Celebrating World Friendship Day with Conscious Cafe

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Last week was World Friendship Day and interestingly that provided a strong theme for many BBC radio shows on the day and over the weekend. It was fascinating to hear about what people valued in their friends and how they took the opportunity to acknowledge them publicly. We also had a lovely discussion at Conscious Cafe Skipton that day (albeit on Zoom and not in person). We asked the question “What Role Does Friendship Play in Your Life?” and here are a few insights that came up from the delightful sharing that we had. Do feel free to post any comments that you have about friendship and what thoughts may have arisen from this. 

Friendships for Couples and Singles might shift 

When you are in a long term relationship and part of a couple, friendships can tend to be more with other couples. It is not always so easy for everyone to keep up friendships with singletons when your social life is built around being a couple. When a long term relationships ends that can potentially lead to a vacuum, when you perhaps you no longer feel comfortable socialising with the friends who are couples now that you are single .. your old couple friends might feel their loyalties can be divided. But space is created for new friendships with new bonds of support being forged. Post-relationship social life can be different for men and women, particularly if the social life inside a marriage is organised by women.  

The Value of a Sisterhood

Single women in particular can find a sisterhood of women friends who can be of huge support to them. Wives can miss out on a circle of girlfriends while in a long term relationship. And not every woman manages to find such a circle of support but when they do have one it, can be life-enhancing. “Later in life I discovered sisterhood and my social life exploded.”

Needs change – finding Common Bonds over time

As we move through life and grow, our needs can change and we might start to look for more depth in our connections than we previously have had. Many people talk about looking for meaningful connection with others who are “on the same wavelength”…. “finding my tribe”. Conscious Cafe has provided that tribe connection for many folks because we create the space for good conversation and listening.

Picking up old Friendships

Sometimes the friends we make early in life in our youth or tertiary education can last the decades and even can stand years of little contact. It is wonderful when you can pick up where you left off ten years ago. 

Friends as Family, and vice versa

The long-running TV series Friends was a worldwide phenomenon that is still screened daily even though it ended in 2004. At the core of its popularity was the strong bond between the six characters. It provided a new narrative for friendship which said you could have a close-knit circle of friends who in essence became your chosen family. How special if we could find such friendships… and how special if the family bonds we do have allow us to have friendship relationships too. “To be a father who is both mentor and friend to my daughter is a joy.”

The stereotype of a ‘Northern bloke’

What is it about some men who find it difficult to talk about emotions and feelings? Is it true northern blokes find it difficult to reach out, be vulnerable and open up? Is it an outdated stereotype?  Maybe some men still are like this … but they are a product of an old culture that really does not serve them. We discussed how men who are willing to be vulnerable can find more support from female friends than male ones. 

Making time for friends

Sometimes in your life you can have too many roles .. parent, worker, commuter, spouse … where is the time for friends after putting the kids to bed? But these periods of high demands on your time do not necessarily last your whole life. Fitting the demands of parenting into a busy career or business is often a greatest pressure in mid-life.  As you get older, children grow up and leave the home and your own life moves on with much more space for friendships. The middle years may be the most challenging for people to maintain their friendships or friend clusters may centre around children and family life.

Friends – local or global?

If you stay in one place then it is likely that all your friends are close by and you will have a strong local network. However if you branch out and move around expanding your life journey to many different places you are likely to end up with a wider network of friends potentially all over the world. There are pluses and minuses for both these scenarios. If you end up living somewhere with few local friends then you have to take the effort to make new friends .. MeetUp is wonderful for doing this. If your circle of friends is global then you might not be able to pop out to the pub with them but using WhatsApp and Zoom you can reach out and stay much more connected than you could before these technologies became so universal.

Staying Connected over the distance 

Technology like WhatsApp can bring friends closer. As much as it is nice to share a cuppa and a chat with a local friend it is possible to have a short regular, even daily, check-ins and bring a long-distance friend overseas much closer. That regular routine can give you both a significant boost. 

What does it mean to be a Good Friend?

We discussed the qualities in a good friendship .. what we would like to have and what we think that we can give to others. We asked how we could strengthen our friendships ….

  • Being a Good Listener … the top of everyone’s list
  • Being Curious … be willing to explore with others
  • Thoughtful .. take time to remember the milestones in someone’s life and call them up afterwards to check on how they did after a big event. 
  • Be available, be present … be one to what is needed in the moment
  • Be willing to talk about want matters most 
  • Hold back on judgement
  • Earn trust .. be relied on for confidential sharing
  • Accept people for where they are right now
  • Be willing to be the companion in good times and bad
  • Be the witness they need, don’t turn away during the down periods “You can share your sadness with me”
  • Be authentic
  • Speak from your heart
  • Be willing to give honest feedback
  • Don’t try to fix what’s wrong … just be that sounding board when asked or simply listen
  • Be there for the laughter and the fun as well ….. !!

Conscious Cafe Skipton is taking a break over summer and will be back in the autumn .. most likely online again until we have the green light to gather in groups! Follow us on MeetUp.

Look here to see if there is a Conscious Cafe group near you …

 

How to shine online with cool things to help you be a Digital Superstar

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We gathered eagerly for the tips that promised to make us Digital Superstars. Let’s face it …. few of us really ALL have the skills to do this, or if we have, have we made the time to prioritise this? Well, listening to Susan Hallam MBE last week at Lady Val Corbett’s networking lunch (and this essentially is a bring your own cuppa or fav tipple and settle down with your iPad instead of congregating in London’s Theatreland venue if Browns) it not only sounds vital but also do-able. (There is a summary and great list of resources at the bottom of the post).

Susan, founder of a leading digital agency, did not disappoint. Her powerful presentation which thankfully was recorded, took us through 13 areas where we most likely are missing out and inadvertently making blunders. I defy you to find a few where you are already shining!  As Susan rightly pointed out, we are living in a post-pandemic world and this has changed where and how we work so our online presence is even more important than ever. The hour’s journey that Susan took us through is well worth the watch and here are the 13 areas highlighted for you to start attending to! Click here for the video and find Susan at 56 minutes in.

Susan was awarded an MBE for services to entrepreneurship and innovation in the Queen’s Honours 2018. That same year Susan was named a BIMA 100 CEO & Leaders shaping the digital industry, and she was made a Fellow of the Institute of Data & Marketing. She is a Freeman of the City of London, the chairman of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, and a Trustee of Nottingham Castle. Born in the USA, Susan has resided in the UK since 1985. Susan employs more than 60 specialists with clients including the United Nations, Speedo, the BBC, and Suzuki Cars. In 2019 Hallam was awarded Google’s top agency accolade for EMEA, the Growing Businesses Online award. Who better to be our Digital Superstar guide for Lady Val Corbett’s event!? Her tips were brilliant.

