about the programs we did to college. College students are the most difficult audience to get interested in what you’re saying. I would watch the professors give these presentations about the program and they would talk about the theory and because they are professors, the students related to them like, “Oh, you’re a professor. You would talk like that.” I thought, oh, I have to go in the room and talk like that.
Josh: Be professorial.
Teresa: Yes, be professorial and I felt just like such a fraud. Oh, my gosh, they’re going to find out that I don’t actually talk like this. When I would try to do it that way, it bombed. Then I finally realized– it didn’t totally bomb, but I didn’t like how it felt and I didn’t get a lot of results, but once I realized all that matters is I share the key points, but I share it with my personality in a way that works for me.
Then, all of a sudden, the registrations for our program are off the charts because there’s this relatability factor. They can tell that I really cared. I wasn’t just saying a script to get some students to sign up for something. That’s probably the first time I really learned that value of making those connections and introducing yourself and your top talking points in a way that fits.
Josh: Very cool, very cool. Agurian is a digital marketing agency. I’m in the business of marketing. You’re really focused on networking. I’m curious where do you see the intersections of those two? Are they like completely separate?
Teresa: I think they’re definitely intersected. I would love to hear it what you think as well, but in marketing, you’re trying to create an awareness for your product, your service wanting to make that sale to create that connection. In networking, you’re building the relationship and the trust so that people want to follow through and take that next step, especially in our digital society now where people are looking for that proof, do you have a five-star rating?
Do you have recommendations or testimonials or reviews? I feel like there’s an intersection and an overlap and that you want to be mindful of both. As a digital marketer, what is your perception?
Josh: What I can reflect on is at Augurian, we have this tagline, it’s have confidence in your digital marketing investments. With that, like marketing message, there comes a little bit of, I don’t want to- I don’t know if it’s called bravado or there’s just a little bit of an edge to it, confidence is a tricky thing because you don’t want to come off as someone who’s a know it all, or something right, but at the same time you want to be clearly an expert. I do think like when I think about myself going out into networking situations, I try to channel some of that marketing message.
I want people to see me as an expert, but not as know it all, be accessible, but a higher-level thinker, so I do see where core marketing messages and ethos of marketing, networkers can bring that to bear, and now you’re representing the brand. You have your personal brand of course, that you’re representing, but then you’re also like representing the brand or the company that you work for. I definitely see those intersections in my work today for sure.
Teresa: Yes, then you also brought in that intersection of the brand and how it all relates, so you want to show up with that sense of consistency. When you said the word confidence, absolutely. I work with a lot of women in business or men [unintelligible 00:21:25] “Oh, I don’t want to have too much bravado,” or whatever, but we do want to come across as confident and believing in our brand, and hopefully, we really do, because that’s what we want to do business with.
If somebody is like, “Oh, yes, I really care about my business, it’s okay.” You’re not going to hire that person.
Josh: I think we do decent work.
Josh: I can’t remember what marketing message’s out there that are like, good isn’t good enough or something, it’s just like you need more than just good enough.
Teresa: Yes, and you want like that impression makes such a difference, I still remember somebody I met about 10 years ago, and I feel bad but I had seen her written up for her work, I won’t say what she does, and I met her at networking and I recognized her name. I’m like, “Oh, I heard that you won this award from this publication.” She’s like, “Oh, I didn’t think you would know me, usually people don’t know me.” It just killed it, like I’m telling you that you got- what is it? Reader’s Choice or something like that, that’s a big deal step into it.
I think she felt uncomfortable with that, but when we’re networking and in inner marketing, we want to show up and representing our brand at its best.
Josh: Yes, for sure.
Teresa: I just, thought of a story from a couple of days ago that kind of relates.
Josh: Yes, go for it.
Teresa: Okay, so I had an online event a couple of days ago. There’s somebody who normally, is super confident, and just shines, expert in what he does. He ended up not coming to the event and he followed and I thought he was just– he was so self-aware, he said, “I had a rotten day, I had something awful happen with a client, and I knew I wouldn’t show up at my best.”
