by Angela Bourassa
At the recent ScriptFest in Burbank, I had the pleasure of attending Jessica Sitomer’s free class on Networking for Introverts. When you get a large group of screenwriters together, a vast majority of them are likely to be introverts, and many of us flocked to Jessica’s talk to learn everything we could about calming our nerves and making a good impression while networking.
Jessica had a lot of great information on how to face a networking event and build your connections. Here are nine of her best tips for networking success.
1. Most people network wrong.
The ultimate goal is to make connections with people in the industry who can help you. But that’s not the immediate goal. The immediate goal is to share cool stories with people. That’s it, Jessica claims. Your goal is simply to talk to cool people, let them know a little bit about you, and learn a bit about them. You’re laying a foundation, not trying to build a skyscraper in a day.
2. Don’t ask for things from people you just met.
Would you walk up to an older couple you just met, tell them you love them and ask to marry their daughter? Jessica used that example to show how crazy it sounds to agents and managers when you ask them to read your script, or worse, to represent you on the spot. Don’t be a taker. It won’t get you anywhere.
3. Be a giver.
How can I help you? Go into networking events with that mindset. Even if you have no industry connections, you can always offer to read other people’s scripts and give them your feedback. Listen to what they have to say, what problems they’re facing, and figure out how you can help. Even if it’s just a friendly ear, that can help build a real relationship.
4. Go in prepared: the three stories.
The worst part of networking for introverts is usually feeling like you have nothing to contribute to the conversation or not knowing what to say about yourself. So go in prepared. Here are three stories you should be ready to tell about yourself at any moment:
- The moment you knew story: why you decided to be a writer, including three details about yourself you want people to know.
- A moment of passion story: a time you felt really strongly about what you do, again including pertinent details about your personality.
- A save the day story: a story of when you came through, ideally on a film related project, but it doesn’t have to be.
Each story should reveal a bit about who you are. Lists of details about yourself aren’t memorable. Stories are. Look for ways to work these in naturally, and then ask people about their stories.
5. Don’t pre-judge people.
You never know who’s going to be who in this industry, or who knows who. Talk to everyone who wants to talk to you. If you get stuck in a conversation for too long, politely ask for the person’s card and tell them you promised yourself you’d meet five people tonight.
6. Actually meet five people tonight.
Give yourself a goal. Go in with a challenge for yourself, and you’ll be much more likely to see it through. It’s easier to meet more people when you go to networking events alone or with a writer buddy who you feel comfortable separating from at the event. You can always start together and then split. Just make sure you both have a set goal of however many people to meet.
7. Use social media for networking.
If you don’t live in LA or are very shy, you can still connect with people via social media. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as business tools, because that’s what they are. Be careful about what you post. Brand yourself. Reach out to people in your local community and heroes you admire. The goal is to make at least 2,000 industry connections on social media. With that big of a network, you’re likely to connect with people who can actually get you work. (In real life, the magic number according to Jessica is 200 connections. With that many connections, probably 40 people could hire you, and 10 will have you as their first or second call.)
8. Remember that everyone else was once where you are (and a lot of them still are).
People want to help. They want to find the next diamond in the rough. So get out there. Keep your stories in mind and remember to look for ways to help people. Remember that they are in fact just people, and you’re pretty awesome, so they’re going to have a good time talking to you. And if you come across someone who is snooty or uninterested in you, shake it off. They’re not your kind of people, anyway.
9. Follow up.
This is the most important. Meeting someone one time does not a connection make. Jessica says that it takes three conversations to form a relationship. So hold onto those business cards. Jot notes down on them. It’s also a good idea to keep a spreadsheet with your contacts, pertinent details about each person, and the last time you connected. That will help you stay on top of your budding connections and keep everyone straight as your roster of contacts grows.
Jessica offers career coaching services through her website, The Greenlight Coach.