The phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is spoken over and over again in our industry for a reason! Here are a few of my favorite networking tips to help dancers develop better networking skills.
We already know the dance community is small.
No matter where you're located, you know someone who knows someone who has worked with so-and-so, and probably grew up dancing with that one person who you sat next to at that one conference five years ago.
This is true worldwide, not just in your local dance scene.
So, how can you best leverage yourself to take advantage of the connections you already have, plus build new relationships, and climb the ladder to where you want to be in your dance career?
Network, network, network!
Yeah, I know, you identify as an "awkward dancer" who is "terrible at networking", but just hear me out...
The phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is spoken over and over again in our industry for a reason! It is also important to remember that "it's not who you know, but who knows you!"
Knowing the right people can open up SO MANY opportunities for you!
Here are a few of my favorite networking tips to help dancers develop better networking skills:
1. Ask for an introduction
Do you have a friend who knows someone you'd like to meet? Ask that friend to set up an introduction. Something as simple as an email or having your friend invite them to a mutual coffee date can be the catalyst to you getting to know that person. Being referred by your mutual friend already gives you some credibility, which takes some of the pressure off since you already know you have something in common. This is a great place to start if you're shy about networking!
2. Remember your new connection's name
The best way to do this is to repeat their name as soon as they are introduced. Example: "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Stephanie"... "Hi Stephanie, it's awesome to meet you too, I'm Kathy!" Be sure to repeat their name again before the conversation is over. If you've already forgotten their name after a few minutes, it is okay to politely ask them again ("I'm so sorry, please tell me your name one more time")... after all, we're only human!
After you've repeated their name, ask them a few questions about where they're from and what they do. This will help your brain make some associations other than just their name.
Finally, if your brain needs extra backup, quickly type a few notes about that person into your phone after they have walked away. A note about where you met them, some identifying descriptor words and, of course, their name!
3. Be approachable
This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who walk into networking events with really thoughtless body language. Smile, uncross your arms, be the first to say hello to someone, mingle with more than just the same two people and, for the love of dance, get your face out of your phone!
4. Be a fun person to be around
This goes along with being approachable. Be intentional about the energy you're bringing to the room. The people you meet are not going to remember every word you have said. They are going to remember your vibe. Relax and focus on making real connections with others, rather than talking all business all the time.
5. Have a trusty old business card on hand
Some people will try to tell you that the business card is going out of style, but I'm here to say that without fail, I am always happy to have a few business cards in my wallet when I'm out in the world. They come in handy during those most random moments of chatting with a stranger at the bar who happens to know the videographer you've been dreaming of working with and they could help you get a really great deal for your new screen dance project you've been planning for months... remember how small our world is?
When you make those unique connections, you want to be ready!
Want to save some printing costs, or just feeling "too cool" for the old school business card? Create a QR code directed to your contact info that you can quickly pull up on your phone for a new contact to scan before you part ways. Having an easy to share Instagram or Facebook handle is another quick way to get your info to someone. Don't rely on them remembering your name or how they can reach you, make sure they have your info in some type of physical form.
Lastly, if you want to become great at networking, you have to actually network! Put yourself in more situations where you have the opportunity to network with others. Go to conferences or conventions, attend the local arts council happy hour events, go to as many performances as you can.
Putting yourself out there is the only way to start building important and valuable relationships that can truly move the needle forward in your dance career.