Mar 1, 2013
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Entertainment Networking: Los Angeles, CA Mixers

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Mixers are a great way to network with others in your industry. With Meetup.com, you can get a headcount of how many people might be attending your event and gain valuable feedback from attendees afterwards. 
 
Wednesday night, I attended a Film and Animation Industry Mixer in Los Angeles with the LA on a Budget team. The mixer was hosted by the Mini Cinema and was held at Steingarten LA. For anyone looking to host an LA mixer, this location was a perfect spot, because it provided a “middle ground” for those coming from either side of LA. Also, I found free parking close to the venue (on Pico Blvd. after 7:00 pm). 
 
The first thing I do at any event is glance around the room to assess the situation. If you recognize someone you have networked with before, say “hello”. If they are in or have been in conversation with other people at the event, they can introduce you. I make sure to interact with everyone in the current circle because, as they branch out to form new circles, there is opportunity for you to rejoin them at a later time and get introduced to new people. 
 

 
If you cannot find anyone you know at the event, the host may be open to introduce you to people he/she knows. It is also common courtesy, at some point during the mixer, to thank your host for putting on the event.
 
If your host is unavailable, you can always make conversation while standing in line to get food (if the event is at a restaurant) or waiting for the bathroom. Also, if you feel awkward just idly standing by an interactive circle, hoping someone will strike up a conversation with you, you might try looking for the outdoor patio heaters. I have found this to be a frequent spot for those who don’t know many people at the event. 
 
You might think that if someone is attending a networking mixer, he/she would be relatively open to striking up conversation, but I have found there are some people that are a little shy (maybe it is there first networking experience). All you need is just one good icebreaker comment or question to get your “foot in the door”. Find a way to make eye contact and casually comment how “this is the spot to be” with it being so cold outside (assuming that it is cold outside). 
 
In fact, I met two contacts (see picture below) this way, back in January at the Golden Globe Notice Network mixer held at Wokcana in Santa Monica. Both girls I met were actresses from the New York Film Academy; one was from Sweden (left) and the other from Norway (middle). 
 

 
Look for common ground and listen in on other’s conversations to see if there is a prime time for you to interject. Usually, the worst that can happen is that someone isn’t receptive and he/she ignores you or continues to talk with person he/she was before. You learn, with the more events you attend, when the interjection might have a greater probability of positively being received. 
 
Body language is key in finding an opening for engagement. I look for people who aren’t already deeply in conversation with someone else and who leave enough space beside them for me to easily find my way into their circle. Uncrossed arms and genuine smiles when a person sees you are also good indicators. It is commonly referenced that 55% of a message is conveyed through non-verbal communication. With such a high percentage, it is important to pay attention to in a social setting. And with LA being so culturally diverse, you want to make sure you are aware of the cultural differences in body language interpretation.
 
Cultural diversity is one reason I really like LA mixers, in particular. Conversations include a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives. Conversations can stay on industry topic or become more broad in scope, depending on your goals. I always recommend that you, at least, start out with more casual conversation before getting to the “meat” of what people do and how everyone involved can have a mutually beneficial business relationship. Find something humorous or interesting about yourself and/or company to incorporate, so that you are memorable in other’s minds and not just another “business card passer”. 
 
You still want to make sure to exchange contact information with the people you interact with before leaving a circle and/or the event. Remember, no interaction is meaningless. Even if someone doesn’t seem like he/she will be a meaningful contact, he/she might have meaningful connections. Depending on the size of the event, I usually try to interact with (or at least get cards from) 10 different people before leaving. It is good to have a goal in mind because it really pushes you to step outside the box and make the most of the networking experience.
 
QUESTION FOR READERS: What location or venue have you found to be the best for hosting mixers?

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