  1. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be 5-Star
  • No excuses. Get the basics right. 
  • A really good headshot photo 
  • Use the banner background with an image for your business. Don’t leave it blank
  • Keep it up to date
  • Use every section can to show your authority
  • There is a section showing who people “also viewed”. You never know what company you are keeping so the advice here is .. turn that feature OFF
  • Visual is powerful so include videos, images and PDFs
  • If you don’t highlight good visuals, LinkedIn will choose some for you
  • Use the Recommendation feature to the max; what others say about you is very powerful
  • Increase your recommendations by leaving them for others .. think of who you can be grateful to
  1. Follow Up Afterwards
  • Having gone to so much effort for an event, why waste that effort by not following up on there contacts you have made.
  • Hubspot is a recommended site for listing contacts and seeing what they asked for or were interested in
  • Create trigger emails and standard follow-up messages
  1. Measure the Results
  • Again, you put in the effort but it’s good to know what works best and has the most impact
  • When you share content check to see how many times it was shared, what engagement there was
  • If there is a good piece of content re-purpose it for another site or blog
  • make a few edits and perhaps change the image (but basically the same blog)
  • Measure what is happening soon your website with Leadfeeder website tracking software
  • Here you can see what companies visit, and who in that company in particular 
  • Learn more about how folks behave
  1. Leverage Google to the hilt

  • 92% of searches are on Google!
  • Google have a number of free services and resources. Use them.
  • Google My Business is a must. This presents the information on the right hand search panel. 
  • Keep the info up to date, add stories, add reviews
  • Use this space to tell people what you want them know  
  1. Don’t Forget to target specific Prospective Clients 
  • Create targeted advertising on platforms like LinkedIn with really detailed criteria .. when you know exactly who you want to attract. This can be very cost effective
  • Explore Frictionless Marketing where the customer does not even have to fill in the form. Make it easy for people to respond and work with you
  1. Keep in touch with Existing Clients
  • Don’t forget to communicate with your old and existing clients
  • It can be tempting to put too much focus on new business and forget about them
  • Do you have a Covid-19 statement at the top of your website showing how you are being helpful to clients? Tell your folks what are you doing differently in these times.
  • Don’t assume all your customers know all about what you offer, and all your new services. You may have expanded so keep them up to date with developments.
  1. Social media does not replace Email Marketing
  • Email marketing has the highest return of all digital techniques; there is a much higher conversion rate than social media marketing
  • Even the auto-messages are very effective. Yes they may be transactional but they are good manners.
  • They give a 44 times return rate!
  • 21% of emails are read within the first hour. Know all your stats and use the knowledge
  1. Zoom meetings still need Good Etiquette
  • Don’t subject others to views up your nostrils or the top of your head.
  • Take care to be well-positioned in the centre of the shot
  • Make sure your face is well lit 
  • Remember to create a good background, one that reflects your brand. Curate well what can be seen by others.
  • Maintain eye contact in meetings and don’t leave the screen or get distracted by non-essential events around you. 
  1. Daily Social Contact slot
  • Don’t be anti-social on Social media
  • People appreciate it when you engage with them
  • Acknowledge when people comment .. say thank you .. engage. Liking and commenting is good manners.
  • There is a lot that can be accomplished in just ten minutes a day if you have a disciplined routine 
  • Share the Love. Give back, share other people’s important campaigns and projects where you can make a difference .. highlight other people’s success and initiatives. 
  • Engage with people .. keep the conversation 2-way, don’t just put stuff and communicate one way. 
  • Me me me is not so god .. focus on others. It will have a huge impact on your effectiveness
  1. Engage and Personalise
  • Taking the time to handcraft a personal message is important of you want a response.
  • Don’t just invoice folks into a group with a general request .. they will leave the grouping by one and it won’t look good
  • Avoid corralling people a spam-like way. It is not productive. Behave online in the same elegant way we do offline, in-person.
  1. Know what your Customers want
  • There is nothing like walking a day in the shoes of your customer. What do they want? What do they need?
  • What or who is the Persona you are selling?
  • Research what questions people are asking so that you can answer them
  • Answer the Public is a great free search tool to find out what people are asking about. Be a great digital warrior. Now you know what content to create or speak about. It comes from Google data, and is a collation of their research. You put in a word that relates to a product or service. It then brings up all the questions that are asked by potential customers.
  1. Don’t Forget Mobiles
  • Ignore mobile at your peril. It could be that over half your targets reach your email or check your website from their mobile
  • Do you know if your website is mobile-friendly?
  • Google checks this out and if they don’t think so they will exclude you from a search. The Google mobile friendly test can be used to check that google thinks your website is suitable for google users.  https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
  1. Plan for the Inevitable 
  • Remember Death and Taxes are life’s most certain events .. plan for your demise
  • Who has your passwords to access you accounts?
  • Who will access your Facebook account to manage the final postings? Grim idea but you need think about a Legacy Contact…. now. Facebook does have a legacy contact function. Somebody needs to be able to get access

SUMMARY of all the Resources Susan recommended are located here.

Great Links from Susan.

  1. How to Create an All-Star LinkedIn Profile
  2. Measuring your social impact using BuzzSumo
  3. Leadfeeder: tracking your website visitors
  4. Creating a great Google My Business profile
  5. Targeting your ideal customer using LinkedIn advertising
  6. COVID Marketing Hub
  7. Don’t forget to use email marketing
  8. Using Zoom well
  9. Be more social on your social media
  10. Creating your customer personas
  11. Using Answer the Public to research what your customers are searching for
  12. Focus on your mobile marketing
  13. Don’t forget the inevitable…. Facebook legacy contact

The Hallam Agency is a fantastic resource for guidance and tips .. do check it out

How to make yourself into a Genius

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Gina Lazenby with Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton at Conscious Cafe Skipton’s last event. Great video recording of the event

Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton had an unusual start to her medical training.  In her first few weeks at Medical School she had what she described as a spiritual awakening. Instead of seeing the human body through the reductionist eyes of her trainers, where each part of the body is studied separately, as if it part of some clockwork system, she suddenly became of the human soul and consciousness, and how everything is connected.  This sudden vision put her deeply at odds with everything she was being taught but seemingly she managed to compartmentalise these two worldviews and qualified as a doctor. 

Eventually she left medical practice and explored bio-energy therapy becoming a broadcaster, author and sought-after international speaker in what is known as the New Science. Her two popular books are Punk Science and The Genius Groove. With training and practise in medical science and energy work, Dr Manjir has become a renowned expert on the science of spirituality and consciousness looking at quantum physics, string theory and consciousness and how they relate to mystical experiences. She joined us as guest speaker for Conscious Cafe Skipton (just before Lockdown) to discuss how we find our Genius, highlighting the science that is now validating so much of what many of us intuitively know .. or have learned through mystical teachings and spiritual practice. It was an exceptional evening that we recorded. Dr Manjir has very kindly edited the video into a great educational film that you will get great benefit from. She has also opened up some of her online classes to our Conscious Cafe community. Here is the link for free access. These are highly recommended.

Early programming does children a great disservice

Dr Manjir reflected on the great divide of the 11-plus exams which us older folks remember. That was where one single exam determined your future .. pass it at age eleven and you were deemed to be clever and went on to a good grammar school. Fail it and you were labelled stupid and off you went to secondary modern school. Many children were deeply affected by this early division and labelling. The more we now know about how Genius is developed within us, the more cruel we can see this early selection of children was, or is, as schools potentially continue to test and stream children.

What actually is Genius?

