It can be hard to do, but it's essential if you want to get on in business, your career, and so many areas of life.
What am I talking about?
It's the big ASK - the thing you really want to come out of this meeting / talk / moment / whatever.
I was privileged to welcome my friend, the brilliant screenwriter, Julian Unthank, to Cambridge last week, where he gave a fascinating lecture on careers in the TV and film industry.
We had a group of about 50 students, who were very interested and engaged, and it made for a great session.
But of the 50, guess how many lingered afterwards to ask for Julian's contact details, and whether he would be prepared to offer further advice?
One. Just a single, solitary one.
And that was after quite a few hints in Julian's talk -
How you had to hustle to make it in such a competitive industry. Use your contacts. Keep asking for someone to help you until that golden break comes.
And yes, he did give the student concerned his email address, and he will help the aspiring screenwriter. And what a support he will be.
The ask is critical in a pitch for business, investment or partnership. Otherwise, what's the point of being there?
I know it's hard to ask. But what's the worst that can happen?
Being told no.
Which, ok, is disappointing, a setback. But you pick yourself up and ask again, this time of someone else.
You only need one yes... and there's your break.
On the subject of which, it was interesting to hear an anecdote from one of the careers officers, after the talk -
How a national newspaper editor gave a presentation, and had three offers of work experience ready for the first three students who asked...
But no one did. No one. What an opportunity lost.
Myself, I usually mentor one student into the media every year, and one aspiring author into publication.
But I don't advertise it. I wait to be asked.
Because you know the ones who ask have got the spirit to succeed, and they're going to be the ones worth investing your time in.
Yes, I appreciate it can be hard to ask.
But, by and large, we're waiting for it, and we welcome it.
So, remember, as the old saying goes -
If you don't ask...