As you've probably noticed, I'm a big fan of collectively learning from each other's experiences. So with that in mind I've asked those who attended to reflect back and offer up some advice for next year's participants.
What I found interesting, is what some of you may find frustrating: there's conflicting advice. So what worked for some people, didn't in fact work for others. The biggest battle seems to be what format to show your book. Digital or printed.
- When selecting the ads to put in your book, make sure that all of them are your absolute best work. Anything less than your best will stand out and bring your book down a notch.
- Last year (PN7) I showed my book on my laptop and this year (PN8) I showed a hard copy book. I think the physical book was better, people were less hesitant to touch it, flip back and forth through the pages and compare various pieces. I found that people only really looked through my digital book once or maybe twice - there is something nice about holding a physical book... or so I've been told.
- I stayed long after my session and managed to see a few more CDs and meet new people. I think it's beneficial to hang around afterwords because you never know who you'll end up talking to and where that may take you. It's actually interesting, the people I was least excited to talk to, proved to be the most insightful, helpful and beneficial in the long run - and if I hadn't stayed I would never have learned that.
- Go early. The sooner you get there, the more likely you are to see the CD's during the first or second round. They get crankier as the night goes on.
- Bring cash and water. It's a cash bar - and no free bottles of water. You'll be doing a lot of talking. You be nervous and thirsty. Drink accordingly.
- Unless you have TV or web to show - print your book. They can flip through it, it's faster, and there's no risk of the battery dying.
- Spend as much time laying out your book as you would laying out your ads. It's annoying to have a CD critique your book as opposed to your work. Set up your web, non-traditional etc. with an objective, key insight and a BRIEF description of how it works. Let print stand on it's own.
- Research the CD's before you go. Look at pictures. Read their bios. Decide who you REALLY want to see and learn who they are. They'll be impressed.
- CD's arrive before the event starts and mingle in between sessions. Not so much in the 'overtime.' If you arrive early, and know who the CD's are, you can meet your dream CD.
- CD's are there to find talent. Suck it up and mingle with them. You are not interrupting them. And if you are, trust me, they'll tell you.
- Ask for their business card. They are often too nice to say no.
- If they say stay in touch - stay in touch. Before you need a job.
- Send a thank you e-mail. Even if they didn't say to stay in touch. Even if they made you cry. It shows character. And who you are in this business is just as important as your book.
- Lose your inhibitions: This doesn't mean start dancing on the tables or anything, but you can't sit back and think "I'm just a student, my book isn't that good" blah blah blah. You've worked really hard to get to that night so make these CD's know who you are by impressing the pants off of them (figuratively of course).
- Listen to Richard: I was one of a handful of people who showed up with a laptop. Save yourself some time and money and set your work up in a video or powerpoint, make it really cool. It not only shows that you are into being more interactive with your thinking, but it's a lot easier to just send your stuff off in a PDF to all the contacts you made that night. Plus, they'll tell you to change things and you'll just end up throwing out the prints you showed up with.
- Study the Creative Directors list: Make sure you study the list of CDs for your event and know who they are, where they're from (agency-wise), etc. If it is someone from somewhere you really want to work, know their work and read their bios; it makes it WAY easier to talk to them beforehand. And see if any of them presented at Humber (it's an AMAZING conversation starter to bring up something that was said that day.) It gives them program a kick ass rep for producing such smart and talented creatives AND shows that you know your stuff and care about the business.
- Timing: This is crucial to not only having an amazing portfolio night but to being an amazing intern. Be one of the first ones there, and one of the last to leave. Being early gives you time to chat up CDs before you go into your round. For example, I was chatting with Jacoub Bondre (also presented at Humber) who introduced me to Nancy Vonk (yeah THE Nancy Vonk), all because I was one of the first. The longer you stay means the more CDs you'll get your book (or laptop) in front of, a lot of them stick around for overtime period just to give people feedback. This opportunity will be taken by someone else if you don't stay, so why not give it to the most deserving; you.
- Don’t be shy. Talk to every CD you can. Don’t interrupt them. Don’t be an ass. Politely ask if you could have a second of their time. Overtime is a free for all. The people who actively try will speak to more CDs. They aren’t going to come to you.
- Get there early. If you get there early, you get the first shift. CDs have a few drinks in them and they aren’t bored of looking at books yet. You have them fresh. Getting there early also means you have more opportunities to run into CDs in between shifts. A conversation over a beer could lead to a book review. And who knows? Maybe someone won’t show up and you’ll be thrown into a second shift. There’s also the added benefit of making new friends and seeing where your book stacks up.
- Have a backup plan: If your book is digital, bring a hard copy version just in case. You might not have the luxury of plugging in. Things happen.
- Stay Late. Some CDs will stay past the late shift. If they’re there, they want to look at books. Take them up on it.
- Relax. Have a beer. Loosen up. Don’t be nervous. It’s just portfolio night.
- Bring business cards and a laptop (all 3 CDs commented on how they enjoyed clicking through my digital keynote). Some CDs asked for a leave behind / business card.
- Make friends from other schools and ask to look at their portfolios (so you can check out the competition).
- Registering and then switch out of the room, so you're not with all your friends (who may duplicate your work).
- Do some research on the CDs that are listed for the show (I didn't do this, but I should have).
- Don't bringing a black portfolio.
- Don't hang around after the show and act desperate.