Inside The Chaos: Networking: Keeping in Contact – Part 3

Jesus that was exhausting, wasn’t it? But YOU MADE IT.

It’s not as easy as it sounds!

  • You went to the Event/ Party/ Industry Night
  • You talked to People
  • You grabbed contact information

But now what? How do you bridge the gap between casual meeting and business contact? The last part can be the most tenuous, but also the most rewarding!

This secondary phase contact depends greatly on several factors

  • The context in which you met
  • The context in which you exchanged information
  • The difference in your professional status’s
  • Contextual Needs

Context in which you met:

  • Did you meet at a Party? A wrap party? A swanky professional conference?
  • Did you talk professionally or about only topics directly related to your work or the field in general, or, was your meeting more relaxed and talked about a variety of topics?

Context of exchanging your information:

  • Did you exchange your information because that was what was happening all around you (everyone passing out lots of cards)? Or did you exchange based on mutual interest?
  • Who offered to exchange first?

Professional status:

  • Is this person at the same level as you? Or do they have considerably more or less experience?
  • Are you in directly related fields, or peripherally related?

Contextual needs:
–  Do the two of you have positions that can mutually benefit each other.

What to do:
– Wait for 18-48 hours before writing.
-If they offered a preferred form of contact, use that  (Facebook, email, etc)

DO:
-Personalize your contact with thoughtful details (Ex:
(Ex: Hello (Name) is was so nice to meet you last (weekday/weekend) at (Event Name). I really enjoyed our conversation about (Topic) and (Insert comment on topic). It would be great to  (Bump into you again/ grab a coffee sometime to talk more about (insert topic) I‘d be happy to buy you a coffee sometime and hear more about (Industry Item)/ etc).
– If you have the ability to talk about something other than the industry, include that too!
-Spell check.

DON’T:
-Directly ask for a job, favor or professional courtesy (UNLESS they specifically told you they were looking to hire/asked you to send in your resume/offered to do favor for you in person)
-Use more than one mode of contact (email them AND text them AND add them to facebook. Do this gradually)
-Make off color humor (even if you were raunchy-humored in person, it may translate poorly through text)
-Panic if you don’t hear back. Deep breath. They may honestly be busy, they may remember you next time you bump into each other!

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Inside The Chaos: Networking: Conversations Tips – Part 2

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

You’ve finally made it to that big party/event/social and you desperately need to/want to talk to people for any number of reasons. It may be to get yourself noticed, spread an idea of yours, talk up a new accomplishment, gather opinions or simply make friends. It’s a difficult thing, and as easy as it looks in the world of television, it can be really hard to turn your brain thoughts into mouth words.

I am by no means a conversation expert– I certainly have stuffed my foot into my mouth on a handful of occasions. I have also been on the awkward end of a terribly sentence when the whole room shuts up at once and suddenly everyone important hears the Alphagetti Vs. Zoodles debate you were slightly drunkenly having with your neighbour. It’s okay. It happens.

But I can say that, on just as many (if not more) occasions, my conversation has gotten me business cards, interviews, coffee meetings, important contacts and yes, even jobs. So take this with a grain of salt, but below are my tips and tricks of how to hold a conversation with a near stranger, how to engage them, and, most important, how to get the heck out of there when it’s not going well.

PHASE ONE: Open Your Mouth

This is the hardest phase. Even for an extrovert, sometimes you open your mouth and stupid things come out and panic ensues and you suddenly find yourself running into the valley to nervous-puke into your own handbag. Relax. You’ll be fine. Probably.

At crowded Parties

  • Sidle up to a group of people who you’d like to speak to, stand to the side of them and listen to what they are saying. Notice who is dominating conversation, or if they are all having half-conversations with each other. Wait for a catching note– meaning a topic that you either a) have an opinion one b) want to learn more about.  Consider the following,
  • ” Oh sorry, where you talking about (Insert topic) I just heard about that on  (Insert place, newspaper, radio). What have you heard?”
  • “I’ve seen that (insert movie/show/play/ and (insert how you felt about it)”  OR ” I’ve heard (good/bad/mixed) reviews on that, how did you find it? Did it have a good plot”

Now, ice breaker over, move into deeper things.

