Of all the groups and organizations I’ve been exposed to or joined since my relocation, none of them have focused on the business side of what I want to do as a professional speaker, freelance writer, and soon-to-be author. That all changed in the past few days.
As a member of three Toastmasters clubs, I have plenty of opportunities to speak to and mentor folks who are interested in building more confidence with their abilities in public speaking—I actually have a new mentee who gave her first speech this week, and I’m proud of her. Most people I encounter in these clubs have the goal of enhancing their skills in new ways, say, as a trainer or in a sales or PR position where interacting with people publicly is a given. At a recent meeting we gave the agenda to speaker visiting us from another club, who is also a professional speaker and member of the National Speaker’s Association in Georgia (NSA GA). I was so glad to meet someone from NSA, because it has been a goal of mine for a few years of mine to become a professional speaker–I have topics and I’ve spoken in for many conferences and programs, but it’s all for free. She graciously invited me to an NSA GA meeting, and gave me a card to attend the morning session for free (which I did last weekend).
Upon arrival, I recognized her and a few other people who are also Toastmasters. I’m really excited about networking and being mentored by speakers who are in the business. The way another fellow dual Toastmasters/NSA member explained it to me, Toastmasters is about the ability to speak, whereas NSA is about the business of speaking. And your girl Daree wants to get paid!
The inspiration doesn’t stop there. I also decided to attend a networking/mixer event last night called “Talk & Taste.” Each event has a different theme, and the theme of the yesterday’s was, “The Writer’s Edition.” If that wasn’t a goal call for me, I don’t know what is. The event was for a good cause, with proceeds going to the Leadership Academy of 100 Black Men of America, DeKalb County chapter. I didn’t know anyone there, but I started chatting up folks from the parking lot! I was also glad that I brought my last 15 business cards with my old VA information on them so I can start fresh and anew. I also brought along my new Android phone, which I had just received an hour before I heading to the event. It allowed me to “check-in” to the venue, tweet about it, and take pics much more efficiently than my old joint.
It was awesome to have a room full of knowledgeable people–authors, publishers, and marketing professionals–great resources for a person like me on the verge of finishing her first book. A few authors had displays with their work; we talked, ate, exchanged cards, and got information. I always make it a point to write notes on their cards and connect through social media before the night is out, and I was able to do just that. And not everyone was an author, but everyone there had something to offer that I could use or contribute to in some way. Now I have new local contacts that I never had before with opportunities for us to help each other (networking is not one-sided): marketing and promotions, internet radio, womens’ entrepreneurial workshops, and exposure in local magazines (I plan to contribute ads and articles). Even make-up artists (your girl needs to update her headshot since my hair is gone J.) Clearly a great 2 1/2 hour investment (and since I registered online so my cost was only $5).
Speaking of time well spent, the event was scheduled from 6 to 9 pm, and my neighbor kept my daughter for me since the venue was less than 9 miles away. I planned to leave before 9 so she wasn’t up too long after her bedtime, but then the raffle was announced. Despite the turnout (which I heard was larger last time when the weather was colder), only 18 tickets were in the fishbowl for the raffle. The odds of winning something were great. I didn’t know what the prizes were until the raffles began: each of the four authors gave away their books, the venue (5 Seasons Brewery) gave away certificates for some of their menu items (either for catering or individuals–I didn’t catch that), and the grand prize was an Amazon Kindle wireless e-reader. I don’t know why, but the small crowd was relatively subdued about the chances of winning of Kindle, but I wasn’t. I love brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries, and I am not sold on reading books from a device instead of holding one in my hand, but I hit my high-pitched cheer when they drew for the Kindle– and I won it. (Several people were taking pictures of all the winners, so if I get one that they took with my crazy facial expressions, I’ll update this post with it.) Yay me!!
Who knew I’d get two cool new devices in one day? But I have a good feeling that the contacts I made that evening were priceless.
Goal Call: The first quarter of 2011 is almost over. How are you doing with your goals? Have you been able to connect with people who have been successful in your area of focus? What can you do to reach out and create or rejuvenate your professional network?