The top 14 strategies for networking the room at Industry events
Talent is great, but relationships get you hired.
It’s not about collecting business cards and convincing yourself into believing that those cards equal a relationship – it’s about REALLY connecting with other people in a meaningful way.
That’s why we network. To make new friends within our professional sphere.
So the real secret to networking is to just hang out like you would with friends. But maybe move around the group(s) more systematically. You are looking for people with whom you ‘chime’, with shared values and vision, people who YOU can help, and lastly, people who can help you too.
The best thing about networking at the London Screenwriters’ Festival is that you are already amongst friends. So don’t be shy.
These events work because we all agree to get together in one space at the same time with an implicit agreement that it’s ‘OK to just walk up and start talking’. Booze, a darkened room and a bit of music makes it easier.
Don’t be afraid
The most important thing to remember is that the person you are approaching is as nervous as you. They have insecurities too. In fact, the real irony is that they will probably be thankful that you came to them, and secretly, they may wish that they were as good at networking as you! Yes I get it, you don’t want to do it. None of us really enjoy it. But films don’t get made in a vacuum and we all need friends. And lot’s of them. So take the plunge, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Look in the eye and shake hands confidently
When approaching, make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself, shakes hands (not limply) and speak up. When someone shakes hands with that ‘limp’ handshake, you are sending a very direct message – I don’t want to touch you. If you mumble when talking, you are simply projecting ‘what I am saying is not worth listening too’. There are plenty other people in the room, why would anyone waste time with someone who won’t shake your hand or speak up? Get out of your comfort zone and COMMUNICATE with confidence and clarity.
Ask a question to start the relationship
An easy way in is to ask a question… ‘How are you feeling?’, ‘Did you see that last session?’, ‘How did you get on in your pitches?’ Keep opening questions lighter, more personal and conversational. There will be time after you have made friends to ask about how to send them a script.
Ask questions and listen
Don’t launch into how cool you are and how amazing your script is. Doing this could just get you into the competitive cycle of mine is better than yours, and that’s NOT a good way to make powerful new friends and allies. Ask questions. Interesting questions. Even personal questions. Be genuine in your conversation and listen. You’d be amazed how much more likeable most of us become if we just keep our mouths shut for more of the time. When you have something genuinely relevant, illuminating or valuable, of course get involved. Remember, experienced people talk about the industry all the time and most of us can’t compete on that level, we just don’t have the knowledge, per group and relationships. But talking about ‘the kids’, assuming you both have children, IS somewhere that you will both share expertise, opinion and rapport.
Don’t Stay In One Place
Every conversation has a natural life – when that’s over, move on. Don’t linger awkwardly. It’s totally fine to say ‘It was great to meet, and there are so many others I want to meet here too, so I am going say goodbye for now…’ Shake hands, smile and movc on. And if someone says that to you, don’t get upset. It’s part of the unwritten agreement we make with each other at these professional events and parties.
Your need to be ‘right’…
The need to be ‘right’ is toxic – we can all see it in others, but so rarely in ourselves. Being ‘right’ will shut down conversations, even when you are in fact, ‘right’! So give it up and choose to listen instead. I found out a long time ago that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are opinions and not facts.
Compliment honestly, but don’t go overboard
Everyone likes to be complimented, so offer compliments. But don’t go overboard, you will come off as a bit desperate. Equally, don’t be disingenuous, we can all spot a bullshitter. And no-one wants to be friends with desperate and bullshitting people.
Be with that person
When you are with a person, BE with that person. There is a temptation to look over shoulders, eyeing up the next person to network with, but try to avoid it. Listen, connect and communicate. Ninety percent of people cannot or do not do this.
Be a facilitator
Think like a producer and introduce others who you know could benefit from the relationship. Facilitating success in others will always pay you dividends in the long run. It also helps you move around the room with great agility.
You may not know everything about the business, and that’s OK. Being credible is about learning and applying that knowledge. It’s about humility and courage. It’s not just about connections and credits. And we all have something to offer. Bottom line, do not bullshit the bullshitters. Anyone with experience has heard every line before, so don’t try and appear more important than you really are. You are you, and you have a huge amount to offer. Don’t sell yourself short by pretending to be someone you are not.
Give and take cards (and follow up)
Take business card and exchange them – but understand that most will end up in the bin. You don’t want to leave with 300 business cards from people you met, you want to leave empowered with FIVE new and meaningful relationships.
Understand What People Want (and that’s you too)
We are all human animals and basically want the same thing. When we enter a new relationship (networking) we will ask… What can this person do for me? Can they entertain me? Can they help me get done what I want to get done? Do I feel at home and attracted to them? Can I get some kind of intimacy? It’s what they are looking for. It’s what you are looking for too. Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond to your overtures – not everyone likes the same kind of music, Star Trek quotes, arthouse movies, strong cheese etc… Networking is not right or wrong, it’s just about people connecting. Often we are a tad insecure and a little tipsy too. If you don’t find what you are looking for, smile and move on with effortless grace. There are plenty more people to meet.
Don’t take it too seriously
Smile and make friends. It’s not a competition. Successful and powerful networking is just about are chatting, meeting new friends and having you fun. If someone is rude, they are probably insecure, bluffing it, tired and just generally just being human. Let it go.
Finally, remember we are all in this game together.
The industry grows the more we collaborate and help each other. Offer help and you will receive it. Be humble and you will be rewarded with genuine relationships. Be bold and courageous and you will find success.
See you at the bar!
Onwards and upwards!