  • “That’s a fascinating point, what do you think makes the best writing/photography/technical design/plot twist.  I’ve always thought (insert brief opinion)
  • “Well I don’t know much about that issue, however I always assumed (Insert general opinion on topic you may not be totally informed it. If that is the case, be honest, but acknowledge that you are unread in this area and are open to learning about it) “

Phew. At this point you’ve engaged one or more people in some kind of conversation. Congrats!

PHASE TWO: Develop Context With Your Mouth Words

You’re succeeding in talking to a person or people. You’ve connected with them on a personal basis. Great! Surprisingly, it is NOW that you ask the get-to-know-you questions. If you ask them first time you  open your mouth, you risk jarring the natural flow of the conversation. Insert them casually, and after communication is already underway.

  • So you work in /at/ worked on  (insert industry event, social event name, wrap party production name). Awesome, how long have you been doing that?”
  • *My personal favorite* “How did you get into that line of work? There are so many positions in this industry I love hearing how people  fall into which areas”
  • “I’m (Insert name) by the way!”

Big thing here is ASK QUESTIONS. It generates interest in the other person, engages them and opens up context for you. If you’re here solely to network (Which I personally don’t recommend) then you can fast track to see if this person is someone you would like to establish a business relationship with, or not.

PHASE THREE:  Share

At some point, the person will likely ask about you.  BE HONEST. Suuuuuper important here, do not lie, do not let your “mouth overload your ass” so to speak. That being said, if you are currently in between jobs or it’s off season and you’re a barista at starbucks and you don’t want them to know that, then say the most recent industry job you had.

  • “Me? I just finished up/finishing up my last contract on (Insert show)
  • “Oh, I work in (Area of the industry)  mostly, I worked on (Insert last show)”
  • “I freelance, so I’m really doing anything in the industry I can get my hands on, I haven’t found a job I don’t like yet!”
  • “I enjoy production work/office work/ post-production work and my main focus is”
  • “I work at  (insert company) and (insert title) “
  • PHASE FOUR: Continuing and Closing (or brain thoughts meet mouth words)

    The basics are covered now. You’ve made introductions, established common ground and are in a conversation. Keep it up by using the following tips.

    – Go into every meeting looking to make a FRIEND. Don’t network with anyone you wouldn’t honestly want to have a drink with. Why? Because it’s a business based on friendships. Having a high profile industry contact is well and good, but people call crew into work when they A) know them, B) Like them, C) like their attitude. Being friendly is the best way to get a feel for that. Be a genuine person, with a genuine curiosity about others, and let the pieces fall where they may.

    -Be honest. Talk about your strengths, but don’t lie  and say you are more skilled and better trained than you actually are.

    – Humble bragging is great. But use it sparingly. If you don’t talk about the things you do, people may not know, but once you’ve said it once or twice, let your accomplishments speak for themselves.

    – Wherever possible, and when the moment feels genuine, offer to help others. Ask them to link you to their website, youtube channel, twitter feed and offer to like, share or retweet them. Do this for people who share similar interests to yourself and people you’d like to support professionally. It can be worth it’s weight in gold to support the people you believe in.

    -TALK ABOUT STUFF THAT’S NOT WORK. I know it’s hard. If you actively work in the industry, then sometimes it is difficult to have non-work related things. But talk about hobbies, interests or topical issues. Allow the other person to see you are not a robot, and you have lots of opinions, thoughts and ideas about the world around you, that you engage in the world around you and that you have a LIFE outside of work!

    When you’re about to leave or exit the conversation and you would like to grab the person’s information, be careful. If the person is someone you consider to be VERY high profile, or someone with little connection to you, it may be best to simply shake their hand, thank them for their time and wish them success in future, or comment on working/seeing them around again. That’s it. Then leave. If you see and speak to them on several more occasions in a fairly short time, then maybe you can dabble with adding them to Facebook, it is very context based. Don’t rush anything.

    If it is someone less higher-profile, then a good thing to do is offer them your card, or another form of contact.

