There I was, in the midst of Paris’s couture fashion week, wondering what on earth I was doing in the front row. It was just over a month ago that I attended the haute couture shows with my close friend, Dubai TV host Diala Makki. This was her world, not mine. The room was filled with the crème de la crème of the fashion flock, busy with selfies, make-up checks and sizing up the rest of the attendees as we awaited the typical 30-minute delay to each show’s start.
The whole trip was filled with pinch-me-now moments. I didn’t expect to spend an evening at the home of Elie Saab, getting to know him and his family, who were absolutely lovely. I also didn’t expect to be front and centre at Stéphane Rolland or Zuhair Murad (who is so incredibly talented and kind), watching each meticulously crafted work of art glide down the runway. But while everyone else was busy digesting the visual feast that lay before us, my mind was preoccupied with potential business opportunities.
I was at couture week on behalf of a new fashion television series that I am helping to produce. While everyone else in the room focused on critiquing the gorgeous collections, I was focused on strategy. How could we package the product? How many networks could we sell it to? I wanted to prove to a TV network that I could provide access to anything we needed for the show, as well as prove that we would be able to create incredible content.
Amidst the sartorial hustle and bustle, I managed to steal away for a night to have dinner with friends in private equity. I couldn’t help but compare sitting at that table to sitting front row at the shows from which I was currently taking a break. Both of them are amazing worlds, but what different ones they are! And while I may have indulged in a selfie or two at the shows, my business mind was focused solely on networking.
Essentially, networking is being a connector of people and opportunities. It’s about getting to know and understand people on a personal level as well as creating deep friendships that go beyond business. Considering that it’s so much a part of what I do on a day to day basis, here are my top networking tips that you can use no matter what your profession:
Put down your phone. In a world where cell phones and social media have become our primary source of communication, when it comes to networking, I cannot stress how important it is to put your phone down and look someone in the eye. A personal connection can accomplish tenfold what any text conversation or email can.
Never discredit a contact. No matter who it is that you are meeting, pay attention to their name and try to recognise what makes them special. It doesn’t matter if they’re a bigwig in their field or the lowest person on the totem pole. They are all people and should be treated with equal amounts of humanity. Things change quickly and the world is smaller than you think, especially when it comes to business. You never know with whom you’ll work down the line, and where their path will lead them.
Always consider the bigger picture. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but sometimes it’s worth taking a step back to see the bigger picture. This is often where I get my strongest sources of inspiration, particularly when it comes to connecting opportunities.
Build for the future, not just for the present. Networking is about building excellent relationships – not just when you need them, but before you need them. One of the best ways to do this is to always be gracious, kind, and accommodating – even if a person doesn’t have anything to offer you.
So no, couture fashion week was not exactly my world. However, I bring my world with me wherever I go. I put to use all the tools of my trade, pulling together filaments of opportunity. And, just like everywhere else, I strive for success.
This article appears in the March issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia