Friendships: The Key to Success
By Ann Hibbard
Two men, both brilliant. One holds the most powerful position in the world. The other faces four life sentences for sending bombs through the mail. Many factors influenced these two divergent destinies, but one seems patently obvious. The Unabomber is a man without a friend in the world. The President has won and maintained many friends over the years. Without that skill, he would not now sit in the Oval Office.
Your ability to develop and maintain friendships may well mean the difference between success and failure as a professional speaker. While content, delivery, and packaging all matter, friendships are often the key that unlocks the door to speaking and writing opportunities.
Seven years ago, after five books with newer publishing companies, I published with an established company. Together we produced a series of four books. I was not a household name, so they placed my books on their B-list. Considering my relatively low visibility, my books sold well. Five years after that initial contract, they offered me a contract for a major hardback book. They placed me on their A-list, meaning big dollars for a first-rate design job, placement in the front portion of the catalog, and a significant marketing commitment. This attention is usually reserved for celebrities.
How did I make the leap from the B-list to the A-list? A good track record helped. But the defining element was friendship. I attended the booksellers’ conventions, spending my time hanging out with folks from my publishing company: sales reps, production staff, and the publicity people. Throughout the year, I chatted frequently on the phone with the publicity director and the media publicist. I showed interest in their personal as well as professional lives. We became friends. When I had the idea for my new book, I asked them for their input. They got behind my ideas, and their enthusiasm catapulted my book to the top of the publisher’s agenda. Without their efforts, my book would be a B-list book and would not have sold over 13,000 copies in the first ten months.
Relationships Important to Your Success
Good relationships are essential to your sense of wellbeing, your success, and most importantly, your role in making this world a better place. But your time and energy are limited. Where should you focus your relationship efforts? Here are six key relationships for speakers to cultivate:
Friendships with Other Speakers
At least 75% of my work comes from referrals from other speakers. These are speakers who are close friends, who know me well, know my work, and can recommend me without reservation. And I do the same for them. I like to help the client find just the right speaker for their event. You need to see other speakers not as rivals but as mutual career-boosters.
Besides, other speakers make fun friends. I encounter challenges and triumphs that only another speaker can fully appreciate. Not only can we empathize; we can learn from one another’s experiences.
Relationships with Clients/Prospective Clients
Obviously you need to develop good relationships with those who hire you to speak. People give business to folks with whom they have good relationships. They want someone who is reliable, pleasant, and a known quantity. With good client relationships, you will enjoy repeat business and referrals.
Friendships with Audience Members
You can’t become friends with everyone in your audience. But you do need to develop relationships with people who are typical of your audience. Why? The more you know about your audience’s needs, fears, and desires, the more effective you will be as a speaker. Only through good relationships do you gain the knowledge you need to serve them.
Several years ago a busy speaking schedule compelled me to be on the road during a period of personal crisis. I never could have survived that crisis without the encouragement, support, and prayers of my friends. I count on my friends to believe in me and cheer me on when I lose faith in myself. Treasured friends love me whether I am a failure or a success. In this roller-coaster business, who doesn’t need that kind of support to keep on going?
Good Family Relationships
That’s a toughie. I find it easier to be thoughtful and kind to folks outside the family circle. The dynamics are more complex in these most intimate relationships. However, if my relationships are sour at home, I cannot function well outside the home. And how can I speak with integrity about enhanced relationships (or most other topics) if my primary relationships are hurting?
Positive family relationships energize us. They help us to be better speakers, leaders, citizens, friends. These relationships above all others need our time and attention. I tell audiences, "You are expendable at work, at church, in the community. You are not expendable at home. You are the only mother/father your children will have."
Those Who Serve You
Don’t overlook those whose job is to serve you: your printer, your audio technician, your housekeeper, your letter carrier, etc. These people fill vital roles in your life. And they are human beings with great dignity and worth. If we show them respect, kindness, and appreciation, we too will reap a reward—a richer, more satisfying life.
How to Enhance Your Relationships
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." If we want to enjoy the benefits of good relationships in our lives, we need to assess our own relationship skills. Here are Ten Be-Attitudes for Enhanced Relationships:
Deep, satisfying, and long-lasting relationships take time, effort, perseverance. You don’t have hours enough in the day to develop true friendships with everyone you meet. But to the extent you are able, become a better friend to those around you. Your investment will pay high dividends. You will never lack for riches if they come in the form of treasured friendships.
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