A lot of emerging writers get stressed about networking. They read advice about elevator pitches, the best way to foist business cards on potential contacts, all the while hyping themselves into a frenzy of hope, anxiety and despair. The London Screenwriters' Festival is this weekend and, for many, it seems like a window to their dreams.
Here's my advice, for whatever it's worth: relax.
Don't think of events like the festival as networking opportunities. Yes, if you're in a pitching session, you need to muster all your creative talent and acumen. The rest of the weekend? Give yourself time to enjoy the festival. Instead of networking yourself to a frenzy, try having conversations instead. Chat to people. Most of all, listen.
You learn more when you shut up and start listening. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, their passions - let them. You're not a used car salesman, trying to flog everyone you meet a pitch doc or a business card. You're a human, they're a human - have a conversation. Find out what's happening in their world, their corner of life.
You don't have to seal the deal this weekend. Ideally, you want to start some conversations. Meet new people. If something comes of that, great. If it doesn't, so be it. In most cases, you never know if an event's been a success or failure for you until months, even years later. Enjoy the experience while it happens, instead of stressing out.
Talent and skill are invaluable commodities for any creative professional. Great writing gets writers commission after commission. But being professional and friendly are important too. Everyone wants to work with people who make their life easier. So don't be pushy, or a knob. Relax. Enjoy others' company. Be human. Onwards!