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!