Anatomy of the Industry: Networking!

I love meeting new people.  I love hearing about what people do, what their interests are.  I love socializing.

I hate networking.  Networking is shaking hands, trading business cards, and schmoozing.  It feels scuzzy, even if it’s the environment for it, even if it’s expected.  So far, I’ve done pretty much the first things I mentioned – meeting, hearing, socializing.  But networking, sadly, is how the business works.

How do you work with people on a project if you don’t meet them first?  How do they know to get in touch with you if they don’t know you exist.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to be a part of an industry (I think this applies to all industries…especially entertainment) you do not exist unless you tell people you’re there.

I learned this the hard way.  In my past life, I graduated with a theatre degree and figured that my contacts from school would get me a few gigs, eventually landing me a dream role at Factory or Tarragon or Buddies.  Ten years later, my last theatre gig…was in University.  I thought things would show up, that a minimal amount of work would somehow get my name out.

It didn’t.

So…what do you do?  Here are some tips, based off my experiences.  Again, I’m not an expert…these are just things to think about:

ACCEPT INVITES TO MEET PEOPLE:  Even if it seems like there’s no reason, never turn down the chance to meet people.  I used to skip events because I felt like they were discomforting and awkward.  Also…I have a pink mohawk and wear t-shirts and jeans so I figured I’d be out of place.  It’s like ‘breaking the ice’ in camp…just get out there, do it.  If I did it looking like me, you can do it looking like you!

DIVERSITY IS AWESOME: Say you’re a songwriter…and there’s a post-award show event you’ve been invited to that will be populated

Great Business Card! 😀

mainly by folks who work at labels and various non-profit organizations.  Personally, as a songwriter, I always hated the idea of struggling to chat with ‘suits.’  Firstly…there are usually very few suits.  Secondly…diversity is great!  You may meet someone who works for a government grant organization, or a promoter, or even other songwriters who are in the same boat as you.  The goal here is experience.

I’ll stop here and note…I’m not suggesting you start off with a goal in mind and try to build some kind of reputation…I suggest you be yourself and go in with the objective of meeting lots of interesting people.  The benefits come afterwards!

BE POSITIVE!: I was shy the first real ‘networking’ event I experienced.  But I stayed positive…I was happy to meet people though I didn’t feel I had much to offer them.  Like I was absorbing their help but offering none of myself.  By the end of the night I had met loads of people, they remembered my name, and they thought I was fun.  I have since bumped into some of the people I met…they remember me…as the upbeat guy…which I guess also means…

BE MEMORABLE: Don’t spill wine on your hero (a friend from University once spilled wine on Don McKellar’s white suit, and followed it with the word ‘Awesome’…story to come later I’m sure). Don’t be loud and obnoxious (if you’re a loud drunk, don’t drink too much)  You’re being a ‘good’ you…the best you!  Imagine how you’d feel if someone trying to make an impression blathered in your face.  Which reminds me, the most important thing I’ve learned…

TAKE A SECOND TO IMAGINE THE SITUATION FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE: One of the best approaches you can take to life and career is to give yourself time to picture a situation from someone else’s shoes.  Everyone: the guy you just met who might pass a project to you, your competition, the artist, the promoter.  It doesn’t matter, just give yourself a chance to think “If I was them…”

Yes, you should have business card: they’re little square information packets people can take with them…they’re a standard…even if they go straight into a smartphone and are tossed at least they made it to the smartphone.

Yes, you should follow up…especially with people who you really connected with.

Yes, it’s OK to go out to coffee or dinner and talk more.  Yes…they can buy (if you’re like me, it’s awesome to have someone else buy for you!)

Yes…you should always remember the people who remembered you.

And that’s the main thing…be humble.  None of us really has anything to brag about, even if you DID discover Drizzy Drake or were the first person to book Mumford in Canada.  Bragging and name dropping takes the attention off you and onto someone else…the act you worked with, the person you know.

After all, the only two people in a conversation are you and the person you’re talking to.  The connection is somewhere in between.  Sappy I know, but if you keep that in mind, you may find yourself getting somewhere.

…and when you get there…gimme a call please!  I’d love to chill over coffee!

Is this right?  Am I way off the mark?  Do you have experience and feel there’s more to be said?  Comment please!  I’d love to hear.

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