Gear shows, bridal fairs, DJ expos, industry conferences… apart fro the fun and education they offer, these are all great ways to meet other folk in the industry, in order to open doors for yourself and others, uncover new opportunities, and get ahead through new partnerships.
Ultimately, if you want to get more gigs, play more shows or hook up with others to produce more and better music, there’s no better place to make the contacts that can make all the difference.
But how exactly should you do it? Attending these events is never exactly cheap, so how do you make it worth your money (and time)?
Here we’ve listed four steps to go through when making new connections at any event or show. They work whether it’s a massive one like Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), or a tiny local meet-up with other DJs in your area, and whether you’re the life and soul, or more introverted. Read on…
Four Tips For Networking Success
1. Plan your days and book appointments ahead of time
It’s all too easy to just jump into a DJ gear show or networking event without even planning what you’re going to do there or who you’d want to meet. Serendipity is cute (and honestly some of the best connections you’ll make are accidental) but if you want to maximise your time and energy, especially at bigger events, you’ll want to show up with a plan for each day that you’re attending.
How to do it: It doesn’t have to be a minute-by-minute rundown of what you’re going to be doing, but at least figure out what your non-negotiable goals are and list them. Maybe you want to meet a certain DJ, or you want to press palms with a lights and sounds supplier who you want to tie-up with. Whatever your goals are, write them down. If you’d like to meet over coffee or a meal, take the initiative by asking for the availability of the other party (through email or phone) and asking if they’re free on a particular date and time.
Some events like Amsterdam Dance Event give you access to a database of delegates and attendees – scan this and make a shortlist of folk who you want to meet, hang out or do business with, and then send short emails to the names you’ve listed and make appointments. You won’t get a “yes” from every single one, but even just one new acquaintance who you can add value to and network with can potentially make a difference in your career.
If it’s a smaller get-together with just a handful of DJs, check the Facebook Event page to see who’s going. If you’re particularly interested in meeting a guest, read up on what they’ve been up to lately – this makes for a warm conversation starter and shows that you’ve taken the time to do your research (always flattering).
2. Pack a fresh set of calling cards and your press kit
Not packing any business cards or press kits is one of the biggest missed opportunities I see at networking events and gear shows. Sure it can feel a bit dated to be exchanging business cards, but it’s still the professional way to give and receive details (certainly more professional than whipping out your phone and adding people you just met on Facebook). This is especially true in a corporate, business or formal networking setting such as event expos and bridal fairs.
How to do it: Print a fresh batch of cards that have your latest information such as email, mobile number, and social links. You can try printing a QR code that links to your online site and electronic press kit. I’ve seen DJs hand out branded USB drives with their press kit and productions / mixes on it, and it makes quite an impression even if you think that thumb drives are mundane. All DJs need a USB drive for one reason or another, and if they end up deleting your mixes and press kit, having your branding on them still means they think of you every time they use it.
You can also try adding a Spotify code at the back that links to a playlist that’s specific to the event that you’re attending for a social media-savvy touch (eg a dinner music playlist if you’re at a wedding fair, your top 20 techno tracks if you’re at Amsterdam Dance Event). I tried this recently at a show I joined and people loved the idea of receiving special access to a playlist I made just for the evening.
3. More isn’t necessarily better – focus on quality, not quantity
It’s tempting to want to reach out to as many DJs and industry folk as possible and to run from one end of the room (or city) to another, but that isn’t necessarily the best strategy here. It’s not a game of Pokemon Go – you can’t “collect” people (no matter how hard you try!). Networking is about meeting people with the intent of starting, building and growing a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship, and you have a greater chance of doing just that if you spend more quality time with someone you just met instead of shaking hands and hastily moving from one person to another like a politician campaigning for reelection.
How to do it: Focus on spending more time with fewer people, instead of less time with more. Go book those appointments but don’t fill your diary to the point of overwhelm. This allows you to potentially initiate a stronger connection because you aren’t glancing at your Apple Watch every five minutes and rushing through pleasantries because you’ve got another meeting in the next room.
It’s about the quality and strength of your network, not just the breadth of it, which can result in shallow connections and forgettable meet-ups.
4. Go follow up, but don’t be pushy or selfish
After the event, it’s fine to get in touch with folk that you’ve met. You can even engage with them or add them on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, or follow their public page on Facebook. If it’s a longer event like ADE, you can even invite some of your new contacts for a drink and a night out, which helps make the relationship more casual instead of purely business (assuming you enjoy each other’s company and have a great time!).
How to do it: Send a short email thanking them for their time. Remember that the goal of any meaningful network-building is to add value to the people that you meet, not taking from them, so resist the urge to ask for favours until you’ve proven yourself to be valuable to them. If they don’t reply to you, don’t pester them daily – that’s one way to get your emails automatically sent to the spam folder. Wait a few days for their reply, and if you don’t receive anything, go follow up – try using a different social media channel if you don’t think they are responsive. If they still don’t reply and show absolutely no interest, simply respect that and back off.
We also advise against adding personal Facebook profiles because they’re practically the new “private spaces” online reserved for family and real-life friends, unless the contacts you’re adding consider their Facebook profiles to be public. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and send an email instead.
You can interact with tons of people online on a daily basis, but having face-to-face meet-ups and conversations really lays the groundwork for building meaningful connections in any industry. Being in the same space as others in the DJ and production sphere also inspires you to level up your skills, and at the end of the day it’s just fun kicking it with people who share the same passion for music as you.
Introverted? Some tips…
There’s a misconception about introverts – just because you’re introverted doesn’t mean you can’t meet up and connect with others in a social, real-world setting. The major difference between introverts and extroverts is in how they are able to refuel their energies for socialising: Introverts recharge by having time alone, and extroverts recharge by being around people. You can be either of the two and be sociable, the difference is just in how you are able to hit the “refresh” button.
If you’re introverted, build in pockets of “me time” throughout your day of networking, whether that’s grabbing a quick bite somewhere quiet, grabbing a cup of coffee or even taking a nap if you’re near your hotel. My favourite technique for this is to always set aside an hour during my networking day where I give myself permission to just chill out if I want to. I don’t always use it, but if and when I need to have some quiet time, I can. That takes a lot of pressure off of pressing palms and attending social functions because if I’m feeling overwhelmed I can always take that hour off to zone out and recharge.
What’s your best tip for networking and building connections at DJ events and gear shows? Share it below.