Time and time again I’ve been told that networking in the arts is integral to success, especially here in Washington. The question is, how do you do it? What networks are available to us as emerging arts managers?
First, let’s take a look at the overall picture, which I call the “art of networking.” Then we can move on to the variety of networks that are actually available to us in D.C.
Networking can yield valuable information even though the process may be uncomfortable. Meeting new people in a new environment while you are simultaneously under pressure to give the best possible impression of yourself can be stressful, yet I have picked up valuable nuggets of information from my wonderful colleagues and by attending a networking lecture given by American University Arts Management professors Andrew Taylor and Sherburne Laughlin.
- Always say yes to a networking event! There is no such thing as meeting too many people.
- Know your elevator speech. You have 30 seconds with a captive audience — know in advance what you are going to say. Include your name, your primary interest, the organization or school with which you are associated, and a career goal or aspiration. You want to give the person as much pertinent information about yourself as possible in an incredibly short amount of time.
- If you are attending an event, know in advance whom you want to meet, if possible. Find out who will be at the event (perhaps though a RSVP list), do some research, and learn what you can about this person or these people. It’s not a bad idea to have a question or two, which you have prepared in advance.
- Have business cards at the ready! You don’t have any? Then make some — for $20, you can get 100 cards from vistaprint. Keep the cards strategically placed in your suit or pants pockets, so that they are easily accessible. Not only that, but make sure to take cards from whomever you meet. After the conversation, take a few seconds to write a few facts about the person on the back of the business card. Follow up promptly with an email and include information you believe would be of specific interest to this person. Following up with a personalized “nice to meet you” note is a nice touch.
- Know how to enter and exit a conversation. It’s not all that difficult if you have some strategies. A good way to enter conversations it to be prepared with general questions such as “What brought you here?” Stay inquisitive and keep your focus on the other person. Learn as much as you can. There are a few tips for leaving a conversation, such as:
- Have a glass that “needs refilling.” And, when you refill that glass, only fill it halfway.
- You can use polite lines such as “If you would excuse me, there is someone I have to catch before I go” or “Thank you, and I don’t want to take any more of your time.”
- In a crowded room, strategically place yourself near the food or the exits. These heavily trafficked areas are great places to meet people.
- Talk to people standing alone instead of gravitating toward people you already know. You’re not there to have a good time (although you never know how fun meeting new people may actually be), you’re there to meet people. Not only are you expanding your network but you are helping someone out who doesn’t want to be alone. You never know who might be an extremely valuable contact.
Another great way to meet people field is to set up informational interviews. These interviews typically last about 20 minutes and allow you to get information on the person and about the field. It’s easiest to try and find someone who already knows your prospective interviewee and have them facilitate an introduction. Make sure to promptly thank your interviewee after the interview (usually by email or mail). Never overestimate the power of a thank you.
Now for the fun part: What networks are available to us? Thanks to Heather Koslov, an esteemed EALS alum, and others, I have a list of networks available to us in DC. This list is by no means exhaustive and I welcome additions.
For DC Arts Management Professionals:
Young Pros nights – a number of arts organizations (such as Shakespeare Theatre Company and the Washington National Opera have discount programs or evenings for young professionals. They’re a great way to experience the art while meeting people of similar ages and interests.
Staying Connected: These publications will keep you “in the know” about local arts happening and national arts news
So go out there and get networking! Just think of all the people you have yet to meet.
Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium Committee