There aren’t many things that make me as uncomfortable as having to go and network. As a self-proclaimed introvert, the ‘networking’ portion of an event usually is the part I just missed or can’t stick around for. But thanks to many classes, workshops, and more importantly, just going out and doing it, I can network with the best of ‘em (on a good day).
Artists can also be shy, lonely creatures in person, and when one hasn’t been trained as to why and how they should network, their ability to or interest in it can diminish.
There are at least two reasons why I believe we, as artists or arts administrators of color, need to make the effort to expand our network through attending events with the goal of doing so.
One, it is a great way to build your career. Meeting new people can yield sales of your work, business resources and partnerships, grant or funding opportunities, and artistic inspiration. If you are trying to generate visits to your website, trying to build your email list for promoting your next exhibit/event, or simply finding out how to use an email list, a conference or networking event can be a great opportunity to do so.
Two, having a visible presence at events affirms our presence among the larger arts community and is a platform for our voices to be heard. We shouldn’t be content with just showing our work to the same people, or sharing our experiences only within our communities.
I stumbled upon this helpful article from the New York Times that provides tips for those of us who cringe at the thought of networking.
I can appreciate the writer’s advice to have an objective before going to an event where you will be networking; is your goal to add five people to your mailing list? To meet the rep. from the local arts space you are looking to show or perform at? At conferences, I like to review and highlight the attendee list of people attending that I would like to meet, and then do the best I can to meet them. I also can appreciate the advice to not try to be someone you aren’t.
Below, are a number of events you can use as opportunities to practice, practice, practice, and benefit from. I found out about these were all passed on to me thanks to the magic of networking.
Chicago Foundation for Women: Board Boot Camp- Training for Women interested in joining nonprofit boards- June 8-10- Link
National Latino Writers Conference- May 18-21 in Albuquerque, NM- A great article on why you should attend the conference by Proyecto Latina- Link
NALAC Leadership Institute- July 11-16 in San Antonio, TX- The deadline to apply has been extended to Wednesday, April 27. - Link
Illinois Arts Council's One State Together in the Arts Conference- May 23-24 in Bloomington-Normal, IL- Great opportunity to meet artists and arts organizations from all over Illinois- Link
The Arts and Culture In Action- April 27, at the Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago- Take part in a discussion that will feature National Endowment of the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman. - Link
2011 Making Media Connections Conference- June 8-9, at Columbia College Chicago Film- Learn how to reach out to the media, manage a website, and use social networking towards your career- Link