“Great! Another networking event!” I’m sure you’ve never actually uttered that out loud. Networking, or “name tag events,” as I affectionately heard them referred to on a recent webinar, are like the horse pill we should all take but nobody wants to, right? I’m shamelessly in love with the power of networking. Connecting people is one of my greatest joys, and I’ll share a few ideas on how you might develop a love for hosting these events, too.
Film festivals are a great place for networking. In a lot of ways, we treat the Seattle Black Film Festival (SBFF) like a yearly community networking event. While our festival doesn't host a straight-up networking mixer, we structure the events over the three-day festival to create intentional opportunities for attendees - both filmmakers and audience members - to create impactful connections. We get pretty inspired with the way we structure the overall festival so that it achieves our goals to get people connected, and avoids the pitfalls of a “name tag event” that hosts a bunch of people shly hugging the walls of the room.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Who are you trying to connect? At SBFF, traditionally we host several events aiming to connect various audience members attending our festival. Some get-togethers are structured around getting filmmakers connected so they can crew-up for their next production. Others are to get community members and local advocacy organizations connected. The invite list is the main determining factor for how these events differ, but we’re always intentional about including some elements in the set-up that will resonate with the specific audience.
Nothing greases the rails for networking like shared experience. Provide attendees with something they have in common and it’s a sure way to get the conversation started. At our festival, it’s the films, panel discussions and events we attend that create conversation material to build on. Having ample festival program information available (QR codes or printed programs) creates simple but endless conversation starters, as simple as, ‘what films are you going to see this afternoon?’
Sure, you can just call it a networking event, but once you know why you want to bring people together, focus on making it meaningful for people, where they can really take something away. It’s not important to set lofty goals that an attendee will score their next gig at your event, but tasking yourself to create a memorable experience will at least give folks something to talk about next time they meet.