How to Power-up Your Networking

As you read this on Sunday, I should be driving toward my first visit to an area that Conde Nast Traveler magazine describes as “one of the most beautiful places in Ireland”: County Donegal.

Under Letterkenny’s towering spire of St. Eunan’s Cathedral and near the rushing water of the River Swilly, I will be privileged to join a group of other industry experts sharing our stories with business leaders during the kick-off to Local Enterprise Week on Monday.  Thanks, Brenda and Eve Anne for inviting me to give a keynote and purposeful communications workshop for this LEO conference.

Sharing stories is a vital part of business communications. Charts and graphs for projected sales targets can be dull and uninspiring. Lectures about new HR policies can lull teething babies to sleep. A company’s visions, strategies and goals only come to life when they’re linked to a compelling, often personal, story.

And how do we best share stories? Face-to-face, of course, as part of that over-used, yet essential business buzzword we’re going to focus on today called, “networking.” 

  1. The importance of ongoing networking

Why network? I spoke with Conor Morris, Managing Director of Ireland’s Executive Institute.  As with the Local Enterprise Offices around the country, facilitating networking is a commitment of the Executive Institute which arranges several events around Dublin and Cork.

“Networking is terribly important,” Conor explains. “You can learn from other organisations that have already faced a challenge you may be facing.  We also run a CEO series.  It can be lonely at the top and they rarely seek support form their own colleagues. If you’re a senior leader, you may meet another senior leader who can help you to not feel alone in your struggle.”

  1. Networking for younger professionals

If you’re not a manager or a CEO, don’t stop reading.  Networking is not reserved for seasoned professionals. In fact, earlier this week, I had a great conversation with an actress in her twenties who recently moved back to Ireland after years in the off-Broadway scene in New York.  Now based in Cork, she’s eager to expand her reach to Dublin, so she enrolled for a night class on Thursdays. When I recommended that she leverage Thursday afternoons in Dublin as a strategic time to meet with theatre professionals, she was initially surprised.

“Oh! I had planned to have a lie-in during the day,” she admitted.  “Nope!” I kindly admonished. “Instead you’ll reach out to loads of Dublin contacts to let them know you’re available for meetings during the day of your class.”

Conor agrees, “Networking is like a pension; you need to start early.  The more you invest in your twenties, the more you’ll have in your thirties and the same for your forties and into your fifties.” Speaking of continuing to network, I must point out that I was introduced to Conor through a mutual contact last month.  When we met, he reminded me that my own commitment to networking could be powered up.  Upon Conor’s suggestion, I attended a networking event the next week and met several new and interesting people. It is always a thrill to do so.

But back to networking strategies for you, er, younger professionals.  I know some of you might feel intimidated at the thought of attending a function and initiating a conversation.  Conor offers this advice: “Ask open-ended questions. ‘What speaker have you come to hear?’ What business are you in?’ Express a sincere interest in what the other person is saying. Remember that my most interesting topic is actually me and the more you ask me about myself, the more interesting I think you are.”

  1. Online or In-person?

Perhaps you as the young professional will contend that social media networking has replaced the in-person version.  Conor disagrees. “I’m active on social, but in reality, I find physical networking much more effective.”

Likewise, while I post regularly on Linked In and Instagram, nothing beats a group of real human beings when I want to roll out a new inter-active leadership communications exercise or brainstorm about a trend in professional development approaches.

As Conor says, “We will become obsolete if we don’t reinvent ourselves. You must be able to show an employer that you have a keen interest in staying relevant and keeping up to date.”

  1. Women and networking

Unless it’s a specific event aimed at female professionals, I have never been to a networking function with more women in attendance than men. In keeping with those lower participant numbers, Conor confides that he regularly needs to ask a whopping four times more women to speak just to get equal representation at their conferences.  “I would be very much encouraging women to speak more, to prioritize it more,” he urges.

No matter your age, your seniority or your gender, it’s time to capitalise on your next networking event.

