Friday, July 16, 2010

When is a networking event worth going to?

In Stephanie Palmer’s opinion, never! I’ve been skimming her excellent book on improving business relationships, Good in a Room for ages but have finally gotten down to reading it. Palmer’s a former MGM executive who has a lot to say on getting in front of the right people, and what to do once you’re there in the cigar-chomper’s office.

Her opinion is that going to networking events is well worth doing if you want to be sociable, be seen or do research on an area.

But if you want to meet VIPs who can help your career, forget it. You’re only going to be a face in the crowd, plus you’re going to meet them in a business context, so they’re only going to see you as someone who’s trying to flog them something. There’s no way of building any personal rapport with them – which makes sense, because most people despise “sellers”.

(This is a bit like Chris Rock’s infamous “want some dick?” routine, where he says there are some contexts such as a crowded nightclub/trashy bar etc. where whatever a guy says to a girl, even “do you know where the bathroom is?” comes across to her as “want some dick?”). Yes, I just compared flogging scripts to come-ons – there are a lot of similarities.

So how do you reach the VIPs? Well, the good news is that Palmer’s approach takes the pressure off traditional networking events. If you want to go, fine – drink some free wine and practice your conversational skills. You can relax and enjoy these events, cos you won’t be selling any scripts at them. Use the time you would have spent at some of these shindigs to write more scripts!

The bad news is that she takes the long (and probably more effective) approach. Get referred by people. Take the time to get to know people who know people, and they will eventually pass your stuff to the people they know. If you know anyone who’s sold a script, this is probably how it was done. Either they got a long-time friend or acquaintance who personally knew an exec to refer them, or they won a really big contest which acted itself as a referral.

Remember, friends make movies with friends. Not people they just met at a mixer!

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