The Art of Networking
Networking in business and in dance are two very different things… however the principals and the benefits of each of these things are very very similar. Both can be terrifying… both can be completely out of your comfort zone…. However both can open the doors to new opportunities if you just take that leap of faith.
I used to hate networking! The thought of it used to turn my stomach inside out and I would do anything to get out of it. That was 10 years ago, now I can’t get enough!
Before, I used to see networking as this sales environment, get in, pitch, see what you can get and then move on to the next person. Now, I look at it as an opportunity to share our vision, our values, to get people talking and to make new friends. Gone are the days where your opening line is “so, what do you do?” or jumping straight in with a pitch! Both in business and dance, there are lots of opportunity to network, take these top tips and get out there:
Don’t be everywhere: I know right, this is totally unheard of. Look at the sessions that have meaningful value, what can you offer but what can you receive in return? Do you run a dance school where your focus is inclusivity in dance? Then don’t rock up to a hospitality network event!
Location: As a follow on from the first point, check out the location and attendees. If you are a service provider and concentrating on one place then why travel 50 miles to another location? As well as the ever rising fuel costs, you also have your time to consider. If your business serves people from various locations, definitely see if there is an online networking event, this way you can still get involved but with no commute.
Start with a quirky question: In some places you may only have a short period of time and in other settings, you may be there for a while. You want to create a positive and lasting impression so why go in with the same old, “so, what do you?” No thank you! Why not see if they have the same values or share the same interests? One of my go to lines has to be, “What’s your passion?” From this one line, they will come to life sharing their passion with you and you can gauge if this is someone that you may want to work with in the future.
Don’t get argumentative: Believe it or not, I have been to some networking events, where people have become hostile or aggressive because they don’t agree with your statements or are a potential competitor. Yes, people might remember you but will they want to work with you? There is a much more positive way to get your views and opinions across.
Leaving your details: Show me someone who doesn’t have their phone glued to their side during a networking event? Why leave a card that they will probably lose or put in the pile of “other cards” when they can see you all the time. When the inevitable line of, “how can I get in touch” comes up in the conversation, ask if they have their phone, check out what social media platform they use, get them to follow you! Not only do they then have your contact information but they will always see and hear from you. If they aren’t quite in the position to work with you just now, you will be there for them when they are.
Networking as a Dancer:
Networking from a dancer's perspective, although executed in a different way, can also offer many benefits to your dance journey and possible career. Throughout my dance career I have found that attending workshops and being present online has brought me more opportunities as well as developed my knowledge as a dancer. Here are some hints and tips:
Go to workshops: For me this is one of the most important forms of networking for dancers. For those looking to work in the dance industry in the future, workshops allow you to broaden your knowledge and understanding of dance. Regularly, workshops I attended have been through recommendations from other dancers and professionals. I recently started doing plyometrics after attending a workshop through a recommendation. I have seen a big difference in my control and power when dancing, which is something I would not have achieved had I not networked!
Don’t go just anywhere: As Miss C mentioned above, don't be anywhere and everywhere. Research workshops and classes that are in your area, which are most likely to improve the style of dance you do and are taught by instructors that will provide you with new knowledge.
Good old pen & paper: When in classes always take a notebook so that you can write down all the instructors' hints and tips. Not only does this make you look keen and hard working, it allows you to be just that when you leave the class. I have collated various exercises throughout the years for turnout, foot strengthening and technique that have all come from workshops and classes. Again…. Information I would not have known or remembered had I not attended and wrote it down!
Be present online: Workshops aren’t the only way to be seen. I have been offered many dancing jobs and been invited to lecture on my style of dance through having an online presence. Social media has allowed many dancers to interact with one another and for dancers to showcase their talents to the world without physically attending a class or event. This is also a great way for your dancer to have an online resumé that can date back years. Just remember to keep it professional and be kind ALWAYS!