There is no doubt that networking is a skill to be learned but my starting point is to be friendly and receptive to the people you meet. I was thinking about who had influenced my networking style and remembered one woman (an actress) with whom I had worked in radio. She had come to record a commercial and we had an easy production day with her – she turned up on time, made coffee, was fun and friendly with everyone and did a great voice over. My boss booked her time and again. In contrast an actor, with a slightly higher profile, was incredibly difficult: he complained about everything from the directions he’d been given to get to our building, the quality of the coffee, the commercial he was making. He was rude, disinterested and we never hired him again.
It was a valuable lesson and influenced my philosophy on how to network. So here’s what else I learned from the “stars”:
- When you introduce yourself say your name with pride and confidence and state what you want. On my first day in radio I picked up a phone and heard “Hi this is Jackie Collins and I want to know why …”. Yes it was the author and sister of Joan. She had no hesitation, embarrassment or fear of saying who she was and making her enquiry. It gave me a clear opening that was easy to respond to. I always make sure that I say my name clearly and I am open about asking for information.
- Remember people’s names, especially from one event to another. I was incredibly impressed when Bob Monkhouse not only bothered to learn my name but remembered it from one recording to the next (about a month later). It charmed me. In fact charm is a much underrated quality. Being charming doesn’t mean sucking up to people it just means showing courtesy and interest and that brings us to …
- Listen to other people. We were making a series of commercials for a small charity and were very excited because “national treasure” Dame Thora Hird had agreed to record the script. It was an incredibly difficult recording because Dame Thora was talking about herself and her career non-stop. The commercial took over an hour when only fifteen minutes had been allocated and cost considerably more in studio fees. At nearly every networking meeting you will find someone who sells at you and takes no interest in the other people – don’t be that person. Start conversations with people and don’t bombard them with details about you and your business.
- It should almost go without saying that you should be professional. Recording with John Craven was a joy because he listened to direction and executed it as requested before making some suggestions on how it could be improved. There was no doubt he was the expert who was happy to share his experience.
- Never, ever judge by appearances. Bradley Walsh arrived early one morning and looked somewhat dishevelled, in fact I’m still not sure if he had just got up or if he was on his way to bed! We were a bit apprehensive especially when the other “voice”, Frank Thornton, arrived looking equally careworn. However as soon as they were in front of the microphone they had focus and were full of energy. They finished in about fifteen minutes and had time to finish their coffee and chat.
- Give away samples of your work and always follow up on a contact. One day I picked up the phone and it was Russell Grant – now this was before he became a dancing sensation and was better known as an astrologer. We chatted and I happened to mention that I’d always found his forecasts incredibly accurate for me. “What sign are you?” he asked immediately “Oh I love Aires, my favourite sign …” and he went on to do a mini astrology reading for me. The following day I received a copy of his latest book and a note about how he’d enjoyed our chat. I was never able to book him but I always remembered him and yes, I did vote for him on Strictly as a way of saying “thank you”!
- Know your worth, build your contacts and don’t be afraid to ask for the money! Twenty years ago I worked with Peter “voice of the X Factor” Dickson. Peter was the ultimate professional and incredibly focussed on developing his career. He knew the exact value of his time and submitted his invoices promptly and collected his payments promptly. Remember that even though you are meeting interesting people and enjoying the events, you are attending networking events because you want to win business. So if people ask about your fees don’t be embarrassed, if you are looking for specific contacts then ask for help finding them and know what you want to achieve from every event.