Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflections: My Life With The Internet

A writer's work is never done. Sometimes even when it is done, you have to go back and do it again. With seven days to go, I am now down to just under 200 articles left to migrate. I've started to wonder if I really want to continue to go through the trouble.

There have been changes at Helium prior to this very big one, including shifting everything over to a new site (that was fun), re-categorizing of existing articles, title changes... in the shift away from first person, some pieces were shuffled around to the prose section under the heading "Beyond Prose."

Prior to this, those opinion oriented pieces were a quick means of boosting your score as you could submit an article to a title that had several articles already and quickly rise to the top 25%. Now that none of that matters anymore, reflective pieces such as "How I see Myself in the Mirror," and "How I Relax: My Favorite Hobbies," just seem irrelevant.

There is one title though I think that is more interesting to me today than it was when I cranked it out November of 2009. It's a reflection on using the internet, though when it was migrated to the new site some genius put it under memoirs. When I think back on my first experiences with the internet and compare those to how I use it today, it seems they are light years apart.

Technology has become such a huge part of our everyday lives that it is almost invasive. It crosses over into just about everything we do and we are now a planet of gadget junkies wirelessly connected at all times. I'm happy to say that nine years post K I have now reached a point where I can feel comfortable shutting my phones down at night.

My relationship with the internet has changed significantly just in the short time between now and when I first submitted the article shared below. Just a few short decades ago, this was all the stuff of science fiction, and now it's increasingly becoming the norm. As much as I resisted both Facebook and Twitter, social media marketing has become a huge part of my regular routine, and what on earth would I do without Pinterest?

Memoirs How I use the Internet

At the time I first ventured onto the internet I didn't know very much about it let alone the potential of what it could be used for. I had seen journalists in movies and on television accessing some kind of massive computer library of information and I assumed the internet functioned much like that.
When I first discovered the internet I did not have access to it at my home, or even my own internet ready computer, for that matter. I think I first learned about it through a friend whose husband did some kind of work. They had internet service in their home and she was always on it, usually visiting the chat rooms. It was an outlet for her because at the time she was a stay at home mom.
A short time later I started out using the internet at my mother's house and in the beginning I would visit chat rooms and occasionally look up information. There was not nearly the amount of online resources then as there are today, but it was new and fun and because I had my own screen name on my mom's AOL account I was able to receive email.
Once I started to learn how to navigate around the Internet Super Highway I also learned how to download and save documents for future reference. The best thing about it was that when you wanted to do research you could do it at any hour of the day, unlike visiting the local library. Back then it was all via dial up service using your home telephone.
When I was able to start accessing the internet from home I would spend hours on it looking up all sorts of information on how to do things. At times I would not have the budget to go out and buy books and the internet was a valuable twenty-four hour resource for learning new information from a variety of sources I would not have been able to access otherwise.
Over the years I have gotten away from visiting the chat rooms. I ventured into the sphere of online dating briefly without success and I delved into some of the early social networking sites. I visited online game rooms and did a little shopping. During the time I didn't have a car being able to shop online made a huge difference in my ability to get the things that I needed.
At one point time I spent a lot of time on email reward programs like My Points and Bonus Mail (which are now merged into one program) as well as a couple of programs that no longer exist like Freeride. Those programs made a significant impact in my getting to go out during periods when I wasn't working via the gift cards and movie passes I earned.
Today a lot of things have changed. Now I mainly use the internet for email correspondence and I still spend quite a lot of time researching information. I occasionally play games and do a little shopping and I am the organizer for a meetup group. Recently I have been spending more and more time with passive income writing sites and I am trying to carve out some time to develop my blogs. I check my email multiple times per day and just I can not imagine my life without the internet.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gifts and Giving: Great ideas for Creating an Artist Gift Basket

Some people are easy to shop for; some people are difficult to shop for. Sometimes, it's not so much that people are difficult to shop for, but that you want to give them something that will hold some sort of significance and be of particular use to them.

That third instance is what I am addressing today with the article below. When it's the thought that counts and you really want it to count for the gift recipient, you want to choose your gift based on that person's personality, likes, dislikes, or hobbies.

In the instance where someone has taken what most consider to be a hobby and developed it into a
vocation, choosing a gift related to that thing can be both thoughtful and useful. Hence the former Helium Craft channel article below, originally published in June of 2012.

