Is Training the Right Answer?

When an organisation identifies a challenge, very often training is proposed as a solution.

Sometimes it is the right solution, but not always.

Training for the sake of training is a waste of time, effort and money. For training to be effective, it needs to address an identified gap in knowledge, skills or attitude.

Training for the sake of training is a waste of time, effort and money Click To Tweet


Training Needs Analysis

The gap – and the correct solution to address it- is identified by performing a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). This not only identifies the gap, it also provides the foundation of a training plan, ensuring an improved Return on Investment.

The Four Step Model (Garavan et al, 2003), is best suited to prioritising interventions focussed on improving performance at an individual level. The steps involved are:

  1. Preparation of the Review
  2. Collection and Initial Interpretation of the data
  3. Analysis of data
  4. Identification of Training & Development priorities
When clients approach me about delivering in-house training, I listen carefully. Click To Tweet

When clients approach me about delivering in-house training, I listen carefully. I listen to what the issues are with regard to staff communication and presentation skills. For some, it is developing skills to participate confidently at internal meetings. For others, it is developing skills to deliver client presentations, or to share their expertise at a conference.

All of the above require good presentation skills, but the training involved is different in each scenario. Taking time to ask the right questions at this stage ensures effective training will be designed, developed and delivered.

My next step is to conduct a survey. By conducting a survey in advance with participants, I can identify what the core issues are, and address those in the training session.

After analysing the data, I work closely with the L&D function to prioritise the issues raised and create the learning objectives. This will ensure that training is relevant and meets the needs of the individual and the organisation. We work together to establish what the trainees will do differently as a result of the training.

No two training sessions are the same. Each client has a training session designed to their needs as identified by the participants in advance. That is what makes my training effective.

Contact me to see if training is the right solution for your company’s needs.

The Three Stages of Networking

two women and man talking

The Three Stages of Networking

In my recent blog post “Should we replace the word “Networking”? I spoke about the love/hate relationship that business owners have with networking.

Networking can give you the edge in business Click To Tweet

My survey results indicated that although 68% recognised the importance of networking for their business, attendance at networking events is relatively low. I attended a networking talk by Kingsley Aikins recently. He spoke about how “Life is a game of inches” and networking can help to give you the edge, push things in your direction. Yet, in my survey, 65% of respondents attend 2 networking events or fewer per month.

There are a variety of reasons for this, including fear of public speaking and the 60 second pitch. For many, the anxiety of entering a room full of strangers is enough to keep them away. At my Networking Masterclass on behalf of Kildare Local Enterprise Office for National Women’s Enterprise Day in October, I shared some tips for the Three Stages of Networking.

Before the Event

A little preparation in advance could help. If you have been invited by someone to attend, ask about the format of the meeting, who might be there etc so that you know what to expect.

If you’re going along for the first time to a regular event where you don’t know anyone, maybe contact the organiser to let them know you will be attending and ask about the format. Remember, you’re not gate-crashing a party here, new faces are very welcome at networking events.

Remember, you're not gate-crashing a party Click To Tweet

Ask if there is going to be an opportunity to deliver a 60 second pitch so that you can be prepared. If you’re not comfortable with small talk, plan some general questions you could ask and how you can keep the conversation flowing.

If it’s a larger event, follow the hashtag in advance, see who is going to be speaking. Maybe research them a little so that you have some material for conversation during breaks.

During the Event

The second stage is the event itself- that walking into the room. Be aware of your body language here. You want to appear warm, friendly and open to conversation. No one is going to try to strike up a conversation with you if are standing arms folded, unsmiling, all the vibes saying “stay away”.

To tell you the truth, I find it easier walking in to a networking event than into a party, because most people at a networking event are open to meeting new people. But joining a group can be tricky, so be aware of the body language of others.

Approach the person on their own and introduce yourself Click To Tweet

When you enter a room, and don’t know anyone, it might be easier to find the person on their own, approach them, shake hands and introduce yourself. Chances are, they will welcome the chance to talk to someone.

Next is the conversation. As I mentioned, introduce yourself and shake hands. Repeat the other person’s name to try to remember it. Keep conversation general- this is not the time to start handing around your business card, as one survey respondent called it, “drive-by card flinging”. Remember, networking is about building relationships. Business might come later- remember “know, like and trust”. 

So, imagine that you have successfully joined a group and engaged in conversation and you have found out about each other’s business. But you can’t spend the entire event with one person. After a few minutes it’s time to move on. How do you exit the conversation?

Keep it simple. This could be the time to exchange business cards and arrange to follow up with a 1-2-1.

Then you join a new group new and repeat the process. Have a goal in mind when you come to a networking event- how many people do you intend to meet?

After the Event

You have spent time, energy and possibly money attending the networking event. So, make it work for you! My survey results showed that 73% of people “always or “usually” follow up after a networking event, with connecting online being the most popular. I try to follow up within a day or two by sending a Linkedin connection request. I personalise it by sending a message with the request. That means that if something from that person pops up in my timeline in a few weeks or months’ time, I can easily track back how I know them. It helps keep the relationship going. You never know where it might lead.

You have invested time in networking, so follow-up after the event  Click To Tweet

The most effective way to follow up after a networking event is arranging a 1-2-1. That’s the best way to really get to know the other person’s business and talk about yours. And that’s where business owners can really help each other. Maybe it’s by making a referral, maybe it’s by passing on a piece of advice, or a suggestion. It’s all about adding value to the other person building the relationship.

 The true value of networking doesn’t come from how many people we can meet but rather how many people we can introduce to others. Simon Sinek




Should We Replace The Word “Networking”?