Conor sums up: You’re either a sponge or you’re a stone. The world is changing much quicker than it’s ever changed in the past.  You need to be a sponge to survive. Stones sink to the bottom.”


In honour of International Women’s Day, look forward to inspiring stories from some top female leaders.

Write to Gina in care of  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

Be Driven

When planning a trip to Napa Valley recently, a helpful friend who had already traveled there gave me a tip on her favourite vineyard excursion.  “The best tour of California’s wine country,” she declared with utter certainty, “is to be driven.”

I thought about her statement for a minute. Not about the obvious need to acquire someone who isn’t going to be tasting a wide variety of potent potables to sit behind the steering wheel on my behalf, but about the need to be driven throughout one’s career, business and life in general.

  1. Be driven.

Successful leaders often describe their top three characteristics as being “passionate, committed and driven.”  Self-motivation, however, is tough.  It’s no wonder that a University of Scranton study found only 8pc of people who made a New Year’s resolution were able to meet their goal.  Ouch. Does that ring true with you? We’re only in February, but have you already given up? I find one of the best “self”-motivators is to get out of yourself and actively connect with others.

How fitting, then, that the person I’ve decided to connect you with today to share  communication tips and experiences to keep you driven is Justine McGovern, Director of the California Wine Institute UK and Ireland? Justine helps California and Napa Valley exporters get their wines represented and promoted while at the same time helping importers sell the wine when it’s here. She’s truly a driven connector.  Who points out that she doesn’t drive solo.

“Every single part of my day involves relationships. I couldn’t achieve anything without having strong communications with some of the greatest people in the wine trade,” Justine told me this past week from her home outside Dublin.

  1. Be the initiator.

Like with that Napa Valley driver I clearly must hire, I can’t expect helpful people to magically come to me. I need to reach out. First. Likewise, when Justine travels to large trade shows, it’s crucial that she instigates contacts and actively builds her network.

“When I was first put in this market, I didn’t know anyone in the UK. Nobody. At first it was discouraging because everyone knew everyone else there. But step by step, piece by piece, I really made some great friends and now it feels like overnight,” she said.

  1. Be nice.

But how to get started? Well, the morning I wrote this column, I led a video training session for a group of sales executives in Australia.  We were discussing “opening lines” for networking events and some of the best are the simplest.  Try smiling, extending your hand and saying, “Good morning, I’m fill-in-the-blank, how are you?”  Obviously, if it’s an afternoon or evening event, adjust your time accordingly.

Justine advised, “Just be nice. The great thing about it is it makes up heaps of time. I’m naturally sociable, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not daunted by some situations and have to try as well. Every single day, I can be many things. I can be grouchy or whatever. But you have to smile at people in life. In the grocery store, for example, I smiled at the girl at the counter and I told her about my busy day and she shared hers. We had a little moment. The little moments add up. You can expand this positivity into your work.”

Be in-person.

The married mother of three young children underscored the importance of in-person meetings. “To me, email is just an admin function.” Justine stated. “You just get through it. But to truly solidify relationships, you must get face-to-face with people. It can’t all happen on video calls. You have to go meet them.” 

“Every day I use the telephone, video links. Zoom video conferencing and Skype because what is fundamentally important is talking to people and when you can, seeing and meeting them,” Justine said.

Be attentive.

From opportunities to pay a compliment to opportunities to support, when you get out of yourself you will observe people in ways others may overlook.

“Pay people compliments,” Justine said, “It can go a long way. If you’re compliments are genuine, you often pick out something of the person that means the most to them. Be it earrings, style of clothing, haircuts.”

“Also, when there’s a group dynamic, pay close attention. Once, when we brought a group to California, there was a young woman who seemed a little distant, who didn’t appear to be fully joining in.  I noticed that when everyone was stepping up to a counter to order coffee, she said she didn’t want one. I said, ‘I’ll buy you one’ and then she felt comfortable enough to tell me she had forgotten her wallet and hadn’t wanted to tell anyone.”

For Justine, switching her focus to others, trying even when she felt uncertain, and reaching out first, not only allowed her to connect with people and make important relationships, it also put her squarely in the, you guessed it, driver’s seat of her career.


