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  • She Says

International Protocol Consultant, Shital Mehra, Talks About Converting Contact To Contract

  • IWB Post
  •  September 11, 2015


Yesterday’s sunny afternoon was quite an eventful and enlightening one for the women of FICCI FLO Jaipur Chapter! And it was so because of two noteworthy reasons.

One, FICCI FLO Jaipur Chapter launched its business consultancy cell under the name ‘Swayam’, which aims to empower and assist aspiring women entrepreneurs.18

Second, a workshop: ‘Converting Contact to Contract’ was organized to mark the instigation of the ‘Swayam’ initiative.10

Contact and Contract, two different words with almost similar spellings… the ‘r’ makes all the difference. That ‘r’ could quite aptly stand for ‘revenue’. Just saying.17

The lady of the hour, delivering the seminar, was Mrs. Shital Kakkar Mehra, who is India’s leading business etiquette and international protocol consultant. She is the best-selling author of a book which has gained international fame: ‘Business Etiquette: A Guide for the Indian Professional’. Also, she is the Founder of “International School of Corporate Etiquette & Protocol”.21

Whoa! Keep your notepads handy, ladies! Her tips and tricks you wouldn’t want to miss, and I speak that now with experience!26

Mrs. Mehra began the ‘talk’ with the basic question: Why network?

  • Plug into your industry: She insisted us all to be a part of some professional association relating to our respective fields. Said that this helps one stay updated on the ins and outs of the industry.23
  • Referral networks: Because one tells the other and the other tells more others. And the ripple keeps expanding.
  • Accelerate professional development: The world sees you coming, through networking. Hell yeah!

She launched her next question at the audience: Why do women not network?3

And there ran a murmur wave in the hall! A lot of women countered by saying, they do network. To which, Mrs. Mehra replied with another question, ‘How many of you are on Facebook?’

Almost everybody raised their hands.

‘How many of you are on LinkedIn?’

Hardly a dozen of hands were up.7

And her point struck everybody like a freight train. We are all networking socially, but how many of us actually network professionally?

And so, now one of the ladies in the audience answered, “Maybe it is because of the superiority complex that women do not network much.” Hear what Mrs. Mehra had to say on women NOT networking.23

  • They don’t make time: We Indian women always have truckloads of tasks to do. Networking always gets pushed down to the end of the list.
  • Fear of rejection: Unlike men, women are really uncomfortable with the word ‘No’. They take the rejection part bit too personally. Time to disconnect with the word ‘No’ ladies!
  • Pushy/Aggressive: We think if we are the ones who initiate the conversation, we may come across as very pushy and aggressive persons. Time to debunk that myth and step out of your comfort zones ladies!36

Things to do…

  • Build your online presence: What is the first thing you do when you want to know about someone? You google them! Polish your online presence. Get comfortable with technology or you’ll be left behind.
  • To NOT be your own worst critic: Very often we undermine ourselves by letting our insecurities weigh us down. Please don’t let that happen. Here’s a trick: Conquer your hesitation by practicing on strangers. Communicate with random people, bellboys, waiters, etc.39
  • Carry business cards: Trick number 2: Business cards are good conversation starters. They help you make through the first and most difficult 15 seconds of small talk with strangers.
  • Add value to the network: Networking is like banking. To withdraw something, you must deposit something first.
  • Elevator pitch: Is the brief time you spend in an elevator with other people. Strike a conversation with them so you will be mentally prepared what to talk about when you bump into someone unexpectedly.43
  • Share a common topic in the conversation: I am going to tell you all a secret. Everybody loves to talk about themselves. Talking about the other is the best way to start a conversation.
  • Do your homework: We Indians have never liked homework. Ever. But it is important to do a little research about the person you are going to meet so that you can ask better questions, and deliver good answers.

Eye contact. Check. A good handshake. Check. Well-dressed. Check. Business cards. Check. And you’re good to go for your professional networking.49

Things to NOT do…

  • Don’t stay with familiar people always: Stop sticking around with the same five people. You’ll never be able to make contacts otherwise. Meet new people , interact with as many as you can.
  • Don’t be a bar/buffet buddy: Again, don’t be glued to the bar or buffet always.
  • Don’t fidget: Humans pay more attention to what they see than to what they listen. Yeah, we are designed that way. If you will move around a lot, or fidget too much, that will divert people from what you are speaking. Stay still.
  • Don’t talk about… : Personal things. Cost of things. Gossip. Health/Dietary habits. Off color or controversial jokes. This is a big NO. Trust me, people dining together don’t wish to know whether or not you are allergic to mushroom, and what mushroom does to you. No. Don’t talk about that!35

Everything and anything in the world needs networking. The only exceptions to the rule are the technology fields or monopoly fields. With them it’s more like, take it or leave it!

Roadblocks to networking?

  • We Indians have grown up listening to ‘Don’t talk to strangers. They can harm you.’ Come on! I don’t see how interacting with the 200 ladies in this room will lead me to being kidnapped!
  • We always want to be introduced first: Guess what? The person next to you is also waiting for someone to introduce them. Why not just make the move and introduce your own selves.

Just as the session was coming to an end, she welcomed our queries, like a good speaker.32

One amongst the audience was a bit confused on what to go for? Honesty or Diplomacy?

Mrs. Mehra: If it is a toss between the two, I’d suggest you to pick diplomacy.

Another question of the day, which was, well, all befitting: You’ve guided us on how to build networks. But how to stay in a network?

Mrs. Mehra: It takes effort. Keep in touch with people. Try to remember snippets from the last conversation. This helps a lot and lets you build deeper bonds. Another trick: Save the birthdates of people in your phone calendar. And wish them. People always remember the people who wish them on their birthday!28

I couldn’t agree more! That’s really quite a useful trick! Ladies, I hope you’re all taking notes. As the Q & A round progressed, one question popped in my head too.

Humor and satire are very often used to start conversations. But more often, they backfire. To use or not use them?34

Mrs. Mehra: Humor and satire are definitely good conversation starters in a lot of cultures. But with us Indians, the problem is that we cannot take humor! We don’t tolerate it well so to be on the safe side, refrain from using them.

Other than this discussion, Mrs. Mehra also spoke about the power of pauses and smiles. She narrated one incident of her own.26

“Earlier I used to smile and laugh back too much at events or meetings. So at one of the MNCs, a manager came up to me and asked, Ma’am do people ask you a lot for discounts and concessions? Surprised, I said yes. He said that’s because you smile too much. So, the next time onwards I wore a serious face to meetings and guess what? The guy was right. Nobody asked me for discounts. People don’t take you seriously if you fiddle too much.”47

And we took our lesson from her experience. She concluded the session on the note, “You can come from any part of the world and become big.”52

While all the women were getting their copies of Mrs. Mehra’s bestseller book autographed, I got a chance to go up on stage and interact. It was a warm feeling chatting with her and she seemed genuinely excited to be meeting, or should I say, ‘networking’ with all the ladies of FLO Jaipur Chapter.46 I had some questions in mind and the warm and elegant personality of this woman clad in black saree made me feel that this was worthy of another story. Stay around the corner for more…

Picture Courtesy: Pallav Bhargava

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