Category Archives: Conversationninja

NEVER eat alone?

When I’m not otherwise occupied in the world of Westeros, I occasionally read “practical” stuff.

never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Some takeaways:


2. You’ll be far more fulfilled and successful if you fill your professional and personal lives with meaningful relationships.  Relationships first.

3. Connecting is all about helping people.  Always be looking for ways to help a sister out by introducing her to a contact, sharing a link, telling a joke.  If you help someone with Health, Wealth, or Children especially, they will love you forever.

4. Networking should not be a whole other side job – invite people to things you were going to do anyway: eating, exercising, clubbing, church, etc.  Dinner at your home is the ultimate!

5. When you can’t clone yourself, clone the event.  Have 5 people to meet in one weekend?  Invite them all out to the same happy hour!

6. Your network is a muscle, not a bank account.  Use it often and it will grow stronger, not smaller.

7. When you give a speech, you’re an instant celebrity.  When you go to a conference, be a presenter.  Otherwise, be the first person to ask a question afterwards – you get residual spotlight on you that way, making people want to meet you.

Fun Fact: Paul Revere was well liked in his town and the next ones.  Hence he was entrusted with the task of notifying the people of the British approach.  Furthermore, his friendship with the sexton of the church gave him access to the tower where he hung his lanterns.

This book starts out great.  A few chapters in, I was convinced that no man is an island, and that connecting is an important, maybe THE most important, key to success and happiness.  I was ready to drink in the wisdom and transform my life!

By the middle though, Never Eat Alone becomes overwhelming.  It’s full of tactics upon tactics, so much so that you don’t see how anyone could manage it.  By the end, Ferrazzi admits that he makes HUNDREDS of phone calls a DAY, just to “touch base” with the thousand+ people in his network.  He finds time for this when walking around or riding in cabs.  He maintains lists of people to touch base with monthly, quarterly, or yearly.  He holds large dinner parties at his home every month.  He sends emails from the bathroom (um, tmi).  He reads the newspaper every day so he’s ready to converse.  He flies first class because you can make excellent business contacts there.  Basically, he makes you want to give up.

But don’t give up!  The key here is to read this more as a textbook to be mastered one chapter at a time.  For now, I’ll be focusing on Chapter 11: Never Eat Alone, Chapter 13: Follow Up or Fail, and Chapter 22: Be Interesting. :)

Anyone want to do lunch this week?

KATN – 2 week check-in

2 weeks and 1 day ago today I woke up determined to kick ass and take names, all the time. So how have I been doing?


Start a business:
  • I have a product-based business idea that I’ve gotten stuck on, so contacted San Francisco SCORE and got a mentor. I meet her next Monday, so hopefully that will help me get rolling on the next steps.
  • Been consuming all info within my grasp regarding starting a freelance consulting business. Decided on an idea and finally posted a craiglist ad up today for a mock tech interview service. Goal is to get one paying client by next week. #quickwins
  • Going around in psychological circles: “Yes-I can totally work for myself-I’ve got tons to offer” to “Nobody is ever going to pay you-You crazy hyped up little lady-Just go get a job like a sane person”. Honestly, this is the biggest challenge/time suck of them all
Front a band:
  • Researched singing teachers and set up an audition with one on Sunday. This is only indirectly related to starting a band, but it’s a first step into the musician community.
Organize social events:
  • Contacted a friend and had brunch over the weekend. Baby steps, people.
Conversational superstar:
  • Realized that if this goal is the only thing I accomplish in the next year, it will probably be the best spent year of my life thus far.
  • Attended a Halloween party and tested out variations of answers to “What do you do?”.  Spent rest of night failing on pretty much all other conversational fronts.


  • Applied “small talk” tricks from above-mentionned awesome book on 4-5 strangers on 2 separate occasions.
  • Went to first Toastmasters meeting and gave extemporaneous 2:03 speech on “my creative outlet”.  Singlehandedly took 10 years off the group’s average age :)
Author inspirational and useful blog:
  • Does this one count?
Microfinance lending:
  • Nada

Over time, I’ve started to lose that extra oomph I felt in the morning 2 weeks ago.  Maybe it’s time to paint my mantra on the ceiling?  Set my alarm to play my theme song (TBD)?  How do you keep the passion alive?!?

How to work a party even though you’re scared, Step 1

If you are anything like me, you dread parties of the wine-cheese-mingle variety, especially when you don’t know many people there.  You avoid eye contact with strangers and slither around the room hoping to look busy, avoid notice, and make it out of there in one piece.  If you are lucky, you’ll find a slightly boisterous group of 4 or more people that you can latch on to without ever having to introduce yourself.

Oddly enough, you have no problem whatsoever with dance parties or public speaking.  So it seems your shyness paralysis is limited to unrehearsed conversation.

As I mentioned last time, one of my primary goals is to become a conversational superstar.  I was heading to a Halloween party this weekend – my first in the KATN era – and realized I had a big opportunity here.  I thought about what made parties and strangers so bad, and I realized it came down to these 2 questions:

1) What do you do?
2) What’s been happening?

I dread this line of small talk because I never feel great about my stammering answers and it makes me feel like the most boring person alive or dead.  I see people yucking it up all around me, but my conversations always seem to start with these duds and then die.  What’s a girl to do?

As much as you might like to avoid these questions (by slithering around the room, etc.), you know they are coming so you may as well be prepared.  I went scientific this weekend and started varying my answers and observing the results.  “I’m a software engineer/software developer/computer programmer” = instant snoozefest.  “I’m a software person and I create websites” – much better response and recovery on to the next topic (this was a group of non-techies).  Next time I’ll try something like “I write software and I’m training for a half marathon/starting a blog/working on kicking ass all the time”.  I’m guessing that once I’ve mastered answering these questions through deliberate testing, parties will be at least 82% better.

I actually had a number of these at the ready in college, but at some point I stopped refreshing them and forgot this principle entirely.  Somehow, “Do you or do you not think Ludacris is a lyrical genius” doesn’t belong in this decade, and I’ve also outgrown “Hey, so did you actually enjoy your senior prom?”  But it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with 4 or 5 topics that interest you and that anyone can discuss.  Potentials include

  •  interesting recent news
  • weather (but be prepared to move to the next topic quickly)
  • viral videos (read your audience first)
  • admiring Halloween costumes, plus story about best/funniest/worst one you’ve ever seen (timely)
  • funny, SHORT anecdotes (short because we are only on How to Work a Party: Step 1, and stand-up comedy is at least step 4)

If you are ready with enough topics that you can confidently discuss, you’ll likely be able to fill the time and hedge against entering unrehearsed territory.  Heck, maybe you’ll even enjoy yourself.

I haven’t yet managed to gracefully extract myself from a conversation, but I see it being done all the time.  Must try testing out “I’m gonna get a drink/refill, want anything?”, or even just a simple “be right back”.  I’d recommend coming up with at least 4 exit strategies so you can always leave on a high note.

Goals for November: Prepare answers, conversation starters, and exit strategies.  Rock em with at least 1 stranger.  Report back.