Wednesday, November 03, 2010
What's the best way to network? Does networking actually pay-off? Where can you network? How do you know who to speak to? How many drinks should you have before you try to speak to them? Should you put on an exuberant 'pitch performance' immediately, or just make polite chit-chat? Should you try witty and charming?
The best way to network is just to talk to someone. It doesn't matter who they are. Simply introduce yourself and say Hi. They could be the runner, the assistant, the exec, the director, it doesn't matter. See what chit-chat emerges. Maybe hand them your business card, let the conversation come to a natural close and move on. Be friendly and casual rather than eager to talk about yourself or flog your latest script.
Networking works, but it works over time. This means that one brief handshake with a powerful exec does not launch a career. You see so many people stride up to their target, desperately hoping to make a huge impression when really all they're doing is making the person feel uncomfortable. Networking is about biding your time so that your name gets 'out there' and people will have some sort of recollection of who you are when you next see or contact them. Build a cumulative awareness of 'you', as it were.
The best way to do that at the moment is the internet. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, and given us access to people where previously the doors would have been firmly closed. But it's not enough to just sit behind your desk, write a blog post, tweet or update your status. It's a good start, certainly, but it's no replacement for face-to-face recognition. That's when networking really pays-off as people get to put faces to names, and feel more comfortable with recommending or considering them for work.
So, where can you network? Film festivals, screenings, Q&As, talks, writer groups - anywhere where two or more industry folk happen to be!
How do you know who to speak to? Research the people who are going to attend. Find out if any of your online community are going. Organise drinks/meet-up before hand.
How many drinks should you have before you try to speak to the influential peeps? One or two for dutch courage but don't get pissed whatever you do!
Should you put on an exuberant 'pitch performance' immediately, or just make polite chit-chat? Polite chit-chat. If you do get into a pitch, just be yourself. Pretend you're talking to a friend about a film that you think they should see.
Networking can be disconcerting for some people, especially if you're by yourself and know no-one else there. I've talked about networking before in the professional screenwriter series but it's worth reiterating this: "If you find yourself at an industry event but are not sure who to approach, and feel a bit shy, make it your mission to speak to ONE person. Just one. If you come away that night with one business card, you’ll have succeeded. But by approaching that one person, you’ll quickly realise that it’s not that bad, and saying hello can lead to an introduction to someone else, and before you know it, you’ve had a great time meeting new friends and contacts."