Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
April 4, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Working a Room? Try These Icebreakers
The hospitality suite is full of laughter. Groups of
well-dressed men and women, sporting name tags on their lapels, lean
close to hear one another’s jokes and industry gossip. Waiters
with trays of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and liquor flows at an
open bar. However inviting the scene might look to a passerby,
walking in scares the pinstripes off a good many otherwise confident
"A huge part of working a room is getting your fear under
says Lisa Westerfield, executive vice president of SRE Inc.,
an environmental consulting firm based in Nutley.
Westerfield makes a good 70 solo entrances into crowded rooms each
year. Finding the experience unnerving, she spent four months
the dynamics at play, and how to use them to overcome fear. She now
helps others cope with a situation many find as intimidating as public
speaking. Westerfield speaks on "Building Bridges with Broken
Ice: how to work any room" on Thursday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at
the Central Jersey Women’s Network. Cost: $35. Call 908-281-9234.
Westerfield, who earned a bachelor’s in biology in 1980 from Monmouth
University, started her career as a lab technician at Union Carbide,
but "knew early on I was not meant to be in a lab." After
earning an MBA at Monmouth, she moved into sales because her mentors
at Union Carbide told her that was the best route into management
in the chemical industry. It turned out that she enjoyed sales, and
as she moved up the corporate ranks spent a fair amount of time
contacts in rooms packed with strangers.
Not always comfortable with plunging into a situation where everyone
else seems to be surrounded by lifelong buddies, Westerfield sometimes
pretends that she is an eagle — strong, independent, and free
— as she sizes up the room and prepares to plunge into
with strangers. Visualizations like this are just one of several
she has found effective in working a room:
a business function or a social occasion, it is okay to wait a while
before striking up a conversation. "We get so focused on ourselves
that we are our own worst enemy," Westerfield says. "What
people are most afraid of is sticking out like a sore thumb."
Be easy on yourself, she suggests. "Learn to be alone for a while,
and be comfortable. Let the dynamic of the room take place."
Those who have trouble standing alone comfortably might try another
of Westerfield’s visualization techniques. "Pretend you’re
she says. Enjoy the art on the walls, the buzz of conversation, a
glass of wine, and take away the pressure by imaging that no one can
and then perhaps drift over to a congenial-looking group. Listen to
what they are saying. If it is personal, move on. If the topic is
general, wait for an opportunity to add a comment. "Small groups
are tough," Westerfield says, suggesting a large group as a better
initial target, because "If there are 10 people, everyone will
assume you know one of them."
out, Westerfield says. Use the same philosophy in working a room.
The warm-up for networking is small talk. "When you mention
people take your temperature," she says. Chatter about an
blizzard, or the Oscars, or Bush’s latest gaffe gives people a chance
to decide whether you’re funny, smart, pleasant. It gives them a
to begin to know you. People who barge right into a sales pitch
engaging in some light banter are unlikely to do well at working a
you might want to do business with is like fishing, Westerfield says.
"You could say `This is my first time here. I’ve heard this is
a great place to meet small business people. I just started a small
business.’" The idea is to "give people several pieces of
bait." With luck, she says, "They’ll pick up on one."
If not, you can ask your conversation-challenged companion if anyone
else at the event is in your situation.
to talk to is the goal of most crowd-phobic people. But that is just
the first step in working a room. Cling to the first person who says
hello, Westerfield says, and you will be perceived as needy. Besides,
the goal of attending a gathering generally is to make a number of
business or social contacts, and that is hard to do while rooted to
one spot. "You want to mingle in, and mingle out," Westerfield
Set goals for the event in advance, Westerfield says, and let them
help you to move around. Perhaps you want to meet three editors of
large circulation outdoor magazines. Memorize their names, and then
you can ask your initial contact if he knows any of them. If so, he
may take you over and introduce you. If not, asking him to keep an
eye out for them and let you know if one arrives will give him
to do. "People appreciate this," Westerfield says. It’s fair
to assume that many, if not most, of your fellow event attendees are
at least somewhat uncomfortable. Giving one of them a job to do will
help him circulate, too.
