The following thoughts on Networking come from Chris Yeh in Adventures in Capitalism. I thought this write up was completely relevant to art. Imagine going to a gallery opening or being in a room with collectors.
I recently went to an event where I was an outsider; the people there were potential customers, but definitely didn’t want to be sold anything. If you can build relationships under those conditions, then you do have a valuable skill.
Don’t wait until it’s make or break; as with anything you do, networking is a skill that improves with practice. Seek out challenging situations so that when the time comes where you have to go into such a situation and get results, you’ll be ready.
ON MASTERING RAPPORT
Do your homework in advance. Whenever I attend an event, I prepare a mini-dossier of key people and facts. I even include their Twitter or LinkedIn profile photo so I can identify them from across the room, rather than having to rely on badges.
The key though, is not to seem creepy. It’s not a college test where you need to show your work. My two tactics are either to ask leading questions that will surface the facts I know I want to discuss, or to play Columbo. “Hey, I’ve got a vague recollection of hearing about X. Was that you?” That sounds a lot better than, “I was looking at pictures of you last night in my hotel room.”
Cozy up to the staff. Show sincere appreciation to the stressed-out organizers, and they will generally want to help you with intros, VIP passes, and other helpful goodies. This includes the assistants and tech people, who will really appreciate the rare attendee who reaches out to them.
Participate. At any event, there are opportunities to participate, such as volunteering to come up on stage, or asking questions during Q&A. My secret is to always be ready to go. No one ever wants to be the first volunteer or ask the first question, leaving you a massive opening to exploit. You have to be good, of course, but you can help yourself out by thinking of questions throughout the presentation then loading your best one on the tip of your tongue.
Don’t get too greedy though; people who hog the airtime look like assholes. That’s why volunteering when no one else dares is so effective–people are grateful you fell on the grenade for them.
To find out more about Chris, go to his blog Adventures in Capitalism
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