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

Day 6: Networking Part II: The Nitty-Gritty

You’re primed and ready to make your assault on the first room of the day – networking over breakfast with people you don’t know, or walking into a room full of strange faces (in the unknown sense, not as in all the LSWF delegates are alien-freaks). How do you do this thing?

  1. The Pitch – just like pitching your work, you need to have a snappy, concise and clear pitch of who you are. What do you do (writer/director/producer/multi-hyphenate), where do you do it (Wales/Scotland/London/Plymouth/Newcastle, home/production company/office/after the day job) and what stage are you at in your career/with your current project(s)?
  2. The Return – allow the other person to pitch themselves back at you. Even better, prompt them into their own pitch with a good opening question. Try to avoid “Who are you?” unless you’ve spent 5 minutes with them without finding out their name. Try something like “Do you write, too?” or a question about the Festival.
  3. Your Script – if you’re networking as a writer with producers know your story inside-out. Not only do you need to be able to sum it up nice and quickly in an oral pitch, you also increasingly need to show producers and collaborators that you’ve thought – seriously – about who the audience is and how it will reach them. And don’t say, “It’s for everyone”. NOTHING IS FOR EVERYONE. And neither is your script for “18-35 year-old males” – get precise.
  4. The Back-and-Forth – once you both know where you’re coming from, it’s time to dig deeper to find how you may be able to help each other. To put it in disgusting American networking terminology, be a “giver” not a “taker” – that is to say, always be focusing on what you can do for them and not the other way around. That’s where Karma kicks in.
  5. The Denouement – Once you’ve communicated all you can, clearly, concisely and with a little humour if you dare, it’s time to move on. Swap cards (you should have already, but just double check), tell them you’d like to chat further, but you’re trying to take advantage of this opportunity to move around the room and make as many contacts as possible. If you intend to, tell them you’ll be in touch after the festival (more on this in tomorrow’s blog: After The Fest).
  6. The Advance – look up, look around and pick your next target for your mini-charm (not smarm) offensive. Or, if you’re in a workshop, take your seat quietly and politely for the start of the session.

Networking, to the uninitiated, is a scary prospect. To the experienced networker, it’s still a fairly daunting prospect. The one HUGE advantage you have just by being a delegate of the LSWF is that you can guarantee that 90% of the people at the event want to meet you. Perhaps not because they have heard of you, or because they know your work, but simply because the whole event is geared around making people better writers and connecting people who may work together in the future.

Every time you walk into a room – be it a specific networking event, a workshop, seminar or even the canteen at lunchtime – pick a face you don’t recognise and just go and introduce yourself. If nothing else, you’ll notice how much easier this gets as the weekend progresses. Better than that, once you’ve done it the first time and realised people are genuinely happy to meet other people and make contacts and that they don’t look at you like a weird alien, you’ll get a significant confidence boost.

Networking is all about establishing relationships and who knows where that may lead? I’ve met some of my best partners and collaborators at random events just by saying “Hello” – every new workshop is a chance to forge future successes.

Tomorrow, in the 7th and final part of this Countdown Lowdown, I’ll be going over all of the tips so far and offering a quick wrap-up and a series cool-down exercises for the aftermath of the 3-day weekend.

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