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Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Turn LinkedIn Contacts Into Real-Life Connections

By Elizabeth Alterman, October 2014

While it’s always interesting to receive a LinkedIn invitation, if you don’t know the sender or share any connections, it can often leave you scratching your head—especially if the message hasn’t been personalized. Over the years, I’ve received countless requests to connect with professionals whose careers have really intrigued me. But after accepting said invitation, I’ve never heard from them again, rendering it the virtual equivalent of a ding-dong-ditch.

On the flip side, have you located your ideal mentor or the person you believe has the power to improve your career trajectory? It’s exciting to think a brighter future is just a few clicks away, but as your cursor flashes waiting for you to fire off a well-crafted introduction in LinkedIn’s miniature message box, you may find yourself struggling with how to begin.

If you’ve often wondered how to seamlessly transition from “connection” to ally and advocate, you’re in luck. I spoke with two networking experts who suggested strategies for moving beyond accepting the invitation to cultivating mutually beneficial relationships.

You’ve Received an Invitation to Connect: Now What?

John R. Fugazzie, founder and president of Neighbors Helping Neighbors USA, a job search support and networking organization, encourages those he coaches to accept any and all invitations, as the benefit extends far beyond that connection.

“It’s not just that you and I are connected that makes this valuable, it’s who your connections are connected to. We call that the second level of connection, and that’s really where the multiplying factor of getting your network expanded and growing comes from,” says the mentor, who began using the professional networking platform in 2011 and now has more than 7,000 connections. “If it turns out that the new contact is soliciting for something you’re not interested in, you can always go back and remove them.”

If someone asks to connect with you, and his or her profile piques your curiosity, write back thanking the person for connecting and mention that you’re interested in his or her work as well.

“Be specific in explaining why, and suggest a call or video chat so you can get acquainted,” says Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.

As with so many other areas of business, remember the Golden Rule, and be welcoming and willing to help your new connection.

“If they’re in your city, respond by inviting them to coffee or an upcoming event—a dinner party you’re throwing, or a panel discussion you’re attending—that you think they might also enjoy,” Clark suggestss. “Odds are, they’ll appreciate your invitations because they reached out to you for a reason. If you don't hear back from them, don’t get discouraged. Instead, put a note in your ‘tickler file’ and follow up with another invitation a few months later. Circumstances may have changed, perhaps they finished a big project and are less busy, and they may be open to meeting.”

Fostering a mutually beneficial relationship may be easier than you think. Be forthcoming, respectful, and interested in giving as well as getting.

“Most people, if they understand your purpose, will want to help you,” Fugazzie says. “We found out through just our group leadership that the amount of people out there willing to help you is tremendous, but you have to make it easier for them to help you. They can’t take time away from their day to figure out what it is you want, so any kind of descriptive information you can pass forward when you make this connection is very valuable.”

You’ve Initiated the Connection: What Next?

Similar advice applies when you’ve found someone you want to reach out to: The more specific you can be, the better. In other words, rather than use the generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network,” give some careful consideration to composing a thoughtful message.

“Especially if you don’t know them already, it’s important to explain to someone why, specifically, you want to connect with them on LinkedIn,” Clark reasons. “Make it a point to mention something specific—that you read an article where they were featured and were impressed by their comments, or you heard them speak at a conference and admired their point of view.”

If your invitation to connect is accepted, that’s a great start, but it doesn’t give you license to start asking for favors immediately. Rather than suggesting a meeting or phone call right out of the gate, Clark recommends “liking” or commenting on your new contacts’ updates. Set up Google alerts with their names or use a service like Newsle, and “ping” people with a quick note to compliment them if you see that they’ve been featured.

Later, Clark says, you can amp up the relationship by asking them for advice—with the caveat that this should be a quick ask, not something elaborate or drawn out.

“Ask them a simple question that 1) they are uniquely qualified to answer, and you explain why that’s the case; and 2) they can answer in three to four minutes,” she notes. “You don’t want to provide them with your life story; you want to ask something simple but thoughtful, such as ‘If I’m seeking a job in X industry, would it be a better move to do Y or Z?’”

Without expending too much effort, they can help you, and that process builds goodwill. Clark points to psychologist Robert Cialdini, who explains that people view you more positively if they’ve done you a favor because they begin to think of themselves as your ally.

From there, the branding expert recommends reporting back on your progress to let your new connection know how you used their advice, so they understand you’re really listening and are, therefore, worth their time investment.

Hoping for a face-to-face encounter? Scour their news feed for mentions of events or conferences they’re attending, or ask them if they’ll be at a particular conference that seems likely, Clark advises. After you’ve found the opportunity, make it a point to go hear them speak or otherwise arrange to meet them for two minutes to say hello.

