For a lot of people, the word “networking” is an evil word. That feeling of meeting people and selling yourself sounds hideous. Haunted by negative self-talk like “they aren’t going to want to hear about me”, or “it’s all so fake”, or “I’m just not smart enough”, many run for the door as soon as networking is mentioned.
The reality is, that nowadays, there is no job in the world, that doesn’t require you to sell your business. Building relationships is vital to any career, or business because people work with people they know, like and trust.
Networking doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience and the whole concept of building relationships is shrouded with myths.
Let’s bust through a few:
Myth 1: Networking is only done at events and meetings
When you say “networking” to someone the immediate picture is standing in a group of people at an event awkwardly trying to work out when to introduce yourself.
Yes, networking events are important, but you can “network” in your own way, space and time as well. You can arrange to meet people for coffee. You can meet people through Linkedin. And in fact you are networking all the time. The people that you work with right now, will possibly be your boss one day, or they’ll go to a great new job and may recommend you.
One thing that helps is understanding what type of communicator you are as you can then play to your strengths. Take this iMA Strategies quiz to discover how you can be better at networking: http://katecocker-ima.com
Myth 2: Networking only counts if you are meeting new people
When I started both my Presenter Coach Business and Kate Cocker Studio (where I sold my artwork and paintings) I realised that actually where the connections start, are with the people you know. Friends would be the first to buy my paintings, and I still get Presenter Coach work through people I play netball with.
Start with who you know, make a list. Then see who they know. And make sure your friends and family, know what it is you actually do so that they can employ you or recommend you.
Myth 3: Networking means talking about myself or the business constantly, and I am not good at that
This is the greatest pressure people put on themselves when they think about networking. But you can take the pressure off right now as here is the secret to being a good networker:
All you have to do is listen.
Think about the people you know that you consider to be good listeners. Do you dislike them? No. Do you respect them? Yes. Do you trust them? Yes.
Listening is key to building relationships and business development. Finding out what are the challenges for their business, gives you the opportunity to help them. You can’t help without listening, being interested and asking questions about the things they are talking about.
Take the light off you, and make sure you shine the light on them.
Sometimes we can build up myths that protect us. Our assumptions protect us from taking risks, feeling uncomfortable and bursting out the comfort zone. Sometimes we don’t have to jump in 2 footed and terrify ourselves, sometimes we can stretch our comfort zone and slowly build confidence that we know what we are doing.
So network to your strengths, start with who you already know, and listen so that you can work out how what you do can help the person you are talking to.
There is one more element to networking that will help you get that new gig, or client. I will reveal all in my next blog.
When I start many of my video calls I am met with a face of fear as the mic their end isn’t working and they can’t hear me. Then there is a lot of flapping while I am mouthing the instructions at them. Then sometimes people call for the resident tech person and there is more flapping as I watch them blush their way through explaining what they need. Then they find the one button I had been trying to tell them to use and it all of a sudden works, and we are all very relieved.
I see this all the time. Like when I watch people try to present in meeting rooms. You are guaranteed that the console NEVER works when you need it to. You get your laptop out, find the lead you think it is, and you plug it in. “It worked yesterday,” you say to the team. But this time it doesn’t work. So you flap because this is the start of the meeting and you need to get on and you have NO IDEA what to do. You call the resident tech person who sorts it in 2 easy clicks of a button, and everyone is relieved.
Whatever situation you are in, when you speak in public there will be technology to deal with. But for a lot of people, this is a real barrier. Panicking when you see a sound desk in a radio studio can stop you from achieving your dream to be a broadcaster. Not knowing what to do with the PowerPoint set up can add to your nerves before your presentation. And not knowing how to set up your camera can mean that YouTube Channel is never going to happen.
Here is your 4 step guide to becoming a tech whiz;
1. Be Positive and Roll With It
Online Business Guru, Marie Forleo says that when it comes to technology it’s all about “Attitude Not Aptitude”.
Often we tell ourselves we are no good at technology because when it goes wrong we don’t know what to do. More often than not it then goes wrong. Let’s get real though: Tech is bound to go wrong, it’s probably not all your fault, but the solution isn’t coming any quicker if you panic! Just roll with it.
I remember when I was sat upstairs at BBC Radio 6 Music and a pre-recorded show misfired the news. We ran downstairs and started troubleshooting. The best thing for us to do was let the Emergency CD kick in. We all stood there calmly as the silence played for long enough for the CD to kick in. Those few seconds felt like an age! I remember feeling a surge of calm control as the music kicked in and we were able to then work out what to do next.
Before you knew it we were back on air and all was well again. The listeners barely noticed.
It taught me that staying calm and not flapping is the most productive state you can be in, in that situation.
