And 3 take-ways that are priceless.

Nine years ago I met a fellow speaker, author and business authority on loyalty. I was attending my first National Speakers Association annual conference in Dallas, Texas. I was new to the speakers industry.  I did not know a soul and sat next to Jill Griffin at general session luncheon. Who would of ever imagined that nine years later, she would be one of the most important and influential people in my life.

Lucky me? Serendipitous? Or strategic?

I’m sticking with the latter two. I’m not a believer in luck. People put themselves in situations. They make judgments about where to be, who to sit next to and who to talk to. These choices determine one’s outcome.  And if you don’t buy this, you should revisit the word strategic. Strategic should be part of 95% of all your actions. Strategic is not a capitalist, greed-driven, manipulative move word, it’s about decisions with intent and focus. And it’s not just for business, it’s a life word.

That day in Dallas I was on a mission. And it was not to try a new kind of rubber chicken at a conference hotel. I was there to learn about the speaking business and meet people who could add to my life and help me reach my goals. If that sounds too hard-core, type A, or driven to you, I bet you have a room mate, a trust fund or bad credit.  I didn’t and still don’t have any of those. And I had just plopped down 600 bucks for the conference, plus another $1000 for travel and that was 9 years ago when I was a very green, very cash poor, newbie speaker.

3 take-aways, nine years later.

1) Trade association conferences Some truly suck and some will change your life.
It’s a numbers game and doing your homework is part of the drill and the cost. Every business owner and entrepreneur should invest in at least one. 2 to 3 day conference per year, that’s out of town and an environment of learning. Don’t go to get away from your stress, or your spouse, go to get some important stuff accomplished and be strategic.

2) Networking – It’s a necessary business skill and if you can’t do it, get someone who can.
Networking is not about being an obnoxious, pushy  sales person. It’s about being a nice person, so other people want to learn more about you. It’s about being a good listener and being clear on what value you bring to others, and then its about connecting the dots—filtering, qualifying, following up, giving, helping and reaping some fruit.

3) Cheap jalapeños Aren’t all jalapeños cheap?
Turns out part of why Jill and I have such a close bond is that we are both speakers, writers, consultants and Texas girls. Jill lives in Austin, one of my favorite places and I consider myself a forever Texan. I lived in Houston for 20 years and when I kick the bucket I hope to be buried in a Channel suit, wearing pearls and my black
Ostrich cowboy boots. Cheap jalapeños is my metaphor for the bonus I got nine years ago. I had no idea my petite, new buddy would be so full of spunk, intense knowledge and be such an important ingredient in my life.  Everyone should be so fortunate to meet someone like Jill. When I met Jill, she was a more experienced speaker, had already presented to global audiences and had a few best selling books under her belt. Nine years ago, shortly after we met, she took me under her wing, supported me through good and bad times, and guided me to write my first book and find a publisher. Throughout the  years, Jill has been my number 1 sounding board, giving me honest advice on all kinds of things. We’ve gone to comedy school together, supported the fashion industry on all levels and both love Mexican food.

Everyone entrepreneur needs confidants and mentors, but when you find a trusted peer and someone who understands your world, works in your industry and you build a close friendship too, that is priceless.

Jill and I are spending the next few days together to mastermind, collaborate and connect more dots as we both take our careers to the next level this year. We’ll keep you posted.

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