Just last week, UDEN hosted their 20th networking event at Redman Movies and Stories in Salt Lake City. And they termed it the “best networking event ever,” and that was not titled lightly. It was incredible. Not only did they present the opportunity for people to have a VIP tour of the VR/AR capable studio, they gave everyone the chance to say who they are, what they do, what they need, and what they can give to the digital entertainment community here in Utah.
Read my take-aways and my thoughts on how to network with purpose!
After watching and listening to over 50 people give their brief presentation at UDEN #20, I was overwhelmed with all the information of all the cool things everyone did. But it all hit home when one of the presenters said, “What do I need? I need to know how to network better.”
I chuckled, but then thought about how it is so easy to go to a networking event and never meet a new person because you stick close to the people you already know. Meeting new people, especially to “network” and “pitch” what you do is intimidating. And though I am not perfect at it, I thought I'd share my top tips for how to get past the comfort zone and arrive at the next event confident and ready to network!
1. Don't think about networking.
Think instead about creating relationships. People don't want to be “sold to” every 3 minutes when they meet someone new. They want to share their ideas and find people who can understand why they are excited about what they do! Truly listening to someone, without having an agenda of what to say next or how to fix their problem will not only make them feel more comfortable around you, but it also takes the pressure off of you to say the “right” thing. All you need to do is listen, ask questions, find what you both have in common, and celebrate that. If what you do fits in with what they need, then that's fantastic. If not, then you still have made a connection with another human, and that can turn into beautiful things over time, so don't dismiss them.
2. Know what you can offer.
Having a good idea of the skills you have is important, and it's even better if you can talk about those skills in specific and succinct terms. People don't usually want to hear about how you are a team player, or that you have good leadership skills. Those aren't definable things. They are good things to be able to do, but it's better if you can talk about how you've worked with all different kinds of people (and even enjoyed it!) or led a team of 5 in a project that was successful. Make it specific, and keep what you do to a few short sentences. It's hard to build a conversation, and thus a relationship, if you give them your life story without an opportunity for them to discuss it with you.
3. Be willing to create connections for others.
Networking isn't just about you. It is wonderful when you can meet someone that is going to help propel you and your business to where you want to go. But sometimes you meet people who need something that you can't give, but you know someone who does. Introduce them, give them space to build what they need, and enjoy that happy feeling of being a connector in the industry. More often than not, those people won't forget your kindness, and they'll know who to go to next when they are at a crossroads.
4. Be organized.
This might just be personal preference for me, but I bring the same notebook to each event to write down the contacts I made, and personal notes about what we talked about. Because even though business cards are cool (and I refer to the box full often), at the end of the night it can be hard to look at a business card and remember a face, or the conversation that you had together. Keeping notes on people can help you remember them better, and can be a great help for the final tip:
5. Follow up.
Meeting a new person at an event isn't going to do much for you if you don't ever talk to that person again. Remember tip #1 – it's about creating a relationship with a human being, and relationships take time to build. So take the time and effort – follow up with an email or a phone call. Look at their website that was on their business card. Thank them for their interest in your work. Ask for more details about the project they talked to you about that you wrote down in your notebook. Look for ways that you can be helpful to them and then talk to them about your ideas.
As I've done these things, I have noticed that when I go to the next event, the room is filled with familiar faces and people that I have a stronger connection with. It's a comfortable situation. I always say hello and try to catch up a bit before things get started to keep building the relationship that started. But don't forget all the people you haven't met yet – that is the next frontier. Finding new people to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with – that is the true adventure of networking.