Most of us think it looks like the wild-haired Einstein, possibly Hawking in his wheelchair or maybe the disturbing yet lovable Rainman played in the movie by Dustin Hoffman. In other words, a Genius is a remote other-worldly being who is more like a super-human calculator.  We still think that Genius is something you are born with and is linked to your genetics, in other words it is fixed. There is no current popular thinking that says you can become a Benius …. until now.

IQ is a worthless rating

The continual assessment by teachers searching for higher IQ is deeply flawed as there is no scientific basis for this testing. IQ tests originally came about as a way to help children with special needs. The same test that was around 50 years ago cannot still be used as the population has evolved. The test has been changed .. the bar raised higher. That does not make sense.

Brain Science is still old science

The mind, consciousness and the soul are seen as synonymous with the brain. Yet the brain i simply an organ in our heads. So much of what we know is still guesswork as the field of Neuroscience is in its infancy. Looking for patterns in brain scans is not going to show how we work. There has been a belief that the brain is fixed at birth and there is no further growth. New Science tells us that the brain is fluid …. it changes.  London Taxi drivers are not born knowing the routes .. they study “The Knowledge” and their brains change as a result of this intricate learning.

Something beyond the brain

We have to look beyond the brain and understand that something is coming in that changes it. It causes it to respond. Manjir points out that current Medical Science does not like it when things are invisible. 

Forget genes

Who you are is NOT in your genes or because of them. It is a fallacy that your intelligence, your IQ and your personality is determined by your biology. This is such a pervasive scientific idea that it is not questioned. The Human Genome Project which is founded on the principal that everything about us is created by our genes, has come across a difficult truth. If the humble fruit fly has just 16,000 genes and a rice plant has 60,000 then humans must have many more .. likely over 100,000. Inconveniently for this theory, humans have only 24,000 genes. So the complexity and diversity  that we express cannot just be from our genetic makeup. That belief is old science. Seemingly, genes do not make us more intelligent.

Dr Manjir speaking at Conscious Cafe video – CLICK HERE for the recording

Epigenetics tells a different story

Dr Bruce Lipton, author of the celebrated book “The Biology of Belief” has done much to popularise the concept of Epigenetics. What he says is that there is something beyond the genes which changes the way they are expressed.  Each cell has the potential to be changed by something coming in from the outside .. and these could be thoughts, memories, beliefs and experiences.

What is actually controlling our genes?

In the Biology of Belief, Bruce asserts that our genes are controlled by our perception of our environment. This then goes in to our bloodstream, and the molecules that form then modulate the gene expression. He says that the hormones that run through our system are different according to HOW we react to something. In other words, perception is the driver of biology, not some innate blueprint.

Physics has had its own Revolution

Another revolution has been happening in Physics. There is nothing inside the atom. Nothing is solid. Nothing is fixed. Twentieth century physicists created shock waves with the discovery of Quantum Physics. Experiments have shown that reality changes depending on how you look at it.

Wave Particle experiments that have been well-documented show that the Observer affects the experiment. How can that be, that the results change depending on who is doing the experimenting and what they are thinking? It seems that our own consciousness reacts with reality .. to change it. And yet these new theories are not pervading popular thinking even though, unknown to most of us, the microprocessors inside the mobile phone in your hand uses Quantum Physics everyday. Scientists are beginning to agree that reality is stranger than first thought. Yet current Medical Science does not reflect any of this New Science thinking.

Understanding the Wave

The Wave is a mathematical possibility of what the wave could be. It is your own observation that brings that particle into being. Your consciousness allows you to perceive your environment. The atoms in the brain come into being through an act of consciousness, of observation. Even though this research changes everything, Medicine and Physics continue to remain separate areas of study.

Brain Consciousness Paradox

In the 1960s, the Consciousness Research Group determined that consciousness is fundamental to reality. Consciousness forms the ground state that matter comes from. Matter comes from consciousness, not the other way round. And that means you create your own reality. You are a conduit of consciousness. Finally, Physics has come around to stating what Mysticism has been saying for thousands of years. We have this knowledge in the 21st century yet we are not using it. This is a deeper aspect of reality that you have either not been taught or you have forgotten.

Quantum Physics says that particles can be anywhere. Particles pop into and out of existence all the time. This is the Quantum Vacuum which has so much energy it could boil the oceans in a second. What surrounds us all is actually a sea of light. And this sea of waves forms a pattern. At each point where the waves cross there is information. It is all holographic, which means that one part contains information about the whole. Even though mainstream science gets this, the media does not. This field of wave patterns contains all the information that has ever existed in the past, present and future. What the ancient mystics have called the Akashic Records.

How you access Genius 

According to the new science of Genius, your brain now becomes the conduit that can access all this information. That means everyone has a unique relationship and resonance to genius in this field of light that surrounds everybody and everything. You are continually reacting with this field of consciousness all the time in your own way. Your brain and your being brings through what is particular for you. Information is continually coming to you through the field. Your whole being is bringing in information, all the time. All you have to do is tap in to it. Simple as that!

More information is on the video recording with Dr Manjir where she explains how your passionate enquiry can switch on your Genius. Study further with Dr Manjir for free.

 

Mastering the online space to promote your business

How to Grow Your Business Online – with QVC legend Dexter Moscow

Lady Val Corbett hosted a fund-raising lunch for the Corbett Network’s work in helping ex-offenders create a new life. After the keynote speaker Dame Inga Beale talking about leadership times of great change, we had a workshop explaining how to be successful online.

Who better to guide us to getting our messages across now when we are not allowed to meet in person than someone who spent years perfecting selling from a screen via QVC. Dexter Moscow opened his workshop session with a reminder to us that we are more powerful than we think and we should so be proud of the power that we can bring to this new online environment. Having more confidence in what we do and what we can offer is a great starting point for promoting yourself online. Dexter seems to be a master of not only online promotion but also at teaching others.   He used to be a trainer of presenters on QVC TV and was also a presenter himself selling millions of goods and items. 

Dexter referred to today being Shakespeare’s birthday who said that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players. Within this new working environment of today’s new reality, we are very much on a stage. We need to learn to do what he helped his QVC with, being more natural and more authentic when we are operating in an environment where effectively, we are selling to an invisible audience.   We can speak to people and we can see them but we have to adjust to compensate for not being present in the same room and reading the signals we might have seen more easily.

Dexter said that there are three key elements to master: 

  1. The actual technology 
  2. The content that we can create to make these video conferencing calls, or videos,  more effective. 
  3. The delivery mechanisms, the way that we can actually connect with people. 

Business is now very personal 

The key to being successful when presenting from a screen is to make an emotional connection. People buy emotionally. They decide, logically. So everything we do is through an emotional filter. 

But it isn’t about selling anymore, even when I was on QVC we didn’t talk about selling, we talked about influence and persuasion. So we need to be more influential in the way in which we connect with people. 

Remember any aspect of what you has to be based on understanding that you have been invited into some somebody’s home. This was the whole concept of QVC, and the whole concept of QVC was about telling stories. 

When you are making a pitch, don’t tell people what you do. Tell them what you have done for others. And that’s a story. When people can step into that personal experience, or that company’s experience, they are emotionally connected. So it’s not just about what you do, but what you do that has had an a positive impact on others, or that it resolved the problem for others. You are a writer, you’ve written a dozen books .. what benefit are they to people? That is the key.

