Professor Marilyn Horowitz advises her students to periodically take a break – a mental break. She wrote about how she goes dancing to take that break as a writer. I have an additional perspective on that break time. While you should take a mental break from the writing side every once in awhile, you should never take a break from the networking and business development side of your screenwriting business. You never know who you will meet where.
I was recently at a knitting conference. As we were walking through the Marketplace (vendor area), I spotted a unique new accessory for knitters. Stopping to chat with the manufacturer, I discovered that she needed some marketing help – Ta-Da – a lead for a new client.
Now, you're probably thinking: sure that might work for you, but I'm a writer, not a marketing person. That is true however, the principle applies to everyone. You never know who that person on the lounge chair next to you at the hotel pool knows that could further your career. What about at the museum, or even your neighborhood bar? I know that these sound like cliché places to network, but the truth is that they are cliché because they work.
There are several categories of places to network. There is the professional category that includes events and opportunities like conferences, such as Screenwriters World, contests and festivals. Also in the professional category are things like organized networking groups including The Chamber of Commerce, BNI and communications related associations that include writers.
Next is the social category. The social category includes things like going to parties and fundraising events and even brunch with friends on a Sunday morning, or a round of golf. These are all opportunities to deepen relationships in addition to meeting new people.
At each of these venues, you have the opportunity to meet people and work on your relationships. Those relationships are important because people like to help those that they know, like, and trust. It takes time to reach that trust stage. You will know you have really hit the goal when someone will help you while feeling that you are doing them the favor.
Let’s look at some of the action you can take to get to that trust stage where anyone will want to do whatever they can to help you. The first thing is that you need to take your grandmother’s advice and mind your manners. I am not talking about keeping your elbows off the table or even about holding doors open for the person behind you, I'm talking about the basics – please, thank you and you’re welcome. By being careful to be grateful and gracious at every opportunity you put yourself one leg up, so to speak, in the world. The “Thank You” component is particularly important and will make you stand out in a very positive way. You can use email, snail mail or a host of other methods, but always be sure to say thank you to anyone who has helped you in any small way. It will stand you in good stead in the long run.
The next step is to create a stream of value for the other person. As in any relationship, do not make it about you. Always make it about the other person. What can you do for them to bring value to the relationship? Is there an introduction that you can make? Is there some piece of information that you can share? If you met them on the golf course and you find an article about a new golf ball, send it to them. This keeps you at the top of their mind, always networking but not selling. Know that they love a particular wine? Share information about an upcoming tour of the winery. Again, you get to stay at the top of their mind without selling yourself or your project. Small gestures such as these help you deepen the relationship by adding value and casting you in a good light as someone worth knowing, trusting and doing business with.
Taking these steps to maintain and enhance a relationship is a critical skill when networking. When these small gestures come naturally they will propel you to new opportunities. Since one should never take a break from their networking efforts, making these habits second nature will give you the added edge in your career.
- More articles by Anne Kleinman
- Screenwriter Networking: Building a Network Online and Off
- Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: 5 Reasons to Use an Online Writing Network
How to Take Your Online Network and Turn Them Into a Real-Life Network
Breaking in Outside of Hollywood Webinar