Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 Success Tips For Networking Events

Most screenwriters know that networking and getting to know producers, agents and managers - or having them know you and read your work - is critical to a successful screenwriting career.

You've heard how you should attend networking events, and you know you need to take the plunge yourself. So you pay your money to attend a popular networking event (Great American Pitchfest, Hollywood Networking Breakfast, etc.) but then you dread it because you're not sure what you should do or how to really make the most of it.

It often turns out to be a blasé experience, and you dread it even more the next time.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, I have three words for you:

"Stop the cycle!"

"Do something different!"

"Prepare, yes, prepare."

Learning how to prepare for networking events will make a world of difference for you. (Assuming you actually use what you prepare!)

Here are 3 tips on how you can prepare so your attendance at a networking event will be successful and forward your screenwriting career.

1. Prepare a 30-60 second elevator pitch about yourself (not just your screenplay).

People will generally ask you what you do because they want to know if you are someone who can help them not because they are THAT interested in you! However, depending on what you have to share with them they may come to learn that you are very interesting and are someone they want to know more about.

How you present yourself and your screenwriting career or your screenplay is make or break for your success at these affairs.

Don't ramble on dryly about your screenplay unless you really have their ear. Drop in a story or two about your recent experiences about working on your script.

If you've done professional work as a screenwriter, casually share a story about that to show you're professional.

But don't try to rush in and pitch your script if they clearly don't want to hear it.

Don't talk about how hard it is to find a literary agent or manager. Being negative will only get you that expression of dread that begs, "How do I get out of this conversation?"

Practice your elevator pitch about yourself at home and with friends until you can say it with no reservation.Same with your pitch of the script itself.

Get comfortable with both things - the pitch of you and your script.

Have a good business card, preferably one related to screenwriting. Maybe even with a logline or title of your script on it. At least put "Screenwriter" on it.

2. Be genuinely interested in other people.

As the saying goes, "Be interested, not interesting." People love to talk about themselves and when you meet someone you want to connect with, listening to them is the easiest way to make that happen.

However, don't ask a question and then tune out while nodding your head in agreement. Listen. Really listen. Then engage.

Listening is an undervalued skill for communicating at networking events. Listen with your entire self and not just with your ears. Pay attention to body language and the tell-tell signs expressing that it's either time to change the topic, wrap-up the conversation, or provide more information. If the person you're talking to is not making eye contact with you and scanning the room during your conversation, it may be time to try a new strategy for engaging them.

Ask them a question, make an observation about the going-ons within the room, or share something personal to make a connection. For example, "I am quite impressed by the turn-out at this event. I had read reviews from previous years and wasn't really sure if it would be worth the effort. Thus far, it's working out well. What's been your experience?"