Summer is the season for pool parties, casual BBQs, and many other events disguised as networking opportunities. Some people don’t like to use the word networking and instead say “relationship building,” but despite the terminology the and goal is the same: to develop a genuine relationship with someone that could turn into friendship or future collaboration. People who know me since I moved to LA as an actor think that I am a networking queen. The truth, I am a shy and introverted person who has learned how to “turn it on” in public situations. What am I turning on? My confidence. My listening skills. And my genuine interest in finding other cool people who are as passionate about this industry as I am.
I did not gain this networking crown overnight but rather have developed several techniques that help me in any social situation. Ironically, these techniques were unconsciously developed after watching my partner perform his duties as a wing-man for friends in bars. He is a master at engaging with people and although he has always been a social butterfly he learned specific networking skills from a book all about “picking up women” called, The Game by Neil Strauss. if you have never heard of this author or these books before, I highly recommend you watch this YouTube video in which he discussed approach anxiety: Neil Strauss Approach Anxiety.
So, what does dating have to do with networking? Similar skills are used in all social situations and Neil Strauss talks about how his clients have used these same skills to become more confident and comfortable not only in dating scenarios but in their everyday life. I honestly recommend that you do some research on Neil, where he came from, and how he has created the empire he has today.
Our world has become a very solo experience but I find that when I start to open up to people in everyday situations it positively affects every aspect of my life and allows me to develop and hone these tips and tricks.
Here are the tips and tricks I use to navigate any social situation that I don’t feel completely comfortable in.
- Sometimes you feel awkward as soon as you walk in the room. I find this is the case when I’m attending an event and don’t know anyone. My solution to combat this awkwardness? I immediately find the nearest bathroom and give myself a pep talk in the mirror. I’m serious. Try it. Even just saying, “you got this, you got this,” helps.
- I also have a game I play with myself. Networking events are often daunting because people put so much expectation on them. They think that this one event will lead to meeting that one person who will shoot their career to stardom. I understand that this is possible but I am not banking on that and instead I focus on the experience right in front of me. I tell myself that I can leave the engagement after meeting three people that I have an interesting conversation with. Even though I usually stay much longer, this gives me an out so I don’t feel like a failure at the end of the night.
- It is also important to remember that everyone else Is just like you. People have insecurities, hopes and dreams, and would probably prefer to be at home binge watching Netflix. Hold onto that thought and focus on meeting people that will make you happy you left your apartment that night.
- After gathering my courage and leaving the bathroom, I scan the room and notice where people are congregating solo or in smaller groups. Larger groups are intimidating to crack and less likely to engage in conversation with a stranger. I often find smaller groups are waiting to order drinks at the bar or near the food. It is super easy to engage in a conversation when you already have a common ground. I’ll ask a generic question like, “do they recommend one of the beers on tap?” or something related to the drink they have already ordered. If you are not a drinker that is fine. You can make a comment about how your friend’s favorite drink is (insert funny sounding drink name here). I have found that the opening line never matters, as long as you are starting on neutral ground and letting it evolve naturally.
- If you find yourself enjoying talking to your new bar buddy, chances are they are enjoying it as well and will offer to introduce you to their friends. If the conversation dies off quickly, look for more people who are standing by themselves. You’d be surprised, there are often more people there solo than you think.
- At the end of the night, after you have met several people that you had a genuine connection with, make sure to take notes about the people you met, their aspirations, pet’s names, or anything that you might’ve mentioned about yourself, that will spark recognition when you meet them again. If you got their contact information, great! Make sure to reach out and let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. Again, it’s just like a person in a bar. If you don’t message them s/he will think that you’re just not that into them.
Of course networking isn’t really a science, but these are all things that I use to turn it on in social situations. Above all, however, it is important to remember that as the adage goes, the key to networking is connecting with someone on a basic human level, which means “being interested, not interesting.”