What’s the difference between employee communications and executive communications? I talk to the head of Ireland’s Executive Institute to find out.


Write to Gina in care of  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

How to Sell Yourself Better

Are you employed in direct sales? If so keep reading. Are you not directly involved in sales? If so, definitely keep reading.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a college student, unemployed and looking for a job, a mom (or mum) about to re-enter the workforce or a top executive in that coveted corner office of a multi-national company, each of us is in the business of selling ourselves each and every day.

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink summed it up in his book To Sell Is Human, when he wrote, “at every opportunity you have to move someone – from traditional sales, like convincing a prospect to buy a new computer system, to non-sales selling, like persuading your daughter to do her homework.”

Understanding that fundamentally shifts the way you look at yourself and your interactions with others.

For more on the topic, I turned to veteran salesperson David Tumulty to share the secrets he’s learned after nearly three decades of success in the business.  From car insurance to call centers to IT solutions, David’s sold it all.  He’s currently a recruitment consultant in the construction and civil engineering sector for Duttons Recruitment based in the UK and serving across Europe. See if you can apply even one of his tips to help you better move yourself and others.

  1. Focus on communications

“Communications is the key to sales,” David told me by phone this past week from his home in Cardiff. “Verbal and non-verbal.  Communication is the difference between selling or not selling. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

I firmly agree with that statement as a fundamental principle. But what are some thee more specific traits or strategies you can apply to effectively communicate?

  1. Focus on the pause

In the area of communications, listening skills are huge. But we’re not talking about active listening here, instead we’re talking about actively taking a moment to let a silence settle in between you and the other person. David explains it this way, “Someone told me many years ago, that a pause of more than four seconds makes people feel very uncomfortable.  They will want to break the silence and say something and what they say next can be very telling for the sale.”

To use Daniel Pink’s example, imagine you’re negotiating with your daughter about homework (something I’m a bit familiar with with Lulu, my 12-year-old). If you ask her to suggest a time that she’ll begin her homework or ask her to suggest how long she’ll work on her book report for the evening and then jump in with your own ideas before she has a chance to make her offer, how successful will you be?  Likewise, if you’re preparing to discuss a price or a solution, ask the question of the other person first, then wait.

David suggests that during this time of silence or pause, the person who is first to break the silence is likely the one who will lose control of the negotiation. “You should be doing about 30 percent of the chatting and the other person should be doing about 70,” David recommends. “As the old adage says, ‘We have two ears, but only one mouth.’”

  1. Focus on Mirroring

Daniel Pink’s book refers to a Dutch study that found servers who mimicked their customers’ styles and behaviours earned more tips than those who did not.  If a group of diners are dressed in suits or smart dresses and behaving formally, then the waiter should interact in a similar business-like manner. If, on the other hand, the waiter meets a buoyant group on a family reunion, a more laid-back and familiar approach will likely work better.

David agrees. “When you’re meeting someone face to face, mirror their body language.  If they put their hand lightly on your shoulder, you can do that too.” Same thing with speaking style.  “I speak to a lot of builders,” he goes on. “If one of them says, ‘Dave, Mate….’ and proceeds to talk about football, I will probably also call him ‘Mate’ at the end of the call. But if he calls me Mr Tumulty, I will call him ‘Mr’ or ‘Sir’ throughout.”

  1. Focus on the objection

Imagine what objection your daughter may raise when you bring up the dreaded subject of homework. Now imagine what your boss may say when you bring the notion of a pay rise. Or, as David explained to me, imagine the objection a decision-maker may have if you’re making an cold call.  “The number one thing they’ll say is that they don’t have enough time, so I do the salutation and move right in with, ‘I know you’re really busy and so am I. That’s why I’ll make this really quick.’ It’s really powerful because you already have identified and acknowledged their objection first.”

By focusing on the pictures in the other person’s head first: their reluctance toward silence, their mood and mannerisms, their possible objections, you will accelerate the speed with which you can close the sale, get the job or, perhaps best of all, complete the homework.