“Once you’ve connected in person, you’ll be a ‘real person’ to them,” Clark says. “At this point, now that you’ve built up the connection, you can try to make it more substantial by asking for a quick call or coffee, and they will be far more likely to say yes.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

6 Ways to Be Seen as a Leader in the Next 30 Seconds

By Lolly Daskal

Connecting with others, making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure the impact lasts are at the heart of leadership.

But the problem is that leaders tend not to have a lot of free time on their hands. So how can you engage in meaningful and memorable leadership with zero hours in the day to spare?

That’s where the 30-second challenge comes in. It turns out, there’s a lot you can do with a tiny sliver of time.

So whenever you want to engage and make a lasting impression, commit to spending 30 seconds to make a big impact. You could...

1. Give 30 Seconds of Encouragement

Your encouragement may be the catalyst that unleashes someone’s greatness. Let employees know you believe in them, and watch them step up.

2. Give 30 Seconds of Feeling Valued

Emphasize the connection between an employee’s role and the mission and goals of the organization. When people sense they are valued, they become more engaged and more productive.

3. Give 30 Seconds of Acknowledgement

It’s the fuel that great teams run on. When you acknowledge an employee, you are letting the person know that he or she is making a difference.

4. Give 30 Seconds of Gratitude

The root of great leadership is in the expression of sincere gratitude. Nothing goes further in building good relationships.

5. Give 30 Seconds of Praise

Keep it personal, specific, and meaningful so it doesn’t veer off into flattery.

6. Give 30 Seconds of Knowing Each Employee Matters

Let all of your employees know that no matter what they do, no matter what’s in their past, they can always become the best version of themselves.

There is a deep desire within everyone to make a difference. When leaders are able to recognize the need for validation and feeling value, leadership becomes memorable and impactful.

The results are profound. And all it takes is 30 seconds.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fearless Public Speaking!

Public speaking is intimidating, especially when you're put on the spot. Use these tips and techniques to give a great speech on the fly.

It happens all the time. Even if you’re not a professional speaker, we all have moments when we’re asked to say a few words on short notice. Being asked to make a speech on the spot can intimidate even the most composed, outgoing person. It’s the kind of scenario that gives people nightmares.

Until now.

Use these six tips to make sure what you say is both coherent and memorable, even if you have just seconds to prepare.

1. Use the callback technique. One of the tactics employed by standup comedians, the callback technique, is used to anchor your words to concepts or points that have already occurred during the event. The idea is to tie your speech to something that the audience—as a group—can relate to. You want to capitalize on the shared experience of the evening. Making a joke about something that happened earlier or mentioning the highlights of the evening so far creates a closer bond between you and the audience, and it sets them up to receive your words favorably.

2. Put the punchline first. Let your audience know upfront what you plan to accomplish in your speech. Not only is it a good idea to prep your audience with a preview, but it also gives you a little more think time. While you’re laying out your main points, you can be mentally sorting out the details—the specifics you’ll need to flesh out your speech.

3. Refer to audience members by name. Not only will you command the attention of the people you call out, you’re also grabbing the attention of all the people in the room who know those folks. You’re creating an affinity with the group by demonstrating your personal relationships in the room. You’re making apparent the connections that you share with your audience and strengthening your bond as a member of the group.

4. Use mnemonics. You may not have time to develop a complicated acronym to help you remember a dozen points, but you will have time to generate a handful of significant points and create a vivid mental picture to help you remember what you want to say. You won’t need notecards if you can call up an image in your head that helps you remember what you want to cover.

5. Share stories. Pictures are so powerful, and if you can spin a yarn that paints pictures in the minds of your audience, then you’re drawing them in—making them more active participants. Listeners who are engaged in your story will be more likely to accept your conclusions and are more apt to be persuaded by your words. Whether you’re making an impromptu pitch for a contribution to a worthy charitable cause, or merely saying a few words about a beloved colleague who is retiring, your goal is to win your audience’s approval—get them to agree with you. Stories bring your speeches to life.

6. Be brief. Short wins over long every time. You’re going to be far more effective if you put your energy into compelling, vivid points with richly detailed stories than you will be if you feel obligated to prattle on to fill up the time you’ve been allotted. Be genuine, be lively and be brief.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been unexpectedly asked to stand up and say a few words, and it might surprise people to know that even though I’m a practiced public speaker, I still get a little rush of anxiety if I feel unprepared.

Having a process alleviates anxiety and lets me make the most of the few moments that I may have to get my thoughts together and work up some compelling stories to make the speech memorable. Every one of us has something to contribute, and by practicing your public speaking process, you’re ensuring that the next time you’re unexpectedly thrust into the limelight, you can handle it gracefully

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

3 Amazing Mind Tricks That Will Help You Remember Small Details

By John Brandon October  2014

It’s all in your head. No, really—your capacity to remember the name of a new investment company, which products are going to present the fiercest competition for your startup, and how to find that bistro downtown where you are meeting a new employee is part of the untapped potential in your brain. Let’s dispense with the old “non-truism” that we have only tapped 10% of the capacity in our brains. Cognitive scientists doubt that’s true.

What is true, though, is this. You can teach yourself to remember details about your day and recall that information when you need it most. Like, say, when you are about to present the case for why someone should invest in your company or that the new employee in your company is named Greg. I’ve used these tricks before, especially during business conferences when I can’t jot down a reminder or record a memo on my phone.

1. Say the Information Out Loud Five or Six Times

I can’t say there is any proven science behind this trick, but I have used it many times at CES in Las Vegas each year when I really wanted to remember a new company name. There’s something about saying the information out loud a few times that works for me.

You might repeat the name and location of a new investment company, or the widget you noticed on the show floor. It seems to help if the name is unusual, like Twitch or Uber. Maybe it’s because you are hearing the information and speaking it or because you are isolating that information in your brain as separate from things you’ve read and only heard. Either way, it works.

2. Associate the Information With One Other Thing

I recently had a meeting near downtown San Francisco and, just as I was driving to the location across town, I realized the GPS on my phone was directing me to the wrong address in the same area.

I didn’t have time (or the guts) to pull over in heavy traffic to look up the company name, but it wasn’t a huge problem. I had memorized the street name. It’s a good backup technique I use, because this seems to happen quite a bit. The company was on Gilbert Street. When I read the address at my hotel, I thought about the composers Gilbert and Sullivan and how they made comic operas way back in the 1800s. I’m not sure why, since I’m not even a fan of their work, but it worked. I spoke the street name to Siri on my iPhone and set that as the new destination in San Francisco. Eureka, instant recall. And, close enough—it’s a short street.

3. Create a List of Items With the Thing You Want to Remember on the List

This one last trick I use at business conferences and seminars routinely. Sometimes, it helps to take a bit of information you want to remember—like the name of a new mobile app or a new contact—and mentally make a list of a few other related items.

Let’s say you want to remember the name Lyst, the fashion site that is creating buzz in the mobile shopping space. You’d create a list (no pun intended) of other well-known retailers, such as Macy’s and Best Buy, and then recite the list. Maybe it’s the fact that we all make shopping lists for eggs and milk or the fact that our brains remember information in lists better than isolated items. (That might even explain the incredible popularity of list articles like this one!) I’ve used this trick before, and it works, especially if the items are a bit unusual.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to run a really productive meeting!

By Heather R, Huhman

During a busy workweek, the last thing any manager needs is a wasted hour due to an unproductive meeting.

Managers need to make every minute count. According to a March 2012 survey by, 47 percent of workers say their biggest waste of time at work is attending too many meetings.

When done well, meetings can be extremely productive and accomplish a lot in a limited amount of time. Here are seven secrets of highly productive meetings:

1. Understand the needs, behaviors and schedules of employees. Meetings often take away valuable time from workers, decreasing their productivity. When planning meetings, understand employees' schedules and workload for the week.

According to research done in 2009 by, a service that aids in choosing optimum event times, the best time of the week for a meeting is 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. That's early enough in the week that the meeting won't interfere with deadlines.

2. Create an agenda, and stick to it. Agendas should include step-by-step details for the meeting -- including specifying the time for questions. Even if a detail seems obvious, include it on the agenda so that every attendee can be on the same page. Make sure each item on the agenda is clearly described and allotted a time frame. Skipping an item on the agenda is OK; adding to the agenda during the meeting is not.

3. Make everyone responsible. Successful Fortune 500 companies such as Apple and Google have the mechanics of running a productive meeting down to a science. How so? These employers assign every employee a responsibility at a given meeting.

Adam Lashinsky, author of Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired -- and Secretive -- Company Really Works, discovered that Apple builds accountability during meetings by creating a "directly responsible individual." This person is tasked with items on the agenda that he or she is responsible for during the meeting.

Apply a similar concept: For example, the meeting chair should require employees to report on their accomplishments for the week, no matter how big or small. This way, each employee is involved and more accountable for their work.

