We’ve all heard the saying “time is money”. People are more busy now than ever before, balancing multiple priorities both personally and professionally.
When requesting someone’s time, you’re asking for a valuable possession. Whether it’s reaching out for career advice, soliciting feedback on a presentation or sharing about a project, how you approach an individual and ensure the time spent together is maximized and valuable for both parties is important.
So, how do you set up a conversation for success and make a lasting impression while you’re at it?
- “How can I make it convenient for this individual to make time for me?”
- “What do I need to provide in advance in effort to maximize our time together?”
- “How can I show my gratitude?”
If you’re requesting someone’s time and feedback, you owe them thorough communication, preparation and courtesy.
Here are tips to ensure a successful and mutually beneficial conversation:
Ask with humility and provide a clear description of your request.
When reaching out to the individual you are requesting time or feedback from, ask if he or she is open and willing to speak with you instead of demonstrating a tone that assumes they are.
Clearly explain what you are seeking from the conversation (career advice, feedback, etc), high level context on what prompted the ask and why you are reaching out to this individual specifically. Provide a time frame so he or she understand how much of their time they will need to allocate to you. For someone you don’t know personally, I recommend keeping the conversation to 30 minutes max.
Collect the information: availability, phone number and email address.
If he or she agrees to a call or meeting, proactively suggest multiple options of days and times you are available to make it easy on them to choose an option that works with their schedule. However, mention that you will accommodate them if the suggested times do not work well. Ask for their phone number and email within the same message.
Send a calendar invite and include:
- A clear subject with your name included in the calendar event title.
- Confirm you will be calling them and provide the number they disclosed to you in the location of the calendar invite.
- Attach pre-read materials directly into the calendar invite for the individual to access and reference during the call.
Prepare the individual in advance.
At least 48 hours before the scheduled conversation, send a pre-read that contains information on what you plan to discuss with them. Do you require feedback on a presentation? Send the power point. Do you want to learn about their career path? Send a list of the questions you plan to ask. Preparing the individual will help you maximize the conversation.
Additionally, within the same email, re-confirm the day, time and phone number you will be contacting them on.
Be mindful of time.
On the day of the call or meeting, be punctual. I cannot stress this enough. If you suspect you will be late because of something outside of your control, even by a few minutes, ensure the individual knows in advance. Track minutes as you converse to ensure you are not going over time. If you have a pending question and time is up, check in with the individual and say “I realize we are at time and I want to be mindful of your schedule. I have one last question. Do you mind if I ask now or is it best to send a follow up email?” Showing respect for the individual’s time and schedule is critical for establishing relationships.
Send a hand-written thank you card if you can easily attain his or her office address. A thank you email will suffice but hand written cards always leave a lasting impression because of how uncommon they’ve become.
Follow up with an update or key takeaways.
Most people are willing to take time to speak with you but will never realize the end result or impact they made. Be sure to send an update or share how you put their feedback into practice.
Leading with effective communication, preparation and courtesy is the key to securing impactful conversations and ensuring the individual investing time into you feels valued.