Gift Basket Items for Artists 

Artists are always in need of new art supplies, which is why gift baskets are a perfect idea when faced with choosing a present for one. Very few artists are actually able to earn a living solely from their art and therefore are often on a budget. Receiving a special basket of hand-picked goodies to help them make more art will always be appreciated.
When selecting items to go into the gift basket, consider what kind of artist the recipient is. What does their art look like? What kinds of mediums does he or she work with? Someone who is a painter working with oils will have very different art supply needs from someone who makes prints, assemblage, or collages.
Emerging artists are perhaps the easiest to shop for, particularly students, as they are still experimenting with different types of media to create art. Students can use everything from pencils to sketch books and supplies purchased for them need not be expensive. A gift basket for a student artist could also contain inspiration items such as interesting objects or postcards of images by other artists.
Established artists and those who are schooled, particularly painters, will have very specific preferences when it comes to art supplies. They are also likely to have a substantial collection of art books. This doesn’t mean that a gift basket won’t still be a good idea for them; it just means you have to be more selective about what you put in it.
Artists who are also teachers may work in different kinds of mediums since they are regularly inspired to create their own art while working with their students. Fiber artists are another easy group since they are likely to work with everything from sewing thread to kitchen twine as well as different types of fabrics.
When choosing items for painters it is good to know which painting medium they work in. Some artists paint with oils exclusively while others work with water color, gouash, or acrylic. Those who create “Outsider” and other kinds of art on materials other than canvas may even use house paint in their work.
Gift basket items for painters can include, paints, brushes, brush cleaner, paint thinner, palette knives, unlined journals, charcoal, gesso, an assortment of drawing pencils, small canvases, small frames, framing point driver and/or points, eye screws, and picture hanging wire.
Mixed media artists can turn just about any object into an art supply. Even those working exclusively on canvas may incorporate paper, fabric, needlework, puzzle pieces, bits or wood or metal, or even plastic into their work. Artists who work in assemblage or with “found” objects can benefit from a gift basket containing everything from old jewelry to small toys.
Ideas for what to put in an artist gift basket should be based on how well you know the artist and the kind of art he or she makes or would like to make at some time in the future. Choose wisely and carefully, and your gift will be appreciated long after the supplies have been used.

Gifts and Giving: Building an Emergency Gift Supply

Have you ever found yourself in need of a gift at the last minute and no time in which to go out and get one? This can present quite a quandary, and in some instances it might even prove rather stressful. That is, unless you are one of those people who plans ahead so as to be prepared for just such a moment.

Gift giving should be just as fun and stress free as gift receiving. Read on for a way to make gift giving easier and stress free, even in last minute situations. Continuing with the gift and giving theme, this article was originally published on Helium in January 2011.

Build and Emergency Gift Stash

When an occasion comes up at the last minute, it can be very handy to have an emergency supply of gifts already on hand. Building up a gift stash is a very easy thing to do. All it takes is a little planning and a place to organize and store your stash.
First you’ll need an empty drawer, storage bin or foot locker in which to keep your emergency gift supply. Next, think about the different kinds of occasions for which you generally need gifts, especially last minute gifts, and the types of items you typically purchase.
Quite often seasonal items will go on sale or be reduced drastically during store clearances. Whenever you’re out shopping or even just browsing, be sure and check to see if your favorite retailer has any good deals on items you can use to build your emergency gift stash. After major holidays is an opportune time to score bargains on gift items.
Winter scarves, hats, gloves, and fleece items can all be put away for next year’s gift-giving. Picture frames, photo albums, handkerchiefs, ladies’ scarves, candles and votives, boxed stationery, pen sets, writing journals, and glassware are all useful items that have no season and can be presented as gifts year-round for a variety of different types of occasions.
Dish and tea towels are great to have on hand for last-minute housewarming gifts. Bottle openers, wine openers and other kitchen gadgets that often go missing are handy to include in gift packages as well. Table linens and other household items such as guest towels are things a hostess can never have too many of.
Discount stores are a good source of items for an emergency gift supply. Quite often, they sell the same items as the major retailers at significantly lower prices, and just like in the department stores, these items will be rotated regularly and leftovers put on clearance.
Books are another great item to have in your gift stash. Coffee table books, how-to and reference books make great gifts for adults, and coloring books go along with kids. Many book stores have bargain bins where they regularly reduce books for clearance. Office supply stores are a good source for finding desk accessories and items for professionals on sale for your gift stash.
When putting together a stash of emergency gift items, it is also a good idea to have a stash of gift-wrapping supplies as well. This is easily accomplished by visiting dollar stores and catching end-of-season sales at other retailers.
A little planning and a lot of browsing are all that is required to build an emergency gift stash. By checking clearance racks and bins often, you can quickly amass a supply of gifts suitable for every occasion without breaking the bank.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Etiquette: What to do With Unwanted Gifts

