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Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Party 101: Dos & Donts for a Host

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2009 at 1:30 am

October, November & December are typically loaded with parties. They come with big festivals such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But we don’t need occasions to party & meet people. Socializing is a common part of our lives. Summer comes loaded with BBQ parties for instance. There are tons of websites and TV programs that give inputs on setting up your space for party, cooking food, etc. But I haven’t come across a good comprehensive list of things to do and not to do. So, here’s my take if you are a host. Guests can find their list here. I’d love to hear from you about things that worked well & didn’t work well in other parties.

If you are the host:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare are the three big guiding principles for a successful gathering.
  2. Invite the guests well ahead of time so that their calendar issues are addressed. If you are hosting a big party, it may not be possible for everyone to attend. There may be something more important for some guests on a particular day. Just pick a day that works for most people and move on.
  3. If you are inviting more than one person, think about the commonalities between the people you are inviting. Did they all go to the same school? Do they belong to a particular association? Do they have similar likings? If they have nothing in common and they don’t know each other, they will be bored pretty soon.
  4. Also, are there guests who cannot stand each other? Can you host them on separate occasions? Though your event may not be a State dinner, it is important that you be considerate about your guests.
  5. Always have some starters and juices to offer to people within 10 mins of their arrival. You do not know how hungry they are & you don’t want to keep them waiting until the other guests arrive or dinner is served. Starters are just that – starters. Enough to delay the main course but not too filling. Quite often, hosts do not offer anything to drink or eat for about an hour after arrival. Not all guests may feel comfortable to walk into your kitchen and grab something to eat.
  6. Prepare the food ahead of time that way you can spend more time with the guests while they are at your place.
  7. Spend no more than 20 mins to heat the food and set the table while the guests are at your place. This requires that all your food is ready ahead of time. Sure, food right from the oven tastes much better than something cooked a couple of hours ago & reheated. But you are inviting people to spend time with them. If you toil your time in the kitchen, you have missed an excellent opportunity. Select your menu carefully so that it will still taste good when it is reheated.
  8. As the starters begin to decrease in quantity, gradually transition your guests to the main course. It is not uncommon to see the hosts delaying the main course by 2-3 hrs from the time the guests arrive. This can get too late in dinner parties because not everyone eats a very late dinner. Similarly if you invited people for lunch, serving lunch at 3 pm is late. Some guests may choose to make an excuse and leave so that they can eat outside and address their hunger.
  9. If your guests stay late after dinner, offer them some tea / coffee. This will keep the energy going. Also, starters can be brought out again at this time for snacks.
  10. For a BBQ party, cook one batch of everything just before your guests arrive. This ensures that they have food to eat while the next batch cooks. Some items take an hour to cook & you don’t want to leave your guests waiting that long.
  11. Always say only nice things to your guests. You want them to leave with a good feeling from your place. Why bother inviting them if you want to settle for anything less?
  12. If the guests include children, have some non-spicy food also in the menu.
  13. Always ask your guests to let you know ahead of time if they have any allergies.
  14. Always have at least one or two vegetarian options in the menu so that everyone has something to eat.
  15. Keep some toys, crayons, etc for the children to use.
  16. Unless it is a game night or a movie night, do not turn on the TV. If your TV shows are so important to you, then why should your guests rearrange their priorities to meet with you?
  17. If you plan to have some music in the party, keep it low volume so that guests don’t have to speak loud over it to be heard. After the initial icebreakers & when the party kicks pace, consider turning off the music.
  18. If any of your guests are drunk, consider not letting them drive.
  19. Be current with the news and keep a few conversation topics handy for icebreakers.
  20. If you have invited multiple guests who don’t know each other, introduce everyone as they arrive. This will warm them up to the room. Otherwise, they have to make their own connections and not everyone is comfortable with that. Soon, they may get bored with the party.
  21. Send a private thank you note to each of your guests and tell them how nice it was to host them.
  22. Do not clean the dishes or rearrange the food while your guests are still there. It can wait until all the guests leave. If you have OCD about this, tell your partner or someone you trust to remind you about this. If you want your house to be that clean that you should do this right away, why should your guests be spending time with you instead of cleaning their houses?
  23. If the guests are all from your spouse’s network, make an effort to get to know them a little better before the event. That gives you some conversation topics. Ask about their job, how they interacted your spouse, etc. If you are bored and don’t care to talk to them & start doing your own things, they will notice. It sends a pretty strong message and it may become hard to get in touch with them again.
  24. Travel & food are always good topics of conversation. People like good sense of humor. Stay away from racism, religion, and politics to some extent.
  25. If you have kids, ensure that they will be well behaved. Depending on the type of audience expected for the party, you may considering sending the kids to a baby sitter.
  26. If any guests request you to do something that you are not comfortable with such as turning on the TV game or they tamper with your things too much, be polite.

