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.
I have a confession to make. It wasn’t until I started presenting my own daily podcast that I realised how powerful the connection with your audience can be.
I mean I knew the power of connection.
Of course, I’ve loved all the audiences I have ever broadcast or spoken to. As a producer at BBC Radio 6 Music the connection with the audience was particularly strong: so strong that people would do almost anything for us – they’d tell us personal stories, they’d recommend tracks to us and they weren’t afraid to let us know when we got it wrong too.
We got them. They got us.
But. That wasn’t me speaking to an audience, that was me powering a presenter to speak to their audience.
Everyday Positivity has taught me what it is to feel close to a tribe. These are my people. Not only do I believe that they listen to what I am saying – I would do anything for them too. And that is really special.
That unique connection is gold for any content creator. It’s what powers word of mouth growth. And it’s what the great broadcasters hold above all others.
When it comes to engaging an audience & hitting that sweet spot of being “in sync” with them, most people will tell you to be relevant to them, but how do you do that? How do you create that special something that leads to growth?
- Make It About Them
The analogy I use is that when you are worrying about what to say (this is the same in sales too) then the light is shining on you. Actually, when you are speaking to an audience you need to make sure you are shining the light on them.
What are you giving them? What are they getting from you that’s of use? What do they need from you? How are you serving them? How are you putting them in the middle of your content?
When I am doing the Everyday Positivity recordings I really believe I am speaking to that person in front of me like they are there. My thoughts are with the people I speak to on the facebook group. Equally, when I get on stage, I believe that the audience are mates that I want to excite.
You can hear this in the tone and the language of great presenters. They surprise and delight you, and it’s almost like they are in your head when they speak to you like you are with them.
2. Be Vulnerable
While performance is really important when communicating with a mass of people, having the courage to be vulnerable is vital to allowing your human to be seen.
Let me talk to you about vulnerability for a second though. There is a difference between vulnerability and oversharing. I am guilty of being an oversharer. Oversharing can be useful: it’s funny, it’s shocking and it creates a reaction. But oversharing is also a tactic to deflect people from seeing the real me. I suspect you will know what I mean when you think about your own oversharing tactics! Or indeed you will know when you have spotted it.
Oversharing needs to be used wisely.
Real vulnerability feels different. It doesn’t happen all the time, and I know when I am being vulnerable because it feels really uncomfortable! I worry that I will offend someone or that someone will laugh at me. I question it, over and over. In some cases I am terrified.
But, without fail, those are the times I get the best and biggest responses from the Everyday Positivity audience.
The more you expose the vulnerable parts of yourself, the more you attract “your people”, the more you build their trust, and that will grow your audience.
3. Live Their Life
There is no doubt that if you are living the life of your audience you can speak to them in a way that is connected. That’s why some of the best broadcasters and presenters will just tell you that they are just being themselves and that they aren’t really thinking about the audience, and it works!
But there will be times that you are speaking to an audience that isn’t “just like you”.
This means you need to put in the work.
One thing that comes up in radio a lot, is there are presenters on local radio stations, that don’t actually live in the area. It works to get those presenters to visit somewhere in the broadcast area every week at least (if not more). Sitting in different places for an hour a week and purely observing life can transform the presenter’s perspective of the area.
Do you “know the audience’s patch”? Do you go to the places they go? Do you read what they read? Do you watch what they watch? Do you understand their challenges? Do you care about what they care about?
Get into their world as much and as often as you can.
4. Be Useful To Them
This is an extension of making it about the audience. If you can help them with their life, then you have created a true impact.
Teach them something, inform them of something, share something useful with them.
In radio, I like the phrase we use: “social ammunition” – meaning the job of a presenter is to give the audience useful nuggets to talk about with their friends and colleagues during the day. News, entertainment, music, sport. All of these elements can give something to talk about that day.
In all engaging content creation, useful content is incredibly powerful. Depending on your tribe, it might be that you give tips on how to deal with imposter syndrome? Or how to lay a floor? Or just unboxing a new toy?! All of these things to the respective audiences are useful, it helps them in their day to day life, it gives them their social status, and that means you have created a real lasting impact with them.
5. Use Them
It’s definitely a 2-way street. Your aim is to build your “Know, Like, Trust” factor with your audience. You can’t expect them to trust you if you don’t trust them.
These days you have the ability to speak to the audience “off air”. The Everyday Positivity facebook group is a place where the listeners share stories and advice that I ask them for. To progress this I will be asking what they like, what they want to hear, and what they would like to be involved in.
Equally, if they feedback through the reviews that they don’t like something I use it. It guides me to be self-aware, and vulnerable. I have used it to improve my work. I have used it to understand my tribe more. I have used it as pure content.
Do not be afraid to ask your audience about what they do and what they want. You will be surprised what grows from it.
Ultimately your aim should be to impact one person, to change one person’s life. Because if you impact them then they will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, who will tell their friends…
You’ve got your presentation style sorted, you’re confident and you’re comfortable performing. So what happens when you throw another person into the mix? Contributors, guests, panellists, callers – they all add texture to your programme, podcast or conference, but your job is to get the best out of them for the audience.