It's that time of year again, the season of giving. Unfortunately, not all gifts given during this period will be useful items that are wanted by the recipients. In some instances this will be no big deal, and the gifts will be received with grace and a smile, but in some instances it will lead to major disappointment, and possibly even a negative response.

For still others, the folk in between the "Nice, just not my taste" and the "What am I supposed to do with this" crowds, unwanted gift items bring yet another knick-knack to add to the already overflowing clutter. After all, who really needs yet another coffee mug?

I published several gift theme articles to Helium over the years, and as I am still migrating, expect a recurring theme through the next few posts :-) This one is from November 2009, and looks at what you should do about unwanted gifts.

What to do with Unwanted Holiday Gifts

Everyone loves getting gifts.  It’s a great feeling to receive something special that was chosen just for you.  It’s not so great though when you receive a gift that turns out to be something you can’t actually use or worse, something you really don’t want.
During the holidays in particular we give and receive a multitude of gifts that range from small tokens to big ticket items.  With all this exchange among friends, associates, coworkers and family members it is inevitable you will receive something that makes you feel that even the thought didn’t count.  When this happens it is still important to accept the gift graciously and not embarrass or hurt the feelings of the person who has given you the gift.
After all, not everyone is good at choosing just the right gift for the right person.  Likewise, not everyone has an unlimited holiday gift giving budget.  Even though you may receive something you don’t want or feel you don’t have a need for the person giving the gift may have put effort into choosing it and may even have been excited about giving it to you. 
When you receive a clothing item as a holiday gift that is not your taste and you know that the person who gave you the item will expect to see you wearing it, you can either say the article is not the right size or doesn’t really match anything you own or in the case of “special occasion” garments you can say you would probably never get a chance to wear it and ask the person if you can exchange the item for something in a different color or size.  This way the person knows you appreciated the gift and are sorry you can’t use it.
The same holds true for jewelry.  Perhaps you have a coworker who loves big, chunky jewelry but you are more on the conservative side.  Thank her for the item, perhaps wear it to work once and then set it aside. After the holidays have passed, if you have another friend or a sister who likes something in that style pass it on to them and if the coworker asks about the item you can say you loaned it out or gave to someone who really needed it.
In the case of little knick knacks and figurines and things that are not functional that you may see as more clutter for collecting dust in your life, it is still in good taste to thank someone for thinking of you at the holidays, even though you have no use for what they have given you.  Perhaps you know someone else who collects items like the one you were given whom you can pass it along to after the season is over.
If you have received a piece of original art that “doesn’t fit your d├ęcor” or is something you just can not live with, find out who the artist is and see if you can possibly exchange the piece.  If the artist is the person who has given you the gift, unless the piece is completely unseemly try to find a place for it even if only temporarily.  You can always move it later or try to swap it out for something else that you like better.
When it comes to items such as music CDs, DVDs, and books you may not be interested in them when you receive them but after some time after the holidays if you give them a chance you may find these items to be not so bad after all.  If several months have passed and you still don’t have interest in the item you can always donate it or simply give it to someone else.
In those rare instances where you have received a gift that was not thoughtful such as an XXL sweater when you are a size 5 or a tin of fudge when everyone knows you are diabetic or on a diet, accept with grace, try to find a positive comment about the item itself and then give the item away to someone else who can use it.  The holidays are about giving so in that spirit, when you receive something that you absolutely can not use, it is perfectly acceptable to pass it along to someone who can. 
It is never appropriate to react negatively or show anger towards the gift giver.  Before deciding what to do with the unwanted holiday gift take a moment and ask yourself how you would feel if a gift you had given were haphazardly discarded.  A little compassion for the other person’s perspective can go a long way keeping your heart open in the spirit of the season.
Receiving and opening holiday gifts can be just as exciting of an experience in the adult years as it was during childhood and it can be just as disappointing to open a gift and see something you don’t really like or want as it was in your youth.  But even when you are disappointed it is important to keep your composure and thank the person for the gift.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How Writing Contributes to Healing

Everything that happens in life whether directly to us, to someone close to us, or in the environment around us, has an impact. Some effects are obvious, while others are more subtle and take longer to surface. There are a number of things we carry with us, though we are not always conscious of our baggage.

