We’ve all been a little pessimistic about networking.
You exchange business cards, which are mostly outdated. Each person introduces themselves with a verbal resume and cover letter, disguised as a conversation. You never meet that person ever again. You’ll send out thirty follow up emails. Only 3 people return those emails. The next networking event is a few months away in order to run into the same people again to build those relations.
The truth is, as we all know, networking takes time. You have to meet and greet the same people over and over. However, there’s no guarantee you’ll meet the same people across various networking events. Not everyone likes waiting, but there are a few ways you can condense a few months of developing a relation into one night.
Habits and associations are formed in repetitive patterns. Three makes a pattern, so connect with everyone at least three times. That may sound like a lot to do in one night, but it’s fairly simple. Don’t go person to person, checking off each face like a checkmark on a bucket list. Go back and revisit people you’ve already talked to earlier in the night. You’ll have more to talk about and can refer past encounters to new encounters. Let’s say you meet Steve, who is looking for a drone operator for a video shoot. You’ve previously met Bill, who owns a drone. Invite Bill over. You’ve now just referred a complete stranger and started a group conversation. You’re already giving “value” in the value economy. While it’s nice to meet everyone, quality is better than quantity. Meeting everyone just means you’re repeating the same verbal resume and cover letter introductions over and over. That doesn’t get you far at networking events, everyone else is doing that too.
Most networking events are advertised on a Facebook or LinkedIn group. You can see a list of potential attendees if you’re into stalking 🙂 Introduce yourself on the group’s message board. Post your work and your website. See if you can get a thread started before the networking event. Then when you meet someone that responded or remembers your post, you can dive right into more meaningful conversation right away. You’ve already exchanged credentials and info beforehand and are now a step ahead of everyone else.
Follow-Up emails are not personable. Think VISUALLY.
After the event is over, don’t send follow up emails. There aren’t many people who practice follow up emails, but ironically, you rarely see significant replies. You may think it’s the responsible thing to do. Sometimes it does work. But guess what: email is too impersonal. You’re writing stereotypical text which sounds pre-scripted: “Oh nice meeting you last night, I’ll keep you in mind for future projects”. On top of that, there’s no picture of you in an email. The recipient can’t put a face to the two sentences you emailed them.
The problem is email isn’t a good follow up platform. You need to jog their memory. And you need to give them more information to churn into future conversations.
Head on over back to that Facebook group for the event. Add EVERYONE as a friend. And add them as a LinkedIn connection since you now have their email addresses from the stack of business cards you’ve brought home. Do this for every person, even if you never talked to that person during the event. People you don’t get to talk to are not missed opportunities anymore with Facebook.
Once the people you’ve talked to added you back, THEN post your follow up message, on their page, not as a direct message. It’s public, so they’re more likely to respond. Other people can join in and remember you two. More importantly, the person you’re messaging now has a visual face to put to your message. They don’t have that with email. They now have access to your page and more things in the future to turn into consistent communication.
”But they’ll just use the like button, the polite way to ignore someone’s post,” some may say. It’s still better than an ignored email. Make sure to reference a prior conversation and ASK a question to encourage a reply.
Business Cards – Don’t design them for the rolodex, design them for cocktail chatter
When meeting everybody at a networking event, you have the obligatory exchanging of business cards. You look at it and flip it over. You try to think of something interesting to say. Nothing comes to mind, the card looks the same as everyone else’s. Maybe there’s a picture of a camera, a lens and iris based design, a picture of your city’s skyline, or the clear plastic with viewfinder markings on it. Or it’s one of those metal ones or one of those Moo Mini cards that everyone uses to “stand out”.
Don’t stand out. Be engaging.
What do I mean by that?
A lot of people want to be snazzy because they view cards like a rolodex and want to be clearly labeled “video person” and sometimes pay extra for the “pick me” enhancements. That’s a ROLODEX MENTALITY. That worked in the 1980s and 1990s when people collected business cards. People use Google now.
