Browsing the archives for the networking tag.

My Top 10 World Quality Takeaways – #WCQI16


FullSizeRender (2)ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement has once again come and gone, this year celebrating 70 years of quality in Milwaukee, the association’s current headquarters.

I think this is my 7th WCQI, or at least that’s how many badges I’ve retained.  This year, as ASQ reflected on seven decades, I considered my own journey. I was inspired to see a local quality superstar, Ken Stephens, acknowledged for over 60 WCQIs. I have a long way to go!

The first few years of attending WCQI, I did so to gain more knowledge about quality because it was the industry I worked in. I also thought networking among the community would be good for both my personal and professional endeavors.

As the years went on, I continued to get inspired to be one of the people you notice walking around the show either presenting or participating as an obvious part of the member-driven association leadership. When a good friend of mine asked me to consider a position as our local section’s Education Chair a few years ago, I saw the value of ASQ and my experience at WCQI go up significantly.

You miss a lot at WCQI as just a passive observer.  You’d be misled to believe the key value of the show includes what you learn from the sessions. Underneath is a close community of like-minded individuals that participate and make ASQ what it is. Participation is mandatory here.

My top 10 takeaways from this year’s WCQI include:

  1. It is such an honor to return again as a speaker at this event. For real. I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive about my time slot coinciding with a local tour, but I was relieved to see a good number of people attend. Connecting personal wellness and quality tools was personal. It was cathartic.
  2. There is never enough time to spend with everyone you want to at this annual event! Throughout the year, I connect with so many seemingly wonderful quality professionals that I look forward to spending time with. But, it goes by so quickly. When I do see a new face with a name I recognize, it’s always a joyful feeling and a welcome personal introduction.
  3. Hospitality suites must be managed carefully. I have yet to perfect attendance here.
  4. Exhibitor life is not nearly as fun as that of an attendee. I’ll just say it like it is.  Setting up a booth, hanging out in the booth and taking down the booth can at times seem daunting.  But, I’d be lying if I said talking to people that stop by doesn’t completely recharge me. This year, Pro QC generated some solid leads and added a few auditors to the team. The “<3 Quality” pins I had made were a hit! – I also worked the Social Responsbility Technical Community booth for a couple of hours. With limited resources, we really pulled together something that definitely helped spread the word. We collected ideas on a flip board that we’ll be following up with via the LinkedIn Group over the weeks to come.
  5. One person, or a small number of people, can really make a difference.  There are only a handful of us leading the SRTC currently, but we worked together to get a few minutes of time at the SAC meeting.  And, I believe we were successful in communicating the SR purpose and educating leadership on how their respective sections can make a difference within their own communities. That’s good stuff right there.
  6. I finally did OK with the ASQ TV taping.  For the past few years, I’ve been asked if I would like to participate in sharing a brief story with ASQ TV. But, this  is the first year where I think I’ve actually represented myself well. Laugh if you will, but that camera turns on and I get stupid. I challenge myself each time they ask because that’s who I am and it’s advice I give to others. So, I tried and tried and think I finally came up with something acceptable this year.  I’m taking props on that one. Personal win.
  7. The Tuesday evening networking event is a must-do. ASQ did such a great job this year getting attendees to and from the Harley Davidson Museum. It was a great environment to follow-up with a few of the people I had met earlier.  Dancing is always fun too, although my karaoke version of Son of a Preacher Man on the first evening did leave something to be desired.
  8. Milwaukee was a blast! Sure, it was chilly for a Florida girl… But, it is a beautiful city with a pretty good selection of local brew and a complementary local culture to match. I checked out the Wicked Hop and Bryant’s as local dives. Both were awesome!
  9. This is my first year volunteering with the Education Division. I recently stepped down from the local section and have gotten more involved here.  I’m so thankful for the new connections I’ve made, and I can’t wait for the Quality Education Conference & Workshop (QECW) coming up in November! I’m excited to be working with them on the conference and with social media in general. Check out our Twitter page for pics and posts from WCQI. Fun group! Great mission!
  10. Turkeys mating. Thanks for ruing the breast Dubner!  

Counting down to next year…

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Networking Skills that Work!


quote2I’ll be talking about networking this evening at HCC’s Institute for Corporate & Continuing Education and sharing some tips that I believe make the process fun and ultimately worth the effort.

So, I’m about as extroverted as you can get… Being an extrovert certainly makes it easy for me to talk to pretty much anyone. In fact, I love it! But, that doesn’t mean extroverts are expert networkers. It actually took me some time to master the art of listening, and it’s an ongoing process. Extroverts tend to dominate the conversation and not know when to be quiet. Introverts are quite different and tackle a whole other host of issues associated with networking.  They are not charged up by having to approach unknown people, and they tend to get quite anxious about the whole prospect of it.  Fortunately, a little planning and a few tips can go a long way to help either extroverts or introverts with this critical process.

