After over two decades running Britain’s largest independent film festival, I have certainly seen my share of networking faux pas.

By faux pas, I mean a violation of accepted social norms. The term comes originally from French, and literally means “false step”, and in France can refer to someone literally losing their balance.

I have put together my own list of the most glaringly obvious faux pas.

Boozin' N' Schmoozin

Faux Pas 1 – You snooze, you lose

There is little point in building up a cluster of new contacts if you don’t respond quickly and adequately to a followup meeting or email.

Getting a new contact is hard work in itself, but you need to immediately start a relationship. Following them on Twitter and favouriting their Facebook page are two of the basics.

We commit this faux pas at Raindance. A few weeks ago we had an email about film training in New York from a new contact who found us as a result of an ad we had on an affiliate website. The email was short and to the point: “What training courses do you have in New York?” The email went unnoticed in my inbox for over a week before I responded. Unsurprisingly, the individual had by then plunked down for one of our competitors training programs.

Lesson learned. Respond immediately to any message from a new contact. For if you snooze, you will lose. Meeting someone on a Monday, but not responding in a timely manner sends the signal out that you aren’t really very interested.

Open House Faux Pas 2 – Not understanding what networking is

I was at a social function for distributors and sales agents at the Cannes Fim Festival this year where I met two established Belgian producers who asked what I did. I told them I specialised in connecting people using networking and referrals. One of the Belgians told me “Networking? I’ve been doing that at Cannes for a long time.”

I was curious so I asked the producers how they did it. The Belgian said that when they enter a room like the one we were in – they draw a line down the middle – one goes to the left, and another to the right. They meet up after an hour and see who has the most business cards. The loser buys the other a drink.

I asked what they do with all the business cards – and they told me they get back home, enter the details on their databases and start sending out their new projects to all the distributors and sales agents they had met. “They are all really interested in our projects, right?” the Belgian asked.

Wrong.

Sending an email to someone you briefly schmoozed at a drinks party is about as effective as a robot cold-call on the telephone.

Networking drinks is a great and fun way to meet new people, but you need to establish a relationship first before you start ramming your projects down others’ throats.

Faux Pas 3 – Not delivering the promise

Many times I have seen my networking partners slip up on this one.

Typically at Cannes, you will be invitied to a social on the beach or on top of one of the hotels. You might even be duped into thinking it is a private party of some description. When you arrive you are confronted by a politician or other dignitary standing in front of a flipchart, megaphone in hand doing the frantic sales talk trying to drum up business. I generally squirm like mad at these, and if I am near the door try to leave.

You can never mislead your partners or your network. For that matter you can’t mislead anyone. It destroys trust – the one essential building block of any relationship

Closing Credits

These faux pas are essentially about developing good interpersonal communication skills. Treat all your contacts, both new and old, with professionalism.

Respond to new contacts quickly. Treat your new clients as you would an established client or collaborator.

Be very upfront and tell everyone what it is you need, and what you expect in return. Use networking opportunities as a place to start to build meaningful relattionships, and which builds your credibility.

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over hundreds of short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

He has produced over 700 shorts and 6 features including the new action film AMBER.

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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