Here are the things to consider before you get into it…
1.Research Your Guest
A sure fire way to make your interview go on longer than you need it to is to get your guest to tell their story ‘from the beginning’. This is fine if you are pre-recording and you have the time to edit. But if you are live you are going to need to get to the point as soon as you can.
Researching your guest means you can set the scene for them in your introduction. I say to my clients “you hold the who and what, your guest holds the why and the how”.
A well-researched interview can drive the conversation forward faster too. Imagine being able to say “you must have been having a tough time then because you were also trying to launch a community centre” rather than “so what was that like?”
Tip: It’s not always possible, but it’s good to speak to your guest before you interview them. It reassures them and it means you can suss out some of the best stories before you are on stage / on air with them.
2. The Basics: Who, What, Where, Why, When, How?
When working up your research and deciding what to ask, start with the basic questions. Make sure your audience understands who you are talking to, what they are talking about (the when and where fits in here). This is the information you need to be able to run a great interview.
One of my clients had a guest on their panel show talking about a vegan festival he was running. It wasn’t until he got on air that she discovered he wasn’t vegan. In listening back we realised there were no vegans in the room, but all the prep assumed there would be a vegan in the room. The whole segment lost its credibility. Even with the biggest of production teams, it’s easy to assume you have all the information – so questions like what, where, when, who questions will uncover all the context you need.
Stories hide in the hows, whys and “what reason”. Questions like “How did you make that happen?” or “why did you decide to do that?” then get the answers you need from your guest. Note that “what was the reason?” is a softer way of asking “why?”
3. Make It A Conversation: Listen
Have clarity about what you want to hear your guest speak about, come with a list of well-researched questions, and then the key to a great interview is to listen to what the guest says to get that second question in. This makes it more like a conversation.
Listen out for chunked up language and get the detail on it. For example:
Interviewer: “What were you like as a child?”
Guest: “I grew up in Birmingham, and my parents would probably tell you I was a wild child, but I remember it being a happy time.”
Interviewer: “When you say wild child, what did you get up to?” or “What was it like in Birmingham at that time?” or “what made it a happy time?”
The stories are in the examples, listening allows you to ask the follow-up question (which may also be a challenging question too – see 5)
4. Open, Closed and Non-Question-Questions
Open questions allow your guest to tell a story, create opinion, share knowledge and experience. Closed questions have one word or short answers. Both are useful and a mixture of both questions can make for a good interview. Closed questions are particularly good for wrapping up an interview.
Depending on your guest you might find that they are keen to talk, in which case even a closed question will bear fruitful answers. One of the best ways to bring something out of your guest is to share your own experience or story as part of the question – this is the Non-Question-Question. These questions don’t really have a question mark at the end and can start a bit like: “In my experience” or “I’ve done that before and I found x y z” makes it sound like you are chatting and it gives the guest the opportunity to share their story.
I’ve written about this before – confrontation is something people avoid, but by failing to challenge your guest you are failing to give them the opportunity to give a stronger more thought out answer.
You can soften the challenge with language like “What do you say to people who say…?” or “Some people may be thinking…”.
Often the challenge is about being curious and hunting down the why and the how of your guest’s point of view.
6. Know When To Move It On
While you should listen and acknowledge your guest, sometimes you are on a time limit and you have to wrap it up. And sometimes they are saying the same thing over and over again – it’s time to move it on. Don’t be afraid to politely interrupt them, challenge them or ask a closed question.
Ultimately, a good interview is about getting the guest to enlighten the audience. Researching, challenging and being curious will help you to get to the gold and fast.
I’ve been saying “Show Don’t Tell” in a lot of my sessions recently. It’s one of the fundamentals in “performing” your content and drawing in your listener.
The ideology I use is taught in novel writing. The lesson is that you give the reader the opportunity to add their imagination to the story. Instead of the author writing “She laughed nervously” – which tells the reader exactly what is going on, the ‘Show Don’t Tell’ version is “Her cheeks flushed as she laughed”.
A good author then allows you, as the reader, the space to put your thoughts and pictures into the book, to read betwen the lines, meaning you’re able to engage with the content at a personal level.
How then does this translate to presenting?
Often it’s how you go about explaining your content.
Imagine you are using an audio clip from an interview. You set it up by giving it context…
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…. Here’s what he said” <Play Clip>
At a basic level, you don’t need the “here’s what he said”. It is fine to say:
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…<play clip>”
One step further might get you to a more interesting place
“Up next is the new song from Tom Odell – He’s a big football fan, how’s he feeling about the Euros? <PAUSE FOR A BEAT> <Play clip>”
In an “On Stage” context you can also think about how you are using your slides to show what you are talking about rather than telling your audience what you are saying. You and I both know we shouldn’t write up bullet points on the powerpoint word for word, but when we get to it it’s difficult to find images. We’ve all done it: the bullet points find their way back in. Unfortunately it is a sure fire way to get your audience to glaze over.
Of all examples of the “Show Don’t Tell” technique in presenting content, my favourite has to be the first 60 seconds of this.