Presenting on video, live or recorded, is key to business success now. As people increasingly take in and consume information on video, rather than text, this way has become the new norm. Video consumption has been rising by 100% every year, and 60% of younger people in the millennial or Gen Z groupings will consume video on a daily basis, as a preference.

3-Part Framework for testimonials 

because that’s what we’re talking about with testimonials or stories, and often when we see testimonial testimonials we we hear this or we see this. If this was a very lovely person to work with. 

You can tell story on your video format. Here’s how: 

  1. The problem that that person brought to me was … 
  2. What I did to resolve that problem was…
  3. And the result was …..

This formula was always successful at QVC.

1 Master the TECH – Take the time and trouble to get it right

  1. The first thing is to be aware that the camera is absolutely key. Because if you want to convey information, either in video or if you want in this environment. The quality of the camera is essential. No fuzziness or you lose credibility.
  2. The second element is good sound. You need a lapel microphone or good digital mic on your computer.
  3. Be steady. If you’re going to use an iPad or smart phone use a tripod.
  4. Make sure you have a good background view. You can use a virtual one but they are a bit disruptive when you move. Better to set up a good studio setting behind you and attend to all the details of what can be seen. Simple, clean and uncluttered is good.
  5. Whatever camera you use, the eyeline is absolutely key. Make sure you have a good view and your viewer has too,
  6. Have a good shot of you when you camera is off-line, like a good logo. There might be space for a key branding message.
  7. The last element of this equipment is lighting. Make sure you are not in harsh light or dark shade. Test out various options or buy a professional portable lamp.

2 Master the CONTENT – invest time in crafting this 

Plan: Don’t wing it for any Zoom or conference call.

If you want to get a message across, craft it first. Create an agenda just as you might for for a physical corporate meeting. It helps steer and to know where you are going.  Share the agenda. The advantage there is that people will know what you’re going to say, they can communicate with you more effectively and that keeps you on track.

If the meeting is not live then get your message across on video. That is what is expected now. Add sub-titles so that people can view/listen and read. People often watch in crowded spaces or while traveling and have the sound down but read the words.

Keep up your understand for how people like to receive information. Some like to hear and enjoy podcasts others like to read and scroll down the text. Give all the options.

Keep it short: The perceived wisdom is that each video should be no more than about two minutes. Certainly a story within a video should be no more than two minutes.  Once you have their attention, people are watching videos longer, but they do have to be compelling.  The average slot on QVC was about 12, minutes, and those 12 minutes were three individual four minute slots of repetition. So the massage was about four minutes.

Good Opening: You have to start with an engagement. How do you engage people? By telling a story. Even sharing a good joke makes it less stuffy.

Be passionate about what you do. Be excited. Let that come through in your voice.

 

The two minute story – there are three elements to an emotional storytelling environment. 

  1. There’s the incident (which is the overarching element of the story) 15-30 seconds
  2. The action (what did you actually do to address the overarching. It could be a problem addressed, which is recommended then people can step into that experience, because then they know how that’s resolved. What you actually did is the majority of that storytelling aspect). Remember: Don’t tell people what you do tell them what you’ve done for others. 
  3. The benefit. (What was the quantifiable result of you solving that problem for them). About seven to 10 words and therefore about 15 seconds. What was the result of your interventions. 

3 – Master the DELIVERY – Use the four cornerstones of an effective presentation 

This is a framework that we used all continually on QVC where we had to influence or persuade people to do something that is the hardest thing in the world to do … pick up that phone and come online and order.  The quality of what we did was always marked by how much we sold.

  1. Firstly, what right do you have to talk about what you’re talking about. Describe who we are so we establish credibility.  How long we’ve been in our particular sector or, again, the information that we’ve given to others that has been helpful. 
  2. The second element is the companies that you’ve worked with, or the departments that you’ve helped. So it personal credibility then company credibility. Who have you been involved with that gives you further credibility. 
  3. The third element is the difference between emotion to logic. Emotion is the way in which  you connect with people, but you still have to offer some logic. Offer 3-4 key facts about what you do and how you do it. And that can involve the numbers as well, that can be the turnover increased, or the effect that you had on an individual to improve their lives. Stories and data.
  4. The fourth element is the most important. WIFM   What’s in it for me?  Think from their perspective. That should be your mindset. When you are communicating with people, your agenda is important but it should also combine what they want out of it.

Successful selling comes from having a strong belief in what you are providing, that it has value for other people.  You have to appreciate the value that you’re giving. Then once you can start  asking questions to elicit a response, you know if you are talking to the right audience and whether what you have will be beneficial and resolve their problems. If what you have is of genuine value then there is no need to be  afraid or ashamed. If you have good material then be proud.

During your online presentation, you can offer something that is an invitation so that people can experience your expertise and the quality of what you do. But don’t make it free. People are less likely to respect things when they are given away.

Final Tips

  • Have fun with what you’re doing, because if you are excited about it, they will be too and they will relax
  • Share your message throughout all  social media because people want to have problems addressed and this is the moment this is the age of face to face communication
  • Look at the camera directly – that is where to make eye contact
  • If you are working live (TV or Facebook)  never talk to millions, just one person
  • Engage your target audience so that they are prepared to listen. Grab them in those first 30 seconds with a great quote, fact, joke or topical story. Keep them engaged by asking questions
  • Enlighten them – either by confirming something they already know but had not thought about before, or did not realise that they did not know
  • Entertain them – whatever the subject be approachable and have fun. Remember this is an entertainment channel
  • Excite – Be excited yourself. Let that come out in your voice. Bring in your passion, be sincere, authentic .. if you are, people will buy your ideas, or products.
  • Do not make a video unless you are aware of the problem that exists and how you are solving it
  • Think about the experience that they are having that you know you can help with 

Leadership through times of great change

Leading in Changing Times

On April 23rd we had a first .. many UK business women are regular attendees at Lady Val Corbett’s legendary London networking lunches where she invites fascinating and high profile keynote speakers like Channel 4’s Jon Snow, national treasure comedian and global traveller Michael Palin and the colourful cook Prue Leith. The money raised from the lunch events funds the Corbett foundation and their important work in supporting ex-offenders creating a new life. So with the Lockdown and our West End lunch venue closed for business, our ladies lunch was held online .. we brought our own lunch at home and 60 of us settled in on Zoom to listen to our speaker addressing us from her own home. Lady Val was rather apprehensive how this would go but it’s fair to say it was a roaring success. We all now seem to be discovering how much can be achieved, and conveyed, through a screen and no travel! We still get the buzz of connection.

Dame Inga Beale, first female CEO to lead Lloyd’s of London in over three centuries

Our speaker was Dame Inga Beale, DBE, a British businesswoman who became the first female CEO of Lloyd’s of London. After leading the global insurance and reinsurance market for five years, embedding modernisation and cultural change, she left in June 2018. She has spent most of her career in the insurance industry and described herself as “a bit of a change agent for most of my work life” with many difficult challenges.” She seems to thrive on taking on transforming businesses and particularly changing the way people work by using technology. But the challenge of taking on the modernisation of Lloyd’s was the most difficult of her 38-year career.