You won’t have anything to whine about, but you might discover something to happily wine about as I interview Justine McGovern, the Dublin-based director of the California Wine Institute UK.



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What is a leader?

I was in a hotel conference room working with nearly a dozen top executives from a variety of companies.  We were discussing the various behaviours, attributes and communication strategies that leaders can purposefully deploy to better motivate and engage their employees.  One of the participants looked up for a moment from his workbook and remarked, almost casually, “I don’t feel like a leader.”

After the workshop, I called over to Clarke Facades, a company that has steadily grown from a plaster and flooring business when Michael Clarke founded it in the 1980s - to an innovative engineering organization now headed  by eldest son, Eugene, the very same person who previously mentioned he did not “feel like a leader”, and asked to talk to him.

Eugene graciously agreed to share his thoughts which I hope will also resonate with you. Although he’s been in the top position at Clarke Facades for five years, this married father of three young children had not fully transferred the mantle of leader onto himself, because he was still picturing an old style of leadership in his mind.

What was the old-style leader?

“I suppose there’s a leader avatar,” Eugene said to me, “of a person with loads of grey hair and loads of charisma who is authoritarian and likes to hear themselves speak. I think of old World War II leaders or Napoleon. When I compare myself to that, well, I’m relatively young, I’m not a social animal, I’m quite reserved. I am relatively humble, and I don’t rule with an iron fist.”

Does that sound like you? I wonder what you see when you close your eyes and imagine a “leader.” There are as many different definitions as there are different human examples.

To me, a leader, is an influencer. I don’t mean someone with a zillion followers on Instagram. But someone whose words and actions can positively – or negatively – impact a person or group of people. You don’t become a leader when you have a multitude of people under you. You are a leader simply when you are conscious that you do influence people and take ownership of how you influence.

Therefore, each of us has the capacity to become a leader.  From the way we influence our colleagues to our children to ourselves.

The question becomes one of what type of influencer or leader are we? Are we the old “command and control” style that Eugene was picturing? Or are we something new?

What are the traits of a new-style, positive leader?

“I think my style of leadership,” Eugene considered aloud with me, “stems from a deeper sense of purpose.  For instance, we use our family name on our business and that’s because it means something. It stands for our integrity and it’s why I come to work every day.”

What is your sense of purpose? Does your name mean something to you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Asking these kinds of questions can help you determine what you stand for as a leader.

  1. Discipline

For Eugene, actively demonstrating discipline every day is important to him as a leader. “On Saturdays, for instance, I might want to kick back, but you know there’s a piece of work that needs to be done, so I turn the TV off. It’s doing the right thing, when no one is looking.”

Eugene and I agree self-discipline needs to conquer our self-indulgence. We may feel like watching TV and think that will make us happy, but in the long-run self-control and getting the job done will provide more fulfillment.

  1. Gratitude

“Next on my list,” Eugene reported, “would be gratitude. I praise twice and criticise once. If I actively praise my seven-year-old, she will jump up and down and if I give out to her, she looks all down-hearted. So, I try to catch my employees ‘doing it right’ which encourages them to do it more.”

  1. Grit

I suppose the other big leadership quality personal for me would be ‘grit’”, Eugene said. “This is the ability to sort out troubles and difficulties, even if it’s really painful or you’re not feeling it. Don’t leave it. It will create more hassle. Don’t kick the can down the road.”

  1. Appearance and Punctuality

Eugene capped his list with these two important traits. Arriving on time shows you value the other person as does taking pride in your appearance.

“I once met one of my competitors and he was so badly dressed it gave a bad impression. But he was a competitor, so I was glad!” Eugene joked.

All joking aside, John Maxwell, whom Inc. Magazine lists as the top leadership and management expert in the world, has described a leader as someone “who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Eugene therefore, is clearly a modern-day leader. So, too, can be you.


Whether we have a “Sales Executive” title or not, each of us is always selling something. I’ll talk to a couple of top salespeople to discover strategies you can apply in any situation.


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With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon