With over 75 events under his belt last year alone, it's safe to say Kevin Winston knows how to throw a party. The founder of Digital LA, the city's largest professional digital networking group, has a knack for connecting people in the tech and entertainment industries. His weekly mixers, panels, newsletter and social channels reach over 60,000 professionals. In his former life he crafted social media campaigns for TV shows and movies, but he still believes in the power of in-person connections.
"Real life," Kevin says, "That's where people meet friends, where they get jobs, can find staffing to ramp up. LA is a very collaborative town. When you're working on a project, whether it's a startup, film or an app, you need lots of people to get that together."
The Ivy League alum not only knows how to connect people at events, but also how to network himself. It's a skill that's crucial to his business and one that he perfects, daily. (He admittedly attends three events a night). So what does it take to work a room? Kevin gave PowerToFly these valuable tips:
1. Have an opening line.
When joining professional conversations at an event, it's all about being comfortable talking to people that you don't know. Kevin says that it's best to have an opening line, whether it be complimenting a person on their latest work or discussing the appetizers. "How do you get involved in a conversation so that you're not just sitting there on your phone? How do you position yourself to join a conversation that's happening? Just practicing that and coming up with some opening lines is helpful."
2. Network consistently, during key time slots.
Kevin gets a slew email from people asking him to become more involved in tech events. His advice is to simply go. "That's the best way to do it. A lot of it is just showing up — showing that you're supportive," he says. The key is being smart about the type of events you choose and when you attend. "I actually go to three events a night. I just have that energy." Kevin admits. "There's your 6–8pm time slot, 8–10pm and 10pm-midnight … Fill those time slots with things, whether it's cocktails, a movie screening or panel. You can even incorporate going to the gym, having dinner with friends or going to someone's birthday party as part of those time slots. Those are networking events too."Digital LA panelists shown with founder, Kevin Winston (far right). Photo courtesy of Kevin Winston.
3. Think about what you can give, not just what you can get.
"It's good to have a purpose when networking, but it's also important to be selfless."
Kevin explains, "You might have some advice that you can offer someone else, so that it's not just about you getting something, but also giving something … If you help someone, they might actually help you too. People remember you better if you help them out on something, especially in LA."
4. Change your networking approach when you're job hunting.
When you're looking to make a career move, Kevin suggests not only following the first three tips, but also focusing on the area that you're interested in. "If there's a networking event and someone is speaking from a company that you're interested in working at, go there and ask how they like working there. Maybe set up an informational interview or coffee afterwards."
Want to learn how to step up your professional networking game? Check out: How To Plan A Networking Event: 4 Tips From A Party Professional.