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This is a guest post from Dallas Woodburn, author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today’s best youth writing.
I have also done an interview on Book Marketing for Introverts which you might also find useful.
Networking is a great skill to practice. As a kid I was very shy, and growing up I have had to actively work at being outgoing and meeting people. Putting yourself in new situations is a great way to grow, learn new skills, and possibly conquer some fears. As professionally writers, we can no longer afford to hide away and simply write — we also need to be actively spreading the word about ourselves and our work.
Looking for networking opportunities? Here are some places to start:
- Your city’s Chamber of Commerce likely meets every so often, and might even host networking events – or publicize another group that does.
- Writers conferences are terrific places to meet other writers, editors, and agents. Here’s a great database of conference listings courtesy of Poets & Writers
- Many colleges and universities have reading series where authors come to read their work, and literary-minded people come to mingle.
- Do a Google search for writing groups and events in your area. For example, my county has the Ventura County Writers Club, which hosts meetings every month that are free and open to the public.
- Consider joining a group like Toastmasters or a civic organization like Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis International – all great places to meet new people and practice your networking skills.
An extra bonus? Building up your networking confidence helps not just professionally, but also in other social situations like cocktail parties, birthday parties, conferences, or just meeting new friends!
Here are a few tips that have helped me, a former shy girl, blossom into a networking natural:
1. Bring along your business cards and make sure they are easily accessible. When you meet someone, they will likely ask for your card as a way of getting in contact with you after the event. If you are carrying them in your purse or pocket, it is a good idea to get a business card holder so you can easily find them. Or just slip a few into your wallet. On the flip side, don't be afraid to ask for someone else's business card — it's a compliment to them and they will be happy to give you one! The day after the event, it can also be nice to send a brief e-mail to everyone you met saying you hope to keep in touch.
2. Grab a drink. At many events I attend, alcohol is served, but I don't really drink. Instead of trying to act like someone I’m not, I get a Diet Coke. Whatever you drink, it is nice to have something to hold as you mingle around the room. (I, personally, sometimes feel awkward and don't know what to do with my hands.) I have learned to carry my drink in my left hand, though, because when shaking hands it can be clumsy to switch your drink to the other hand — not to mention your handshake will likely be cold and damp due to the condensation on your drinking glass.
3. Quality vs. Quantity. Some people at networking events buzz around the room, meeting as many people as possible for brief, two or three minute conversations. Others talk to only a couple people the entire evening. I think a happy medium is best, but also consider what you hope to get out of the event. What are your networking goals? What are the reasons you chose to attend the event? Personally, I would much rather have a good conversation with two or three people and really get to know them and stay in touch with them after the event, than talk to fifty people but never really get to know any of them (much less remember all their names at the end of the night!) Hope these tips were a bit of help.
The most important thing is to relax and be yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be having fun. Happy networking!
Bio: Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today’s best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Books “Best of the Web” anthology and has been featured on the nationally syndicated PBS book talk show Between the Lines. In 2001 she founded “Write On! For Literacy,” a nonprofit organization that aims to empower youth through reading and writing. Twitter @dallaswoodburn
Image: Flickr CC Lida Rose