Becoming a pro-networker
I can’t believe it’s already been a week since the AMA Conference. What have I been doing in the post conference glow since I’ve returned to the office?
Well I think the key thing I am being is practical. Although I relished the mental stimulation of the conference, what I really found useful this year was taking away tangible elements such as contacts.
I found this year’s venue really conducive to good networking. There was a lovely through flow of people and as usual all the arts marketers were chatty and approachable. This year however, did see me make a conscious shift in my networking approach. It was brilliant to catch up with old friends, colleagues, AMA reps and retreat alumni, as well as making new friends; however I also had my strategic head on.
In seminars and during the keynotes I was jotting down people I should speak to, and then after the sessions and in the breaks I made a bee line for them. Now anyone who knows me also knows I’m pretty chatty. I have never been entirely comfortable however in approaching people uninvited in a professional context. This is particularly true of keynote speakers as it makes me feel like some kind of groupie.
Maybe it was the fact that I am new in my current post, maybe it’s because I just had new business cards printed, but this year I decided to suck it up and the results were worth it. I collected lots of business cards, met important contacts for me in Scotland and sparked face to face relationships. It’s so much easier to pick up the phone or send an email if you can say, ‘do you remember that chat we were having in Brighton….’
Although my pro networking skills were slightly undermined by me leaving half my business cards behind (thanks to the AMA team for posting those on) I was determined to maintain momentum back in the office. As such, last week I sent out what felt like a squillion emails to people I had met, to contacts from business cards I’d collected, or even those who eluded my strategic advances and I had to google (I really hope this doesn’t sound too creepy!).
Already, some of this contact has proved fruitful. I set up some meetings, I’ve been invited to present at an upcoming event, and I have a new festival contact in France. I didn’t expect all these emails and contacts to be so rewarding, but I put the effort in and I achieved results, and really tangible things that support my organisation going forward.
I continue to witness how important networks are and how worthwhile it is to invest in developing them. They can provide opportunities as well as support. I will certainly be emailing some AMA contacts for advice in the coming weeks as I plan our current marketing campaign. That kind of professional support is invaluable.
I would really recommend anyone attending next year’s conference to suck it up when it comes to networking and be a bit strategic. Arts Marketers are genuinely a friendly and approachable bunch, and you never know what opportunities, support and even friendship might come from it.
Photo: Brighton Museum, by Rebecca Davis