Whether you're trying to land a job or make new business contacts, networking can be one of your most fruitful strategies. And if there's one industry in which people know the value of networking, it's entertainment.
Although the entertainment industry has something others may not -- like countless events offering opportunities for aspiring stars to schmooze with power players -- you can learn a lot from this business in which workers have always depended on who they know.
According to Susan RoAne, author of How to Work a Room, The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next?, those in the entertainment industry get networking right, because "they've integrated it into their life. Networking is not a work style; it's a lifestyle."
Take these cues from showbiz for integrating networking into your life.
Beyond Agents: Find Key Access Points
While big stars have agents to get them access to directors, casting directors and producers, many working actors get their gigs by showing up at events and networking. "People in the business or wanting to break into the business take the time to find out what's going on, where people hang out and what restaurants they go to," says RoAne. "That's one tip job seekers should follow."
"Too many people spend too much of their time online," says RoAne. "There's this approach avoidance where we want to approach people but then turn to technology, because the potential rejection seems much easier to deal with." But that alone will not create a network. "People in the entertainment industry show up. They know it's about that face-to-face interaction."
Wherever you go, you should always be on the lookout for an opportunity to network. But once you do meet someone who might be a good contact, how do you get the ball rolling?
"Always have a self-introduction keyed to the event you're attending," advises RoAne. "How you introduce yourself at a party is very different than how you'd introduce yourself at a Chamber of Commerce event."
More advice from RoAne: "Those who do it best don't know they're doing it." In other words, try to make networking a natural extension of your behavior."
Ten Seconds to Make a Lasting Impression
You may not always get 30 seconds to make your pitch. Some directors don't even get that much time to pitch a multimillion-dollar picture. RoAne estimates that most people have about 10 seconds to hook someone into a conversation.
While it's important to develop a self-introduction and conversation starters, RoAne recommends that when you meet someone who asks what you do, "don't give your title. Give the benefits of what you do. For example, I can tell people I'm an author and networking coach, but that's not very interesting. However, if I say I turn people into mingling mavens, then I've invited people to ask me more about what I do."
The key to good conversation is making observations, asking questions and revealing something about yourself. According to RoAne, the magic is in the mix: "Listen to what they're saying, ask questions and give a little more about yourself, because you never know when a connection is going to be made."
There's something to be said for an industry known for having "their people" call "your people" to "do lunch."
"While industry types are known for their catchphrases, those phrases are almost always accompanied with a follow-up activity," says RoAne.
Being active, being there, being persistent and following up are key to successful networking. You also need to be open to including a wide variety of people in your network of contacts, because if there's one thing that's evident in the world of entertainment, it's that today's nobody could one day emerge as tomorrow's power player. The same could hold true in your field.
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