The last time I voted in a presidential election, my son was almost 6 and my daughter had just turned 3. Before leaving the house that Tuesday, I asked them whether they wanted to join me. To my surprise, they jumped at the chance and were in their seats before I had my jacket on. You could feel the excitement in the car. They were giggling and giving each other high-fives as if they had just won a trip to Disney World.
When we got to our polling site, we entered a fairly empty room, populated mostly by election administrators. My kids looked surprised, but joined me in the booth while I voted. As we emerged from behind the curtain, I could sense something was bothering them. They looked at each other, then around the room, and said: “Well, where’s Obama?”
When I broke the news that he was in Chicago and not waiting anxiously to meet them in our suburban library, they looked comically sad. We slowly descended the stairs to the lobby. Halfway down, they glanced at each other with a glimmer of hope. My son turned to me and asked: “What about Joe Biden?”
We have all felt their disappointment from unmet expectations. With the holiday season approaching, there are a variety of ways to exceed the expectations of your clients, colleagues and prospects.
Start by leveraging free web-based programs like SurveyMonkey.com to ask them about a favorite charity or an altruistic endeavor in which they are involved. Building relationships, rather than simply cultivating networks, is an important key to creating opportunity. Charitable interests offer insight into the personal philosophy of others that might not arise in a professional conversation.
The holidays provide you with an ideal occasion to learn about the character and passions of others by asking about their most enduring commitments. It also gives you the chance to make a donation in their honor and continue the dialogue in the future. Visit CharityNavigator.org or Give.org to ensure that you are donating wisely.
Just as you would like to learn about others this season, sending holiday cards could provide the chance to let them know something about you. That said, most people send cards a week or two before Christmas, when they are likely to receive the least notice. Instead, consider sending yours closer to Thanksgiving or in January to acknowledge the New Year. The fewer cards people receive on any given day, the more they will appreciate yours. Add some design element to provide distinction, whether you are a student or senior partner.
For some of your contacts, this may be your only point of communication, so make it memorable either through artistry, timing or messaging. Vistaprint.com and Overnightprints.com make this cost-effective and hassle-free.
Finally, November and December are ideal months to reflect on the past year. They also permit you to look toward the future, regardless of your practice area, interest or level of experience. As such, use the season as a hook to engage your audience with a blog post, article, LinkedIn update or tweet. In fact, many weekly or daily publications are eager for year-end content (since their regular contributors are probably working on their holiday cards).
I’ll be running to take my now 7- and almost-10-year-olds to vote this afternoon when they get home from school (after six long days off in New Jersey). They are still going to miss seeing the candidates, but at this point, they are happy the library has power back. Like I said, expectations matter.
Happy Election Day.
Attorney Ari Kaplan is the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011). E-mail him for links to listen to the audio version of his first book, The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008), completely free.