You can see how the scale of the task was daunting and the successful outcomes was accomplished without a Global Pandemic-like crisis to spur it on!  Dame Inga explained how a forward-thinking Edward Lloyd first started the business (and the insurance industry) from his modest coffee house on Tower Street back in 1688 and, after 325 years, the way business was traded was basically the same. Even though the current building was one of the most modern in the city, the $40 billion of business traded on an annual basis was still done on paper slips. Dame Inga was brought in to change this extraordinary situation and move Lloyd’s from a paper-based environment to digital, hopefully succeeding where several predecessors had failed. She called this “the most complex and difficult transformation I’d ever taken on.” The time span seems to have been done within five years and it is a saving grace that this was accomplished prior to the Covid-19 pandemic which has forced everybody to shift online. Imagine the additional crisis if Lloyds still lived on paper slips! Here is how Dame Inga performed this business miracle:

  1. Inga said her first step was to LISTEN. She spent hours, days, weeks talking to hundreds of people to understand them, their practices and their needs. “I had to ask them what they wanted, what was so precious, what couldn’t be kept ad look at what could be kept, what could be changed. I had to understand why it had failed before.”
  2. BARRIERS had to be broken down. There was a great deal of separation with top execs hidden way on the upper floors and her own huge office having wonderful views over the city but no windows out into the business so she could see the people. She knocked down those walls replacing with glass and created an open plan environment, a clear signal that everything was going to be opened up.
  3. The HIERARCHY had to go. Centuries of male and patriarchal leadership kept the business structure old fashioned. She said she “had to try and reduce hierarchy, because it was stifling the ability of the whole organisation to change and to modernise. People weren’t engaging in conversation and they weren’t listening. If you were up in the clouds in this secluded executive zone, you weren’t in touch with the employees, you weren’t in touch with what was happening.” Many decisions were referred up to committees which made things sluggish so they had to go.
  4. The CULTURE had to have a major shift. People had to be empowered to make their own decisions instead of handing them off to a committee. She had to almost encourage people to do this and to step up and make bold decisions. When this happens, mistakes can be made so she had to allow a culture where people felt it was OK to make some mistakes. 
  5. Break RULES: People were used to feeling that they had to conform to everything. Now the culture was shifting to encouraging people to start breaking those rules! Creativity and good decision-making was stifled. Inga established an Innovation Lab to help move forward.
  6. Pick your BATTLES: in her quest for relaxing the rules and stuffiness, Inga sought to bring in more informality to the dress code of suits, ties and jackets always on .. however hot the season was. One hot Friday she allowed suit jackets to come off … that was a new rule that only lasted an hour. It seems it was one change too far. That was not something that had to be forced as there were other wins happening throughout the rest of the business, particularly where young tech folk were being recruited into the Innovation division. Slowly slowly change happened.
  7. Understand the FEARS: of course humans resist change, it’s natural. Digging in to find out why and where the fear is coming from is important. At Lloyd’s, it was not just the older generation that was resistant to change, the under 30s were also trying to hold on to the past. It turned out they were in fear for their jobs, livelihoods and career prospects so they were trying to stick with the old ways. Once that was known and the gaps understood, then reassurances could be made with the right delivery of new skills training. New tech advances and more equipment don’t necessarily remove all jobs, they simply require humans to skill up in new and different areas. Humans need to be helped to grow alongside the progression of technology.
  8. Being INCLUSIVE was key: in order to move forward and bring everyone along, Dame Inga highlighted that everyone had to be involved in designing their future. It is clear that as the commercial landscape changes jobs change and some disappear but new roles appear and it is vital that people are re-skilled for the new future. Roles that have not been thought about before are now emerging and so everyone has to be flexible in being open to learning and for providing the means for staff to grow and learn.

The project of taking this institution from its seventeenth century roots fully into 21st century digital paperless efficiency was colossal. How did dame Inga cope and get all this done with five years .. and stay sane? She became very focused and said she “Just had to keep going.” The missiles kept coming (she said she simply threw away the hate mail) and obstacles kept appearing but she did not let those distract her. She stayed on course with the support of trusted colleagues …. “You need allies, you can’t do everything on your own”. 

With Dame Inga’s expertise in insurance, she is always looking at emerging risks and the current global pandemic is really highlighting where the world is vulnerable and where resilience needs to be increased.

In the near future areas of concern will potentially be:

  • food shortages 
  • water shortages
  • the increased risk of living in cities, areas of concentrated populations
  • global supply chain vulnerability and the need to buy local
  • maintaining healthy work / life balance
  • mental health 
  • inequality and the ability of the poorest to cope with disasters

Dame Inga said it is amazing how so many people and systems have adapted so quickly to handle this current global pandemic. Yes many have struggled, and continue to do so, but society has done remarkably well with personal and national resilience high. We have been forced to take on new ways of working in days when businesses might have struggled for a few years to adapt and produce the same results and enabled working-from-home.  The investment Dame Inga made in her time at Lloyd’s was well-spent in helping this historic institution handle the emergency that we have all been going through. The lesson now is, whoever you are or whatever you do, get ready … work out ways that you can make yourself and your business be as resilient as possible for future emergencies.

The next lunch with Lady Val will be on June 18th

Bringing Balance to Boards

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At the February Business Women’s Networking lunch hosted by Lady Val Corbett, we are lucky to have specialists give advice on how women can grown their business and expand their reach in the world. Today was about how we might get onto a Board .. if that is a goal in our sights.

Our workshop speaker was Jeff Green, founder of Balanced Boards. His motivation behind launching this consultancy was his belief in the importance of inclusion, equality and equitable opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, or age.

Jeff has many senior contacts in the city and particularly among senior executives at Board level. He confided that some of his male colleagues who are on the receiving end of his passionate crusade to rebalance the country’s Boardrooms .. and have been known to resist conversation about what a few call “diversity nonsense”. To get them re-engaged Jeff has reframed the diversity agenda as social inclusion and mobility. Now that he says, they are much more willing to get behind. When they are reminded, these executives do actually want their own daughters and grand daughters to have equal opportunity, now and in the future. To have balance on a board it’s not just women’s voices that are needed, it’s everyone from all those other under represented groups of race, social class and under privilege. Then the Board is more likely to have the richer and diverse debate about an organisation’s more sustainable future.

Jeff is now actively engaged with US-based companies who have, or want to have, a global reach. It is easy to open up these leaders to the possibility of taking on a woman when he points out that they are aiming internationally and yet all their board members speak the same language and in no way reflect the markets the company aspires to. As they look east to Europe and Africa, Jeff is proposing non-American women for the vacancies that are opening up. Sounds like a pretty neat move. 

