1. Be Prepared – Great networking begins with great preparation. Bring your business cards, flyers, postcards for shows, etc. and have your “30 second elevator speech” about what you offer (instead of what you want) as an actor prepared.
2. Arrive Early – Arriving early allows you to relax and focus on learning about the people in the room. Calmly gather your thoughts and concentrate on your intentions so that your time spent networking will be of benefit to you and your goals. First impressions count and showing up late isn’t a great way to start things off.
3. Have a plan – Always have in mind your goal for each event you attend. Know before going what your intended outcome is that you want both for yourself and the people you meet. Do you want to meet 10 people and then choose 3 to focus on and get to know well? Are you looking for an introduction to a certain person in particular? Are you looking for information or connections that will get you that information? When you have a plan, its easier to stay focused and achieve your expected outcome. A plan also allows you to be generous with your knowledge and connections and help others that you meet.
4. Be a Giver and/or Connector. When you focus on “giving” and being helpful to others, the “getting” will come later…and it will come in magical and unexpected ways. No one likes a “taker” mentality. When you are generous with information, introductions, and resources people will notice and respect you for your kind nature. We love to work and do business with people we know, like and trust. Act like the host of the event by connecting and introducing other people you meet to each other. This simple act allows you to focus on others and grows your social capital in the room.
5. Leave Your Troubles Behind. Put on a happy face at the door and remind yourself that it is “SHOW TIME”. Just like the curtain going up or the director shouting “action”, this is your time to sparkle and shine. People will look forward to seeing you and meeting you if you are energetic, positive and outgoing. Be a person that others will like. Don’t bore people or burden them with your problems or dislikes. Everyone has enough of their own and trust me on this, they don’t need or want to hear about yours.
6. Listen with Focus. When someone is speaking with you, give that person your entire focus and attention. LISTEN and really hear what the other person is saying. Keep your eyes and ears tuned into what they are saying instead of the “self-talk” inside your mind that you’re about to say when it’s your turn to speak. The greatest gift that you can give to another person is to truly hear what they are saying. You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating…”you have one mouth and two ears so listen twice as much as you talk.” If you do this, you’ll be the most memorable and liked person in the room!
7. Be Genuine. Sounds obvious but even though you’re “on” you still need to be authentic. This is directly related to building trust so that folks are comfortable in their decision to work with you, refer you, etc. There is a big difference between being interested and trying to be interesting. Being interested in learning about someone else and their career simply for the sake of learning about them, instead of how it benefits you, will leave a lasting GOOD impression. It’s energetic. Conversely, if you are interested only for what you think they can do for you, you’ve slipped into the category of “creepy” and people can feel that a mile away.
8. Teach/Don’t Sell. Even though you are ultimately a salesman of your own “acting services”, immediately launching into what you do and what you want isn’t powerful and shouldn’t be a goal. Proper networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to connect you to others who may need what you offer. I like this phrase and keep it in my mind at events – “First YOU, then ME”. By the way, every person you meet is NOT a potential someone who can help you directly but IS a person that can create a path to others who can. Word of mouth is the best kind of “advertising” and definitely the best in our business. A referral is GOLD, pun intended. When speaking, be really clear on your focus and goals as an actor but don’t be pushy or insistent on ANYTHING. Allow and receive, instead of force and press. Your listener may turn into your best ally and your reach will become expanded far wider than simply the person directly in front of you.
9. Follow up. Many of the people you meet at a networking event will require no follow up, but for those that you have identified as either a great direct contact or someone who will lead you to someone else down the line, you’ll want to stay in touch. In your follow up message, you’ll want to mention something from your conversation that will be a memory jog for them. Remember you, and they, probably met a ton of new people and keeping them all straight isn’t easy. The timing should be fairly short between your meeting and the receipt of your follow up as more people, circumstances and content will have filled their senses. Clearing through the clutter of it all will be easier the more timely your follow up. Email or hard copy, the point is how you can help THEM. You’ll really stand out by offering a piece of info, a referral or connecting them with something they need instead of asking for what you want. Remember, the point of networking is building rapport and ON-GOING relationship.
10. Follow up Some More! Remember statistics say it takes anywhere between 8 and 15 “exposures” to something before a person makes a decision on something. That’s buying a brand of toilet paper, choosing a restaurant, or in this case, calling you in for an audition, meeting or referring you to someone else in the biz. If you’ve met someone at a networking event and done your immediate follow up (that’s two exposures!), you’ll want to keep track of them in a database of some kind to stay in contact over time. It’s more likely you’ll have at least an average of 10 more times that you will need to be in contact with someone before a “result” is produced. Networking isn’t an audition. It’s an opportunity to plant the seeds of relationship and watch your garden grow! Building strong relationships takes continued effort and doing so will ultimately be the basis of a long-lasting and viable career.
BE A NETWORKING STAR FROM START TO FINISH: START BY SHOWING UP AND FINISH BY FOLLOWING UP!
I’d love to hear about any stories you can share with the community about your own networking breakthroughs (or breakdowns) so we can learn from your experience. Please comment below!