Networking For The Introvert (and The Ambivert): How to “Put Yourself Out There”
August 25, 2016
Networking is a must. You have to “put yourself out there” to further your screenwriting career, but it’s not always that easy. Cue cold sweats.Extroverts can easily strike up conversation with strangers while introverts require more thought before action. We’ve all heard that you’re either an extrovert or an introvert: outgoing or shy. But not all of us fall into one or the other category. Some of us fall in the gray area known as ambivert: neither strongly introverted, nor strongly extroverted.
Both introverts and ambiverts have trouble looking at networking as simply “putting yourself out there.” You’d feel like you’d been fed to the sharks - fingers crossed you don’t have an open wound! Instead, you need to decide how to put yourself out there.
Most networking opportunities present themselves in one of three ways: the industry mixer, the writer mixer (specific field mixer), and the one-on-one meeting. Each varies in size, but how you approach them is the same.
What is your goal? Who do you want to meet? Who can potentially help you get to where you want to be? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding if the event is worth attending.
Industry mixers are typically large events where attendees range from writers to editors to development staff to representation to, you name it. These can be the most daunting, but if you want to meet contacts that could read your script, then you should consider going. Dab those cold sweats.
Remember, there might be a lot of people there, but you will not be talking to all of them at once. More likely, you’ll strike up conversation with one to three people at a time. Way more manageable.
Find a friend to attend the event with you. You might be shy when meeting a stranger alone, but not with a friend in tow. If you can’t find a friend to join you, then you can find a wing person at the event and make a new contact in the process.
To find a wing person at an event, scan the room for anyone else who might be alone. Chances are you will spot someone who would probably like your wing person abilities as well. Say hello.
If you spot someone who may be able to help your career, walk over to them and try to slowly join their conversation circle. Someone in the circle will make eye contact and greet you. If not, wait for an opportunity to politely add to the conversation. Once you’ve spoken, then you can introduce yourself and your friend or wing person. Now you have joined the circle.
The writer mixer is generally a medium sized event where everyone attending is a writer and working on how to be paid as such. You need to answer the same questions for yourself. If you want more feedback on your script or to meet someone who works on a television show you want to work on, then you should consider attending. The good news is you can navigate these events using similar practices to the larger mixer except now, since everyone is a writer like yourself, you will have a ton of things to talk about.
One-on-one meetings are typically drinks, coffee, or meeting up for a meal. These usually follow either meeting someone briefly at a mixer or having worked with them over the phone or via email. These can feel like blind dates, but remember the reason you’d like to get to know this person better and that will help steer the discussion. They confirmed the meeting so they want to get to know you too.
When asking for something you want, you just need to ask. Don’t lead off with it, but politely work it in after you’ve gotten to know each other. Once you say you’re a writer, they will probably ask you what you’re writing. You might be shy sometimes, but you can hold a conversation. Quite well actually.
When your exchange seems to be coming to a close, make sure you get that person’s contact information whether it’s a physical business card, you put their information in your cell phone, or you Facebook each other right then and there.
After the event or meeting, the follow up can be nerve wracking as well. Luckily, email can make things a little easier. You're a writer so you can write a great follow up email to the new contact you made. Here is where you can mention your script that you two had talked about to remind them of who you are. The interaction can progress from there.
As an introvert or ambivert, you shouldn’t just throw yourself into networking. Think about how you want to network first. In a reasonable amount of time, of course. The rest will flow from there.
Written by: Jen TroyJen Troy is a writer living in Los Angeles. She worked in feature film development and later was an Associate Producer on the indie comic strip documentary Stripped (2014). She has most recently worked with the writers and executive producers for VH1’s Hit The Floor and Lifetime’s Devious Maids.