“Ask any successful person and they will tell you that networking is a key element in moving one’s career forward. Your network is your networth. The art of developing powerful relationships can do wonders for one’s career and business.” ~Huffington Post – 5/24/14

Certainly, there’s no shortage of networking tips out there.  But, there are a few that I have found to be tried and true.

Craft an elevator pitch.

I think this is a crucial planning step because it ultimately prepares you for basic conversation about yourself without having the stress of articulating something on the spot.  Crafting an elevator pitch takes time because the goal is to be able to summarize “your story” in 30-60 seconds without sounding rehearsed or too generic.  Do a personal SWOT analysis as a way of organizing your thoughts. It’s a great introspective exercise anyway. Write, refine and rehearse until you’re comfortable and what you’ve got accurately expresses who you are and highlights your competitive advantage(s).

Plan for networking.

Whether it’s online networking or active on-site networking, determine how much time you can reasonably dedicate per month and organize your schedule accordingly.  Remember, we make time for what’s important! Resist only networking online. It’s worth it to get out there and attend some events.  Making eye contact and a personal introduction goes a long way. Get involved with a local association chapter that’s applicable to your career goals, or look for other specific networking events where people who have similar interests will all be there for the same reason.  Local Chambers of Commerce, colleges and others frequently host such events.  The Tampa Bay Business Journal even has a calendar of events that’s worth checking out. Corporate training organizations, such as ICCE, frequently host events as well.  The more you put yourself out there, the less stressful the experience becomes and the more successful you are at accomplishing your goals.

Remember: Networking is a continuous process. 

Don’t set expectations. 

I hear people talking about going to networking events and focusing on the number of people they want to connect with. Quality over quantity will win every time. Of course, I know the time you can dedicate to networking is limited so we want to maximize any resources.  But, go with the flow and refine your activities as you plan for future events.  If one doesn’t work out as planned, make the most of it while you’re there and attend a different event next time.

Arriving early or later?

There are two approaches here, and it depends on an individual’s comfort zone.  Arriving early or just as an event starts helps some people acclimate. Others feel more comfortable walking into the chaos of activity and blending into the crowd. Consider what works best for you to reduce nervousness.

Plan conversation starters in advance.

The elevator pitch certainly helps, but consider a few conversation starters.  Being prepared reduces the overall stress of the situation.  (Examples)

Smile… Smile… Smile

Smiling does more than make you look happy.  Research indicates that smiling actually releases neuropeptides that reduce stress.  Also, a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing a smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded. Considering that research also indicates smiling is contagious, it’s a win-win endeavor. (Source)

Listen more than you talk. Active listening is key.

As noted, this can be challenging for extroverts who tend to dominate conversations.  But, actively listening to someone else’s story ultimately reflects better on you. Show genuine interest in people, and you’ll find they are more responsive.

Personalize your interactions.

People love to feel special. They like the sound of their own name (and it helps you remember it when you say it too), and they usually enjoy talking about their passions and such. Finding out personal details about people lights up multiple areas of the brain and helps with the retention process. You’ll stand out and also have something distinguishable to discuss during follow-up. It also usually makes the conversation more interesting anyway.

“Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, brain activation patterns were examined in response to hearing one’s own first name in contrast to hearing the names of others. There are several regions in the left hemisphere that show greater activation to one’s own name, including middle frontal cortex, middle and superior temporal cortex, and cuneus. These findings provide evidence that hearing one’s own name has unique brain functioning activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others.” (Source

Plan your transitions in advance.

I see people finding their comfort zone with one or two people during an event, and I can’t help but think about all of the connections they’re missing out on.  Plan a transition strategy in advance to politely be able to move on to another person or group.  Even just being honest and saying that you’re excited to follow-up with them but want to go meet some other people works well.  Work the room and resist getting comfortable with someone you already know or have met and clicked with.  You can always arrange to have lunch or meet with them for a longer period of time later. If you’re there to network, network.

Follow-up and develop connections.

Networking isn’t finished after you’ve introduced yourself to people and exchanged contact information.  When exchanging business cards, take a moment to make a note about something personal about each person after speaking with them.  After the event, connect on LinkedIn.  And, set some time aside each week to reconnect or follow-up with people you’ve met. Use the personal information to help them remember you.

Remember: Networking is about creating relationships that are beneficial to all parties. It’s a good thing!

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Valentine’s Day Networking Opportunity – Kid Style


So, my son is in 4th grade now and this is probably the last year they’ll pass out Valentine’s cards.

When I asked him how the card exchange went at school, he noted that it was pretty uneventful.  He said they were given about 15 minutes to walk around and put cards in everyone’s bags.  This kind of bummed me out.

Next week in my management class, we’ll be doing a networking activity where students will rotate around the room and must introduce themselves and pass out a certain number of business cards.  I find this to be a critical skill in business, and I doubt many would disagree.

Isn’t Valentine’s Day a great opportunity to teach our kids something about networking?  Why not give them a few extra minutes to walk around and socialize with friends and new people in the class they may not have an opportunity to speak with often?  It’s fun for them, but it’s actually learning something useful as well.

As a sidenote, I did find the ultimate Valentine’s Day card that no quality assurance professional can resist:



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Professional development & social media… Connecting with quality


I just attended my first ASQ local section strategy meeting.  I’ve been Education Chair for a few months now and have gained a broader understanding of our membership during that time.

I’m surprised by the lack of engagement in social media, or the industry in general.  I don’t think we’ve quite succeeded yet in taking our passion for quality outside of our work. I do really like ASQ’s new Community site and think it will be a great way to get people started!  The great thing about quality is that the people into it are usually REALLY into it.  There just needs to be more of us…

Paul Borowski is talking about this in View From the Q this month.  He’s inquiring more from a perspective of wanting to know how people are staying connected and using social networks for professional development.  For the most part, I don’t think they are.  But, to be positive, I do see things changing.

Our section recently conducted a survey.  When asked about how members hear about upcoming meetings and other local activities, 78% indicated it is through the emailed notice.  The LinkedIn site received zero.

Our section does not have a Facebook page.  We’re not on Twitter and our LinkedIn group is a ghost town.  Why?

Sidenote: I don’t have an answer as to why, but we did outline some positive actions in the strategy session that should improve our engagement here over the next year.

I hate to say this, but I think the lack of engagement in general is largely related to what I found out about why people attend the meetings. While professional development is agreed to be a good thing, most of the people attending our local meetings are there to receive the ongoing certification credits.  The quality community is something that exists in their “work” lives.  It’s not a personal connection. This is what we need to change.  We need to make quality accessible to everyone as a “quality of life” passion rather than just a job, or just what they do.

My suggestions to students and others for maximum social media benefits for professional development includes:

1) Determine an amount of time each day or week that you can allocate for connecting with others in your field. Social media is passive networking.  It’s important.

2) Keep a current LinkedIn profile and actively develop connections by participating in industry groups.

3) Stay connected to major industry associations through your social media networks.

4) Develop a consistent online voice (brand) that allows you to share your knowledge with others while continuously improving through learning.



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Getting the most out of conferences & events


Reading Scott Rutherford’s latest post on surviving ASQ’s Word Conference on Quality and Improvement has left me with fond memories and a reminder that I’m really going to be missing out this year by not being able to attend!

So, next week, quality professionals from around the world will gather, network, learn and share ideas.  You can feel the passion the minute you enter the convention center.  Anyone that’s been there knows exactly what I mean.  It’s the place where quality is cool and the accepted idea that quality is pretty much everything rules the roost.

I’ve been involved with selecting and exhibiting at trade shows for many years now and think it’s quite fun.  Pro QC has always been supportive of me going to the ASQ events for professional development as well.  The ASQ events are hands-down my favorite.  The organizers obviously do a great job planning the speakers, after-hours opportunities, etc.  Speaking of, I actually came across Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk yesterday! 🙂

Whatever the show is, Scott really nails it on the preparation and planning in his post.  My suggestions through experience can be generalized for all shows and are similar:

You’re there to network.

Meeting people who share similar interests is awesome! While it may be easy to attach on to a small group, it’s important to manage your time and make sure you’re taking advantage of the face-to-face opportunity.  Even introverts can rest at ease knowing that everyone there has something in common.

Advice: Have personal business cards printed, in addition to your standard business cards.  

**I actually wrote an article about networking at events like this previously.

You’re there to learn.

Plan your time wisely and register for any seminars/workshops you want as soon as possible.  Listen-Listen-Listen.  I’ve always received either a physical and/or electronic copy of the content, so I try to really be present when I’m in the session.  I always have pen and paper but only write down insights or ideas.  There’s usually opportunities for questions as well, which can really help you customize the experience to get the most value.

Advice: I love concept mapping.  Lifehacker has a great article on note-taking covering various valuable options. 

Plan your day.  

Planning your day removes some of the chaos factor.  Get the venue layout and event schedule as soon as it’s available.

Advice: Actually put some thought into your attire. You’ll need clothing for walking around the event, after-hours functions, etc.  Really consider your shoe choice wisely, even if that seems silly… It only took one trade show wearing fancy heels for me to figure this one out. 

Summarize your day.

This may be a little too much for some.  But, as someone who enjoys writing anyway, I always make sure to summarize the day.  With so much going on and so many things to follow-up with when I get back, it’s important for me to kind of rehash my thoughts so that I can revisit them later and follow-up as necessary.  It takes the stress out of having to remember to remember.

Advice: Use social media if you can.  It’s a great way to “raise the voice” about your experience to others who are unable to attend.

Leave room.

Seriously, make sure you have room for all the stuff you’ll be bringing back.  Good one Scott!  Last year, my bag was crammed with all of the bookstore goodies.

Have fun!

Don’t get so wrapped up that you forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.

Follow all of the conference fun via Twitter – #wcqi13

My review of last year’s conference is here.

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