On the first day of APAM we felt like Year 8 students on our first day of high school, no doubt you will too if it's your first time, so here are some tips for you.
1. Sign up to all Ausdance, OZ CO and Arts Queensland mailing lists so that you will receive invites to participate in as many preparation forums leading up to APAM.
These forums are your first point of networking and a great way to gain insight from seasoned directors and producers who not only share their wisdom but know who's who at events like APAM and will be super helpful and friendly when you're in the thick of it all and need a smiley face to connect with.
2. Don't aim to sell and if you do want to sell, don't try to!
As first timers we found people were more interested in finding out who we were, how we practiced, and who we'd worked with. Pleasingly it was because of this conversation and relationship building that they would then ask us what it was we were making, which we kept brief, and then immediately followed up with questions for them. Better yet, when we said we weren't selling anything we often found people had greater interest in talking with us, and often ended up asking us to send them a copy of our work when it is done!
3. If you don't like to stay up late, learn to. If you think you can drink, you can't, so pace yourself!
The evening drinks and functions were great places to hang out and get talking to new people, sometimes for just a brief moment, and sometimes for hours. It was usually during these discussions that we really got to pick someone's brain about almost anything to do with APAM. Remember though that many APAM delegates are well seasoned and unlike you they can handle the drinks and late nights, to turn up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the 8am start tomorrow to do it all again - we learnt the hard way :)
4. Don't expect things to happen.
If there is something you really want at APAM, the likelihood is that you won't get it because you'll be too stressed focusing on trying to achieve it. If you don't expect anything, you'll end up gaining amazing opportunities you never thought about. Be open minded and aware that there is always more to learn about networking/selling/pitching/collaborating/making art.
5. See everything you can! Sit next to someone new at each event.
Yes, you will be exhausted by the end of APAM but make it worth it! We saw some great performances, and were able to observe pitches and showcases. We learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. It has also helped us to consider things like whether it's better for the producer or the artist to present the pitch or showcase and best of all we learned that we have some work to do before we try to do a formal pitch.It was also good to sit next to someone new at each event as often there was a chance to have a bit of conversation either side of the event. Don't use the time to try and sell - you'll be like a pesky mosquito! A quick "hello and how are you enjoying APAM?" or "have you heard of/seen this show/company before?" is a good start. At the end of the event you might even find out a little about what they thought of it which is also useful information.
6. Put your phone away! Be ok with being on your own.
We never saw anyone being approached when they had their phone out. Get yourself a bottle of wine, a couple of spare glasses and a friendly smile and we promise an APAM stranger will sit down to join you. If you're with a friend, partner, or colleague then split up as much as possible, again otherwise you can give the impression that you're busy and therefore unapproachable.
7. If you live in Brisvegas - leave the car at home!
Catch the buses they provide, sit next to a stranger, and engage in conversation. So many worthwhile conversations were had on a bus trip during APAM. You don't want to miss out!
8. The APAM Delegate Directory, is awesome!
We had one with us the whole time! We met so many people it was hard to keep up, so immediately we wrote a note about how/where we met and the subject which we talked about with them on their card, if they gave us one. Later when we had a moment we would circle them in the book and write some notes in there. So handy - as later on you can remember what you talked about if you want to contact them in the future: "Dear........ you may not remember me, but we met on the balcony shark spotting. You wanted me to contact you with information on ......"
9. Be honest and transparent!
Tell the truth, say "I don't think my work fits in your theatre, your theatre is too big" or "I don't think it will suit your community", but do keep your conversation open ended "I'm open to the idea of making something for that type of venue/festival in the future..." We found that being honest helped to build better relationships and besides - how would your work for only 100 people look in a theatre for 3000??! If you don't think that your work suits what a presenter is looking for - then put them in contact with a person you know who's work does. The people that you recommend will then be more likely to recommend you. Working as a team from Brisbane and looking out for one another will make the networking all the easier.
10. Do your research.
Do as much work prior to APAM to work out what your work is and where you fit, or as Yeron (Artistic Director of Circa) phrased it "know where you sit in your puddle". Try to find out how many artists are doing what you're doing here, interstate or even abroad. Who inspires you? Why do you need to make this particular art? What delineates your art from everyone elses?