What We Can Learn from a Natural Connector
By Liese Gardner
Someone once said that the greatest pick up line of all time is “Hello.” True isn’t it? That first step toward communication is so difficult and yet can be so rewarding. Although today, as people look up less and less from digital devices to even say hello, we are on the verge of losing the art of conversation.
An article in the New York Times recently called The Flight from Conversation talked about how we now take “sips” of conversation on line. Face-to-face conversation has become intimidating. “In conversation,” the writer says, “We are called upon to see things from another person’s point of view. Face-to-face conversations unfold slowly. It teaches patience.”
There is hope, of course. At an event last week I noticed that everyone was patiently discovering one another. No one was typing. Not a Tweet nor a Facebook post went out until after the event. Everyone was engaged in the moment of being. The fact that I even noticed that no one was Tweeting is perhaps more telling than anything.
Moving through the crowd with ease was a new face to this event industry crowd; that of Harwood “Woodie” Hamilton. He looked familiar, and instantly felt like an old friend. That’s his gift. If the news is that there is a flight from conversation going on in the world today, Hamilton hasn’t heard it. With the personality of a “connector,” communication is his stock in trade.
An ex boxer who has parlayed a lifetime of the physical into a profession of the verbal, Hamilton now is in the business of community relations, building strategic and creative partnerships between companies and people.
“In the process of promoting my own gym,” he explains, “And later as a private trainer listening to the ups and downs of my clients’ lives, I discovered that I had a knack for connecting with people.”
At the event where I met him — Haute Tea with E (Eddie Zaratsian’s annual tea party) — Hamilton was representing one of his clients, Tikkun, a spa in Santa Monica, to the wedding planning market. We all knew the space. Under a different ownership, it was “Ground Zero” of Los Angeles’ spa culture years ago. As we all chatted about our recent projects, he brought up the spa. In a very genuine, understated way, he invited myself and others to come in and experience it, complimentary. Certainly, that’s nothing new in marketing. What was new, at least to me, was that the next day – not the next week or month as so often happens — he called each person and then followed up with an e-mail to make good on that offer and tell them how to make their reservation.
“The phone is so much more personal,” Hamilton says. “It’s hard to say no to someone on the phone.” Or in person. What Hamilton does many nights of the week at various events for clients is like cold calling on steroids. It takes finesse and an understanding of the crowd. For instance, facing a group of wedding and event professionals is a lot different than a group of corporate suits.
“In the case of corporate events, I always go with someone who knows someone there and can make the introductions,” he says. But there have been times that he’s been left to fend for himself. “In that case, I fall back on some lessons I learned from boxing. In the ring, someone has to make the first move. So I do. In my heart I feel I have to interact and make the first move. I feel it’s what I need to do to properly me forward in some shape or fashion.” And all it takes to move forward, for anyone, anywhere, is simply to say hello and be open to the possibilities.
Lessons from a Connector
by Woodie Hamilton
+Look for a friendly face, smile and say hello.
+Find a way to interject a comment or a compliment.
+Try to find another connector who can make introductions.
+Understand the crowd and what they will respond to.
+Take the connection further by offering some sort of invitation and then follow through.
+Phone first, then e-mail.
+Create evangelists. For instance, the exercise brand LuluLemon makes top yoga instructors ambassadors who become evangelists for it — extending the brand and the conversation about their clothes directly into the yoga studio.
+Remember that connections take place on many planes — verbal, intuitive, cerebral and physical (a handshake, an appropriate touch).
+Always listen to what the needs are of the other person and find away to connect them to someone you may know.
+Be yourself. When you are genuine it shows, establishing trust.
+People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
+The energy we share is everything; keep love in your heart when talking to someone new or entering a room where you might now know anyone.
+Understand that once you help enough people get what they want, that in time you’ll get what you want. Be patient.
+Think of the world as a connection tool, be it a gym, restaurant, airport, or line at the post office.
+Finally … never, ever give up! Remember Abraham Lincoln meet temporary defeat very early in his life countless times, but diligently moved forward and kept a burning desire for his vision to succeed.