Been thinking about networking a lot this year with how much work travel I’ve been racking up in 2019, so I’m curious-
My biggest challenge is the introductory phase- most networking events, or even events where it’s expected that networking will occur (film festivals, screenings, etc), are just big rooms of people who don’t know each other and have no connections beyond who they came in with. So the idea of just walking up to someone and introducing myself seems insane. It’s easier when I’m hosting an event for Stareable, because I’m there as a guide for other people, but when I’m just in attendance at an event, it’s nearly impossible to work up the nerve and confidence to just approach someone unsolicited.
At fests I pay attention during the screenings to see who’s connected to the shows I liked. A good icebreaker is “I liked your series/short/film!” - everyone likes to hear that
One time someone was giving a presentation for a show that was thematically about common male-Asian stereotypes. I related to the content, but I really introduced myself afterwards because this individual was named Hanmin Yang and I knew that at some point someone will awkwardly conflate the two of us.
(1). The noise level at many networking events is just too high. Especially when they’re hosted at bars, which make their money off drinks. Bars play music loudly to make people pack in tighter together and drink more. It’s the opposite of what you want when meeting a stranger for the first time.
(2) Followup is always tough. It seems inevitable that after getting home from a festival or industry event I will have 30,000 things on my list to do that Monday, so the stack of cards and flyers I received molders away on my desk for a week. I’ve figured out that the best solution is to write down how I met them on the back of the card so I don’t forget by the time I write the follow-up.
(3) Likewise, typing these folks into my contact list always takes more time than I think it will.
You need to practice the art of lurking…sidling up to a group of people already chatting, wedge your way, smile broadly and laugh or nod along to whatever is already being said.
What has been frustrating for me of late is the mental block. I was in burnout mode and the thought of promoting and talking about myself was the last thing I wanted to do. Especially since I didn’t have a new film or project on the radar at the time to feel excited about discussing. I generally prefer avoiding talking about just my day job, because my projects are what define me more. However, I do think it was a phase and something all of us go through in between projects, so allowing yourself times to step back from networking is important. If you’re going to do something, do it right, when your heart is in it.
Networking events used to be the bane of my existence, but I’m working on different ways to make it not so uncomfortable. Here are some of my tips:
1.) Don’t go alone. If you plan on going tell some of your colleagues to meet you there. Don’t plan on talking to them all night, and if they know someone you don’t ask to introduce you. Fun Fact: This is how I met my colorist and we work very well together now!
2.) I agree with @avincie about the noise level at these places being frustrating. Not sure how to combat that but there’s always an option to move outside to a less loud/populated area.
3.) I suck at follow-up as well, because I normally only try once and if I don’t get a response I give up.
4.) The more you do it the better you get at it. At least I hope so for me!
I want to add to my response since I noticed my networking skills have improved since NJ Webfest. It’s really nice when you introduce yourself and people you never met already know who you are. At the festival I made it a point to approach people with, “Hi, I’m Sally from Ghetto Nerd Girl,” and 9 times out of 10 the response was, “Yes, I know who you are.” It was the best feeling in the world!
wow I can’t believe someone so famous is still posting in this forum!! (that’s so cool Sally- congrats!)
I’ve found that that networking events tend to be very hostile towards people not in established cliques. This is absolutely true in LA and in Toronto and similar in other centres.
The problem is most come from the “indie film” communities which are generally VERY pretentious and cliquish. So much so that I never attend any mixers anymore because A. I’ve never met someone at a mixer that I later worked with and B. I find online communities to be much more inclusive.
In terms of a “solution”, I’ve seen some events go the “speed dating” format, which I’ve never seen in person, but on paper looks like something worth trying.
Yes! It was really awesome meeting you and others at NJ Webfest. I found it to be a very valuable networking opportunity.
The most frustrating thing I’ve found - particularly with music business…but I’ve also seen it in the cg world …
When you speak to the pros, they are usually focused on a bottom line and how to safely make money…not taking chances … when you speak to hobbyists, they either believe the hype and get disillusioned when they see how much real work is behind it…or treat it like a hobby and look for fun more than a sense of fulfilling a vision and creating something undeniable.
I suppose in the earlier years of film and music for that matter, so much was new, new techniques and technology …and there was a pioneer mentality vs today, where everyone is doing it, the tech is cheap and available, no paper plates needed for the flying saucer effect, and the pioneer spirit has been replaced with algorithms and metrics.
but that’s what i find most frustrating, imo the pioneering era has taken a backseat to statistics and bottom lines. I can certainly appreciate both views on that too, especially when the rent is due, but it’s frustrating because I do want to make great chart busting stuff - but i have to curb my enthusiasm and think like spock to work in the current internet of things.