Sadly, the truth is, it is about who you know, however, this is only part of it.
Recently I attended a networking event with my husband. As a professional photographer, building his network is important. The event we attended was buzzing and there were hundreds of industry professional’s bopping around that he was hoping to meet. I had him ditch his tired old 60 second elevator pitch, because those only make you sound like a robot, and replaced it with something more sincere, solution driven and something that explained to others on how he can be of service to THEM.
After many promo cards were exchanged and a few hands were shook, he finally got to meet with the key individuals he was hoping he could build a working relationship with. Twenty minutes into shooting the breeze, everything was going well. My husband’s witty knowledge impressed the potential clients, laughs were exchanged and questions were abundant. Out of the blue one of the gentlemen politely told my husband that he had a piece of green lettuce stuck between his teeth. Mortified that I wasn’t the first one to notice, I quickly pulled out my compact mirror while my husband excused himself to a corner to take care of the hitchhiking plate filler. After a few minutes, my husband returned, humbly embarrassed. More laughs and pats on the back were exchanged and just like that, the dynamics quickly shifted. For the next thirty minutes those three gentlemen spoke to each other as if they were old high school buddies. Those imaginary and unnecessary pedestals we often put people on just because of their industry status, were quickly erased.
As the night progressed, my husband was more noticeably at ease and his charming abilities were on overdrive. Talking to people came naturally and it was as if he was exuding pheromones that were drawing industry professionals to him. By the time the night ended, he helped a few people connect; he booked a job and made some great new alliances. I was amazed.
Networking is a muscle that you have to exercise. Like auditioning, you can’t get good at it from the comfort of your living room or car. You have to get out there and be willing to act like a normal human being and just be yourself.
Once you learn to shift your perspective, you will start to see that networking is about building relationships on the basis of trust. It’s about having a sincere conversation that allows you to let your potential clients know what you are capable of and how you can help them, but first you have to just be you.
Here is what I learned from this event that I hope can help change your perspective about Networking the next time you decide to get yourself out there:
1) Your goal isn’t to attend these events just to have a one-way conversation about yourself.
This is your opportunity to be sincere, make friends, build alliances and truly listen to the people. But remember, you’re not listening just to find that moment where you can finally talk. You’re listening to understand who they are, what they need and how you can be a solution for their problems.
The more you are willing to do this, the more ideas will start to pop into your head about how you can help them directly, or refer them to a connection who can. If you are an actor talking to a casting director and they were expressing how they were trying to cast a particular show but were having problems finding quality actors who fit the part, you may realize that you are not right for it, but your roommate is. After the event is over, you follow up with a Thank You card and express how it was great to meet them and how coincidentally you have a potential actor that fits their criteria they might consider bringing in for the audition.
Because you were able to take yourself out of the equation and you listened, you were able to help others in the process. You don’t think this casting director won’t remember you the next time they are casting a show and you just so happen to fit the role? This is the power of real networking.
2) It’s not about the quantity of business cards you collected that you should measure your success against. Instead, focus on the quality of the people you met.
When you meet someone, don’t go into a verbal vomit and start laying your cards on the table. Instead, build and nurture relationships, and in time, you will have a strong network to draw on.
Make sure you have a life outside of acting that you’re excited about, and lead with that first. This will make you more versatile, interesting and memorable in any networking situation.
3) Don’t ever come from an every man for himself state of mind. Share what you know, connect people you work with, share your contacts and be sincere and helpful.
Make it your goal that every day you will find two people to connect with one another and build a flowing connection. Take the time to write positive testimonials to anyone you’ve done business with, send a Thank You card or share an article, tip or something of value. In doing this, you will find yourself in the power position by connecting others. This will help your reputation, your likability factor and karma.
Networking is just simply listening, connecting and helping. When you can see it in that perspective, you will have less anxiety and dislike for attending; or you can always just stick lettuce in your teeth and see where that goes?
I’d love to hear from you. What do you do to make your networking events more exciting, fun and less like a chore?