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.
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.
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.
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
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.