For some, networking can be a nightmare. Not everyone is Guy Smiley with gleaming teeth and a handshake already started before they walk in the door.
Most people feel a little out of their comfort zone in social situations, but networking is where it counts. In many ways, networking should be considered as an approach to life. I've personally picked up my largest contracts standing in line at food trucks or having a random casual chat in a store that led to a more in-depth meeting later.
The one very dignified lady at the food truck looked around to see who might be watching and said in a hushed tone, “Just so you know, I'm not the type of lady who gives out her number at a food truck.”
I'm thinking, “I want to meet those types of ladies just to see what they look like!”
The other thing you should keep in the back of your mind at all times that networking is more likely to lead to artistic or professional fame or success than talent. How many times have you watched a performance or seen an interview with someone famous and said, “I could do that! If only I were in their shoes. And actually, I can dance way better than them. It's not fair!”
Fair or not, chances are that they networked their way to the top.
Therefore, networking is something you have to get used to. As such, I've prepared a list of tactics that might seem a bit strange or weird but will help you get more out of your networking opportunities.
Me (with the braids) in my younger days with my younger brother learning the masterful art of networking from our Dad.
Strange but true, that although you are at a networking event to meet people, you can often feel like a stranger in a strange land. If you'd like to appear to be more at ease and like you know what you are doing, what I sometimes have done is pick a spot to take a look around the crowd, and while I'm sizing up the audience, I gaze over people's shoulders and make little waves and head nod to no one in particular.
This gives me a minute to figure out who to meet and occasionally, someone I didn't wave at comes over and introduces themselves. Win-win!
(If they think you were waving at them and you don't actually know who they are, just say you thought they were someone else and ask them who they actually are. Either way, you're talking!)
The pleasure card for Dan Zen.
The most common prop at networking events is business cards. My friend Dan Zen is an inventor who has one that spins something like a hypnosis wheel (actually it is technically a pleasure, not business, card). He spins the card, everybody laughs, and suddenly people are having fun. AND everyone always remembers him.
I'm not saying you need to cast a spell on the people at the event (although that might be helpful), but what this does is breaks the ice.
Another thing to do is when you take someone's business card, comment on almost anything to do with it. Do you like the color or the paper quality? What this does is slows down the exchange and lets you read their name and title. This can help focus you especially if you are a little nervous. It also makes them feel important because they usually have put some thought into their business card.
Now they are thinking, “Wow, this guy likes my choice of font. Maybe I want to work with someone like this who isn't always arguing with me about the font!” Boom, you're hired.
One of my favorite tricks to get me thinking outside the box is to imagine I'm being filmed for a reality TV show and people, we need fabulous content. Let's make it interesting and pay closer attention to people's clothes and while deciding if we think their attire will make it to the next stage or be voted off. With this in mind, I immediately compliment something about the person. Ties, scarves, or shoes -almost anything the person is wearing. It's important not to seem too contrived. What you are trying to do is break the ice and get on the person's good side and it may surprise you to learn that people like themselves and like to talk about themselves so the more you can hold a mirror up to them in a favorable light, the better!
If I really like the person, I might give them a wink and let them know the callers are voting for them while rolling my eyes towards the security cameras. “I didn't even know we were part of a secret pilot!” they often exclaim. People love being let in on little secrets.
If you're a little older, this might mean to wear the correct dentures. If you're not so dentally challenged, you would be smart to remember that you'd rather people focus on pretty much anything other than that cake jammed between your teeth. This is a far more important first impression than an elevator pitch, with which you should never lead. So make sure those babies are clean before you start yapping about elevator pitches.
First of all, elevator pitches are boring, if not in context. Quite often, I come across people who immediately want to razzle-dazzle me with some quick canned speech about their latest project and the Arri Mini they are using which has X and Y technical features. My eyes glaze over as I don't know very much about cameras. Better it is to try to get to know the person more casually first. Let me guarantee you this: even if I am interested in what they are saying, if they have some slimy guck drooling out of their mouths, that's pretty much the only thing I remember.
Alternate photo for Operators Are Standing By. This is what can happen if you network well at an event or a party! Or “the correct use of a phone at an event.”
See that thing that's glued to your hand? Leave it in your car or at home. I recognize this might not always be possible but chances are you are not a doctor if you are reading this and there is not an important surgery happening for which you couldn't at least put your phone on silent.
What people do when they get nervous or bored is they fidget with their phones and check inconsequential notifications to appear busy. Guess what? That closes you off from all the people in the room and when you are talking loudly into your phone in a group of people who are there to network, you don't seem important.
One good use of a phone is to add people to your contacts immediately. For some people, this is the new business card. My message here is to be cautious with technology.
Remember to not get into personal details, work politics, complaints, and (this is a good one) how much you've had to drink. I love meeting people who list off how many shots they've had and then proceed to tell me their partner is cheating on them and their professional colleagues are all in-fighting, etc. Don't be that guy!
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of tips and tricks. But hopefully the next time you enter a room of sharks, you can start thinking of them as exotic fish that you want to check out. Who knows, maybe you'll reel in that next prospect that could lead to your next big success. If you do, I'd love to hear about it!
Mackenzie Kristjon is an Icelandic-Canadian singer-songwriter in This Mad Desire. One of his recent videos, Operators Are Standing By, has been seen over 200,000 times on youtube and came about by accidentally meeting a model at a party who knew someone who had a film studio and he knew someone who did editing and so on. It all started because he complimented her dress. www.thismaddesire.net
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