How to ask a busy person for help
Getting the attention of a busy person isn’t as hard as you’d think. In fact it’s easier than ever before to connect with people. The hard bit is persuading them to part with their time.
Here’s an approach that has worked for me with all sorts of notable people from authors to business people, and from politicians to scholars.
You need to be well prepared, have a very clear request, and respect the individual’s time.
Asking for a meeting over coffee or lunch doesn’t work. Busy people are likely to be able to fill their diary with breakfasts, lunches, dinners and drinks, all day, every day.
Ask for ten minutes. You’ll almost certainly get more but it shows that you mean business and have respect for the individual’s time.
Do your research. Read articles, books, blogs and social media feeds.
Thanks to the internet we can glean information about an individual’s career history, and personal and professional motivations. Engaging via a blog or Twitter is a great way to start a relationship.
How to write a pitch email
Make your approach timely. Avoid sending messages out of hours. You may get a response over a weekend but it’s unlikely to be the one that you want. Respect personal and family time.
Your pitch should be succinct and to the point. Two paragraph emails or messages work. 500 word essays don’t.
In four short sentences state who you are, why you’re making an approach, and how the individual you’re approaching can help.
What’s the value exchange? No matter what the nature of the relationship offer something in return. Share your work or offer to make a donation to the individual’s favourite charity. I always value book recommendation and thoughtfully curated content.
How to get the best from a meeting
If you’re successful in landing a call or meeting arrive promptly and be well prepared.
If you’re using an internet service test your kit beforehand and jump online 10 minutes before the call is due to start. If you’re meeting face to face arrive 15 minutes early, and buy a coffee.
Irrespective of whatever is going on in your life be positive and upbeat. This is not the time to share personal or professional woe.
Ask open questions and practice active listening. You’ll almost certainly be challenged and you might not like what you hear.
Make sure you follow up and say thank you. It’ll keep the door open for future opportunities.