10 Tips for Effective Networking

By Carolyn Edlund

There are a lot of aspects to consider when building your art business. One of them is networking in person.

As a student or emerging artist, you will have the opportunity to attend networking events where there are people in the business that you will want to know. It’s no secret that networking can be intimidating if you’re inexperienced, or even a professional. It needn’t be. Luckily, you can learn how to network effectively.  Here are some concrete steps to be prepared, make the most of your time, and feel great about the event after you leave.

  1. Take plenty of business cards. For artists, a card showing a photo of your work is perfect. That may be on one side, with your name, address, website, phone and email on the back. You might want a glossy finish on the image side of the card, but the back should be matte, so that others can write notes on it when they take your card. Make sure you have a pen so you can do the same.
  2. Be on time. Often, there are presentations or meals served at events, and you want to make the most of your time to shake hands and meet other people. The best networking often takes place right when the function starts.
  3. Go with the right attitude. The secret of successful personal networking is this: if you attend with the intention to give to and help others with their business, you will also receive help. A terrific book on this subject is The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann, which is a must-read for anyone launching into business (and for pros, too). Give it as a gift for a new grad, or to yourself as you plan to reinvigorate your business.
  4. Have your “elevator speech” ready. Imagine you were in an elevator with just the person you want to meet. How could you tell them succinctly, in that short ride, who you are and what you do? Write down, practice and memorize a few sentences that tell about yourself and be able to express that clearly.
  5. Know what you are looking for. Be able to tell others who you are looking to meet. “Anyone who would like to buy my work” doesn’t really mean anything. A better approach would be: “My name is John Smith, and I create metal sculpture with nautical themes. A good contact for me would be a gallery in a coastal resort area or on a waterfront.”
  6. Shake hands. Smile and make eye contact. Show that you are genuinely interested in meeting everyone there. This may be out of your comfort zone, but it gets easier over time
  7. It’s not about you. People look to connect with others while networking, but no one wants to see an infomercial. Ask others about themselves and their business, and show true interest. Offer to assist them with any contacts you may know. Does it look like they have nothing to offer you? Ask them “How did you get into this business?” Perhaps they had a previous job which would offer contacts that are meaningful to you. Get business cards from everyone you meet. Jot notes about them because you will be following up later.
  8. Follow up Later. Email, call or send a note to make a future appointment to see people who are good contacts.  Harvey Mackay is a master networker who has written many books on the subject, and a great one to start with is Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need. He has a proven system of follow-up that is amazing and gets huge results, all of which you can learn to use.
  9. Keep attending. Becoming part of a community takes time. You need to meet people again and again so that they come to know you, and understand that you are serious about your business and that you have been helpful to them, that you are a giver. Givers are the ones who also receive help from others!
  10. People want you to succeed. Ever stand up before an audience and introduce yourself? It can be flustering, but understand that your audience wants you to get through it, and they support you. Relax and enjoy yourself.

 

Another notable and classic text on the subject of making connections is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. This system is so successful that a whole school of training has been built around it. Inform yourself by doing some reading on the networking process to make the most of your experience.

Comments

  1. Hi Carolyn – thanks for that sweet mention of our little book! What a wonderful web site you have – a great source of inspiration and superb information for aspiring artists! As one who started out in life as a struggling cellist and composer, I really appreciate how valuable your work here is! — John

  2. Thanks, John. I am happy to recommend your book. I appreciate your compliment too – and have noticed that everyone I speak to involved with the arts knows well the struggles of starting out and has a place in their heart for those who follow. This community is a giving and encouraging one which reaffirms my trust in people and inspires me as well!

  3. WOW – thank you for your very kind mention of John David Mann’s and my book.

    And, great article. You are certainly adding a LOT of value to those who are pursuing a career they love, and perhaps need to know that to the degree they can add value to the lives of others through their work, that is the degree to which they can be financially rewarded, as well.

    Thank you so much again!!

    Bob

  4. My pleasure, Bob. I know from personal experience that the message of your book is totally true, and worthwhile to everyone.

  5. Great article and reminder for everyone, no matter what business you’re in.

    Remember plenty of business cards: This is so important! So often people run out or forget them. It defeats the purpose….

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