  • Getting onto the Board: If you want to makes change you have to be on the inside of the system and get as high up as you can get … even if you are actually a diversity hire. Grab the place and start working for others to join you. (Watch the movie on Amazon Prime called Late Night where this is the core story with spectacular results for change to the mono-culture of a Emma Thompson’s script-writing team who are all male, and white. See what happens when the female Asian woman joins the group!)
  • What is a non-exec director? A non-executive director typically does not engage in the day-to-day management of the organization but is involved in policymaking and planning exercises. In addition, non-executive directors’ responsibilities include the monitoring of the executive directors and acting in the interest of the company stakeholders.
  • Time and money:  can be 1-2 days a week with typical payment of £48,000 to £980,000 per year
  • Starting out: some advise getting on a charity board as a good start. Yes it does give you some Board experience but Jeff says this may not be the best way, unless the charity is a passion project for you. Being a school governor also gives you good experience. 
  • Good cv is needed: tailor your cv to really highlight your special skills and experience from which a company can benefit. Forget where you went to school, focus on what you can bring that will be of benefit and help grow the company.
  • Soft skills are now much in demand so conveying your ability to be charismatic and articulate is helpful. Remember men are just as capable of these soft skills and the empathy, compassion and relationship building ability that women are deemed to have more of. It is often the culture that holds back these values so potentially the arrival of a woman (or more women) may create a bigger shift.

Jeff Green, founder of Balanced Boards, was guest workshop leader at Lady Val Corbett’s Women Business Networking lunch Feb 2020

  • Your special contribution: How can you help the company innovate? what can you do to support the increased focus on mental health.
  • Networking:  women often do not know where to network and they can end up networking with each other and not finding the right contacts for board positions. Jeff says to network in your particular domain, in your special industry or skill area. Contacts to higher levels can be gleaned if you focus there. He called this the lowest hanging fruit.
  • Creating Change: Once on a Board you might find the need to shake things up … it is best to hold back on this until you have a sponsor to support you, preferably the Chair
  • When to start: why wait til you are older? Young women in their 20s should start planning their progress to Board level, now.

Contact Jeff Green on Balanced Boards for more help getting onto a Board

After our session today with Jeff Green more women are on the case to the change this given the tips and roadmap that he highlighted for the Women’s Network

Secrets to Powerful Public Speaking

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Powerful Public Speaking .. some really helpful tips

As a a former senior producer with the BBC Esther Stanhope has met them all  … the most senior politicians and the Hollywood greats. She has helped prepare them for interview and calmed their last minute nerves. She was confident, competent .. brilliant at her job. Then someone asked to speak on a stage about her role and she realised she was utterly terrified of public speaking. So, after leaving the BBC and starting her own business she developed mastery of a field she felt initially she had absolutely no confidence in.

Esther with our host Lady Val Corbett

And what a shining example she is of a Zero-to-Hero transition in a field of expertise. She was an absolute knockout of the speaker at our bimonthly women’s Business networking lunch run by Lady Val Corbett’s Network at the end of February.

Esther Stanhope has become a great asset to both junior and senior people in many organisations. She is particularly helpful if you feel highly competent in your job but not confident about being in the spotlight. Does that resonate with you? How many of us are confident in one area of life but not all? Esther wants us to be visibly brilliant as well as technically brilliant. Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? She says “Get over it”, you are fabulous and if you believe you are, others will too.

Esther is a great speaker and presenter, and really funny too. But the goal is not to copy her and try to be like her ….. it is to have the skills to be our own authentic self and use her tips to put our unique personality into a situation or onto a stage with faith that we can come across well. If we can make that breakthrough in confidence then we can inspire others and become the best version of ourselves. Are

Good speaking changes your life

Speaking up and speaking out is a skill we can all learn .. and Esther says we absolutely should learn how to create impact on a stage, in a boardroom, during a pitch .. anywhere where we would like to have influence. She said “When you learn to speak in front of an audience, it changes your career, it changes your life. It attracts people to you immediately. It is unbelievably powerful. It transforms your businesses. It transforms you and your confidence levels, it just takes you to another level.” Yes there are times when you will be worried and scared but that means you are really living ….. you are stretching yourself!

Esther now speaks at conferences all the time and gets paid handsomely. She has proved to herself that she can do it. So she encourages .. nay she challenged us to do the same …. “Go out and get yourself speaking gigs … keep at it.

“First of all” Esther said, “ Everyone has got good bits and bad bits. It’s about finding your good assets….  finding the your own superhero powers and really really working with them and are.”

That little voice of doubt on the shoulder, 

Have you got one of these sitting on your shoulder criticising you? Esther gave hers a name …. she named her cruel inner voice Cyril. She recognises when he mutters at her and tells him to be quiet.  What can you call your critic? 

TIP: tell yourself “I’ve got this .. I am nailing this” .. stop the negative internal chatter and reinforce yourself with good positive statements.

What is your confidence rating?

Esther gave us a scale of 0 to ten, with ten being the best. Where are we with our speaking skills she asked the audience of 80 women? At a recent gathering of Mumsnet women hoping to return to work, she said the average audience score was just 2.1 … our audience had an average of 6.2. Ok we are better but we need to aim for 9.8.

Have you experienced one of these problems?

  • Being interrupted at meetings
  • Feel like an idiot
  • Had difficulty speaking up in a boardroom and getting heard, perhaps as the only woman
  • Not expert enough
  • Legs go shaky
  • Mind goes blank
  • Somebody walked out of the audience, put me off my stride
  • Missed something out of your intended script
  • You think the audience does not like you
  • You are boring people with too much data
  • All your slides are too full of words

Esther has tips for everything and gave us some good basics to boost our confidence and skill levels. She has written a book called: “Goodbye Glossophobia – Banish your fear of public speaking”. It’s a great read and somehow reassuring when she emphasises how nervous and horrible she used to feel. A million miles away from the delightful and relaxed woman who entertained us for 40 minutes.

She reminded us that we can make up so much nonsense in our heads …. OK so we left something out of the speech .. does the audience know, or care? they have got blank faces .. may be they are concentrating on what we are saying?  

TIP: one of her first tips was “Do not imagine audience naked!”  ..  It’s not a pretty sight and does not help at all.

Start with the basics

The actual physical side effects of anxiety and nerves have a really quick fix.  The first thing that you need to do if you start feeling nervous in any situation, whether it’s public speaking, or a job interview or maybe you’ve been invited to do a webinar, is a breathing exercise. 

TIP: Smell the roses, blow out the candle. 

This is a really good quick fix, an instant stress buster. Simply breathing through the nose and then slowly out through the mouth. Three times, for around about 45 seconds. You can rid your body of cortisol, the stress hormone; you can rid your body of panic in under a minute. Do that before you go on stage. Smell the roses, blow out the candle. There is loads of science to say this works and it immediately gets your heart rate down.

 

Don’t be the woman behind the scenes .. with the clever pen!

Esther loves to work with women and sometimes notices when working with major international firms and senior leaders, quite often, the women are writing the speeches… but not giving them.  They’re the ones with the vision, doing all the work ….. they’re the ones with the roadmap to the new regime. And yet it’s the senior guys that are doing this public speaking, chairing the meetings, being seen at the town hall sessions. Many women want to stay in background … their fear holds them back. We can’t let that continue. The only way we’re going to change that is by doing it ourselves. get out there and SPEAK UP. Be brave. Learn how stand in your power.

Esther’s challenge to you: Get yourself a speaking gig. Do more. Encourage other women to speak more.

The Simple Art of Telling a Story

So you say to yourself … “I’m not a writer .. I can’t tell a story!” Yes you can! As a human being you have a story. Stories are where it is at right now. They are SO important. You can draw on anything and the idea is to paint a picture for your audience so that you can connect with them.

