Epees, Foils, En Garde! Oh My!

There is such an austere beauty in fencing. It’s about position, movement, strategy and flow. Once the fencing masks are on, it is difficult to distinguish one fencer from the other. With the exception of how well you move, everyone starts out the same, looks the same and seemingly moves the same.

VIVA Virtual Assistants Blog

Fencer (left) in the lunge.

Maybe I’ve watched too many Errol Flynn/Zorro movies, British period pieces via Masterpiece Theatre or maybe it’s in my blood via Spanish ancestry, but I’ve always had a fascination with fencing! So great has been my interest that from an early age I would visualize myself in a sword fighting scene, my heart racing, my feet moving quickly, sword extended, En Garde! Fast forward many, many, many (okay that’s enough) years later, I’ve taken six lessons to date since March. It has been awesome!

Each week, as I go through the process of warming up, stretching, listening to instructions and learning how to stand, thrust and lunge I can’t help but think about my business. Standing face to face with your opponent, you salute. Epee up (parallel to your nose), down with a *swoosh* (yes, it really makes a *swoosh*…very cool).

The French term synonymous with fencing or indeed sword fighting in general means “On your guard”. You may know your opponent exceptionally well or not, it doesn’t matter as you must always be on your guard. Will they advance (the aggressive position) once, twice or three times, while also throwing in a retreat (stepping away, which allows you to advance) to lull you into a false sense of security? You have to be aware of their movements and ready to be just out of their reach when they decide to thrust and lunge. If contact is made, points are scored.

Maintaining your position is critical and difficult. You must stand with one foot directly in front of you and the other perpendicular to it about a step and a half behind. Knees bent, left arm behind you, right arm with elbow tucked in, thumb in the 12 o’clock position, the epee held in a firm yet delicate grasp. This is the En Garde. If your feet are too far apart, you will not be able to hold your stance, become tired, you will lose balance and not able to retreat quickly and fluidly, opening the way for points to be scored by your opponent.

While I think that it would have been wonderful to learn to fence when I was younger, I realize after a few lessons that I listen to instructions better, understand how the symmetry of the foot, knee, elbow, hand and nose aide in the graceful movements required. There is a deeper understanding of the why of positions, etc, and a greater appreciation for this beautiful sport. My years of experience help me understand first and as a result move better, even against much younger opponents.

Are you aware of your business climate, clients and competitors? Are you En Garde!?

What is your position in your market? Are you able to easily fill or meet a need?

What has your lifelong experience taught you? Do you apply what you know and learn each day in your business?

Think about your answers and the comments I hope you will post :) . In the meantime, here is A timeline of fencing for your enjoyment.

Salute *swoosh, swoosh*

4 Keys to Successful Face-to-Face Networking

A local non-profit asked me to speak before a group of new micro-enterprise graduates on networking skills essentials. My presentation began with what I consider to be 4 Keys of Successful Face-to-Face Networking:

There’s a saying that someone has to see, hear or in some way have an interaction with you or your business at least 7 times before committing to a working relationship. Curious to test this theory I decided to track my interactions with a couple of my clients. Thinking back, I discovered that two of my biggest clients, came in contact with me (or heard my name, etc.) 7 times before signing a contract.


Put yourself in the networking prospect or potential clients place. Would you do business with someone with whom you did not feel comfortable, either intellectually or professionally? Would you hire you? Contemplate your answer. If the answer is no, think about the why:
• Did you find something in common (business or personal)?
• Did you try too hard or were you too much of a hard sell?
• Did you give the other person time to talk?
• Did you listen?
• When asked a question about your business, were you clear and to the point?

Use the opportunity to establish your expertise at a workshop or seminar discussing a topic where you may already have a good grasp of the material. Ask intelligent questions (even if you already know the answer) and make well informed comments based on the topic. You will find that people will make it a point to come up to compliment your obvious breadth of knowledge and will ultimately ask for your business card. This opens the channel of communication for you to begin a good business relationship.

This is one of the most important principles of business ownership – period! If you do not know your market or audience you cannot understand your prospective clients and, therefore, you cannot add value.

In a face-to-face networking environment, getting to know your audience is determined by the information that is available all around you during the event.

• What type of event are you attending (business afterhours, non-profit fundraiser, etc.)?
• Who is in attendance (i.e., women business owners, International business people, local trades people)?
• If engaged in conversation, what is the other person saying about themselves or their business?
• Watch their body language. Are they leaning in as you speak? Are they looking elsewhere?

Seek out opportunities to involve yourself in networking events, etc., which may help you keep yourself first in the potential clients’ mind!

Remember that you can use almost any daily interaction as a networking opportunity. Understanding what you expect to get out of the interaction and keeping the other person’s business needs in mind will help you in successful face-to-face networking.

Happy Spring!

In looking toward a new season, think about what you have accomplished this first quarter of 2011 and what you would like to do for yourself personally and your business.


With a list and understanding in hand, tackle what needs to get done. Don’t forget to avail yourself of other people and businesses around you to accomplish your goals.

Revisit your goals; Plan out your Strategy; Implement an Action plan; Delegate where appropriate…Accomplish your Goals.

Happy Spring!