I attended an event called “No Pressure Networking for Emerging Theatre Professionals” this past Sunday, hosted by the Toronto Fringe. The event was led by a wonderful group of people in Toronto’s theatre industry, including Isabela Solis Lozano, a 2020 graduate of Centennial’s Arts Management program. There were so many valuable insights, I couldn’t keep them to myself! Below, I have included some key takeaways from that event.
#1 Know yourself
You may feel out of your depth, but feel safe in the fact that you have value. You are allowed to take up space, and the people you meet deserve to hear from you. It takes a lot of bravery to simply walk up to someone. Once you are there, own the time you have with them.
#2 Know your needs
Take a moment to figure out how you best process information. If you, like me, have an auditory processing disorder, asking someone to move a few feet away from another chatty group so that you can focus on what they are saying is totally okay! Do you remember information better if you write it down? Take a pen and small notebook with you, or use the Notes function on your phone. (Just let them know you are taking notes first!)
#3 Know why you are there
People genuinely want to help you get to where you need to be. They can’t help you, however, if you don’t know where you want to go. Make sure to go into each networking situation with a plan that helps you achieve your goals. For example, “I will speak to three people who inspire me” or “I will introduce myself to one person who takes me out of my comfort zone”.
#4 Lead from a place of curiosity
Most networking events publicize key guests, so research them in your personal time and ask questions that you genuinely want answers to. If you feel stuck in your conversation, don’t panic! Fall back on your research. Do you have any mutual interests? Are you excited about something specific that is coming up for their organization? If all else fails, take the lull to introduce them to someone else who may be wanting the chance to speak. Being gracious always leaves a lasting impression. Before you leave, make sure to ask for their contact information so that you can follow up.
The purpose of networking is different for everyone. Some may want to meet a specific contact on a higher rung of the career ladder. Others may want to broaden the community of people that they know in the industry. Wherever you may find yourself, networking can feel like an insurmountable task when you are just starting out. Hopefully you can tuck these tips and tricks up your sleeve for your next networking situation. Good luck!