May 8, 2018

How to spot an unprofessional networking event

Think about it.  You’ve worked hard all week, doing your job.  Or even all day.  Finally, you have some time off, to spend with your family, or be alone, or learn a new skill.  What are you going to do?  Attend a seminar about your day job?

Now, if you go to a networking event, you’ll probably want to meet people already working in the chosen industry.  You’ll at least want to meet people serious about working in the chosen industry.

Many people network at University, or on the job.  Some people, like Steve Jobs, meet their co-founders when they are washing their cars.  A lot of networking happens by accident.  When I read business biographies, film biographies, or any biographies, I haven’t come across a lot of people who said “I met my co-founder at a networking event.”

That said, I have met people who say they met their client at one, of found a lead that led to a job at a networking event.  I myself met a few people at seminars who I almost worked with.

I’ve done a search on sites like EventBrite for networking events, and found a few things that most professional events have in common, and that most aimed at amateurs lack.

professional networking events happen during working hours.

As I’ve said before, when you’re done with work, the last thing you want to do is hear people talk about your job.  Yes, even if you love your job to bits, part of relaxing is getting away from it.   You might chat about it with your co-workers in the break room,

Professional networking events are often paid for by employers

Many people at a professional networking event are there because their bosses pay them to be there.  Others pay for it out of their own pocket, because they know and respect the speakers.

Unprofessional ones are often paid for by the local council, educational institutions, and others who are not in the target industry.

Many professional networking events are free to those who attend, and are paid for by the host in order to sell their product or to encourage professionals to move to a certain area.  Of course, that means they wouldn’t invite just anybody.

At professional networking events, you don’t have to introduce the speakers

There’s a big event in Luxembourg this month.  The introduction of the speakers are very short, things like “Romanian Astronaut” or “Luxembourg’s Prime Minister.”  These people don’t need to be sold to the audience.

There are some amateur events which have to give longer pitches.  A filmmaker you never heard of that actually “got his film in the cinema”… well, that’s long winded.  If you have to sell the speakers to the audience, then you know it’s not meant for professionals.  If it were, they’d just have to say “director of” and name a film that you’d heard of.

Professional networking events are exclusive

If anyone can get in, then there might be something wrong.  If the event is worthwhile, thousands, perhaps even millions, of people will want to attend.  Sometimes they allow students of a certain discipline, or a certain amount of first timers to an event, but they usually limit the number of newbies who can attend.

Professional events often don’t advertise widely, preferring only those who are working in an industry to attend.  So, they’ll be in obscure trade journals rather than in popular social media groups.  Unless, of course, the job title is so obscure that you won’t have to sift through lots of applicants.

Again, there are many film events that aren’t aimed at professionals.  These are attended by “script readers”, PINOs (producers in name only), line producers, film festival organisers, the crowd that frequents online film networking sites (shooting people et all), film “educators” who use less fact than conjecture (people like Stephen Follows and Robert McKee), and suckers who might eventually become successful filmmakers.

At the end of the seminar, the suckers might say something nice about it, just to be sociable, and then when they get famous, the seminar holder can say “Famous Director attended this event and said…”

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