You’ve heard how you should attend networking events, and you know you need to take the plunge yourself. So you pay your money to attend the Women In Film or the Hollywood Networking Breakfast, but then you dread it because you’re not sure what you should do or how to really make the most of it.
It often turns out to be a blasé experience, and you dread it even more the next time.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, I have three words for you
Stop the cycle!
Do something different!
Prepare, yes, prepare.
Learning how to prepare for networking events will make a world of difference for you. (Assuming you actually use what you prepare!)
Here are 5 tips on how you can prepare so your attendance at a networking event will be successful and forward your screenwriting career.
1. Prepare a 30-60 second elevator pitch about yourself (not just your screenplay).
People will generally ask you what you do because they want to know if you are someone who can help them not because they are THAT interested in you!
How you present yourself and your screenwriting career or your screenplay is make or break for your success at these affairs.
Don’t ramble on dryly about your screenplay unless you really have their ear. Drop in a story or two about your recent experiences about working on your script.
If you’ve done professional work as a screenwriter, casually share a story about that to show you’re professional.
But don’t try to rush in and pitch your script if they clearly don’t want to hear it.
Don’t talk about how hard it is to find a literary agent or manager. Being negative will only get you that expression of dread that begs “How do I get out of this conversation?”
Practice your elevator pitch about yourself at home and with friends until you can say it with no reservation. Same with your pitch of the script itself.
Get comfortable with both things – the pitch of you and your script.
Have a good business card, preferably one related to screenwriting. Maybe even with a logline or title of your script on it. At least put “Screenwriter” on it.
2. Be genuinely interested in other people.
As the saying goes, “Be interested, not interesting.” People love to talk about themselves and when you meet someone you want to connect with, listening to them is the easiest way to make that happen.
However, don’t ask a question and then tune out while nodding your head in agreement. Listen. Really listen. Then engage.
The more you know about your contact, the faster you can connect with them when you call them on the phone. Referring back to your conversation is a great icebreaker.
Don’t worry about saying a lot about yourself. The Hollywood VIP you meet probably won’t remember much of what you say, and important details about your screenwriting background are better discussed in a different setting.
If they want to hear your pitch, go for it. Give it to them. Don’t force the issue or you could lose them forever. Get friendly with them first.
The truth is, if you do most of the listening and engage with them about them, your new business contact will be thinking later, “Wow. He was interesting!”
3. Think quality of contacts not quantity.
Rushing through conversations gathering as many business cards as possible won’t get you the quality contacts but will instead make you look like a jerk.
When you participate in networking gatherings, concentrate on making a quality contact with each person you speak to.
Your job is to move your career forward, deepen the contacts you make, not just quickly meet the most people at the networking event.
At the same time, if you find yourself talking to someone who isn’t the best connection of the night, don’t be afraid to politely end the conversation with, “It was so great meeting you! I hope we can work together soon.” Or you could say, “You have a lot going on. I wish you the best with your projects.” Then move on.
You will definitely come across those people who clearly are clueless about networking. You don’t want to be one of them!
4. Identify how you can help other people ahead of time.
People in the entertainment industry want to talk about what you can do for them more than what they can do for you. You have to figure out how you can help other people.
Too many screenwriters are “trying to get their script read” or “trying to meet people” but they don’t really know how to connect and help others. They feel a bit at their mercy simply hoping against hope that they might ready their script.
One possible thing you have to offer is to think about your own connections around town before you head out to keep them fresh in your mind. Drop names if you want. Offer to make introductions when appropriate.
Or you might talk to someone who wants to shoot a film in Cincinnati, and that’s where you’re from. You could offer to hook them up with a farmer to shoot on their land.
Get in the mindset of listening for how you can help people. When you become valuable to them and they like you, that’s when they, in turn, want to help you.
5. Figure out a reason or two that you can use to follow up with the people you meet.
Develop your conversational skills. In speaking with these people, find reasons to call them the next day or that week. Be creative.
You have to stand out somehow.
Maybe they said something that made you think of a website they might find valuable. Friend them on Facebook. Keep in touch.
When you walk away, consider writing down notes about your conversation and what action you will take when you get home.
Within 24 hours, follow through on whatever you need to do to establish that contact. Otherwise, you might not remember and another opportunity will slip by.
Set yourself apart.
Become a business person about your screenwriting career.
That… will set you apart.
Following these tips will help you to walk away with solid contacts and have that networking event be a success.
If you want to improve your skills in this area, consider a pitch coaching session and we can also cover networking session with Dr. Melody Jackson to get you ready.
Happy networking in Hollywood!