by Shoya Zichy
Hungarian born Geraldine, was a cousin of enduring charm and beauty. King Zog of Albania saw her photo when she was 20 and invited her to visit his country. She arrived with her chaperones and, as he had hoped, fell in love. Their wedding was triumphant. 50,000 children in native costumes sang and applauded. The plot however turned. Less than a year later, still bleeding from the birth of her son, she was carried to a vehicle on a mattress and the couple escaped from the Italian invaders. She, the king and his entourage began an odyssey that would ultimately land them in Egypt at the invitation of King Farouk. It was there that I met her as a small child and was privileged to visit her in Alexandria each summer for the next 6 years.
Later we went our separate ways. My family emigrated to the US and she ultimately went to Spain after her husband passed away. Much to my surprise she contacted me after my US college graduation and asked whether I would be interested in joining her as a lady in waiting in Madrid. I spent a memorable year with her and remember well the many lessons she taught her “ladies” to help strengthen her position in Madrid.
Things were complicated by the presence of several colonels who, under the direction of her son Crown Prince Leka, were training young Albanians in the family’s compound. Leka was hoping to launch a coup to regain his throne. Needless to say, neighbors in the fashionable neighborhood were not amused. Yet the Queen continued to be invited to social events most evenings of the week. Before each event we gathered to discuss the guests and strategies to solidify her relationship with the community. Her tips remains among the best, and have served me well ever since. I have simplified them into 3 networking steps described below:
1. Observe & listen. What clues are provided by the individual’s speech tempo and eye contact. Are they more outgoing or reserved and how much do they want to reveal about themselves? Follow their lead and adapt your response accordingly. Most of all, nod and smile frequently.
2. Ask questions: First determine from #1 how much personal information the person wants to reveal. Then ask questions that will provide more information about their interests, activities, feelings and concerns. Most of all, don’t interrupt. Let them talk.
3. Reveal key things about yourself that will make you memorable. Based on #2, you can now tell them a few interesting things about yourself that will help them remember you after the evening is over. These will differ depending on answers to the previous steps.
We practiced good openers, how to ask questions and what to reveal. After the event we gathered to share the information received. Over the coming months these tips made the evenings fun, informative and, most importantly, solidified her position among the ruling class of Madrid.
Turbulent years followed, but in 2002 Queen Geraldine, along with her son and grandson , was invited by Parliament back to Albania to live. She died at the age of 87 and was buried with full honors . Who would have thought? Targeted networking does work!