Need Some Solid Advice About Networking?

Trying to get your writing/producing/TV/film career going? The article below is about a web start-up, but the writer’s advice applies just about everywhere:

Make Friends Not Contacts by Jimmy Jacobson

I’m from Vegas, but I found myself on a street corner in NYC early one morning with 40 other hackers and entrepreneurs. We were about to get on a bus sponsored by Twilio, Sendgrid and Microsoft to attend the Startup Festival in Montreal.  Nervous excitement crackled in the air as introductions were made, pitches and business cards were prematurely swapped and tweetable hashtags for the trip were discussed.

Jon Gottfried of Twilio gave us some great advice in his opening remarks as the bus started rolling. “The most cost effective way to market your startup is being friendly”.  You might be thinking, “Hey, I have friends. I’m a friendly person.”  But does your startup have friends?  Are there people who have no idea what you do but that talk about you and your co founders to everyone they meet?

While working on Wedgies, we’ve had the chance to make a lot of friends. And we’ve learned some important lessons about how to be a friendly startup and have seen it pay off in small and big ways.

1. Exchange Twitter Handles instead of Business Cards
The only reason to ever hand out a business card is to put it in the gold fish bowl at a Chinese buffet.  People leave these events with pockets full of cards and never remember who they belong to. With a Twitter handle you can continue engaging long after the event is over. Also, Twitter is great for making intros.

2. Make Friends with the Person Next to You
Waiting in a long line to meet a speaker or pitch a famous Angel? Turn around and start talking to the person next to you while you wait. You probably have more in common with them than you do with the person at the end of the line. And you have a better chance of finding someone cool to go to dinner with next to you than at the end of a line.

3. Don’t Pitch Your Product to People that Want to Help
We made this mistake at Startup Festival when we had an opportunity to ask Angel Investor Dan Martell some questions.

Dan: “How can I help?”
Me: “Well Wedgies is a simple….”
Dan: “No, I mean how can I help”
Porter: “We want to revolutionize….”
Dan: “Gentelmen, I want to help, what can I help you with?”

He wasn’t asking for our pitch. He didn’t want to be sold. But he has a wealth of knowledge and was willing to share it with us. All we had to do was ask him a question. And we did. And the conversation that followed blew our minds.  I’m glad he was patient with us.

4. Don’t Ditch Someone that Wants to Hang Out for Someone that Doesn’t
Spend an evening eating, drinking and conversing with new friends and you will be pleasantly surprised how you can help each other down the road.  Are you headed to dinner or drinks after a conference or event? Invite someone to go with. You can figure out the tab later.

Be Yourself
Because you aren’t anyone else. Help other people and they will find ways to help you.  Or ice you.

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Speaking of pitching: LB’s book, Television Writing from the Inside Out goes into great detail about the concept of succeeding by making genuine friends and becoming part of a creative community where everyone truly wishes everyone else well – and acts accordingly. You might want to take a little look at it. (Just sayin’.)