Some of us function seemingly fine in spite of our baggage, and some have trouble managing the ups and downs of daily life. Getting help is sometimes difficult, especially when money for counseling or therapy is not part of the budget.

Humans are terribly resilient, and while therapy may be necessary for some, other can get by with self-help and/or centering techniques such as exercise, meditation, and reflective writing.

Reflective Writing and Healing

Healing from a loss or disappointment or some other kind of setback takes time. The key to moving forward from grief or other internal pain is in developing an awareness of it so it ceases to be quite as painful. One means of getting to this point is writing. From simple journal or even letter writing that gets your feelings out to the more focused approach of reflective writing, developing increased self awareness helps to put things in perspective so that they are less difficult to deal with.
Writing helps you get all the facts in order at times when you need to make a decision about what to do next. It lets you examine a situation from all sides looking at the pros and cons so you can determine what is best for you. If you have lost a job or a relationship or a loved one, writing about the experience helps clear your head to start over again with new purpose.
Keeping a journal is simple enough. You record your thoughts and feelings and it can sometimes have the cathartic effect of confronting someone who has hurt you but without the drama of an actual confrontation. You can sort things out and decide what you should or shouldn't say or if it's even necessary to say anything at all.
Speaking of confrontation, letter writing is a very affective means of getting everything out of your system without having to be face to face with the person you are writing to. Even if the person who has harmed you is deceased you can still gain closure from writing a letter telling them exactly how what they did made you feel. This is actually better than confronting someone face to face over an emotional issue. When you confront someone without the assistance of a trained therapist, things can backfire and you may end up with the situation being worse.
Reflective Writing as a tool is an invaluable resource that everyone should utilize. Writing reflectively triggers memory, sparks creativity, and develops mindfulness. It can be viewed as similar to responsive essay writing in school where you were given something to read and then told to write a reaction to it. You can use quotes, photographs, or objects to spark your writing and explore your feelings. One very effective exercise is to write a letter to a problem.
By exploring the thing that causes you pain through writing you effectively take the sting out. Learning to look at a situation from another perspective not only eases discord, it provides a path to creative solutions and problem solving.

Gift Giving: Best Budget Friendly Gifts For Women

Most women love gifts. They love giving them, and they love receiving them. Many, if not most, also enjoy shopping for gifts, particularly the thrill of exhilaration upon finding just the right thing for the person they are shopping for. Finding that great things at a great price is even better.

Men, on the other hand, while they may enjoy the giving and the receiving, seem to consider shopping for anything other than their own new toy an exquisite form of torture. With a few exceptions (some guys do enjoy it), most want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and with as little investment as necessary.

One thing both men and women have in common when shopping for gifts for women, is that when time and money are short, gift season can be particularly challenging. Below are some suggestions of the best budget-minded gifts you can by for women at the holidays or anytime.

Originally published to the Helium Celebrations channel in July of 2009.
(Also see Best Budget Friendly Gifts for Men)