who are standing alone. You can introduce yourself, find out why they
are attending the event, and then offer to introduce them to someone
they might want to meet. "If you walk in to a room and you’re
only there to take, people will pick up on that," Westerfield
says. "If you’re a person who gives, it’s easy for others to give
to you." Helping someone else ease into a room may win you a
and, besides, "introducing him may help you meet people with whom
you don’t have an obvious connection."
some rooms just can’t be easily worked, Westerfield says. Her husband
ran into that situation when he accompanied her to a homecoming.
said no one wanted to talk to him," she recounts. "He was
right." Everyone was there to reminisce with old pals. The best
advice she could give her husband was "don’t take it
Even in less challenging gatherings, working a room can be far from
business contact nirvana. It is most often a first step in a
"Sometimes," Westerfield says, "the best thing you can
do is take a business card, and call later."
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Writer’s block can come as frequently as a common cold
for adults in the workplace, but for those with a learning disability,
that ailment can be as virulent as the flu. Nevertheless, somehow,
everyone must write the necessary reports and memos in order to
their work responsibilities. The latest computer gadgets can help.
The Newgrange Educational Outreach Center and Adaptive Technology
Center for New Jersey co-sponsor a conference on technology for the
learning disabled on Friday, April 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
at the College of New Jersey’s student center. It will focus on how
computers change the writing process for people with learning
Cost: $97. Call 609-419-1999.
The Newgrange School is a Trenton-based independent full curriculum
day school for ages 8 to 18, suitable for bright learning disabled
students, dyslexics, and those not reaching potential
The Newgrange Educational Outreach Center has its offices on College
Road, and it has programs and resources for those concerned about
learning disabilities found in individuals of any age.
"Any adult with a learning disability that affects reading or
writing can come to this seminar to get an overview of the latest
assistive technologies to help them reach their full potential,"
says Deardra Rosenberg, director of outreach at Newgrange
Outreach Center. Writing, organization, reference skills, use of
services, reading of electronic books, and text to speech synthesis
are among the skills that can be enhanced by technology, says
"We are encouraging teachers to use computers and other assistive
technology to help students feel self confident and express themselves
at a high level. Many have difficulty with spelling and handwriting,
but these tools give them access to more efficient writing," says
Rosenberg. A graduate of Towson University, she has a master’s degree
from Montclair and taught high school for 15 years in Mendham.
Richard Wanderman of LD Resources keynotes the day. In his early
years Wanderman struggled with dyslexia; only in college did he learn
to express himself without words through art, particularly working
with clay. He was able to improve his self esteem by learning to
engines and do rock climbing, but his first experience with a computer
was what dramatically improved his writing ability. Even just the
use of a spellchecker was innovative then.
As one of eight workshops, Brian Friedlander, psychologist and
author of "Engaging the Resistant Child Through Computers,"
will lead a workshop on how the use of Alpha-Smart (an expensive and
versatile keyboard that students may use for writing and taking notes
in the classroom) can help elementary students.
An art teacher at the Newgrange School, Mike Gerrish, will tell
how to use art and computer technology to deliver information in a
new way, to stimulate nontraditional thinking and combat low
Three teachers from College of New Jersey, Amy Dell, Anne Disdier,
and Ellen Specht lead a hand-on lab working with technology
tools for adults (www.tcnj.edu/~technj).
Center at Princeton Day School, will lead hands-on sessions for
— Kidspiration, for the younger elementary school child, and
for the grade school and high school student.
Though the conference is primarily geared for educators, parents,
and human resources personnel, it is also an opportunity for adults
with learning disabilities to survey the smorgasbord of the latest
high-tech helps. Some of the learning aids discussed in workshops
for the high school and college level will prove useful for anyone.
Particularly intriguing is the Inspiration software, which sells for
$29 in the introductory version and $60 for a single user
"The Inspiration software, for instance, can help all writers,
even those without disabilities, to unlock and organize their
to create outlines and `mind maps’ so they can write more effective
essays and reports," say Rosenberg. Users select a symbol to represent
a thought on the mind map. "A mind map," she explains,
have symbols of main ideas that branch into subtopics and smaller
And, if someone has too many ideas, this software helps show what
is really pertinent before the writing begins. Sounds like a sure
cure for writer’s block.
