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3 Business Lessons From The Matrix

“A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.” – Neo

I’ll confess to having lost count of the number of times I’ve watched The Matrix. I never tire of it because I’m always reminded of some important lessons:

Follow your passion and you’ll make your own luck  “The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.”  Neo’s relentless work coding in private brought him onto the radar of Morpheus and Trinity. I see it happen all the time: the more a person devotes himself to and believes in something, the “luckier” he seems to get – the right people notice and new opportunities suddenly unfold. Now more than ever, news travels fast, so do everything with excellence and you’ll be sure to create waves.

Information is power  “I know kung fu!” So says Neo after ten straight hours of uploading training files directly to his brain, and the crew marvels at his ability to digest such massive amounts of data. One of the characteristics of highly successful people is that they are constantly learning new things – they try challenging new activities, and pour over books and data. The result is a mental toolkit that enables them to spot strategic connections and opportunities, as well as the ability to adapt quickly. Push yourself to expand your knowledge-base every day.

Get out of your own way “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief.”  The Matrix was a construct created to resemble a real world, but one whose rules could be manipulated, bent, and sometimes broken, by anyone with the proper awareness and belief. Most of us have gotten stuck in our own self-imposed Matrix at one time or another – throughout our lives we’ve been conditioned to accept many beliefs and eventually find ourselves saying “well, that’s just the way it’s always been done” or “this is what I’m supposed to do.”

Luckily, in the real world, you are free to “unplug” yourself at anytime, and can choose to design your life by your own terms. Dare yourself to live boldly, and refuse to let yourself, your family, or your business be mere examples of the status quo.

Dana Byerlee is a corporate strategist and relational marketing expert to both Fortune 500s and startups. She has worked with Ferrazzi Greenlight, and is passionate about leveraging new technology to break down barriers and build deeper connections. @LADLynn

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How To Rule This Year’s “Party & Panel” Conference Scene

It’s January, and that means it’s time for some of the best and biggest industry conferences including CES (Vegas), Real Estate Connect (NYC), Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference (Long Beach), and Midem (Cannes). Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your time on the Party and Panel trail:

Set your sights  Identify who you would especially like to meet ahead of time. Find out who’s coming by checking out Plancast, LinkedIn Events, reading through attendee lists on your Eventbrite invite, or following the related hashtags on Twitter.

Make contact  Don’t wait until the big day. If you haven’t already, reach out now to introduce yourself and make plans to meet up. Whether it’s through an intro, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, or email, you can pretty much get in touch with anyone these days. Be fearless and take the initiative.

Do your homework  If you really want to connect, you’ll take the time to understand someone as much as possible – even before you meet. Social network updates, articles, blogs, Instagram, video interviews, etc are great ways to begin to understand who people really are, and what moves them professionally and personally.
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How to Land a First Meeting – 3 Tips from a PR Pro

As a PR practitioner, I’ve had to learn some valuable skills for cutting through the clutter and getting on the radar of target reporters in order to land that big story for my clients. Many of the strategies I’ve developed for grabbing the attention of the media are incredibly relevant to a variety of sales-related situations as well. So whether you’re pitching a reporter, a potential client, or prospective employer, here are some tips right from my PR playbook that will help you stand out, get the conversation started, and land that first meeting:

1. Speak in headlines – We all deal with information overload on a daily basis, so you must get your message across quickly and succinctly. First, your email subject should be compelling, simple, and no more than 6-8 words. Your pitch should also be straightforward and relevant, so avoid jargon that oversells. And here’s the most important part: don’t worry that you’re leaving out a lot of details. Your goal here is to pique your target’s interest enough to get a real meeting on the books, during which you can then elaborate on those finer points.

2. Provide unexpected value – Instead of using that precious lead paragraph to talk about yourself or your agency (i.e. “Here’s who I am,” “Here’s what we do”), lead with valuable insight about them right away. Tell your prospects what you understand about the company’s latest developments, an industry trend that affects them, or a new potential area for growth that they should know about. When you arm potential clients with valuable new information, they’ll be more likely to view you as a potential partner.

3. Be a resource – Relationships take time to develop, so in the meantime, focus on how you can become a trusted resource, even if you have nothing to gain in the short-term. End your email pitch by offering a free consultation, and then follow up later with useful research and statistics, or make a thoughtful introduction. If you look for opportunities to share your knowledge, you will not only gain credibility, you can be sure they’ll remember you when they need your services.

Emily Scherberth is the founder and CEO of Symphony PR & Marketing, a consultancy focused on early-stage startups in technology and digital media.

Prior to launching Symphony PR & Marketing, Emily was the vice president of the consumer technology practice at Allison & Partners where she provided strategic counsel for YouTube during the site’s meteoric rise from 2006-2008. Emily has also performed award-winning work for high-profile brands such as Yahoo!, Citysearch, Match.com, Nike, Nestlé, General Motors, and Ford.

Emily is also a part–time professor at Loyola Marymount University (her alma mater) where she teaches two courses on PR and social media.

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4 Fun Ways to Follow Up and Stay On the Radar

As I previously discussed, only 2% of sales or deals close at the first meeting; successful people have a long-term relational mindset and know the importance of building trust over time. Whether it’s a prospective or a current client, don’t feel that you always have to connect around serious business issues and talk shop. Here are some fun and inexpensive ways to reach out, let your personality shine through, and just let people know you are thinking about them.

Send a card or photo greeting  Thanks to some new smartphone apps, you can send great greetings without setting foot in a store. Here are some greeting card apps you can quickly use while you wait for lunch, or are in a cab ride to the airport:

  • Redstamp (For iPhone, iPod, iPad) – First, choose a card, snap a photo or select a picture from your phone’s library, Facebook or Instagram. Then customize your greeting, and your card can be sent by e-mail, text message, Facebook, Twitter, or printed and mailed as a real postcard.
  • Sincerely (For Android, iPhone, iPad) – Sincerely has some useful apps under its banner. Postagram lets you print and ship your mobile, Instagram, and Facebook photos as high-quality pop-out postcards. Sincerely Ink applies this same concept to holiday card designs.
  • Cartolina (For iPhone, iPad) – The Cartolina Postale app lets you turn your pictures into real postcards with vintage-inspired designs. The original Cartolina app lets you send “pretty texts and emails,” and again, the designs are nostalgic, with vintage images of yellowed paper and postage stamps.

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