Best Gifts for Women when You’re on a Budget

When the holiday season rolls around, buying Christmas gifts on a budget can be a daunting task if you have a long list of people to shop for. Giving someone a nice gift that will be appreciated doesn't have to break the bank, however. Savvy shoppers can score great items everyone will love and appreciate with just a little planning.
Buying gifts for women is easy because there are thousands and thousands of items available for suitable Christmas gifts and after all, it's the thought that counts. Soaps and personal care items are the top choice for most women. Presentation is also a plus so even a $1 token gift to a coworker or associate can seem more valuable dressed up in nice gift wrapping.
Bargain and discount stores are filled to the rafters with everything from candies to soaps to gift bags that take the pain out of your pocket and make gift giving affordable. The best way to give a nice gift without spending a lot of money is to assemble a group of small items in a gift bag that are useful to the recipient.
People receive a lot of gifts at holiday times and some are useful and appreciated while others merely add clutter to already overcrowded lives. To be sure your gift is in the latter category take a little time to think about the personality of the person receiving it as well as her hobbies and interests.
Most women are always in search of an emery board to tend to a snagged or broken nail or clear nail polish to stop a run in hosiery. Both of these items are cheap and can be combined for thoughtful gifts. Professional women will appreciate miniature lint rollers and stain removal pens in their gift packs, especially if they are mothers or pet owners.
The Dollar store is a great place to find stocking stuffer type items that can be grouped together to make nice little cheap Christmas gifts. Stores like Walmart, Kmart and Target offer a wide variety of low cost items in trial sizes such as facial treatments that can be bundled together or with other items. Also, these stores accept manufacturer's coupons which will help you save additional money on items like soaps and body wash when putting together a pampering package. If the items are also on sale you can purchase full sizes for the price of trial sizes.
Likewise taking your manufacturer's coupons to the drug store or supermarket is another way to save on personal care items that can be used to create nice but cheap Christmas gifts. Often times a coupon will require the purchase of more than one item. Normally this might discourage the purchase of the product but at holiday time it can work to your advantage especially if the item is on sale.
A great and cheap gift for a woman is a dollar store cosmetic bag filled with tissues, mints, a small mirror, lip balm, rain bonnet, trial sized lotion, etc. that she can carry around in her purse. These are things that all women have a regular use for and are often in need of.
Other cheap gifts to get for women are stationery, hobby supplies, journals, hair accessories, photo albums and frames, kitchen items, calendars and books. Discount and dollar stores have an abundance of these items and sometimes gift sets with multiple items such as bubble bath can be broken down into individual smaller gifts.
If you're crafty or good in the kitchen you can save a lot of money on gifts by making them yourself. Baked goods, soaps, candles, flavored oils and vinegars, candies, drawer sachets and other personal touch items are always appreciated just as much if not more than store bought gifts.

Gift Giving: Best Budget Friendly Gifts For Men

No matter how many times you've heard it, there's no disputing that when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, it's definitely the thought that counts. Men are not like women; with the exception of collectors, they just are not into acquiring. They may own a few pairs of shoes and a very basic wardrobe, and they are not likely to have drawers and drawers full of accessories.

Their hobbies tend to be more expensive (golf, fishing), and while a gift card to Academy Sports will be greatly appreciated by many, it's not exactly the most original or thoughtful gift you can give. Additionally, when you're on a budget and/or have a long list of folks to shop for, you may find yourself in the tough spot of being unable to afford the items on your fella's wish list.

Originally published in July of 2009, the article below lists a few suggestions of items you can purchase without looking cheap or busting through your budget.

Great Gifts for Men when on a Budget

Shopping for men is sometimes quite challenging, particularly if you are not a man. Everywhere you look there are lovely gift items like rose petal soaps or cute stuff for kids but when it comes to shopping for men gift givers are often left dazed and confused scrambling for suitable items at the last minute.
Purchasing a Christmas gift for a man such as a coworker, particularly one you are not close to can be even more of a challenge as you will more than likely not be familiar with his likes and dislikes. If you're on a strict budget, your gift options for a man will seem even further limited.
Some of the best cheap Christmas gifts for men are handkerchiefs - be they plain white or simple bandannas, nail clippers, beard and mustache combs, desk calendars, dress socks, knit caps, bargain books, undershirts, shoe shine/cleaning supplies, car accessories such as a glove box wallet/organizer and snacks.
Single guys may appreciate items to help them in the romance department. Scented candles, place mats, dinner napkins, a cork screw, CD compilations of romantic music, recipe cards, anything useful on a date that can help set the mood for a romantic evening. Also, if the single guy in question is someone you like he may even take the hint and ask you out!
If you know that a friend or coworker likes to download music, a package of blank CD-Rs and jewel cases would be a thoughtful item that is very affordable. Many stores have multi-packs of recordable CDs for just $5 (U.S.) and you can find sets of jewel cases at the dollar store.
The well-groomed man on your Christmas gift list will no doubt appreciate lip balm, exfoliating scrub, lotions and personal care items for sprucing up just as much as your best girlfriend or gal pal would so don't leave these very affordable items off of your shopping list.
Many men love to sit and soak in the tub and bath products can be purchased cheap just about everywhere. Choose budget friendly soaps scented with ginseng or sandalwood such as Bee and Flower, or even oatmeal or aloe such as those made by Yardley. When selecting bath water additives consider relaxing or invigorating salts and oils or make your own.
Almost every man has a collection of caps he loves and since they can never have too many of them fleece or knit caps in winter are cheap gifts that are practical and easy to care for that will likely see a lot of use. These are especially good for men who like to coordinate the color of their cap with the rest of their outfit. Fleece gloves are also cheap and welcome gifts once the weather turns chilly.
It is just not possible for a man to have too many handkerchiefs and even those who don't have them should. They are handy to have for mopping brows, wiping tears and since they are sold cheap in multi-packs they are a great gift item as you can repackage them to make them look more impressive. They can even be folded origami or dinner napkin style and placed in a gift bag or used as ornamentation on gift packages.
One of the absolute best cheap Christmas gift items for men is an assortment of snack items. Most men love to eat and most men love sports. They especially love to eat while watching their favorite sports. An assortment of snacks will be greatly appreciated during holiday bowl games or when hunger hits at the office.
Finding great gifts for men that are affordable on a budget is easy once you develop a plan. Shopping early and checking for clearance items will also insure you have everything you need when the holidays roll around and you won't have to put out huge sums of money all at once.
Note: At the time this was published, CDs and DVDs were still popular purchases. Today I would add SD and micro SD cards to the list, as you can often get them on sale, and everyone with digital devices is in constant need of them, especially photographers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Getting Noticed: How to Stand out From the Crowd