2. Have a Plan B
So the slides stop working in your presentation, or the audio won’t play. Use it as an excuse to tell another story while it’s being sorted. Or go and grab a drink. Or have a line ready for you to get back on track. As part of your prep beforehand, have a plan B for what happens if something falters. Remember if you are comfortable, then the audience is comfortable.
Make sure you always have your presentation on a memory stick, audio on your phone, a Bluetooth speaker, spare batteries – whatever it is that means you can cover for the fact that the tech in the location isn’t working.
3. Keep Checking
If you are filming or recording a podcast with a guest, never leave without checking the audio has recorded. I have had presenters go and record the interviews of their life,
notably with Madonna and with Arctic Monkeys. They return to the station to find they pressed stop instead of record! Keep checking throughout that you are recording and at the end check it’s recorded and sounds OK before you leave the building.
4. Learn It
Take some time to get familiar with the equipment around you. We rely so much on the settings being right and hoping that the tech will just work. Get your resident engineer or tech expert to show you how to do it once and for all. Draw pictures, ask questions. Gather an understanding of inputs and outputs and you’ll find you can troubleshoot a lot of situations.
Also, know your cables. Last week I got a projector with an Ethernet cable plugged into it as if it was an input. I couldn’t get it out! It was in the wrong hole!
And knowing the difference between a phono and a jack will mean you can get the engineer to help you – because you then know some of their language!
Tech is easier than you think, and a bit of training on the fundamentals can really help you in the future.
On that note: If you are a podcaster or budding radio producer/presenter who wants to get a really good grounding in sound, AND get your audio to sound high quality then check out Tech Train 2.0 that I am putting on with Broadcast Engineer Ann Charles in December in Manchester.
It’s for women in radio/podcasting who want to feel like they know what they are doing, and it will help you become completely unflappable. Find out more and get your tickets here.
I used to be the boss of a freelancer who was a master persuader, they regularly got what they wanted from others.
I was often on the receiving end of personal requests that usually went like this:
“Please could I leave a bit early today because I have to get home to receive a delivery of some drawers”
“Yeh sure” I would reply.
“Please could I skip the post show meeting tomorrow because I have to get over to another meeting at 1030.”
“Yeh sure” I would reply.
I would let the rest of the team know and they would roll their eyes that I had said yes yet again, and I would find myself trying to convince them that going home for a delivery was important. (I can feel you rolling your eyes too).
You won’t believe the trick this freelancer was using…
I’m currently training to become an NLP Practitioner, and I’ve reached the module on the language of persuasion. One of the key ways to persuade is to communicate the cause and effect of what it is you are trying to achieve.
The most powerful word you can use then is: BECAUSE.
Read it again:
“Please could I leave a bit early today because I have to get home to receive a delivery of some drawers”
“Yeh sure” I would reply.
A study looked at people trying to push in a queue for the photocopier. If you just asked to go before someone they would say no. If you asked to go ahead of someone “because, and then gave your reason” you would inevitably end up further up the queue.
It’s worth noting that the reason often is irrelevant… hence of course I was saying “yeh sure”.
When talking to an audience, your boss, new clients, any one you are trying to persuade, using “Cause and Effect” can help you then get what you want from them.
Communicating the benefit to your audience will always help them along. So, if you are trying to get your audience to enter a competition:
“Text me now because I have a <prize> you could win…”
“Text me now so that you are in to win…”
“When you text in, then you could win….”
Side note: When my kids were little they were taught to sell “because” as their first “tricky word” with this mnemonic: Big Elephants Always Understand Small Elephants. It always makes me smile.
I hear this a lot. Often it’s something that’s said to avoid a difficult conversation, or an uncomfortable situation in the office. It’s a limiting belief that can mean inauthentic relationships are formed, and that progress on a project is halted.
A few weeks ago I used Emma Willis’ example of holding Roxanne Pallet to account as a “comfortable confrontation”. Emma used some of the techniques I talk about in this article.
For radio presenters “I don’t do confrontation” is the reason given for not holding guests or contributors to account. It’s understandable to feel that way, as you are often thankful for contributors and guests being on your show. Asking difficult questions feels unfair, out of character or ungrateful.
The reality is that difficult conversations are likely to happen every single day on air, or in the office. Here are some of the tips I give to help you through that unavoidable awkwardness, and to get the best from the guest.
1. Make sure you know what you want
Make sure you have a good understanding of what you want out of the conversation before you enter in to it. Set your intent. It might be to be kind, or to get the answers that your audience (or you) deserve. As a result, you will have to ask the question that plays devil’s advocate to get the answer you want.
When interviewing someone on the radio about a Cheese Festival the question: “So what are the reasons people like cheese?” Would get you so far. But “why are you celebrating cheese, it’s just a silly piece of dairy isn’t it?” Could get you a stronger, more interesting answer.
2. Check your language
If going at it directly like this is too uncomfortable, you can distance yourself in your language to take the emotion and the personal attack out of it.
