As we get back into physical events it’s time to brush up on our networking skills. Elly Jahnz offers some tips for effective networking.

Choose your events carefully. When I started freelancing, I knew networking was important but wasn’t picky about the events I attended. If it had 'networking' in the title and the hint of a buffet then I was there. I lost lots of time being talked at by estate agents who had no interest in hiring an illustrator. Look for events related to fields you want to work in and for fringe events around big conferences. (Hint: SCBWI put on some great events).

Before an event, do your homework. A quick scan of the attendee list can help pinpoint people you’d like to speak to. 

Practise speaking. When I don’t rehearse, I trip over my tongue and start blushing. Work out some opening lines – nothing corny, just “Hi, I’m [insert name here]. What did you think of the [insert event here]?” With practice, you’ll build a few trusted sentences which will help get the conversation flowing. Keep a few extra conversation topics in mind if you find yourself in an awkward pause – work-related ones are best.

Don’t forget to mention what you do. It’s easy to get lost in conversation then realise you’ve walked away having forgotten to say you’re an illustrator looking for work. If the conversation is getting away from you, take a pause and ask if you can give them a business card. If you’re at a networking event, it won’t feel awkward because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

This also applies to online events – use chat boxes, ask questions and follow up with anyone you’d like to connect with via email or social media. Make sure to reference the event you ‘saw’ them at and keep it to work accounts, not their personal ones. 

 Lastly, remember good networking is about good conversation and making connections. Don’t expect the come out of an event with a job offer and try to avoid giving the hard sell. Networking is great for meeting people and getting to know others in the industry. You never know what will come out of these interactions – at the very least you’ll have had a good chat and maybe a free buffet.


Elly Jahnz has worked across the creative spectrum as well as publishing, and was our February 2021 featured illustrator

Website :  

Instagram: @ellyjahnz

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