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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top 10 Pieces of Bad Advice for Networking

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One of the things actors are most scared about is (gasp) NETWORKING! The sheer idea of walking up to someone - who might have something you want - is enough to bring waves of dizziness and sweaty palms to even those most composed of actors. Therapists often say that in order to face your fears, you need to deal with the worst case scenarios, the “what if”s. So, here are the Top 10 Worst Pieces of Advice for Networking (or, TTWTTCHWN):

10) Find a casting director and ask them how many actors they rep
9) Networking events are the perfect time to wear that hot pair of shoes that you can’t walk or stand in
8) Introduce yourself with your IMDB URL and tell people to click so you can raise your Starmeter
7) Avoid researching the guest(s) of honor at an event- it keeps things lively and intriguing!
6) When there is an awkward silence, start doing your monologue. Especially useful if it is Shakespeare.
5) Always ALWAYS talk up your background work as being “featured.” For theater folks, just say that play was “Off-Broadway.” No one will ever know.
4) Two words: Garlic. GAAARRRRLLLIIIIIICCCCC.
3) Ask everyone you meet to “type” you, especially if you have never met them before (they know best, right?)
2) People don’t like being looked right in the eye, so try to avoid a direct glance as much as possible.

And finally, the ultimate faux-pax with networking:

1) When someone offers a compliment, show your humility by telling them they are wrong!


Ok, so obviously you can see this is all in good fun, and that for the most part you shouldn’t do any of the things listed above. But, you would be surprised. As a career coach I hear lots and lots of stories, and as a producer of a monthly networking event, I see networking faux-pas firsthand. So, I am here to make the process a little easier.

A relationship is defined as: “a state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection)” or “a state involving mutual dealings between people or parties.” Our industry is a business of relationships, and I believe that relationships are built on two things: communication and trust. You earn trust by being forthright and authentic. You succeed at communication when there is an even exchange of ideas among the parties. So, to achieve this- here are some basic rules of thumb when networking:

1- Start your conversation with something that everyone has as a shared experience.
Are you both at a play? A networking mixer? The play (or mixer) is a shared experience, and it is an easy way to get the ball rolling. Ask the person what they thought of the play, or if they came to see someone in particular. As k them how they know the host, or what brings them that evening. (This is why everyone talks about the weather and pop culture- they are things that most people share.)

2 - Do your research. (And if you haven’t, be honest.)
It is always a good idea to do your research before attending an event. Who might be there? What have they contributed to the industry? But sometimes, you can’t anticipate who you might meet. If you meet someone for the first time, don’t lie about knowing them, or their work! This is a great opportunity to do item #3, which is...

3 - Make the conversation about them.
This means that you ask a lot of questions and let THEM do the talking. In sales, it is often said that the first person who speaks, loses. So, ask good questions and be an active listener, building your subsequent questions off of their answers.

4 - BE YOURSELF
You are enough.

5 - Ask for future communication.
If you have a great conversation, ask for a way to continue it. Offer a business card and ask them to add you to their mailing list. Set up a business lunch so that you can find ways to help each other.

6 - KEEP IT BRIEF
No one wants to be monopolized at a party (even the Parker Bros) (ha!)

Most importantly- practice makes (almost) perfect. You can’t benefit from the fruits of networking unless you get out there, sow some seeds, and harvest! It can be really fun, once you get the hang of it...


Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

4 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Ben Whitehair said...

Great post. How many actors do you rep? I'd love for you to be my agent.

Oh, and I understand that you just produced a film with Harrison Ford, so can you please check me out on IMDb? www.imdb.me/benwhitehair

Thanks! I'll send you an overly-personal follow-up email every 3 days for the next 7 years.

Erin C. said...

Hahaha! I am glad you see my point...

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read this blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Truly yours

Cindy said...

Very helpful (and funny!)
Thanks

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