Knitting a network

It’s that time of year again: conferences, workshops, and events galore.

And you really need to work on your network. For those of you who are naturally charming and extroverted, skip this post and get back to writing. Have a cookie with your writing – you deserve it. 🙂

But what if you’re like me? I am definitely not an extrovert. I’ve learned how to fake it till I make it – a friend once said I “play an extrovert on TV.”

It’s still not easy. So I practice.

My rules for networking are few and simple:

  1. Set a goal. Why are you going to this particular event? To make contacts? To make friends? To renew contacts or thank people who’ve given you a hand? It’s all good.
  2. Make a plan. It’s good to have some idea of who you might meet or see at the event. Even better to make a brief (mental) list of people you really want or need to touch base with. Check your file of business cards. And that brings us to…
  3. Make notes. When someone gives you a business card, take a moment later to make a note about when/where you met them. It helps later on. If they don’t offer a card, ask for one! Most people are flattered. And if they don’t or won’t give you one, make a note of their name & circumstances in your notes for the event.
  4. Be prepared. Many folks advise practicing an introduction in front of a mirror or thinking up topics of conversation. If that helps you, go for it. I’ve gotten pretty good at talking to folks -hey, Stacey, stop laughing! – and I prepare another way. I do work on my “what I’m working on” chat, but I also make sure I feel confident. For me, that means making sure I have the right outfit, plenty of sleep, and a good haircut. And don’t forget YOUR business cards. Make sure they’re current and you have plenty on hand.
  5. Follow up. Send a thank you note to anyone who’s helped you out. Invite that new contact/friend to coffee or lunch. If you’ve promised a query or a critique, send it out.

That’s it. Short and simple. The most important thing? Try to remember that everyone there is doing the same thing you’re doing. Sure, the writer next to you may already be agented. But I bet she’s looking to meet editors who might be a good fit. That well-known agent? He’s looking for clients. And if you run into someone you know you’ve met but can’t remember their name? Just ask, giving yours as well.

Everyone likes to enjoy a good conversation. The writing and publishing world tends to be introverted as a rule – we spend a LOT of time by ourselves at our desks. Events are a chance to talk shop with interesting people who love what we love.

Really shy? Terribly anxious? Take a buddy or meet up at the event. Just promise each other you won’t spend the entire time together.

So get out there and have fun!

Oh, you want to know where to find these events? Well, a good place to start is with your local chapter of SCBWI

 

 

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