Being a writer isn’t just about the writing – you need to network too, especially if you already have a writing sample. Let’s look at 3 types of networking event, and I’ll share some tips for getting the most out of each networking opportunity.
Networking at Fairs, Festivals & Conferences
Networking events like the London Book Fair, the London Screenwriters Festival and the Cannes Film Festival present tremendous opportunities for writers to connect with potential collaborators.
Hundreds of people in your industry attend and they specifically come to network, so generally speaking, they’ll be up for a chat.
The events themselves are usually very well organised and involve talks and panel discussions, which means you can put names and faces to key people in your industry, you can ask questions, and approach the panel afterwards, to try and strike up a conversation.
There will usually be some networking drinks parties at these sorts of fairs, so make sure you stay for them. If you’re too shy to approach the person you really want to speak to, chat to the person standing next to you – you never know who they might be. It’s amazing where little random chats can sometimes lead.
These big events also often include dedicated pitching opportunities where you can either have short one to one pitch meetings with people in your industry, or in other cases you might have a chance to get up on stage and pitch to an industry panel.
If you’re going to a big networking event like this, the chances are you will have paid a significant amount of money to attend, so make sure you prepare.
In the weeks prior to the event, prepare your short pitches, in other words, one or two clear and concise sentences about your work(s) in progress. Learn them by heart, practise them, test them out on friends, family or other writers; make sure they trip smoothly off your tongue. Your pitches should be as clear and compelling as can be.
Next, prepare a pitch about yourself, the writer.
This might sound weird, but a lot of us feel uncomfortable admitting that we are in fact writers, especially if we don’t make our living that way. But if you’re attending a networking event, you want to come across as professional.
Take the time in advance to prepare a little speech about yourself, then practise it until it sounds more like a conversation than a sales pitch.
Small Networking Events
Networking doesn’t have to take place at big, expensive fairs and conferences, there are many opportunities for networking, so keep an open mind.
For example, if you’re a budding author, try going along to book signings, strike up a conversation with the author and ask for advice about getting started. If the publisher is there, try to chat with them too.
If you’re a screenwriter, go to short film festivals and mingle with the film makers whose films are being screened. They will often be thrilled to talk to other creatives, especially if you’re complimentary about their film.
If you don’t manage to speak to the person you hoped to speak to, perhaps it’s too busy or you’re too shy, don’t despair. See if you can track them down on Linkedin or Twitter afterwards. Send them a message, let them know you were at the event, praise their work and try to start a conversation.
Networking at Pitching Events
Thirdly, consider going to networking events focussed on pitching or having your work performed.
In London, for example, the Bafta Rocliffe New Writers Competition is a networking event for writers that’s held 4 times a year. Each time the focus is on a specific area of screenwriting: film, TV drama, TV comedy and children’s TV. Applicants submit 10 pages of their script, and 3 scripts are chosen to be performed by actors; afterwards the writer is invited on stage for a discussion with an industry panel.
Euroscript also runs a monthly networking event for writers called Speakeasy, which gives 3 writers the opportunity to perform a short pitch in front of an audience and industry guest, in fact a Pick Up Your Pen writing client recently had some success there! So it is possible to get noticed if you put yourself out there!
If you’re writing fiction, there’s an opportunity to pitch in front of a panel of agents at the London Book Fair’s The Write Stuff event. Getting up on stage in this way can give you some great industry exposure, and boost your confidence if it goes well. However, pitching is an art in itself and takes practise, so do take the time to prepare in advance.
If the idea of pitching on stage fills you with dread, you can still go along and network with the other guests and also learn what works, by watching other writers pitch.
If you feel like your fear of getting up on stage is holding you back as a writer, consider working on your public speaking skills with the help of an organisation like Toastmasters – there are clubs all over the place.
More Networking Tips!
No matter what sort writers’ networking events you go to, be sure to follow up with your new contacts quickly, connect on Linkedin, Twitter etc and if you’ve promised to send them work, email them within a few days.
And of course, don’t forget to take some business cards – and make sure you ask for a card in return, that way you can make the first move to keep in touch.
Networking is all about developing relationships, because people want to work with people they get along with. So try to be relaxed, friendly and normal, rather than intense and salesy. Your aim is to start a dialogue that you can build on over time, so try to keep in mind that you’re just having a friendly chat. No pressure!
Have you attended any networking events for writers? Where have you been and how did you get on? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.