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Sounding Board: Know Who to Know

Audio industry pro Mike Dias shares how to know who to know—and why that knowledge will help you get things done.

Mike Dias
Mike Dias writes and speaks about What Entertainers Can Teach Executives and Why Nobody Likes Networking. He is the executive director for the In-Ear Monitor International Trade Organization and the vice president of sales for Earthworks Audio. He loves to trade stories, to talk shop, and to hear about your networking successes and failures! [email protected]

How do things get done? That’s a simple question on the surface, but in reality, it’s totally loaded. How you answer it depends on how effective you are. Since this is a live sound trade publication and since many of us who are reading this either make our livings putting on or supporting events, we all intimately understand what goes on behind the scenes. We know that things get done when the right person is called.

To be honest, that’s why this column exists in a way. I was simply talking to the editor about a recent article on the earliest stereo recordings. It’s an overlapping passion that we both share and we were geeking out on obscure facts that no one else really cares about. From there, I shared my thoughts on why trade publications matter so much and why I read the trades cover-to-cover on my weekends. And that conversation turned into this—into me offering my thoughts and experiences on effective and authentic networking.

Which brings me to the value of trade publications and the role that they play in getting things done. Trade Pubs are maps of decision makers—guidebooks for gatekeepers. They are quite literally playbooks to study on how to be effective, because the trades break it down step-by-step, explaining who works where and who knows who. They highlight the interconnectivity between all the various manufacturers, resellers and players. If you read between the lines, you can even see the hierarchy of companies and how everyone ranks out. You’re not going to catch all of this on the first pass, but if you read the trades religiously—as if it were part of your job—then over time, you learn how to navigate. You see the patterns and broaden your understanding of your industry.

That aids your ability to network, because effective networking isn’t just about the people that you meet; it is bigger than that. Networking also means knowing who to know. It is about understanding the deeper context of how you fit within your system and how you interconnect with everyone in your sphere. The trades fill in a huge part of the knowledgebase for you, so that when you need to make that call to get something done, you already know exactly who to ask.

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Since time is always of the essence and since getting the job done is the only acceptable outcome, taking “no” for an answer is not part of the equation, so how you start matters. Or should I say — with whom you start matters. You need to know who to know in order to move things forward fast and effectively. When you need to get something done, go right to the decision maker. Call the gatekeeper. Start with the person with the juice.

As I mentioned previously, I’m the executive director for an industry trade organization and recently, I was helping push an initiative forward. My actions generated one of the best emails that I’ve ever received. The message was so succinct and spot-on that it inspired this article. Here’s all it said: “Your email has made it down the chain of command and we are happy to help support this.”

Here’s why that is a great email in my opinion: Ideas rarely gain speed moving up the ladder. They plateau out or get stuck in bureaucracy, and if they do progress, they don’t have any urgency attached to them. It’s not anyone’s fault and no one purposefully prevents motion. We’re all just busy and juggling multiple tasks and projects, so to get anything into play, it has to originate from the top. That way, the project has perceived importance. Momentum happens downhill. Go right to the source as often as you can and are able. It’s not hard if you do your homework.