Firstly – argue the idea, evidence or behaviour, not the person. The minute you go to personal language like “you’re an idiot for thinking what you think” you have lost the productivity of the conversation.
A therapist of mine suggested to me to use the word “I” in conflict, rather than “you”. In broadcasting I am constantly telling people to use the word “you” as a way to engage their listener. It’s the most powerful word you can use for this. But in the context of difficult conversations it can be a useful tool to use I: “What I am seeing is <example> behaviour which is implying to me…” rather than “You are a really difficult person”.
On the radio it works to use phrases like “Some people might say that this is a silly Festival for Cheese – is it?” or. “What do you say to someone who says that thinks this Festival is a silly idea?”
3. Agreeing is Partial (not Impartial)
I recently spent a day coaching new radio presenters, practicing their interview technique. Their brief was to remain impartial. Presenter after presenter interviewed their contributor consistently grateful, constantly agreeing with them and guess what – it was dull. That may be unfair, but I didn’t really learn anything from the interviews. It is a common mistake to think that impartiality sits in agreeing. It’s actually the opposite.
In the on air interview, or if you are hosting a panel, it is your job to make sure you are covering the information from all angles. Using the language above (e.g. “Some people might say…”) you can put forward an opinion that may not be yours, without having to attach yourself to it. This can make the feeling of confrontation a little easier.
My husband really enjoys a debate. One time we agreed that we would go out on a family day out at 11am. At about 10.30 he and his aunt got locked into a debate about politics of some sort. We all sat there till 1pm till they came to their conclusion.
I mean, he REALLY loves a debate.
I used to hate it. My skin would crawl. I’d feel shame and discomfort. I would want to hide. And let’s be honest, no one really wants to sit around for 2 hours while you’re waiting for a heated discussion to be finished!
But then I wondered what would happen if I leaned in to it. He loves it, I would be gutted if he dismissed one of the things I love. So I decided to try joining in, rather than shutting it down, and use it as a means of practice. For some people they like the opportunity to intellectually spar, and it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about learning.
Even so, it’s so hard not to get emotional, or take it personally! But with him, I am in a safe space. He knows me, I can get my words wrong, I can correct myself, I can practice what it is to be devil’s advocate, to call things out I don’t agree with. The outcome is I am getting better at forming my words and questions in what can be an emotional state & I am better at speaking up in other situations too. And, I think my husband and I have actually found a place to connect a little more.
So find someone to practice with.
I have had to fire people, I have had to deal with getting people to realise they are making mistakes, and I have had to deal with conversations about my own work and behaviour that have been really tough. In every situation the one piece of advice that has helped is this: it’s supposed to feel uncomfortable.
For years I thought there was “a way” to make the uncomfortable, comfortable. There are ways to make things less uncomfortable, but some conversations are always going to be difficult.
Once I embraced the discomfort, I was able to come to terms with understanding that conflict can be a route to growth, that it was something to practice and commit to getting to a more interesting place.
Engaging your audience is the primary challenge for any presenter, on stage, on screen, and on air. (Keep reading to find out about a new tool I have created that will help you)
The good news is that we humans are hardwired to connect with each other so as long as your audience is captive, they are pretty much ready to connect with you from the start. Your job as presenter is to keep their attention.
Choosing content that is relevant to your audience is important.
Making your content relevant to your audience is essential.
You are always trying to create moments of connection. One way to do that is to get topical. Get in your audience’s “zeitgeist”. If you can, understand where their head is at, from what is going on for them culturally. When you reference it in your content, it will go a long way to keep them engaged.
Ever noticed how when someone starts talking about Christmas in May, it jars doesn’t it?
But when the first Christmas cups appear in Starbucks in November time, you know Christmas is on the way and you can get excited about it!
This is how being topical can help you be relevant.
Basic topicality is acknowledging the day, is it a Monday vibe or a Friday vibe? Then you can think about whether you are in the midst of their holidays like Easter, Valentines Day or Christmas. Then there are specifics in the news or entertainment world.
I recently did a workshop for some lawyers right at the deadline of the new GDPR proceedures. I used the opportunity to make jokes around the amount of emails we were all getting, and the amount of work they were having to do for their clients. It was an easy win, and the response from the participants was unprecedented.
If you are presenting regularly on air, on social media or on stage, then you start to get good at knowing what your audiences will like. You get good at finding your “go to” websites (BBC News / TMZ / BuzzFeed etc.) to inspire your content ideas.
As a content creator I often like to get ahead with my web content, so it’s good to be able to plan ahead the topicality.
To help you with this I have pulled together a Content Calendar for reference. I will share this information with you in my weekly newsletter (sign up here
- celebrity birthdays
- national “days”
- school terms
- and more…
Use the information as you wish, as long as your audience recognises it.