The words networking and leveraging can feel a bit awkward…perhaps gross…and maybe even cringe…at first. Let’s reframe what networking actually is. Networking is building relationships, it’s important to know who we are doing business with.
I need to know who you are. I need to like you if we are going to spend a lot of time together working on a project (we don’t need to be bff’s but having some kind of common ground helps us to work through problems together). And I need to trust you’ll get the work done.
While the pandemic has created many challenges, there is a real silver lining with huge opportunities for relationship building online that emerged. It has opened up new opportunities for motion designers to network in new ways – 1:1 video calls within remote online motion design communities in Slack, Discord & other platforms.
In my experience, I’ve been able to make more leveraged connections doing 1:1 video calls than I have at any meetup/networking events. To leverage, by definition means for use to gain. I found whenever I went to local meetups I would hang with all the people I knew and didn’t really branch out much + I often found someone would yack my ear off and I would awkwardly slink away…no thanks.
Out of all the slack channels & motion design communities I have dipped my toes into (Motion Hatch, Panimation, Motion Design Artists, Motion Graphics Collective to name a few), the best calls I’ve had yet have been with the Motion Hatch community, by a long shot. I found Motion Hatch calls to be really engaging, perhaps because everyone in the community is there because they want to invest in themselves, have growth mindsets and openness, are willing to put in the work to get to where they want to go, and love lifting others up in the process. The Shine Theory put into practice.
OK. Let’s get to the goods!
7 actionable tips to crush your next networking call
1 – Make it easy to choose a time.
There are so many scheduling apps available now. I use calendly and keep my availability updated a few weeks in advance so all I have to do is drop my peer link. No planning on my part required. Calendly has a zoom and google meet integration that automatically generates a zoom link, adding the meeting to my calendar and also notifies me by email when someone has booked the call. It shows the time slots in the recipient’s time zone so you eliminate the back and forth trying to sort out a day & time to meet. (Shout out to Alex Johnson for showing me this super slick & professional system)
2 – Decide ahead of time what you want to get out of the call.
For me, it’s usually that I want to expand my network, get to know a new human, understand what they specialize in and a little bit about them as a person. Pretty simple but essentially I am after two things – tell me about your work, tell me about you and what gets you jazzed. Little bit of biz, and a little bit of personal to keep the human component…well…human!
3 – Research your peer.
Do your homework, respect their time by coming prepared. Check out their work, see what resonates with you. You’ll also have a better chance of potentially collaborating with them if you show up prepared.
4 – Come prepared with questions.
This will help the conversation flow while also providing an opportunity to learn about a new person that might become part of your network and avoid the awkward silence that can ensue when meeting a new person. If you come into the call and wing it, sure your conversation might flow, but you risk not asking the thing that you really wanted to know, easily lose track of time, or getting lost in personal conversation about cats or plants or something (which is great! BUT it does nothing for leveraging). Coming prepared is key in leveraging – another way to think of leveraging is how can you help me? How can I help you?
- How did you get into motion design/illustration/graphic design? What’s your story?
- Why did you join the community?
- What are some of your goals you are working towards? This year? This quarter?
- What projects are you currently working on? (Work, personal)
- Do you have any podcasts/books/articles/resources that you’d like to share? (I add this question to my calendly form that gets sent with my availability, makes it pretty easy to ask this question as it was already front-loaded)
- Can you tell me what project in your portfolio you are most proud of?
- I love your X project, can you tell me a little bit more about it?
- I noticed you are connected to X person on LinkedIn, how did you get connected? Could you do an introduction for me? I’d love to bring them into my circle.
- Have you ever had a mentor or someone who has had a real impact on your career?
- When you aren’t busy with design/illustration/animation, what keeps you busy outside of work?
5 – Make it about them.
People love talking about themselves, it makes us feel valued. If you ask someone about their work, or business, and they get a chance to talk about it, you are well on your way to developing a relationship. Plus you are genuinely learning about what they do, what they specialize in and a bit about who they are as a person. If there is someone they are talking about who you want to get connected to, ask for an introduction and leverage the conversation.
6 – But also, make it about you.
Take the opportunity to talk about the projects you are working on, your speciality, what gets you jazzed, and things you are proud of in your career. Be your awesome self and let the other person know the awesome things you are doing or have planned for down the pipeline – this is part of leveraging an opportunity. Practice ahead of time or write it down so you are sure to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way. I had the pleasure of being paired with Sherene Strausberg on a donut call, who wrote an amazing article for School of Motion on How to build a stable freelance business which is hands down one of the best articles I’ve read about freelancing, especially about leveraging your network.
7 – Reschedule if you need to
If your schedule gets busy, a meeting goes overtime, it’s just not a good time or you aren’t in the right headspace (we’ve all been burnt out, it’s not to your advantage if you hop on a call burnt out) it’s totally ok to reschedule. Try to give the other person as much notice as you can as they have rearranged their day to meet with you. Relationship building requires you to give and inquiring with genuine curiosity.
Bonus tip – Send a thank you note 🙂
Send a thank you note within 24 hours of your networking call thanking them for their time, good conversation, recommended resources, intro to another connection etc. A small thank you can go a long way and helps solidify the quality time you both just put in. Build & nurture that relationship!
In a nutshell…
The process can be simplified to this: make choosing a time easy, do your homework & come prepared, make it about them, but also make it about you, share resources (intros, podcasts, tutorials, etc.) and then follow up & thank them for their time and helping you out leaving the door open to future conversations.
Check out your community slack channels and see if they have the donut app installed. If they don’t, you can ask the channel admins if they would consider installing it (there is a free version to get started). Other ways to get on a networking call is to ask those people you really admire – finding them either on social, in your community channels or someone’s website you came across. I’ve never been rejected for a networking call yet, especially when I give weeks worth of availability.
Huge shout out to Hayley and the Motion Hatch team for creating a space that fosters growth and sharing within the motion design community.