<B>Richard Cook, who retired in January as head of
Johnson & Johnson’s Advertising College, recalls his biggest impulse
purchase. "My wife needed a new car," he says. So the couple
walked into the BMW showroom on Route 1. While his wife was speaking
with a salesman, "I wandered off," says Cook. "And there
was the M3, just looking at me. It was silver. I was 59, or whatever.
It was an entirely emotional purchase."
Cook says that advertisements for cars are notorious for tapping into
emotions. Envy, self-esteem, joy. You name it, and car advertisers
use it. But the emotional element is present in many purchases, and
the smart advertiser, whether it be a conglomerate or a corner
will find it. Cook speaks on "The emotional component in
— advertising examples from around the world that use emotions
to promote and persuade" at a CAMA meeting on Tuesday, April 10,
at 11:30 a.m. at the Doral Forrestal. Cost: $35.
After leaving school in England at 16, Cook served in the Army for
three years, and then began a 42-year-long career with Johnson &
as assistant to the advertising manager. He traveled around the world
for Johnson & Johnson, to more than 100 countries. Among other
he was vice president of marketing in Canada, Japan, and South Africa,
before founding and heading up the Advertising College.
The Advertising College brings employees together for a week or so
at a time "to encourage them how to think, to follow a process,
to work effectively with their ad agencies." It is an opportunity
for employees from disparate countries to get together. "At a
meeting in Singapore, you might have people from Korea, India,
he says. "It’s always a kick for me, all this shared experience
Now some three months into his retirement, Cook continues to rack
up experiences. He has joined the faculty of the Advertising College
on a part-time basis. "I’m just back from Malaysia," he says.
He is also embarking on a career as a voice over artist. His wife
encouraged him to take a course at the Learning Studio in North
and he has taken some training in New York. He is now sending out
a demo disk to radio stations.
Cook lives in Lawrenceville with his wife, Mary, the personnel
director of the PrinVest Corporation. His two sons, age 15 and 18,
are students at the Lawrenceville School.
In his Advertising College sessions there are representatives of
with wildly different budgets. "It might be Tylenol in the U.S.
with a multi-million budget or Saudi Arabia with $500 to spend,"
he says. "It’s not the size of the budget, but how you think."
The same is true for mining emotions through advertising.
"I always believe in the emotional element," Cook says.
a very important piece of a lot of successful advertisements.
is there to address needs. People have wish lists, rational and
Some of the bigger decisions are made on emotional grounds."
who want to use insight into emotions to sell should consider these
always obvious, Cook says, but they are almost always present.
do they fit into advertisements?" is the key question. Volkswagen,
he says, is masterful at finding and using those emotions. Through
the years, the company "rarely went under the hood. Rarely spoke
of the tires, the springs, and all the rest of it."
In one of Cook’s favorite advertisements, Volkswagen plays to
feelings of self-esteem. "A stylish lady, who looks like Princess
Di, comes swinging out of a London mews," Cook recounts. Dressed
to the nines, she sheds external tokens of wealth, tossing aside her
fur coat and stowing away her rings. She looks at her car keys,
then walks over to her Volkswagen. "She takes the keys, taps the
wheel, and drives off," Cook says. "It’s a marvelous
The autonomous woman, driving her destiny, appeals to customers’
and pride, he says, adding "Who wouldn’t associate?" This
mini-drama taps into inner feelings, he says, as do all the best
to convey. "Love and bonding, mothers and babies, everyone loves
that," Cook says. Emotions like fear and insecurity are just as
important, he says, but require sensitivity. "Don’t ignore the
emotion," he advises, "but present it in a way that is
He thinks Johnson & Johnson has done a good job of this in products
like Tylenol, Clean and Clear acne medicine, and even Procrit, a
drug that treats the fatigue that may accompany chemotherapy. He
to tag lines for the products, "Clean and clear and in
for the acne medicine and "Take comfort from our strength,"
for the pain killer, as examples of accentuating the positive.