The word “networking” has a bad name! I recently delivered a Networking Masterclass on behalf of Kildare Local Enterprise Office for National Women’s Enterprise Day. I carried out a survey beforehand to get opinions about the purpose and benefits of networking.

Many have a love/hate view of networking Click To Tweet

The results were interesting and suggest many people have a type of “love/hate” relationship with this business activity.

65% attend 2 events or fewer per month

68% of respondents said that attending networking events was “Extremely important” or “Very Important” for their business. They enjoy meeting new people, building relationships and making connections. Yet the majority of respondents (65%) attend 2 or fewer networking events per month. I found this interesting. As a start-up, networking is essential for my business, to create awareness of who I am and the services I offer, and I attend 2-3 events per week. I enjoy meeting new people and learning about their businesses.

Of course, there are many reasons why business owners might not network more frequently- time, family commitments and these cold dark mornings aren’t easy for early events. For a lot of people, attending networking events makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. There is uncertainty about how to join in a group, talking to new people, and dealing with people who only talk about themselves. For many, they dread the 60 second pitch that is a core part of many networking events. Yet, the advantages and benefits of networking are evident in their business.

Find an event that is right for you Click To Tweet
Find an event that is the right fit

There are a huge number of networking events available, and it is important to find the ones that are the right fit for you and your business. You are investing your time – and usually your money- so establish beforehand what return you would like to see. Maybe it’s new connections and business referrals, but it could be support and collaboration. Set your targets for what you want to achieve- do you want to have conversations with new people? Set up 1-2-1s for afterwards? Make introductions?  

The most successful networkers I know attend a variety of events and make meaningful connections and introductions. Networking is about building relationships, connecting with others and helping them. The benefits to your business come as a result of others getting to know, like and trust you.

Check out the softskillsuccess.ie/workshops for details of our next 60 Second Pitch workshop

3 Key Ways To Make Your Business Voice Heard

Businesses- particularly SMEs- can struggle to be heard among all the noise nowadays. Those who have a strong social media presence can carve out a spot for themselves. If the business doesn’t have the time or expertise to run their own social media campaign, they can hire someone to do it for them. But people buy from people. Therefore, face-to-face communication is crucial, and no-one else can do that for you.

Make Your Business Voice Stand Out and Be Heard

There are many ways in which you can make your business voice stand out and be heard. It could be your 60 second networking pitch, pitching to a prospective client or delivering a signature talk. Regardless of format, there are some key points that you need to consider.

Identify, Communicate and Present

Firstly, the speaker needs to identify their message clearly. They must then communicate that message in a way that is relevant, so that the audience understands and remembers it. Finally, they need to present that message competently and confidently.

stopwatch, clock, 60 second pitch
You are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business. Click To Tweet

3 Ways to get Heard:

  1. 60 Second Networking Pitch

In most cases, you are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business.

  • 60 seconds is a short period of time- definitely not enough to explain all that your business entails- so don’t include too much information.
  • Begin with an attention-grabbing opening. It could be a question, or a relevant statistic- something that makes the listener sit up and take notice, and listen out for who you are.
  • State your name and business name clearly.
  • Outline one aspect of your business, linking it back to your opening. It could be an explanation of what you do, or a short client story.
  • Show how your business solves the client’s problem.
  • Repeat your name and business name clearly
  • Don’t try to pack too much in- 150/180 words is plenty.
  • Check my website for details of upcoming workshops
  1. Creating a Signature Talk
Identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic Click To Tweet

Preparation is key to an effective signature talk. This is where you can expand on your business story and go into more detail about the products or services you offer

Your first task is to identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic

  • Identify the purpose of your talk: are you going to inform the audience? Persuade them? Is there a call to action?
  • Brainstorm all of the information on the topic, and then remove anything that isn’t appropriate for this particular audience or purpose.
  • Decide on your structure. Is it chronological? Cause and effect? Topical?
  • Try to group the body of the speech using the rule of three, as it’s easier for the audience to remember. If there’s one main point, have three subpoints. If there’s more than one point- have three. They can also be sub-divided if needed.
  • Decide on your opening. Plan this carefully, as you only have 30 seconds to get the audience’s attention. You could use a story, a question, a quote, a statistic, an image.
  • Have a memorable ending. You could summarise key points and have a strong call to action. There might be an opportunity to refer back to your opening statement, which creates a memorable conclusion.
  • If slides are relevant to your presentation, prepare those after you have prepared your speech.
  • Slides are useful if they help the audience understand your message, or if it makes it more memorable for them. Slides are not a crutch for the speaker to remember what they want to say! Images are always more effective than text, which should be kept to a minimum.
  • When everything is prepared- practice! Practice your content and your timing. Be prepared for things going wrong on the day- distractions; your speech being cut short; technology not working.
  • Focus on the audience, rather than on any nervousness you might be feeling.
    1. Using storytelling in presentations

We love stories. They are a very effective way of communicating our message- when they are relevant and told well. They need a clear structure to make it easy for the audience to follow.


The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service. Click To Tweet

The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service.

  •         Begin by setting the context and introducing the character. Outline their problem. It should be something with which the audience can identify. 
  • Highlight the pain caused by the problem.
  • Explain your role and how your product or service provided a solution for the problem, and the result for the client.
  • Make sure there is a clear link between what your product or service offers and the solution to the client’s problem.
  • If you are telling your own story, keep the audience in mind. It’s your story, but they have to be able to relate to it, or they won’t care about it.

If you would like to find out more about how I can help you develop your business voice, email maureen@softskillsuccess.ie