Social gatherings are a great way to get to know people, relax, and have fun. With some thought, preparation, and planning you can make the most out of it. Have fun.

Party 101: Dos & Donts for Guests

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2009 at 1:10 am

October, November & December are typically loaded with parties. They come with big festivals such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But we don’t need occasions to party & meet people. Socializing is a common part of our lives. Summer comes loaded with BBQ parties for instance. There are tons of websites and TV programs that give inputs on setting up your space for party, cooking food, etc. But I haven’t come across a good comprehensive list of things to do and not to do. So, here’s my take for guests. Hosts can find their list here. I’d love to hear from you about things that worked well & didn’t work well in other parties.

If you are the guest:

  1. Don’t assume your hosts drink & take a wine bottle. There are some teetotalers.
  2. Bring a decent gift even. The host is taking a lot of effort to make your get together memorable. Gifts don’t have to be pricey, they just have to be thoughtful.
  3. Don’t be more than 30 mins late. If there are other guests to the party, they cannot start eating until you show up.
  4. For an office party, don’t be more than 15 mins late.
  5. An office party is not a place to get drunk and let lose. Limit your alcohol intake & focus on socializing, not drinking.
  6. Do not dwell into minute details of specific topics for a long time. The audience may lose interest.
  7. Don’t dig your heels on arguing about a particular topic like you’ve done a PhD about it. Others may lose interest and find you dry. The only exceptions may be when the entire guest list comprises of people with similar background and they are interested in shoptalk.
  8. Have some sense of humor. Dry matter of fact talk can be boring. Keep in mind that people get together to have a good time. You can improve your sense of humor by watching comedies.
  9. Be current with the news. Something major can be used as an icebreaker when you meet someone new.
  10. Know funny things that are a part of the local culture. For example in the US, Sports, Seinfeld, Friends, Lost, The Office, etc make a good conversation topic.
  11. If you don’t know something, don’t make it up. Ask about it & show interest. People like to share because they showcase how much they know.
  12. Don’t ask the guest to turn on your favorite TV show or music. You are there to meet people, not to watch TV. Plus, you will be distracting other guests in the party. One of the guests asked the party to turn on the sports game. The host also got hooked into it and soon the two were in their world. This left the other guests bored. The only exception is when the gathering is for a game night or a movie night.
  13. Snack a little before going to someone’s place. You never know when the food will be served. If you are hungry, then you cannot focus. Also, pre-emptive snacking means you wont be clearing up the entire bowl yourself at the party.
  14. Offer to help if the guest is preparing something. When many people show up at the same time, the guest may need help with getting drinks to everyone. They may also need help with setting the table or plates.
  15. Don’t hang around the food and the bar all the time. Take time to share your experiences with your hosts and listen to their experiences as well. Be engaging.
  16. Often times, simple questions like what is your job role can make them at ease & help you to learn new things.
  17. Do not touch their things without asking. Just observe from a distance. Some items may be sentimentally valuable to the guests and despite your best intention you may damage the item.
  18. Don’t say anything negative about your host or any other guests. If there is another guest you don’t like at the party, exchange niceties and excuse to get a drink.
  19. Don’t complain to the host. In one of the parties that I attended, the guest complained to the host that the cook hasn’t made her food yet. She was upset & the host had to prioritize her order over that of the other guests.
  20. If you take your kids with you, take things with you to keep them entertained. Perhaps their favorite book or a drawing kit or something.
  21. Make sure your kids are well behaved. If you are doubtful, you may be better off hiring a babysitter. Kids that bang the door and cabinets or damage the house are putting the host in a tough spot. They have to be nice to you because you are guest. At the same time, their property is encountering a damage. Put yourself in their shoes.
  22. Say something nice to the host even if you had the worst experience. Their intention is to meet with you & help you have a good time. They may have goofed up the execution. But be kind and complimentary.
  23. If you have been invited to their place more than once and you’ve never hosted them, set up a time to meet with them at your place. If you don’t care so much about them to invite them to your parties, then decline their invites politely. They will understand. If you attend their parties but you don’t invite them, its just a matter of time before you stop getting their invitations.
  24. If it is a networking event, don’t be tied to one person you meet. Work your way in the room to meet others.
  25. Though I haven’t done this myself yet, carry your cards with you. It can be as simple as your name, email ID, and phone number. It doesn’t have to be your professional business card. Often times in a networking event, we meet many people. But it is difficult to get their coordinates given the settings. There are plenty of sites online to get your cards for under 10 bucks.
  26. Dress for the occasion.
  27. After the event, send a thank you note to the host for taking the effort to organize the party & telling them about how your time was well spent. As a host, this is assuring to know that the guests had a good time.

