Do you shudder at the thought of networking in a crowd of nearly 100,000 people. If so, take a deep breath. I’ve got some tips that should help you meet some new people and have some great conversations at NAB.
You see, I’m a textbook introvert. When I attend events like NAB, I have to make a very conscious effort to get out and speak with new people. I make the effort because it’s worth it for my business and for my personal development.
The root of these techniques is embracing who I am. Instead of trying to speak with everyone at the event, I pace myself, focus on why I’m there, and take time for myself. I also channel my strengths. Introverts tend to be great listeners, quite empathetic, and good at deep one-on-one conversations. Believe it or not, these attributes can really help with networking.
1. Set Some Clear Goals
It’s easy to rush into an even like NAB and get lost. There is a sea of energy, and suddenly you find yourself feeling like you have to see and do everything. You don’t.
It’s much easier to stay anchored if you set some goals before jumping on the plane. What do you want to get out of NAB? What will make the event a success for you? Is there any way that you can quantify these goals to keep yourself honest about whether you’ve met them?
It doesn’t really matter if your goal is to meet 20 new people, learn about areas you are weakest in, or develop your own perspective about the future of 4K. What matters is that the goals give you a way to focus your energy on the things that matter to you. With a clear list of goals you can prioritize where you want to engage, and where you want to sit back.
Breath easy. You don’t have to speak with everyone at the event and you don’t have to go to every event in town.
2. Arrange Some Meetings Before You Leave
Take a look at your goals, and begin setting up some meetings before you leave. Reach out to your contacts, potential business partners, and vendors you want to meet beforehand. Setting up meetings like this will save you time and energy at the event. It will also help you take steps towards meeting your goals without even leaving the office.
This also goes for your personal network. Reach out to people you have met on Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever other online groups and communities you are a part of. If there are people in these communities that you follow, but haven’t spoken with directly, reach out to them too. Events like this are a great way to deepen some of your virtual relationships.
The benefit of reaching out to people you know is that you’ve broken the ice already. You can easily pickup on existing conversation threads. If you schedule some of these friendly meetings early on, you can develop a bit of momentum at the show. This will build your confidence, and will make things less nerve wracking when you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know.
3. Channel your Passions
You are at an event with tens of thousands of people that share the same interests as you. When you start talking about the latest in cameras or NLEs, you aren’t going to be met with the blank stares that you sometimes get when you speak with people outside of the industry.
Small talk is a lot easier when you know that the person beside you is probably interested in the same thing. For introverts, it’s often easier to speak about things you know well. In this case, you are an expert, speaking with other experts. This is a recipe for long and meaningful conversations.
Since you are probably passionate about the industry, doing a little homework probably isn’t going to be a problem. Go back to some of the big picture things you are thinking about. Think through your perspective on these topics, and think through some questions you can ask others about these topics.
Remember, small talk is easier when you have shared interests.
4. Register for Post Production World or Go To Some of the Conference Sessions
If you have the budget, I think it’s a great investment to attend Post Production World or some of the different conference sessions. You have easy access to some of the best educators in the world in one place, and a wide selection of cutting edge topics.
This event is the perfect opportunity to invest in yourself and build your skills. Besides the knowledge gained, training sessions give you time away from the bustle of the exhibition floor so that you can recharge and process what you’ve seen and heard.
Classes are also a great way to meet new people. You are pretty much guaranteed that the people sitting beside you have at least one common interest. The shared experience of the classes tends to produce friendships that extend beyond the event. People you meet at the conference will likely introduce you to some other people they know, and suddenly you’ll find yourself with a network that’s growing organically.
Attending classes and conference sessions will also give you a bunch of great conversation starters that you can use with other people you run into at NAB.
5. Check Out Some More Intimate Events
On my second trip to NAB I went to the Media Motion Ball and met a bunch of great people. The sit down dinner and relaxed pace of the evening was conducive to having deep discussions with people at the table. I’ve kept in touch with a number of people that I met that night.
You might also want to check out some other community oriented events like the #PostChat meetup, Supermeet, or even the Going Postal Mini-Golf Meetup. There is a good list of these events on the Media Motion Ball website.
I find it easier to connect with new people in these small group settings, as they seem very conducive to one-on-one conversations.
6. Get Out of the Convention Center
Introverts often need some time to recharge. This is hard to do if you spend all of your time at the convention center or on the strip.
The great news is that Vegas is about much more than gambling. There is great hiking and mountain biking outside of the city, there are tons of shows, any number of amazing restaurants, spas, you name it. So take some time to do whatever it is that recharges you.
A little bit of personal indulgence is a great reward for meeting some of your goals at the event. In my case, I’m going to head up to Red Rock Canyon to do some hiking before and after the event.
7. Get a Place Off the Strip
In past years I’ve chosen all-suite hotels that are off the strip. I find that it’s nice to have a little space to myself, not to mention a coffee maker and some basic cooking facilities. Vegas hotels tends to assault the senses, so I find it easier to be in a place where I don’t have to walk through a ton of smoke and slot machines just to get to my tiny room.
The only note of caution here is that transportation becomes more of an issue if you are at a place that isn’t serviced by the NAB shuttle busses or isn’t close to one of the monorail stations.
8. Put Down Your Phone.
Technology can be great for connecting, but it can also be a convenient way of avoiding people. Let’s face it, you probably spend enough time behind a camera lens or a computer screen as it is.
When the smartphone is out you look busy and unapproachable. People don’t walk up and start talking to the person that is staring down at their smartphone.
You aren’t in an elevator, so you really don’t need to pretend you are busy to avoid speaking with the person beside you.
9. Walk Up and Talk To a Stranger
You knew this one was coming. There isn’t much more to say about this other than it usually ends up being a surprising confidence booster. It gets easier every time you do it, and it’s very rare for someone to completely reject you. Use some of the conversation starters you’ve prepared and try to ask open-ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no.
One simple icebreaker that works at an event like this is to ask people about the most interesting thing they have seen. It may sound cheesy, but people are energized by the event and are looking to share what they have learned with others.
10. Focus On Making Meaning, Not Networking
Networking has all sorts of bad connotations. You think more of politicians or salespeople glad-handing rather than trying to have meaningful conversations.
An event like NAB is what you make of it. If I go in with the attitude that I’m there to have good conversations, share my knowledge of the industry, and help people out, then I tend to have meaningful interactions that extend beyond the event. If I go expecting the worst, that’s what I get.
One thing that works well for me is offering to help others. I find that introverts have a high level of awareness of what’s going on around them. Maybe it’s the time spent recharging and processing, or maybe it’s the time spent listening to others. Regardless, I find that I can use this to connect people with other contacts, companies, ideas, articles, etc.
Come See Us at NAB, We Are Happy to Talk
Want an easy conversation? Drop by the ScreenLight booth in the StartUp loft (Central Hall, booth C2453T). If you want to pre-arrange things, send a message to @screenlight on Twitter.
Chris Potter is the co-founder of ScreenLight, a web-based video review and approval platform that provides a simple, private and centralized way to share and get time-coded feedback on media during video production and post. Follow him on Twitter @screenlight or check out his blog http://www.screenlight.tv/blog.