Living in the Fast Lane

Monday 15 August, 2011

In the lead-up to this year’s Warrane Ball, residents were given a survival guide in social skills by Business Consultant Deanna Lane. Speaking to a packed main common room on Wednesday, August 10, Deanna treated the residents to an “interpersonal skills and communication” talk that she has been giving to businessmen and women for many years.

At the outset, she noted that a Harvard study found that the choice of applicants for jobs was based 85 per cent on a person’s interpersonal skills. “Social intelligence is important,” she said, “because getting ahead in life is based on how you get on with other people, so it is very important to understand how we are perceived - how people form an impression of us.”

Deanna is Managing Director of Braddock Lane and Associates, a specialist business consulting firm with 20 years experience in business development, marketing, communication and professional development training programs. Among its clients are financial institutions, top tier law firms, accounting firms, actuaries, industry associations and architects/engineering firms.

Among the tips Deanna gave residents were pointers on how to remember names, how to control your nerves and how to make an impression in the first 30 seconds.

“Fifty percent of the impression you make is based on how you look and how you walked into the room,” she said. “It is crucial that you shake a person’s hand firmly and around 40 percent of the impression you make is based on the tone of your voice. Only 10 per cent is based on the words you actually say.” Deanna said it was very important when meeting someone you want to impress to understand whether they are “left brain” or “right brain” - that is whether they think in a logical linear way , like a computer programmer, or whether they were ideas people who look for the “big story”.

It was also important not only to say who you are and what your role is in the organisation you work for, but also to explain what you “really do” in terms of the outcomes you aim to achieve in your work. Explaining why you love what you do and what led you to do it also helps to make a lasting impression. “Another thing that can help people to remember you is to say one thing you want to be recognised or famous for,” she said.

On the question of remembering names, she said it helps to look into the person’s eyes while they are telling you their name and to use the name right after meeting them.

“Also, shake their hand,” she said, “and shake it firmly - if you have a weak handshake people will think you are timid.”

On controlling nerves, she said it was all about breathing: “When you feel yourself getting nervous take three deep, slow breaths,” she said. “If you are speaking at a rostrum tell yourself beforehand that you will be perfectly relaxed when you get up there and when you do get there pause before you begin to speak, relax and make yourself heard.

Deanna gave some advice on using new technology such as email (never send off an angry response to anyone) and Facebook (always be very careful to vet what is uploaded onto your page, particularly by friends). On social drinking, she suggested always having a glass of water between drinks.

Common mistakes people make in a social setting include: not paying attention to the person speaking, turning your body away from the speaker, holding a drink in the right hand, standing too close to a person and speaking too loudly.

One last tip: “The secret to being a good conversationalist is to listen well to the other person.”

(Photos from the event are available here. A podcast is available here or through Warrane's iTunes Channel)

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