Social gatherings are a great way to get to know people, relax, and have fun. With some thought, preparation, and planning you can make the most out of it. Have fun.

How to be a purple cow?

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2009 at 9:28 pm

It is common knowledge that to be successful, you have to stand out in whatever you are doing. There are several people doing the same thing in today’s world. Why is one barista better than the other? Why is my content better than yours? Why is my product or service better than yours? If you cant qualify and quantify it, then you are just like everyone else. People don’t notice a cow in a herd, but they notice a purple cow in a regular herd. You can read more about Seth Godin’s purple cow here. Lets discuss a few ways to distinguish your product & distinguish yourself in your team:

Distinguishing your product: Is there a specific feature that your customers really need and the competition is not offering it? How quickly can you get that to the market and also include most of the other features offered by the competition? Is your product doing the same thing that is done by most other products in the market? Think about how the user experience is different with your product. Is it faster? Is it simple and intuitive to use? Market these and stand out. If there is nothing that distinguishes your product (its just another ‘me too’), then identify ways to make yours stand out. Talk to your customers about what they’d like to see improved & implement them. See how your customers use your product and make changes to your product. If they have to do 10 things before they reach their final goal, how can you reduce it to to say 5 things instead of 10?

Distinguishing yourself in your team: With so many smart people around, how do you get the purple color on you? For starters, you don’t have to be an inventor to stand out. Even being a follower can distinguish you. You may not have invented blogs. But you can be the first one in your product marketing team to use blogs for your product. You can be the first one in your team to create communities and allow your users to provide feedback & new feature requests. If you are not the first one to blog in your team, make your content more relevant to the target market. Offer incentives for people to read your content. Also, share ideas. If you keep ideas to yourself, you will be perceived as insecure. Whereas sharing your ideas makes you a thought leader. If you are smart, show case it to the team in the meetings by thinking out loud.

You can start by doing small things. Overtime they add up. To be a purple cow, you can start with having purple patches. Don’t have to have yourself covered in purple paint.

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Social Network & Your Network

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2009 at 1:02 am

Social network is a big game changing phenomena. It has enabled people to stay in touch more frequently. Can you imagine getting an email from me to tell you where I am now? Or a phone call to tell you that I just had the best sandwich ever? How about I contact you to tell you about that article on WSJ or a boring movie I watched last night because I couldn’t sleep? Before the next time I contact you, I will be in your banned list.

On the other hand, social networks have enabled people to share these information to a broader audience. You can read about it if you care or choose to ignore some of your contact’s posts. This ability to be selective has increased the amount of information sharing. It enables to get to know people you’ve met occasionally. It helps to get closer & provide conversation topics with your contacts. After all, taking interest in others is a big part of networking.

The hit or miss of any social network to you depends on the size of your own network. A site like facebook requires you to know people so that you can read their posts. On the other hand, twitter enables you to reach out to strangers using hash tags in your tweets. To be really successful, take time to read other’s posts and comment on them or risk having a couple of dedicated followers commenting on your post while others happily ignore. Also, engage the audience by asking questions in some of your posts. People like to share their ideas. Post interesting articles and videos. Don’t spam. Happy networking.

Why it helps to be an Information Junkie

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2009 at 5:57 am

In a busy World, not much time remains for catch up with hot news, let alone miscellaneous information. However, spending time on reading random stuff from time to time really helps to be innovative. For instance, playing a web game can give you ideas on how to improve your products’ UI. Reading about a new social website may give you ideas on how to employ it to market your product. Listening to a radio program may give you ideas on how to focus on your target market and what is ancillary. Gathering lot of ideas and thinking about how to apply it in a completely different context results in new ideas. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature to you. Some of these connections happen automatically without much effort, while others may need some focus. In any case, making time for reading / web surfing helps.