Being invited to a party can be either a source of delight over the excitement of upcoming fun, or it can be a source of dread at having to get through yet another social event where no one is going to talk to you. Some people have absolutely no problems making friends wherever they go, while others are painfully shy or even simply a little social awkward and have trouble fitting in.

Even when you're not the life of the party (which, by the way, can be exhausting, so be careful what you wish for), you can still have a good time mingling with others and participating in conversations without sticking out like a sore thumb. Below are some tips on how to not be relegated to the background at social gatherings.

These tips are based on using your appearance as a conversation starter, however, staying abreast of current events, measuring your comments (no one likes a know-it-all), and appropriately complimenting others (no one likes a suck up), you can also make a memorable impression and stand out at functions.

Originally published on Helium in July of 2009.

How to get Noticed at a Party

It's the party of the century and you're invited! You have been watching the clock at work since the midmorning coffee break and when quitting time rolls around you are outta there! You race home after work, grab a quick bite, shower, don your favorite outfit and head back out the door with your spirits high. You have been looking forward to this all day and as you excitedly arrive at your destination you are more than a little pleased with yourself for not being too early while not being "fashionably late" either. You present your invitation at the door and enter the gathering ready for a fabulous evening of cocktails and conversation.
Instead, you spend your time admiring the beautiful floral arrangements and interesting artwork while people watching from the corner of the room. The place is packed with people excitedly chattering away with each other and yet none of them seems to be interested in talking to you. So much for your fun and fabulous evening at the party of the century.
The first step in getting noticed at a party, or anyplace else for that matter, is to make your self stand out. Even though we have been told repeatedly throughout childhood and even into adulthood that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover that is exactly what happens. The first thing people notice about someone who enters a room is what they physically see before them, so a huge part of making a good impression is appearance.
If people are somehow put off by the look of you, or worse it they don't even notice you, no one is going to approach or want to be approached by you. The key is to have a neat, clean appearance and to make an entrance. What to wear will depend largely on the type of event you are attending and how casual or formal it is so it is important that your clothing is first appropriate to the occasion. If there is a theme for the event, be sure to consider this when choosing your outfit or the accessories for it.
At a black and white ball for instance, a little flash of color in the form of a flower in the hair or on the lapel could draw attention to you and even spark conversation. Jewelry, pocket squares, gloves, even a wrap (such as a pashmina) or fashionable hat (where appropriate) can serve to add a subtle bit of spice to your outfit.
The next thing that will make you stand out even before you open your mouth is posture. Slouching is a sign of low self esteem and someone who is careless about details which is social suicide whether at a professional function where you are hoping to network or at a less formal gathering where you are hoping to find a date for next weekend. Poise, confidence and good posture go a long way in getting you noticed even when you aren't trying to stand out.
The third thing that will help you stand out is your conversation. It isn't just your words though, it is your mannerisms as well so be polite and respectful and save the jokes for another occasion. Charm goes a long way in getting people to warm up to you, as does wit, just remember to be subtle and keep things simple. When someone likes what you have to say they will be more apt to introduce you to others.
Everyone's familiar with the saying "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," and while it may be a cliche it still rings true so always, always, always put your best foot forward at all times.