I’ve been to quite a few networking events and even a few networking seminars and I’ve noticed a common theme! There are several people who don’t know how to network.
Now, I’m not claiming I’m a networking king but I’ve sat through enough talks and made enough ‘rookie’ mistakes to know what works and what doesn’t. To save you the embarrassment of awkward encounters, name forgetting and the fear of imposter syndrome, I have compiled a list of ten tips that should make networking seamless for you the next time you go to an event (after the quarantine of course).
You Need An Intention
Before you even go to that screening, that creative brunch, or that exclusive ‘filmmakers only’ afternoon tea, you need to know why you’re going. Is it because your friend is going and you’re there as an ice breaker – cool – but you still need your own motivation. Maybe you have a short film you’re working on and you really want to find someone with the same creative flair as you who could step in and direct it? Or perhaps you want to set your sights smaller than that, and your only aim is to meet someone who shares your interests? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have your own personal desire for being there.
Shake That Feeling of Awkwardness
Okay, so you’re out now, you’ve made it to the event, but you start to feel a little uneasy. Do you really have to talk to people, like force yourself to talk to people, or should you wait for them to come to you? These thoughts might pop into your mind no matter what stage of the industry you are in. Some people even start to feel substantially smaller when in a room full of big egos and large heads, and the feeling of not belonging may start to creep up. Let me tell you this plain and simple, you belong at this event! The great thing about setting an intention is that you already know why you’re in that space. If you’re looking for someone to vibe with, then I suggest approaching the person who appeals to you most. You know, the person who is wearing the brand you like, or who carries themselves in a similar manner to you, etc. Simply smile, relax and approach them, you’ve chosen them for a reason so it’s likely you’ll have commonalities.
A memorable Introduction
So you’ve walked up to the person who you think suits your intention. I find giving them something to remember you by works best as an ice breaker. What works for me is dropping a little compliment, quick disclaimer, I don’t mean all-out-with-your chest flirting, but if you decided to approach this person, chances are there was something that stood out about them. Use this thing and drop it subtly: “Hey, I really like that jacket by the way, that’s dope… so what do you do?” Something like that should open up a conversation nice and easily. If that’s not your style then you can easily start with your name but add a little visual to it: “My names Anthony, like Ant-Toe-Knee” – it’s cheesy but they’ll probably remember you for it.
A Forgettable Introduction
If you’re anything like me then if someone tells you their name, it goes in one ear and gets lost somewhere in-between. I’m just super forgetful with names like that. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having an intriguing conversation with someone then having to ask them to repeat their name for the 7th time. I have found that there are several ways of combatting this. The easiest method for me works if you know someone with that name (either personally or a celebrity). If they introduce themselves as Michael, you can quickly make a mental note of Michael Ward, or Michael Jordan, or Michael B Jordan… get it? That way the next time you see Michael you’ll think of all the others you associated him with and will remember his name. If they have a name you can’t remember for the life of you, get them to write their name and socials in your notes app, that way you can style out the fact you actually forgot.
Not Your Vibe
Sometimes finding the person you really click with at an event can be challenging. There can be times when you’re stranded talking to a person that you really don’t connect with, either they’re chatting too much or you can just feel the emptiness of the forced conversation. You start to look around for an escape but everyone else is a distant island in their own private conversations. What do you do? Honestly? You wait for a break in the conversation and make up a polite excuse to head out: “I’m really sorry but I need the loo” or “one second I’m just going to get another drink.” It works every time trust me, I mean I should know, I hear it all the time.
3’s A Crowd
Good, you’ve escaped from that person, faked a toilet trip and now you’re back to join a new conversation. As you walk around you overhear two people talking about something that you have a strong opinion on. You’re hearing the conversation and you know your input would fit so well! Is it rude to butt in? In most cases, people appreciate it when someone else chimes in. In fact, it’s likely that more people will see the three of you and want to join in too. A group discussion is a quick and easy way to see who you may want to continue talking to after the event is over. However, if it does seem like these two don’t want to be interrupted at that point in time, then make a note of them and approach them individually about the topic they were discussing when they are free.
Find The Host
In the case of an extreme social emergency where you can’t seem to find anyone to talk to, find the host! The person (or often people) who run the event are always excellent to talk to. They often talk in big groups which they’ll encourage you to join. The hosts usually act as excellent matching tools, you tell them what your interests are and they will know the best person for you to speak to.
If you came to this event with your friend, I suggest you split up and enter different conversations. I find this beneficial because if you find a group of people to talk to, and so does your friend, when you finally link up again you can introduce your party to theirs and vice versa. You’ll find that if your friend has similar interests to you then the people they have met will be of your liking too. Parting ways also aids you to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re shy by nature then at least you know you can return to your friend at any time.
A Memorable Conclusion
Just like your introduction, your goodbye needs to have a little sauce with it too. My top tip for this is a business card. I don’t care if it’s 2020, I’ll still be using a business card in 3060! Do you know how many events I’ve been to where the signal was terrible and you can’t add them on socials? Too many! Your business card needs to be an extension of you, creative, witty, colourful, uniquely shaped, you name it! Just make sure your contact information and your role within the industry is visible. With any luck, you’ll receive their cards and socials too, and I suggest you drop them a small message either that day or the next, expressing how good it was to meet them. You never know, you just might see them again.
Last but not least. Please, I beg you… BE YOU. It’s great to step out of your comfort zone and I hope these tips help you to do so, but if any of these is not to your liking and would be radically out of your character then don’t do it. Remember that you’re in a space to make honest connections with new people. So don’t sell yourself short and don’t brag about achievements either. Don’t make claims to a producer that you can help direct his short tomorrow at 6am if you really can’t. I think the biggest misconception there is about networking is that people only do so because they want people they can use or to grow their following. In rare cases this is true but networking – when done correctly – is simply connecting with likeminded people.