    – ” I’m heading out soon, but it was so nice to meet you. Will I see you again at the next (insert event)
    – “I’ve got to go say hi to a friend, but it was lovely bumping into you, if I don’t see you again, I’d love to grab your  (insert card, Facebook, etc. **warning— some people only use Facebook for personal reasons, and don’t add people they just met. Be prepared to offer alternate forms of contact)”
    – “I’m grabbing another drink but if I don’t see you again we should exchange  contact information. It’s always good to know  a (insert their  occupation)”

    IF ITS GOING TERRIBLY WRONG

    If they are a stranger you have never met before and they’re mean, rude, not talking, not making eye contact, giving you a weird vibe, making you otherwise uncomfortable,   best bet is to get a way out. Try the following  – “I’ve just seen a friend I promised I’d say hi to, enjoy the party!”
    – “Will you just excuse me for a moment, I’m grabbing a drink/need to take a phone call/ have to leave”
    -“Hope you’re evening turns around, I really have to get going.”

    Happy mingling, my partygoers!! NEXT INSTALLMENT: Following Up with Your Contacts and How To Work That Room!

Inside the Chaos: Networking: How to Work a Room – Part 1

Like many people new to the television industry, I hear all the time about the importance of networking. “You’ve got to meet people! It’s all about who you know!” It can almost sound disheartening for a young aspiring person in television, as some of us who do not “know anyone” may have felt. Here are some of the tips I’ve found in my travels. I am by no means an expert and when it comes to “working the networking room.” There are multiple ways to talk, meet and mesh with the right people, but if you find some of my tips helpful, take them, good reader!

PART ONE: Getting IN

GO TO EVENTS

-This is where you get out your planner, your phone, and Google and start looking up industry events in your area that are free. Ink Drinks, People and Pints, Relaxing Events, Meet and Greets, open launch parties, etc. Google them, pencil them in and then get out your phone and text your film friends to come! Do this for several reasons. 1) Opening the offer to friends increases your friendship. 2) Going with other film-industry people around you assists your game plan.*

*THE GAME PLAN – Get your friends together and, if you don’t already do this, give it a try (but use caution). When you go to an open event with friends, make sure you both know what the other is doing in the industry. When you start mingling, refer to your friends accomplishments and vice versa. Talk each other up. Get your friend’s name out there. It’s a great way to span your potential sphere of influence. Just remember, do not over talk anyone, boast without cause, or lie. An example: “Oh, you work in post? My friend is doing that at [insert show] and loving it! They are here somewhere. How did you get into doing post…”

GO TO PARTIES

Yes, parties and events are different, of course, but both offer different fertile ground to work with, networking wise. By parties I mean short film launches, film festival launches, wrap parties, studio launch parties, etc. These might be harder to find as not as many are widely publicized and they are typically much smaller, more intimate gatherings. My advice here: if the invitation or opportunity exists and you are able to take it, take it! If your a PA on a show and get a mass email to a team event like going to see a show together or a baseball game, don’t think, “Oh that is just for the upper management!” YOU GOT THE INVITE, YOU ARE INVITED. I once got a mass invitation to a launch party for a show I was on. We were still in prep and I had yet to meet anyone on the shoot. I went and ended up at a party with all the executive producers (the only people who came!) and for the rest of the show, they always smiled, nodded and said hello to me by name when they saw me.

VOLUNTEER

Use your best judgment with this one so as to not get taken advantage of. When I first started out in the industry (the first six months or so) I did a variety of free work for specific credits I was looking for. Some of them led to paid work down the line, and some of them did not. But offering people your time, at your discretion, and on projects you are sincerely interested in, can help create new networking strategies. Offer to read over an idea to a peer, offer a day of PA work for a non-union gig, offer some names for volunteers you know who might be interested in a project or event offer to tweet, like, or promote someone’s idea. Everything helps to instill you as a person who goes out of their way to support others in the industry and that is a valuable aspect in any instrumental friendship.

MAKE FRIENDS

It’s not any easier now than it was in grade school, so I get why that is, for some people, a terrifying notion. But here’s the thing, never feel like you are using people in the industry. I’ve heard a lot of friends express concern that “networking” feels very artificial and lacquered over. I’m sure it can be, but try to re frame it in your mind. Do not look at a person and think, “Hmm, what can they do for me?” Look at the person and think, ” What can I learn from them? What can we learn from each other?” And when you talk to them, sincerely listen. And sincerely care. As a general tip, talk to everyone you can, but network with people who you would legitimately want to grab a non-work-related beer with.

Part Two: Conversation Tips for Networking will be coming up next time