Monday, December 29, 2008

A Thank-You Still Goes A Long Way

Ho, ho, ho!

Oh no, oh no, oh no!

More gifts I don’t like, what to do?

If this may be what you're thinking ...

I’m not your mother, but let me remind you of two things when it comes to gift getting and being gracious.

1) A “thank you” goes a long way. When you receive a gift, regardless of your inner reaction – smile, and say, “Thank you!” If you can feign a little enthusiasm, too, it shows appreciation. After all, people have different tastes and different budgets, so they are doing the best they can. A follow-up thank-you note is a nice gesture, too.

2) When the gift has been sent or given to you by someone other than the “gift giver” in person, it is essential that you send a note. OK, a phone call is better than nothing, and an e-mail is further up the food chain, but nothing beats a handwritten note. It shows consideration. It shows class. And think about it -- what, really, is the cost to you? Probably 5 minutes and the price of a stamp. So, keep a box of notepaper handy, and write a three-sentence note. It can say something like: “Dear ____. Thank you so much for ________. I will be able to use it to __________. Your (creativity, imagination, thoughtfulness) are greatly appreciated.”

Remember, people have spent time and money (OK, so maybe there’s a bit of re-gifting going on, but they still took the time to think of you!). The least you can do is show some appreciation.

And, who knows, maybe next year, you will like the gifts you get.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bad Humor Is No Joke

Using humor can be a great lead-in to an effective presentation, and even sprinkled throughout a talk.

But U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is now apologizing for telling Polish jokes at a gathering of Pennsylvania political insiders earlier this month.

Senator Specter says he was recalling stories that had been told by the late Philadelphia Republican political boss, Billy Meehan. He explained, “On the Pennsylvania Society weekend, the subject came up and I told a couple of Bill Meehan stories. And they struck a nerve. And they were insensitive and, I now see, inappropriate.”

Even seasoned orators like Senator Specter need to remember a few rules for the effective use of humor when giving a presentation:

1)Never disparage any ethnic, gender, age, or racial group. This type of humor is NEVER funny, nor appropriate – despite what you may think.

2)Don’t repeat a joke that someone else used, thinking the blame for it if it bombs won’t be placed squarely on you (see above story RE Senator Specter).

3)Humor often doesn’t “travel” well (internationally or regionally).

4)Work on your timing – a humorous story improperly delivered is ineffective.

5)Self-deprecating humor can be good, unless they take your foibles seriously.

6)Don’t blame others for your poor judgment (Senator Specter take note)

The good news is that Senator Specter realized that he had made a mistake in using this inappropriate humor and apologized. Many speakers whose presentations fail due to bad use of humor don’t often realize in retrospect why their message wasn’t effectively received.

Senator Specter says that he makes a lot of speeches, and usually uses humor in good taste. But he says sometimes he makes mistakes –-and this was a big one.

Presenters can learn from this example, and carefully consider the use of humor – following the guidelines above.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Thoughts on Time Share Ownership

Do you remember the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles? Great song!

There was one section that goes: “’Relax,’ said the night man, We are programmed to receive. You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave.”

That sounds a lot like owning a time share to me – it sure feels like you can checkout, but you can never leave.

My husband and I are time share owners. For the most part, we have been satisfied with our accommodations, and the ability to trade our beach time for skiing. However, what is often promised is rarely what is received.

As I last blogged, we spent last week in Riviera Maya, at our time share – and in order to get the related 10% discount on all food and drink – not to mention other goodies – we once again had to attend the time share presentation.

These are really a 90-minute talk where they try to up sell – more time, better accommodations, etc. According to our salespeople, their close rate is over 70%. Not bad, when you consider it is a very short selling cycle, and big ticket numbers.

These people are fast talkers, and great promisers – by the time you leave, your head is spinning. Then, reality strikes – what did I just agree to?

Here are some words of advice and caution if you, too, find yourself in this type of selling situation, from someone who considers herself to be a savvy consumer and good negotiator:

1)Use your head, not your heart. Ask yourself these questions: “Why am I doing this?” “Will I use it”; “What are the units selling for online?”; “Can I afford it?”; Remember, this isn’t a business investment, it is a guaranteed vacation week.

2)Have a price in mind. Be willing to walk away if you don’t receive it. When we originally bought the time share, we gave what we thought was a ridiculously low price – and they said, “yes.” We should have offered less!

3)Get everything – and I do mean everything – in writing.
And, again, be willing to walk away if they don’t put it in writing.

All of this being said, most time share owners continue to buy more, and new buyers continue to sign on -- it’s a thriving industry. If you want a week in some sunny destination, will use it, and can afford it, time share ownership can be a great way to vacation.

Just keep in mind, however, that you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Toast To You

With colder temperatures here, and already signs of snow, I am more than ready to sit on the beach, read some books, and get some sun … and, the great thing is that I am actually doing it!

This week, my husband and I are in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Is it the best time to take off? Probably not. But, if you don’t take/make time for yourself, you won’t get it.

I encourage anyone reading this to block out some time for yourself, and your family over the upcoming holidays – and, in general year round.

Personally, my motto is: “Work hard and play hard.” I know that this won’t work for everyone.

But, consider this -- when a study was done interviewing people over 65 (no, I’m not there, yet), and researchers asked, “What would you do differently in your life?” … The resounding response was, “I would have taken more risks. I would spend more time with my family. I’d take time to stop and ask the big questions.”

As I sip my margaritas in the warm sun this week, and follow this "advice," I will think collectively of anyone reading this, and offer a toast to you!

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Reflections & Being Thankful

I love Thanksgiving!

We had 22 people at our house on Thanksgiving day, including three women in their 80s and four boys 5 and under.

Think a happy kind of chaos!

My husband and I are always thrilled when our four children (and spouses and grandchildren), are all together. Like many families, we are all scattered across the country, so it is special when everyone can be in one place.

In our crazy, fast-paced world – filled with working longer hours, layoffs, recession, conflicts in various regions, and terrorist attacks like what happened in India – sometimes we need to take a step back and remember, and be grateful for, what really matters: quality time spent with family and friends.

I hope that we all have many opportunities to celebrate throughout December, and in the New Year, too!