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Top tips for networking

Welcome back to episode 6 of my 31 day series, where I'm answering your questions about creating a career or a business that you love. In today's episode, I'm going to attempt to answer the question, what are your top tips for networking? So we'll be diving into that. If you've got a question, please send it to me on all the socials, I'm @alexmakesvr everywhere or you can send me a slightly longer question to alexmakesvr@gmail.com.


This is a full transcription of the podcast episode. Alternatively you can listen to the episode here:

So what are my top tips for networking? Well, we're in a particularly interesting time to be networking, aren't we, because there are no events happening. There aren't the meet-ups or the hangouts that are usually happening, especially in the VR industry, like so much of the networking happens at events and, you know, film festivals, and all of that has gone online. So I would say probably my number one tip, especially right now, is going to the groups where people are hanging out. So whether that be the Facebook groups, or you know, there's loads of like, brilliant Twitter groups that are put together, or if you just search Twitter, you'll find something. Like, VR/360, or if you look at some of the threads that are being posted by people that you follow, then you can very easily just kind of jump in and add to the discussion. I think the key to good networking is you actually need to be, you need to be adding value a bit like what I talked about in the episode about finding the right clients and why your clients would buy for you. Good networking is all about actually bringing value to someone and actually getting along. I remember when I kind of had this massive gear shift in my head, I used to be the person that would show up events and be the kind of person that did actual networking, you know, where you kind of speed date the room and you have to have an awkward hour of conversation because you get to talk to someone and then you switch and go meet a million people. Then I realised I think it was probably when I was admittedly a bit more settled in my career and I'd already had a little bit of success and I already had enough money coming into the company, I didn't necessarily really need to network, so I was just going for fun to meet and hang out with friends. But even when I've done networking, where I've been to an event and I have met new people, my number one tip, and this is the massive gear switch in my head, if you find someone that you really get on with and you really connect wit, that's the kind of networking that you want. You should spend your time with that person. I can think of definitely at least two events in the past couple of years where I've gone, not necessarily with the intention of like speed dating the room and trying to meet as many people as possible, but I've gone with the kind of thing of like - oh, you know, I'm gonna try and meet some people and I've ended up connecting with one particular individual. I've spent the whole night with them. I remember recently, I was nominated for an award and they had these opening drinks, and I really couldn't be bothered to g but I thought - oh, it's like, you know, it's really lovely to be nominated for this and I don't want to be disrespectful and not show up for it and I'm sure there's you know, there's amazing people there but I was just not really in the right headspace. On that particular day, I'd had a really, really long day. The last thing I wanted to do was go to this place. I wasn't dressed up, I literally walked into the room and every single person that was at this opening drinks was like, you know, dressed like they were going to prom or something. I was there in literal trainers and like black slacks and a t-shirts. I thought - oh shit. I remember within about maybe half an hour, they said in their opening speech that you have to say hello to at least five people tonight. I always find that really cringy because I'm not saying that is a bad technique because especially if you're shy, it gives you the permission to go up to people and be like - hi, but because I'm quite an extroverted person anyway, I don't really get shy in rooms. I could very happily just walk up to anyone and be like - yo, let's talk. And so that wasn't necessarily what I was worried about, but anyway, the first person that I literally said hello to ended up being this awesome woman. She turned out to be this BBC presenter, who presents a lot of travel shows and I didn't know that until about maybe an hour into the conversation because we just got on so well, we had similar sense of humour. We were kind of talking about the fact that we were both really uncomfortable with the whole 'go and say hello to people'. I don't know, we just connected and I ended up having such a fun night, we spent hours talking and we were talking about nothing to do with work. We were just talking about, just random shit, we're talking about, a kitchen refurb, growing up in the countryside, class divides, and just really interesting stuff. But that's the thing right? That's how you network, you find someone that you actually get on with and you get on with. Now this isn't an example of something where it's like oh, and then six months later, she introduced me to so and so and they made me 1000 pounds. Like, that's not an example of that but what I'm saying is, good networking shouldn't really feel like networking at all. It should feel like making new friends. That might sound so cringy, but it's the truth. So, obviously, coming back to where we are right now, which is in a pandemic, where you can't go to events, you can't go to meet-ups, what's the equivalent of that? Well, why not connect with like minded people online, the biggest place to network within the industry is absolutely the Facebook groups. Still to this day, I'm less and less active just purely because I really hate Facebook. Not like from a political point of view, although, you know, they have questionable morals, but more from the point of view of the fact it gives me anxiety to go on my Facebook page, because the notifications are just outrageous. I'm like, you know what, I'm just not gonna deal with that and so I spend less time there. But every time I do, there are fascinating conversations going on there and actually, that's a way I connected with a lot of my current kind of friends and network within the industry. I'm not going on there and saying - hey, I've got a new project, can you upvote it on this thing? Or can you come and check out my YouTube video? Or can you I don't know, whatever else is self promoting, like, that's a bad way to network. Unless you already know the people in which case, that's fine, because self promotion is very, very important. But if you've never posted in a group before, and you just start spamming them with self promotion, that is not networking. Networking is going in there, finding a topic that you're actually really interested in, or maybe you can even add some insight or value on and commenting, getting into a conversation with that person.