  1. Start the sentence .. I remember one time when
  2. Give an image or feeling .. Connect with audience. Paint a picture for them, engage their senses
  3. Mark Zuckerberg’s assistant blow dries his armpits on his T shirt before he makes an appearance. That gets a laugh.
  4. Picture the story in your head then you don’t need a script. It is in your memory easy to access when you choose some real life event or anecdote.
  5. Come up with a nostalgic memory that takes people back to their own childhood or youth

BIG TIP: Power pose

This is a a very quick way to look good, sound good, and feel good. The power pose. The Amy Cuddy TED Talk explains the science behind taking a powerful pose. Her 2012 Ted Talk has had over 56 million views.. and counting. Watch it. Are

Instructions: 

  1. Find a private space like a toilet before going yo your speech location
  2. Stand with your legs hip width apart. You want to feel the gravity under on your feet, 
  3. Keep like the for 2 minutes
  4. You will feel more confident because you fill your body up with testosterone which makes you feel more courageous.
  5. Neuroscientists also suggest you put your hands in the air, and expose your armpits too. Imagine Wonderwoman. 

Strike a P.O.S.E.

Esther came up with this acronym when supporting her nervous guests before live TV and radio interviews. Four tips for a quick fix.

Posture, Oomph, Speech .. and Smile!

P is for Posture

  • There is so much science behind having the right physicality.  Your brain thinks you are powerful with the right posture
  • Do not totter around on wobbly heels. Good posture means you look more confident, it is better for your voice, even sitting at table 
  • Spread out and take up space. Look at how then men sit
  • Presence is as important as content

What to do with hands?

Option 1 – Keep your hands in front .. men could look like a bouncer.

Option 2 – Keep your hands behind your back, like Prince Philip

Option 3 – For TV you need are them to be in the square of the screen above the hips so do that and just hold on to your third finger to steady your hands .. like Tess Daly

O is for Oomph 

  • You need energy, enthusiasm
  • Think about where you get your energy from
  • Have enthusiasm .. “give it some welly!”
  • NLP advocates will show you a power move that galvanises all your energy

S is for Speech

  • Vocal warm up
  • Use a Tongue Twister to get your chops working … like Unique New York
  • Try an Evil Laugh (best to be on your own with these!)

E is for smile

  • Smile and people will think you are confident and relaxed 
  • Smiling moves nerves upward in face
  • Have power and warmth and you will look confident 

TIP: for connecting with the audience

Maybe you have been given a difficult subject or one that your audience has been told to listen to and which they fear or find difficult .. be open and honest, acknowledge how difficult it is for them, help them relax .. acknowledge and let them share their feeling honestly. This authenticity should break down any barriers you feel.

Sign up to Esther’s great mailing list for more tips: 

 

.. and get out there and speak .. see you on the stage!

Esther Stanhope, the Impact Guru with author Gina Lazenby

Where do we get love from?

Conscious Cafe Skipton met late February at Avalon Wellbeing Centre to talk about LOVE ..

In that quieter space after Christmas, when all the glittery decorations had been put away, I walked round the shops and noticed how everywhere seemed to have been taken over by heart bunting and the colour red. It’s obviously for Valentine’s day the next month. The marketing industry has firmly anchored in the notion that, although love is all around, it is all about romantic love and coupledom. Unless you have a sweetheart to buy a card for, you might just feel a tad left out, even isolated. And yet love is so much bigger than that narrow perspective. So I proposed a conversation about this for our late February Conscious Cafe conversation in Skipton.

A small group of us set out to explore the deeper meanings of love and examine all the areas in our lives where we experience love.  Judging by the number of people who mentioned to me afterwards their desire to attend our evening, but in the end chickened out, and not because of the terrible weather, it seems that talking about love may be a bit uncomfortable for some. So I’m grateful for the courage of our small group who met at Avalon Wellbeing centre.

Where does love come from in your life?

Here is a summary of the insights from the evening. Our full list of questions is at the bottom if you are interested in taking them on for yourself.

  1. Blood connection: Setting aside for now, the love of a romantic life partner, where else does love come from. We started out by acknowledging the love of family, children, parents, siblings …… the tribe we grow up with and for the most part, spend the rest of our lives tethered to in some way. These are strong bonds of love.
  2. Friends can become our family of choice. The sitcom Friends clearly demonstrated the potential for deep loving relationships among friends, and the endurance and nourishment of companions who are able to create close connection is what must have made the TV show so popular for ten years.  It is still on our TV screens, every day, 16 years after it ended!  If, however, you’ve been in a loving relationship for most of your adult life, and not spent much of your time being single, you might not have had the chance to create this kind of community of friends. It is different for us all.
  3. Saying “I love you”: Does this become easier as one gets older?  Is it easier with age, or is it something about the spirit of the age that supports and evening encourages more openness and makes it easiest for us to say, I love you. I know that I can now tell one of my close friends that I love them and yet I would not have done that years ago.
  4. Words have power:  Perhaps the most important person to say I love you to, is yourself, especially if you live alone and you don’t have that close knit circle of friends where loving conversation and expression is comfortable and familiar. We did an exercise using muscle test to demonstrate the power words can have on the body to either weaken or strengthen physical resistance. Saying kind and loving words to yourself (even as unspoken thoughts) makes you physically stronger than saying something negative.  It’s definitely worth trying.
  5. Love yourself first:  We all want love. That is the bottom line. And what is at the heart of the human experience is the need to be seen, to be heard, to be listened to… valued. To be loved.  But it’s hard to ask others to give you what you are unwilling to, or feel incapable of, giving to yourself. Being able to love yourself is the single most important factor in the success of any relationship. And that love is not self-indulgent or arrogant, it’s simply about self acceptance and feeling worthy.
  6. The power of a hug: There’s plenty of scientific research into the benefit of physical touch. Hugging someone for 10-20 seconds, actually has the power to reduce pain and clear headaches. Not everyone is comfortable with this closeness, so do check first. It’s a great currency to have, to be able to contribute to others’ well-being and your own by smiling, reaching out and giving a hug.
  7. Touch is part of the language of love: It’s not just in the words I love you. Love can be conveyed with intention. Love comes across through the simple touch of reaching out and holding or squeezing someone’s hand.  It shows you care.  Just as eye contact and really looking at someone, giving them a moment, letting them know you see them. That is powerful. It’s an expression of love.  
  8. Touching in the modern era:   Everybody’s personal boundaries are different. So in the #metoo era, when some men are not sure how much physical contact is now appropriate, (or even post coronavirus where we might fear we are exposing ourselves to germs) there are other ways of connecting and showing warmth. If a fist bump is a bit too American frat boy, or an arm grab is too Trump-like there’s always the symbolic greeting. Put your hand on your heart to convey a desire for connection or place your hands together Indian prayer style, perhaps with a bow. That way you are saying a lot and also throwing up a physical barrier to any surprise hug.
  9. Cultures vary:  We’ve all got our different codes for expressing friendship, companionship connection and love.  In Pakistani, for example, men feel much freer in their masculinity and are able to hold hands together without conveying without that being read as a different sexual preference.
  10. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: those who have experienced this may have a different way of feeling.  Having been exposed to such an intense and wide spectrum of feelings, it may be that some experience a need to cut themselves off from feelings to minimise the impact on themselves, until they feel healed. But those who have suffered this also have the capacity to be much more aware of what they are feeling.
  11. Language of love: beyond words and touching, there are many different ways to show love. Gifts are important for some, taking action, being there and present, and even doing supportive jobs are ways to show love. A very powerful one is the preparation of food. It’s universal and often the secret weapon of mothers and grandmothers. What could be more loving than everyone round the table for a big Sunday lunch?! I always provide home-made cake at Conscious Cafe events. Yes I could make it easier for myself and buy one, but by making one, I am showing my appreciation for people who make the effort to come and be willing to be in community for an evening. (For this event I made gluten-free pancakes in honour of Shrove Tuesday!)
  12. Finding words to describe love: this we found difficult.  There are so many ways to love, so many different forms that we feel the need to expand the language more.So many meanings for just one word!
  13. All embracing nature:  a deeper meaning for love is our connection to spirit or God, or whatever word you use for Source. We are receivers of consciousness, conduits between heaven and earth. The spiritual aspect of love is our higher nature beyond all relationships. And it is something we can access by ourselves .. taking ourselves to a higher state, being in meditation, feeling wonder. Even looking at the stars can expand our sense of self and make us feel connected to everything .. having a sense of oneness that transcends all.
  14. Unconditional love: There’s no greater gift in the world than to have the love of friends or family, where you know you are unconditionally loved and supported. Animals can also give us that without any judgments, being in the way. Unconditional love is the greatest nourishment we can receive and it is good to take a moment and appreciate that in our lives.