He did so many things right. He knew himself well enough to know that he wasn’t going to represent his brand and himself in the way he wanted to. He knew it was going to be a disservice for the people he’d connect with. Then the other really good thing he did that some people overlook in their networking is realizing that the organizer is part of the network too.
To have that connection with me and follow up, built his reputation versus diminishing it because he told me what was going on, and it made me care about him and his business more and think this guy’s got integrity. It’s a little example of being self-aware of how you’re showing up. Sometimes we don’t have great days, there are days where I’m like, “Okay, I’m feeling low energy.”
Do some jumping and jacks or whatever, listen to music that gets me in the right mood just power through it. Once I do that, something switches, and all of a sudden, I am actually in a good mood, so yes, use some tricks too.
Josh: That’s cool, so that’s a segue, the last topic I wanted to touch on in this talk with you was, your latest book, Enjoy the Small Things, so you’ve got workbooks and journals and charts around 50 fun things. I think this is a good segue, what made you want to develop that program and write that book?
Teresa: Yes, the book developed after the program. The program was about imagining 50 fun things, little and big that you want to invite into your life and what connections you want to invite to be part of that. It creates huge self-awareness and clarity and connection. It’s a resiliency tool, it helps give people something hopeful to look forward to in this past year for myself, I noticed that it’s what kept me going, I got to just find some small things that are keeping me going. I’ll just show you, these 50 Fun Things, Enjoy the Small Things. This book was in response to people saying, okay, so you help us come up with our own 50 fun things for themselves but what are 50 fun little things you can do to just quickly turn your day around?
It’s filled with little simple things you can do, just turn your day around with action steps and reflections. It came out last January, right before everything hit.
Teresa: I was so grateful too, because I use my own tool. I developed the tools for myself, and other people are finding value. Yes, it’s about finding that joy and connection. There’s even a presentation I give on the joy of connecting. I walk people through if you shift some of the conversation strategies with people, your connections can be really quick and powerful, and then have that level of care by focusing on what lights you up and getting the other person to share what lights them up. There’s something about sharing joy, that that connects us as humans.
Josh: Yes, now, that’s awesome. I want you to sign off with a piece of advice. In my world, marketers, and in the agency world in general, you’re managing a lot of different accounts, you’ve got a lot of work. I think, especially in the last year, feeling somewhat isolated. There’s just a lot of pressure and stress. I think it’s been compounded probably with COVID. Do you have a piece of advice for marketers? If so, what would it be for people feeling that pressure and stress?
Teresa: Yes, I think my advice is not only for marketers is for everybody, but when we’re feeling that stress to look for what’s going right. If things feel like they’re really not going right, then a simple question you can ask yourself is, “Okay, how can I make this more fun?” There’s got to be a way. Here’s another playful thing that I do, is sometimes if someone is [unintelligible 00:28:06] like no, this is just not fun at all. This is also silly, but I just like, tell myself, I’m just this little robot, I just need to do my stuff. Then when I’m done, I can experience something better good or reward myself.
We need to attend to that side of ourselves. It’s not just like in the grind, work, work, work, but like, okay, what’s going right? There’s no way to focus on those things, and what could make it more fun? Maybe it’s even thinking about, okay, what do I appreciate about what this job or this is bringing to me, how it supports me or my family, or the connections that I have that appreciate that maybe are going super great in this moment, but in general, are valuable? That’s a philosophical way of looking at it.
Josh: No, I think that’s great. I definitely will say, okay, this is a task, I just need to get done. I may not be able to find the fun in it. I’m going to work on this until this point, and then I’m going to get up and I’m going to go make myself a really nice cup of coffee and look out the window for five minutes or whatever, right?
Teresa: It can be little like that, but because of what we do is we like we go, go, go, go, go and we don’t refuel, and then we’re not good to anybody.
Josh: Most importantly, we’re not to ourselves, right?
Teresa: No, exactly. We’re not good to ourselves. It affects those around us, so yes, we need to take care of ourselves.
Josh: Cool. Well, let’s end on that note. That was awesome. Episode 14 of Augurs on the Town with Teresa Thomas, thank you so much.
Teresa: Thank you, Josh.