I spoke at an event last year and in fact, that is another great example of meeting someone, that's where I met Rachel Bracher, who I did an episode with in the post COVID series the other month. I'd never connected with her online, but we met at that physical event because she was just dope and I watched her talk and I was like - you're dope, we need to be friends and lo and behold, we had way more in common than just the fact that we both love VR, and that's how you get anywhere.


Anyway, back to the facebook groups. I'd been following so many of them because a lot of them were part of the 360/VR professionals Facebook group, and we'd got into several debates or conversations on there, or I'd posted a question about I'm having trouble with this camera setting. Can anyone help? And they would give their advice and a lot of people in that particular group have been doing it for decades kind of thing and are not in this recent wave so they've got a lot of insight and so that's really where the networking starts. Especially again, when I got started because there wasn't really that much going on in the 360 and VR world. There wasn't a huge amount of people doing it in the UK. There were like these grassroot meet-ups, but often they were in London and I didn't live in London. So, yeah, I just like the way I found my network, the way I kind of started getting in there with people was through the Facebook group. So that's a great place to start. But also, you could do the same on Instagram or YouTube, starting interesting conversations and you're not necessarily networking with the person who's posting the content, you're not necessarily networking with the YouTuber that puts out a video, that's got 100,000 subscribers, because he's got 1000s of comments, but you might be networking with the people in the comment section. That's one of my favourite things that Gary V's videographer does. When he posts he's like, just say hello to each other in the comment thread and see if you can help each other and I've met a few people through that comment thread before because they've ended up being like - oh, I checked out your profile in VR, that sounds interesting, tell me more about that. And I'm like, yeah, blah, blah. And they're like a marketer, and that's how you get into each other's ecosystem, right? Because when you strip it back, all networking is, is making someone aware of you. I think we again, I think we touched on this in the finding the right clients and that whole awareness, converting and then retention, being the three stages of sales and just anything in general really. First you have to become aware of it and then it has to be the right product at the right time for you to want to engage with it or buy it or whatever and then you retain it. So if you put networking through that same filter awareness, well, you have to know that someone exists to be able to judge whether you like them, what the conversion is, do you get on with them? You know, are they your kind of person? Yes, brilliant and then retention... stay friends, help each other out and so I mean this episode has been focused on networking within the VR industry itself, which is a really powerful place to start because q lot of new kind of people to the industry will find it easier to get work through the VR network itself, rather than, you know, going door to door and getting clients. I mean, I would absolutely advocate for both but especially if you're getting started, you could probably learn a lot more and build a lot more skills if you get offered more jobs, If you are networked within the industry itself. Like several times, I've had things come up where someone's a director, producer, and they've had too much on their plate. So they're like, do you want this gig? And they've passed it over to me. One of my biggest clients came from the fact that a friend of mine had a client looking for a 360 director and they didn't do that. They asked, do you? Do you want me to introduce you? Hell yeah and that's led to me having a really fruitful relationship with that client.

Yes, they can introduce you but then it's got to be the right fit.


Networking is all about do get on? Do you believe in what you're doing? Do you believe in their product? Can you offer them what they need? Are you bringing value? So yeah, in terms of networking, in the industry, that's where I would start and then when it comes to you meet-ups and that kind of thing, when the lockdowns all lift globally, then try and get down to those because they're so important to meet like minded people. I love geeking out with people about VR, I just love it. I just could talk about sales, marketing, tech, self development, forever. Hence why I can talk at you in this podcast forever.


So if you find like that group of like minded people, naturally, there will be a natural kind of networking effect off the back of that because they will then undoubtedly know people who will then know people and you might get referrals in the weirdest place. One of the early projects that I was involved with, which I still to this day support, is the the projects that I do with getting VR into hospices. Again, that came through a super unlikely and random kind of circumstance with someone I knew from a previous job in my previous career. They happen to mention to someone about VR and they mention the know like woman who lives in the area that actually does VR and that's how I ended up doing that project.


Life's weird right? I've literally met a couple of my closest closest friends through this exact thing, right? One of my closest friends now was someone that I met randomly on a trip to LA to the VR-LA event, and she was like a friend of a friend and now I speak to her pretty much every day. Like, that's kind of networking, but it's also bigger than that, right? It's like, don't necessarily look at every networking, or every kind of interaction with someone in your industry. Don't look at it through the lens of can this person make me money? Ultimately, it's a long game and ultimately, life is a people's game full stop, right? Just find the people, find your tribe. Find the people that you like, that you can get on with, and also that naturally will come back, you know. It will come back to serve you because those people become your supporters, your mentors, your champions, they might become your reference to get you client work. But, you know, somewhere along the line, there'll be there to help you and support you. So it's so important to have those tribes.


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