For $16.99, Amazon will sell you a set of four ping pong paddles and six ping pong balls. If you knew that an investment of roughly $17 could make the difference in a lasting impression, would you pay the price?
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
In the waterways of the Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island, there are a number of marinas. Most are full of character and characters. Some are memorably scary in terms of how many long-legged spiders share the shower with you, but one particular marina stands out. It was lovely. The dock itself was in beautiful condition. The walkways were unusually wide, the planks looked new – no deteriorating wood or nails out of place – and the grounds were spacious and inviting, as were the washrooms.
The weatherproof ping pong table was a bonus! But when you went to borrow the paddles, Ugh! You had six to choose from. Only two had any rubber on them at all and even that is a generous statement.
It reminded me of a job interview I once had in San Marcos, California. I wanted this position badly and was prepared for any question. But when I crossed the parking lot to enter the business, I noticed the banners on the light poles were terribly faded, shredded and untethered as the wind wreaked havoc on their remaining intact strands of fabric. Upon entering the reception area, the space seemed cramped, piles of documents were taking over and it felt like too many people were sharing one small, chaotic space. The associates in the office looked as worn out as the banners. Eesh!
The interview itself had a desperate undercurrent of, “How much money can you get us and how fast? We’re dyin’ here!”
While I was sure I could raise enough for new lamppost banners, I was also certain that this was just the beginning of the organization’s financial woes. The whole experience left me feeling exhausted, uninspired and certainly not interested in going down with that ship.
There are plenty of leadership books that suggest we be ready when a big moment arrives. I suggest we be camera ready, and that applies to employers, potential employees and all areas of life.
Let’s say you’re flying out of Flagstaff and the pilot goes all Captain Sully on you (I know this is Arizona, but there are Phoenix-area resorts with some mighty big pools, so stay with me). Did you check out the people in the exit row? Did they look ready to pull the red handle and throw open the doors? Do you think they reviewed the safety pamphlet? You definitely want those people to be ready, and then you want them to perform well when the news media shows up – after all, they are on your team, representing you and the other cool, prepared passengers who kept it together as you left the aircraft in an orderly manner – just like in the airline safety video!
Being camera ready means you are prepared when opportunity shows up. Here’s a checklist:
Carry Business Cards. Make sure that you have some, they are easily accessible, they are free of latte and chocolate muffin stains and they are up-to-date.
Be Aware of What You’re Communicating. This communication goes way beyond what you might say. You are showing the world who you are by how nice you are to strangers, how messy or neat you look from your shoes to your briefcase to the napkin on your airline tray table, and how well you can articulate what you do in 30 seconds or less. Let everything about you scream your best self.
Exude Life. As my mother would say before church, “For heaven’s sake, look alive!” Appear, think and behave like you are ready to participate. Be enthusiastic, optimistic and helpful. Who doesn’t want that person on their team or in their pew?
Make Space. Opportunity is all around us, but it won’t do us any good if we can’t fit it into our schedule. I once read about a woman who dearly wanted to find her mate and share her life with that someone special. Her counselor observed that there was no possible place in her life for what she desired – no space in her garage for his car, no room in her closet for his things and no time on her calendar for a relationship. She made space; her life changed.
For more on this topic, you can find me in the exit row, with the ping pong set securely stowed in the overhead compartment. FBN
By Bonnie Stevens
Bonnie Stevens is a public relations consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.