Don’t be like Joel Bauer.
Business cards are outdated, but their design doesn’t have to be. People don’t use rolodexes anymore, HOWEVER, people are going to more networking events nowadays. This is the golden age of the networking era. You’re expected to meet and greet everyone you can. People with home offices pay a few hundred dollars a month to work in shared office spaces. That’s hardcore commitment. That wasn’t the culture during the golden era of business cards.
That means modern business cards should aim to start and fuel an engaging conversation with someone. Cards should be a muse into meaningful questions. They should invite a person into a decent conversation as soon as they see them. People get tired of the “Oh what do you do, oh this is what I do” back and forth when exchanging cards. Sadly, most business card exchanges do nothing to alleviate this.
Ever see someone flip your card over and give it a glance during a dull moment in a conversation? Or did you ever have someone ask you for your card during that dull moment? They need something to play off of to continue, and possibly salvage, a conversation.
So be silly. Be provocative. Instead of putting your city’s skyline and a camera icon with your contact info on it, opt for something more engaging.
Did you do a short film that involved two midgets fencing with swordfish? Put a screen cap of that on your card. That’ll get people asking questions.
Can you put an appropriate single panel comic strip on your card?
Or behind the scenes pictures that can be taken out of context: did the police stop and inquire about your video shoot on public grounds and you have a photo of it?
Intrigue them, get them to ask on topic questions. The more mystery, the better. One nice mystery is Blab.im. Blab is a budding niche website that not many people know about…yet. It’s a small web conference app, kind of like Google hangouts, but better. Try putting the Blab logo and your profile name on your business card. People will ask “what is Blab?”. Then you get to play maven and tell them, “Oh you partake in talk shows live on the web about your profession.” More importantly, you’re opening the door for FUTURE conversations with them. You now can invite them to do Blab shows with you and a few other people you meet that night. You also get the benefit of proving your knowledge to each other if you ever get to do a blab show with them. You can record and download the blab chat for YouTube so you all get social media content.
And the rest of the people that night will just be another card in the pile.
Cool and clever (and expensive) business cards are fun. But if the conversation started is about how cute the card is and not about the two people talking, is it effective or just a parlor trick? “Oh that’s awesome, where’d you get these? Custom made? Where at? How Much?”
That’s great talk for the company that made the cards, but is it great for selling yourself and a potential relation? The rolodex mentality is only good in 2015 if you plan on putting a stack of cards for someone to find later on, with no expectation of personal contact. Then cards like these above are awesome. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “Is this card going on a display, or am I handing these out in person?”
Bottom line with business cards: Rolodexes and the practice of hoarding business cards are OUTDATED. Business cards themselves will always be around. That’s a giant and important concept to discern. Make sure your card can SAVE a conversation that has an awkward pause and can provide content when your minds go blank.
Find an Equilibrium
So you’re at your local video networking event.
Let’s say you’re well established and you’re at a networking event. You may think that people just starting out, or young, may not have much to offer you. So you mainly target other well established video professionals. You somewhat avoid the younger, less known people.
Let’s say you’re young and just starting out in video. You want to be well known and get higher paying video crew work. So you find well established people and target them.
You see the problem? Most people know better and branch out, but everyone’s guilty of this a little bit. The “star” person at the networking event has been in business for quite sometime and has a well established network of people already. The star person is also used to, and possibly annoyed at, strangers coming up asking for a job and pushing cards in their face. There’s a lot of competition for that network.
It’s like the expression: it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond as opposed to a little fish in a big pond.
From personal experience and hearing others’ stories, it’s best to find an equilibrium: the best leads for opportunity overwhelmingly come from someone at about your same skill level. There’s a level of mutual respect and you generally talk more about your craft with a sincere interest. When there’s disparity in age and experience, talk leans to be more of a sales pitch. Do a personal audit of your networking experiences as well as people you know. Often you’ll see your best leads came from peers at about your same age and experience range. There’s a greater level of empathy and it’s more realistic you’d both hire each other for a video shoot, so there’s a mutual benefit. When there’s an experience disparity, it’s a one way street, not a two way one.