It has long been accepted that "Emotion is fine for fast moving
consumer products," Cook says, "but it can be used for things
you wouldn’t think of." Prescription drugs fall into this
he says, talking about how emotion is used in ads for Procrit. The
ads acknowledge how chemotherapy can cause people to lose energy and
drive, and go on to show how the drug can help. "In one,"
Cook says, "a veteran had walked in Veterans Day parades for many
years." Fatigue associated with chemotherapy caused him to miss
a parade one year, but as the commercial continues, he is seen back
marching after taking the medicine. "It’s so beautifully
Cook says. "You get a lump in your throat."
living, stirs Cook’s emotions, he has no patience for over-used
images meant to tug on heart strings. "I get awfully sick of
old people dancing ’til dawn on ships," he says. Ditto for elderly
couples in swings or "biking furiously across hills." Not
only are these images pulled out far too often, but, he says of the
hyper-energetic seniors, "that is the last thing they would be
an advertisement must fit into the overall message. It must be a part
of the two key questions that form the basis of all advertisement:
What is the opportunity to be grasped? What is the problem that has
to be solved? "It has to be allied to the benefit," Cook says.
"It must relate to the need. The emotional element is not just
there to make you weep."
The program for New Jersey’s upcoming Council on Special
Transportation TransAction convention is full of fascinating entries.
There will be workshops on terrorism. Sad, but not surprising. But
there also will be seminars on transit villages, biking, alternative
uses for abandoned railroad tracks, public/private collaborations
on transportation districts, and historic roadways. Art is among the
many subjects not automatically associated with mass transit that
is on the agenda.
Sue Wehmann, originator and manager of NJ Transit’s Transit
Arts program, speaks as part of a panel on "Transit Villages,
Transit Friendly Communities, and Transit Arts," at the 25th
New Jersey Council on Special Transportation conference and expo,
running from April 10-12 at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City.
Cost $255. Call 980-903-1077.
A 1978 graduate of Rutgers University, Wehmann began her career as
a sports writer. She also worked as a technical writer and as a
writer on Wall Street before joining NJ Transit, where her first
included outreach to residents of communities to be served by the
Hudson-Bergen light rail project. Early on, the idea of incorporating
art into the new rail system took hold. That was in the mid-1990s,
and since then, art in and near rail stations has spread throughout
the state. The installations add esthetic appeal, and, says Wehmann
"give communities more of a sense of ownership."
Federal funds of up to five percent of the construction cost of rail
projects are available for art. For the Hudson-Bergen project, $2.5
million has been spent, and $5 million is budgeted for the second
phase. Other art projects have been incorporated in or are being
for a number of stations, including Camden, Edison, Plainfield,
New York City, Trenton, and, of course, Hamilton, where NJ Transit
works in partnership with the Grounds for Sculpture.
Wehmann explains that NJ Transit does not just go out and buy art.
The agency assembles a panel to choose art for each project.
there is input from artists, local arts organizations and historical
societies, the New Jersey Council on the Arts, urban design
and engineers. In addition to suggesting sites for freestanding
the advisors look at structural elements of the stations as
to incorporate art. Wehmann says seating, wind screens, canopies,
pillars, and fencing all are possible candidates.
Commissioning art is the next step after sites for installations have
been chosen. The goal, says Wehmann, is to "celebrate the cultural
heritage of the community." Artists from around the country are
invited to submit requests for qualification. No preference is given
to New Jersey artists, Wehmann says, although a large number of New
Jerseyans are represented among the 40 artists who have been
to create 60 works. "We’re really looking for the highest
Art in train stations not only makes a more pleasant environment for
commuters, but can also be a positive element in attracting
and pedestrian traffic. Wehmann points with pride to the Martin Luther
King Drive area of Jersey City as a spot where an attractive station
helped to encourage positive development. "The area was in such
disrepair," she says. "There were mattresses, old tires, just
a real mess." That was some seven years ago. Now a new station
sits surrounded by a new post office and attractive stores. Says
"It’s a completely different community."
While NJ Transit has commissioned art in a number of forms, including
mobiles, aluminum sculptures, and bronze maps, don’t look for the
sort of dung-decorated pieces that cause such as stir at the Brooklyn
Museum of Art. "No controversy," is a NJ Transit rule, Wehmann
says. And, so far, there has been none. Neither, she is happy to note,
has there been any graffiti or vandalism.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.