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Ah, networking. For some of us (lookin’ at you, extroverts), this may come naturally. For others, networking can be tricky or a little anxiety-inducing without some guidance.
So, what is networking, exactly? It’s the process of building relationships and finding support amongst your peers, colleagues, or other important professional figures within your industry. During networking, you and others can bond over your mutual interests and passions (i.e., theatre, of course!), with the end goal of making professional connections to help you in your career.
There are a variety of benefits that come along with networking. These include:
To put it simply, you should be engaged in a variety of networking opportunities if you want to grow your theatre – whether the goal is to gain sponsorships, sell more tickets, or update your technology.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you may be wondering how to get started on your networking journey. On The Stage can help with a few tips and tricks.
Networking events require a bit of preparation if you want to make a good impression. Remember – these events are meant to be professional but not as formal as a job interview or board meeting. Practice makes perfect – then you can loosen up and have fun!
Prepare your ‘elevator pitch’ ready, and rehearse it enough to feel natural. To create a general pitch, first think about what you want others to know about you and your theatre, as well as what sort of results you want to see as you walk away from the event. Keep it succinct yet informative and exciting, and remember that it’s OK to deviate from your script should your connections throw you a curveball.
Alongside your elevator pitch, make sure to have a few icebreaker questions or topics in your arsenal to smooth the transition and make you feel more confident.
Making professional connections at an event will be essentially useless if you don’t get contact information before you leave.
Make sure to have business cards – or a paperless way to pass on contact info – at the ready for non-clunky info transfers. Also, ensure you get contact information from the people you most want to connect with and double-check numbers and emails before you go. A bounced email or wrong number can derail a great theatre networking connection!
If you’re hoping to connect with powerful players in the theatre industry but can’t seem to catch them for a face-to-face meet-up, social media is an excellent place to turn.
Connect through a LinkedIn profile or other social media platform – especially one you feel proudest of or has the most engaging content about your theatre. Stay in touch and keep up with the contact’s professional development from afar.
Over time, having a network of influential followers can lend itself to higher engagement alongside sponsored posts and even social media shoutouts and partnerships.
Alongside attending networking events in your area, why not take the power into your own hands and host your own?
Whether you want to host it at your actual theatre or plan a more informal happy hour event at your local watering hole, it’s an excellent way to establish yourself as a leader in your industry – and it gives you an opportunity to invite and speak to the people you most want to get to know.
At the events, remember to hand out business cards and any informational material you want connections to know about you and your theatre.
We’re all busy – and sometimes that means we miss out on reaching out to people. To rectify the issue, make it a goal after your networking events to contact your new connections within a 24-hour time frame.
Send them a courteous email thanking them for their time, and make sure to extend an invitation to meet again or another offering to keep you on their radar. Try to mention a specific anecdote or detail about yourself to spark a memory since they likely spoke to many people, too. Don’t ask for a favor or any assistance in your first correspondence – you don’t want to seem calculated.
Remember that networking and creating professional connections in general, requires give and take and is, indeed, a two-way street. It’s important that alongside gaining knowledge, capital, and insight from your connections, you are also equally valuable to them.
In short, whatever you have to bring to the table – whether that’s extra costumes, the information of contacts they want to meet, or a set prop, they’re looking for – use it generously and let your connections know you care about their success. Building relationships is about give and take, and sometimes it’s important to give first.
At networking events and in your internet interactions, your goal shouldn’t be to talk to and make connections with every single person you come across. Instead, take your time, have in-depth conversations with a few specific people, and perfect your circle.
Building long-lasting professional relationships takes time. When you establish a rapport and develop a strong connection with a peer, you’re more likely to continue that relationship long-term – and that’s what matters!
If you’re looking to join a vast network of theatre makers nationwide, much of the networking is done for you just by teaming up with On The Stage.
OTS is already connected with a vast community of theatre lovers – from educators to community theatres and professional non-equity members. By partnering with OTS, this vast network is yours too… leading to stronger connections, more resources, and an elevated theatre experience for all.
Ready to get started? Chat with our team today to see how our tools can take your theatre to new heights!