While it’s stereotyping a bit, if you want higher paying work with more responsibility, someone on your level will be more willing to give that to you. Someone higher up the chain is more likely to have so many jobs in queue that they just want to push them out the door as cost efficiently as possible. Now a bigger video company will have more work and can give you a bigger bulk, but that’s if you get noticed. And when there’s bulk, you get a “bulk rate” and could wind up stuck doing dead end work over and over with one or two video studios.
A lot of younger videographers in their early to mid twenties will realize what I’m saying, especially when they network in person. But they OTALLY FORGET IT when networking online. Someone a few years out of college will MASS EMAIL resumes and demo reels to every high end studio and video professional they can find, hoping to get consistent, but most likely low paying, work.
No one bites, because those studios all get hundreds of those inquiries a month. On top of that, those studios ALREADY have a bull pen of people to call that they ALREADY KNOW and worked with most likely.
Meanwhile, let’s say you’re in your mid twenties trying to build a name for yourself. There’s thousands of people in the same scenario as you that don’t get anyone contacting them to network out of the blue. If you sent them your demo reel, you’re in a smaller pond. They’ll probably write back because they’re not overwhelmed. They also may already have a job or connection with that bigger studio you’re eyeballing…and tell you what they need.
Hypothetically speaking, if you’re just starting out and young, what if you emailed your credentials to page 5-15 of Google and aimed for people about your age and skill level?
You both have connections the other doesn’t.
You both are looking for a bigger network.
You both would need extended crew if you got a freelance shoot.
You both have empathy for not getting a response back for your resume.
It’s the dominant strategy to return your email and vice versa.
Connect, don’t validate. Go to events NOT in your field.
Networking events are usually profession based. Marketers go to marketing events. Tech startups will network at a tech event. And video production is no different, with the GPVA, PIFVA, and PhillyCam you’re with other video professionals. You’re also in a room full of sellers and now have to be friends with the “competition” where chances are, you won’t find a client. It’s not too far off to say that you go to these events for validation. Most people may not admit it, but you go to networking events partly to size yourself up vs. the other guys. It validates that you belong in the profession of your choice. Yes, it’s true that video shoots need a full crew and will need to hire help from competing studios. Yes it’s true you can learn more about your craft at an “on topic” networking event. However you need clients, not JUST a support group.
You think you HAVE to go to an “on topic”, field based networking event. It’s easier to chit chat, having common ground. However, not many people make a FIRM habit of going outside the box. Go to an event that’s OUTSIDE your career field. Networking is an exchange of ideas and transaction potential. Wouldn’t it be great to find an actual client and be the only video professional in the room? There are other networking events besides video related ones.
There’s the obvious chamber of commerce and business related networking events you could regularly attend. Then there’s marketing events and clubs, which widely go ignored by videographers. I personally never got the strict wall between marketing and video production, as if they are two separate fields, but that’s an issue for another article. Video producers want to connect with other businesses that could be clients. All of those businesses will need marketing, so it makes sense to go to an event based on marketing. You could network with agencies that represent a big corporation in the market for video production. Some companies have in house marketing departments, and the people in their marketing department will be at these events. Now you can be on their vendor list by exchanging cards and meeting them as opposed to not meeting them at a video event. And I’ll say it again, you may be the only video professional at a marketing (or other off topic) event…YAY, less competition.
You’ll learn a craft outside of your own that may be foreign to you, as opposed to listening to the same rhetoric over and over at a video event. You have an even exchange of sales / purchase potential and you both have knowledge the other person does not have. If you need logo design, marketing tactics, or web and SEO expertise, then you can meet those people at a marketing event. And just like they may hire you, you may hire them.
Thanks again for reading Psynema.com.
Psynema: Philadelphia Video Production – Corporate, Commercial, Animation, and Screenwriting