4. Implement the "two pizza" rule. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos developed a strategy for making sure the right people attendance meetings. For managers to build productive teams, the team should be small enough where it only takes two pizzas to feed every person involved.

Managers can apply this theory to pinpoint the right people to invite to meetings. Instead of holding one large meeting every week for the entire staff, set up smaller groups to meet (perhaps determined by departments) and invite only key employees to attend.

5. Create consequences (and rewards) for meeting attendance. When employees show up late for meetings, it can make the meeting last longer than needed and increase distractions. To ensure everyone shows up on time for meetings, enforce consequences for attendance.

First, create a strict start time for the meeting. For example, let's say the meeting takes place every Tuesday at 3 p.m. If employees arrive exactly at 3 p.m., they will be marked tardy. Any employee who is marked tardy will have to stay after the meeting to clean up.

Employees who show up early can be rewarded with having the first choice on a new project, for example.

6. Make the meeting actionable. At the end of the meeting, require every attendee to share what they learned and their new goals in a 30-second recap. This helps the meeting chair find out what information attendees retained and whether a certain topic needs more clarification.

Meeting leaders can also ask a series of questions at the end of each meeting to find out what each attendee learned. Here are some examples:

"What do you plan to accomplish in the next week?"

"What information from this meeting will you relay to your team?"

"Name one valuable thing you learned from this meeting."

7. Put bookends on the meeting. Every meeting should have a clear start and end time to ensure the meeting doesn't stray from its goals. Start and end times allow meeting chairs to keep attendees on track and decrease room for unnecessary chatter or long-winded, repetitive discussions.

Ultimately, productive meetings must be well-planned and focused on a goal. By getting the right people on board and promoting timely yet engaging discussions, the productivity of meetings will be greatly improved

Do people know what they are really doing?

By Oliver Burkeman

There’s an old puzzle that philosophers like to ponder: how could you ever be certain that anyone else has a mind at all? The truth is that you can’t. Ultimately, even our closest relatives—people we’ve known for decades, or who gave birth to us, or vice versa—are closed books: you’ll never get direct access to their thoughts or emotions. It’s the sort of terrifying realization that might trigger an existential meltdown in the sanest of us. Yet when it comes to creativity, it’s actually enormously liberating.

By nature, human beings are comparers: our happiness depends, at least partly, on feeling better off than others. Studies have shown that many of us would rather earn more than our co-workers, even if that meant earning less money overall. And we judge our creative output similarly: we deem it a success if it’s as good or better than other people’s.

But there’s a huge problem lurking here. We’re comparing apples with oranges—or, as the saying goes, comparing our insides with other people’s outsides. That guy on stage who’s giving a super-smooth presentation, while you wait nervously in the wings until it’s your turn? He might well be a panicking wreck inside. You could never know.

In fact, if he’s really good, he probably is panicking inside. Research suggests that the so-called “impostor syndrome” may get worse as people get better: the more accomplished you get, the more likely you are to rub shoulders with ever more talented people, leaving you feeling even more inadequate by comparison.

The genuinely untalented, meanwhile, probably have no idea that they’re no good—because they’re too untalented to realize it. (This is the “Dunning-Kruger effect,” inspired by the tale of an incompetent bank robber who thought rubbing lemon juice on his face would make him invisible on security cameras.) In short: if you’re worried you don’t measure up, that could well be a sign that you do.
If you’re worried you don’t measure up, that could well be a sign that you do.

And the truth, deep down, is that we all feel as though we’re just winging it. “I have written 11 books,” said the late Maya Angelou, who was renowned as a novelist, poet, and memoirist, “but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh. They’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.’” Angelou was a remarkable talent, but she was equally remarkable in being willing to admit that she didn’t usually feel that way.

This is something it’s even harder to keep in mind today, when our lives unfold in public on Facebook and Twitter, and via well-designed web presences. We use these, naturally enough, to showcase the best parts of our lives: the joyous weddings and enviable vacations, the finished projects, and testimonials from satisfied clients. But we forget that we’re only seeing everyone else’s highlights, too—not the sleepless nights, the abandoned attempts, the moments of despair and self-doubt.

None of this is an argument for abandoning self-criticism completely. Holding yourself to exacting standards, within reason, is a vital discipline for improving your product. But it is an invaluable reminder, as we navigate the world of creative work, never to take other people’s facades as reliable evidence of what’s going on within.

The real trick to producing great work isn’t to find ways to eliminate the edgy, nervous feeling that you might be swimming out of your depth. Instead, it’s to remember that everyone else is feeling it, too. We’re all in deep water. Which is fine: it’s by far the most exciting place to be.

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