How to access or get more love

  1. Being in nature not only changes us physically, emotionally and mentally but it can take us to another state of feeling connection with all

    For the most part, meditation and developing an increased awareness is helpful in connecting to our loving nature. Breath work, being still and quiet, focussing on your heart, are also good ways for taking you to a state of grace.

  2. Being in nature enables you to feel connected to everything.
  3. Perhaps through your beliefs or religion you feel powerful connection by being in a sacred space like a church or any place of spiritual power.
  4. Smiling at others, feeling compassion or joy can all help strengthen and amplify your connection to God or source or light.
  5. Receiving the response of a smile and giving one changes your own body chemistry.
  6. Giving to others, acts of love, sharing prepared food.
  7. Feeling love for yourself and giving yourself positive self talk.

Conscious Cafe Skipton Questions:

Question 1 – Where does the love come from in your life? In what ways are you present to the love that you have? What does love like in your world? 

Question 2 – What do you do to nourish the love you have? How do you show or express love? Psychologist Robert Sternberg says “Without expression even the greatest of loves can die”.

Question 3 – Is Love a choice? How do you decide who and what to give your love to? 

Question 4 – And if you think love is missing in some way, how could you find it again?

The power of common purpose

Gina Lazenby at the Common Purpose event in Skipton with Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon (centre), and convener Marion Tweed-Rycroft, North Yorks County Council

Good news is actually  … good news

Stronger Communities SkiptonThe fact that I find positive stories so uplifting must mean that I have been tuning into too much TV news reports recently where there is hardly ever any good news (and even the bad stuff seems to get worse). You just might fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing good happening in the world.  Yesterday my heart was uplifted when I happened to attend “by chance” an event designed for the voluntary sector and faith groups in Skipton and Craven district. Not my normal milieu as I belong to neither community, but something about the event name .. Common Purpose .. called me in. Even though I was not on the invite list I was warmly welcomed and that about sums up everything about the day … the human capacity to reach out to a stranger with a smile and a word of welcome, and then afterwards ask who they are.

The full-capacity meeting was convened by Craven District’s Stronger Communities Delivery Manager, Marion Tweed-Twycroft.  The attendees were representatives across all faiths and local charitable networks. It’s quite astounding that so much is going on ..behind the scenes and with so many unsung heroes and heroines. The idea of the day was to bring everyone together and make more of what is already available by encouraging more partnership activity.

Collaboration is key

You might assume each church does its own thing with its own membership. Not at all. There is a strong spirit of collaboration and cooperation among the local churches to the point where the group name has apparently become the ‘Church of Skipton’. Congregation sizes might be getting smaller but the activities of the churches are growing with a strong outreach.

In 2015 a survey was done nationally by the Cinnamon Network to determine what was being provided at community level by faith groups. In Craven district that year, 150,000 hours of volunteer time were recorded with a financial value of £1.37 million added to the community. And two thirds of the faith-based projects were collaborating with other groups to make their initiatives even more effective. 

Times of Austerity call for greater creativity

There is an expression about necessity being the mother of invention. In these times of cutbacks that slash community budgets that hit welfare support, whatever resources have been to hand are now being leveraged to the hilt. The approach has been one of determining all the assets that everyone has in terms of buildings, resources, skills and connections. If a church building is used by only a handful of people for Sunday worship, it can filled with other groups through the rest of the week. The need to think outside the box and make more of what there is has grown many successful initiatives.  

Putting the kettle on 

Mark Waddington, CEO of Wellsprings Together, an initiative from the Diocese of Leeds, nailed the spirit of community effort when he said “The first step is to put the kettle on”. One of their most important projects is ‘Places of Welcome’ where he stressed the importance of creating spaces where people can come together, feel safe and connect. With the burden of spiralling mental health issues falling increasing across the community, he said it is crucial to have places where it is OK not to be OK.  

The Wellbeing Cafe is a project that appears to be run by Baptist church member Peter Smith in a United Reform Church where there is an open house to all for three hours every Thursday afternoon. This regular community space where you can get a tea, toasted sandwich and an art class is having a big impact on many people’s lives. The social interaction and support by friendly volunteers is giving people back their confidence and boosting self-esteem. There is no talk of religion, it is simply a space where the faith-based community provide a caring and judgement-free place for connection. A Muslim leader also spoke of the powerful impact on community cohesion by providing a place to cook food and share it together once a month with the different nationalities and faiths living in one neighbourhood.

The Medicine of Listening

There is increasing science behind the study of loneliness which says it not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. Putting that kettle on, providing an opportunity to sit round a table and have a chat or a meal, can literally be a life-saver for many. Being listened to and feeling heard is a much under-valued medicine and if it is provided as an earlier intervention it can stave off more serious mental health problems later on. Having access to a friend listening ear, someone who makes you feel valued by giving time, attention, and in that moment of being heard .. love. This is what the web of collaboration from a huge network of faith-based organisation is providing. 

The Bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley, summarised the power of the morning’s gathering by drawing attention to the importance of making people feel welcomed and valued. She quoted a Maori chief in New Zealand, where she previously served as Bishop and worked closely with the indigenous communities, as saying “the most important thing in the world is people, people, people.  She said everything that had been shared in the Common Purpose session had highlighted the many community projects that are providing help by wrapping around people with love and compassion.  So much more was being achieved by everyone working together. 

Making more of what we already have, being kind and compassionate .. what does that cost? Money may be tight but it not always the simple answer. Kind people are the answer, and especially those who reach out to each other to create a much-needed net of loving support which is the glue holding our social fabric together. 

Gina Lazenby hosts monthly events for the Conscious Cafe Skipton community where folks get together to talk about things that matter… find out more on MeetUp.