Over the last 7 days leading up to the London Screenwriters’ Festival at Regents College, I’ll be preparing a special (text-only, sadly) Lowdown looking at how you can get the most from your weekend and the biggest bang for your buck.

You can read earlier tips in the countdown: Day 1Day 2Day 3 | Day 4.

Day 5: Networking Part I: The Comfort Zone

In preparation for a full run down of how to network efficiently  and effectively at the LSWF, today’s post is more of a networking primer, a few DOs and DON’Ts for the dreaded “meeting new people” thing:

  • DO push yourself out of your comfort zone – talking to other people, new people, can be daunting and scary, but that’s exactly how you want it to be. If you’re nervous then you know you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and when you do that amazing things happen.
  • DON’T hang with the people you know – all of your Twitter buddies may be there, but try not to make a bee-line for them; they are your safety net, not your reason for being there. That’s not to say you should ignore your Twitter buddies, but don’t let them be your sole companions at the networking sessions either.
  • DO wear your happy face – head high, shoulders back, confident posture and a positive outlook will get you a long way in the crucial “first impressions” stakes. Learn to fake it if you want to make it.
  • DON’T waffle on for hours – treat each networking event like speed-dating; you want to get as much useful information across to the other person in as short a time as possible, but you also need to LISTEN to what they are saying back. Once you’ve hit all your markers, move on.
  • DO be a brazen hussy – networking is a game and you want to get around as many people as possible and make connections. If you’ve been standing talking to the same person for more than 5-10 minutes and you’re not discussing very important things, excuse yourself and move on to the next person.
  • DON’T be offended if it happens to you, too – your conversational partner has the same aim as you: getting around the room. Moving on is not a sign of rudeness (unless one doesn’t excuse oneself), but simply a sign that you’ve exchanged your key info and can have a longer discussion at a more convenient time.
  • DO pay attention to other people’s body language – if you’re scouting for openings to go and talk to someone, look at their feet. If they’re turned away from the person they’re talking to it means they’re not fully engaged and you’ve got the perfect “in” to – politely – sidle into the conversation and introduce yourself.
  • DON’T be blind to your own body language – always strive to appear engaged with what the other person is saying. They may be the biggest bore on earth, but one day they may bring you that perfect idea for a script, or offer you proper paid work – a first meeting is not a time to burn bridges.

Tomorrow’s Lowdown will cover the intricacies of networking once you’re in the room – how do you “mingle”, how should you present yourself and how to make the most of the first 30 seconds when you meet someone and you’re both forming your crucial first impressions?

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