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Friday, November 18, 2011

Leave 'Em Wanting More (or the Lost Art of Wooing)


This article was picked up by Backstage Magazine as a part of their Backstage Experts column!

Ah... single life in NYC. Strangely (or sadly) it’s a lot like you see on “Sex and the City” -- except without the huge apartments and amazing shoes. Being single in the city means that there’s an opportunity for connection around every corner. Thus, even a trip to the grocery store or laundromat is pressure-laden, requiring clean clothes and sparkling wit. The result is that there are a lot of lonely people vying for the one last guy or gal who hasn’t been snatched up yet.

It occurred to me the other day, as I marveled at the industry contacts I’ve made in social settings... just how much building a promising career is like trying to find a promising relationship. Stay with me. The analogy will hold up, I promise. I mean, look at the paragraph above. Pull out the word single and insert actor, and we’re dealing with the same thing. So, I theorize that the success of both single-dom and an acting career hinge on this unspoken golden rule: Leave ‘em wanting more.

Don’t believe me? Think back to the last time you had a first date. (Those of you who are married may have to reach waaaaay back. Others, like me, probably have plenty to choose from due to an intense lack of second dates.) On that first date, you don’t want to tell your whole life story. You don’t want to rehash past relationships or open up old wounds. You want to engage your listener and make them so enraptured that they can’t think of anyone but you. You want to leave ‘em wanting more so that they are inspired to call you again for that second date, and the third, and so on.

So, how do you do that in your meetings and auditions? How do you leave ‘em wanting more (and how does dating relate even in the slightest?)

1) Choose Your Objective
To start, you have to make sure you’re clear on the objective of the encounter. You might think that when you have that first meeting with an agent that the objective that day is to be signed. However, unless the agent is a one-person operation, getting signed that day will most likely be impossible. There are many hoops to jump through when sigining -- getting approved by other agents in their office, the perusal of your materials, etc. Therefore, the objective for this encounter should be (drum roll please...): To get to the next encounter! This means that for an initial agency meeting, your goal should be to get to the next meeting. At a first audition, your objective should be to get a callback. By keeping your eye on the step that’s right in front of you, rather than 5 steps ahead, you’ll have an easier time creating an experience that makes them want to see more.

2) Relax (aka Don’t Try So Hard)
So, if we agree that the best way to approach an encounter is to think only one step ahead, this should go a long way in helping you achieve step 2 -- RELAX. You don’t have to win someone over completely in that first meeting. You simply have to wow them enough that they want to see you again. By relaxing, you allow the other person to relax too.

In my seminars and soirees, I often use the first date analogy when talking about relaxing. This relates a lot to how much info to give and how much to hold back on. Imagine this: you’re on a first date, and your date asks, “So, tell me a little bit about yourself.” And you say:

“I’ve been dating since I was 16 years old (including 4 years of intense dating in college), so I really know what I’m doing in the dating world. In fact, I think you might say that I’m one of the best undiscovered daters in the city. I’m looking for a relationship that is passionate and thrilling, but also calm and steady. It also has to be romantic, but not too romantic. I don’t want to get tied down to one specific way of dating. I know I am going to be an amazing mom, and I think that right now I want to have 3 kids. No, wait 4 kids. No, wait, I mean 3 kids. Actually, it doesn’t matter because I know that I have what it takes, and if I can just find the right guy who can see me for “me” I’ll be able to start having kids right away. I am amazing at keeping my apartment clean, paying bills on time, and shopping. I’m an incredible cook. I don’t have much money right now, but I know I’ll be able to make tons more money in the future if I could just find a stable partner. All I want is to be a good wife and parent. I mean, is that so wrong?”

(crickets)

You cringe, but this is what actors do every day in agency/CD offices around the country. In an effort to show how much they WANT this, they spew up every last little detail about their desires and expound positive traits, and leave the agent/CD to clean up after the spill.

“Well, I’ve been acting my whole life but I’ve never been able to find an agent. I’m really good at comedy and drama and want to be able to do TV and film and theater and musicals and commercials and print. Oh, and voiceover -- my Aunt says I have a really good voice for radio...”

You see my point? Relax! If you wouldn’t do that on a first date, you really shouldn’t do it in a meeting or audition. I promise, if you think of the dating analogy you won’t have trouble censuring yourself. Just withhold... a little. Keep something of yourself close to the vest, while still remaining open. It’s difficult, but definitely a skill you should cultivate.

3) Take control and make it about them
The more you can take control over a meeting and make it about the other person, the better you’ll be about creating a mystique about yourself. Face it, we all have egos and like talking about ourselves, especially when someone is genuinely interested. It makes up want to be around that person more and more. So, take every opportunity to inquire about the other person. What makes them so right for you, anyway? If you think of your meetings and auditions as business exchanges, it will help you think of yourself as an equal who is there with a job to do.

Also, consider than with the amount of anxiety that actors naturally feel, agents & CDs tend to have to take care of actors a lot. Imagine how enticing it would be to have you take care of THEM for a change? The more control you have in the meeting, the easier it will be for them to relax in YOUR hands.

4) Leave “while the iron is hot”
One of my favorite jokes about quitting early has been, “I want to go out on top, like Seinfeld.” Seinfeld was at the top of its game when the series was ended. This made the buzz and desire for the show hotter than ever. One key component of leaving folks wanting more is if you end the encounter before things get stale, before you both run out of things to say. I’m convinced that some of wonderful first dates that people have do not become second dates may have been because Date 1 lasted too long. If you spend a large amount of time with someone, you may be thwarting your attempt to get a second meeting. Cutting the time a little short creates a sense of loss, a loss than can only be re-won by them bringing you back again. So, honestly, don’t worry that you only have 5 minutes in that audition room. That’s plenty of time to intrigue someone. This hold try for the amount of time in the room, and also the length of your audition materials. Make them call you back to see the rest of your goods. Trust me - a 2-minute monologue or 32 bar song is plenty of time to show them your stuff, but also short enough to leave ‘em wanting more.

What other dating analogies can you infer from this article? Shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts- I’d love to know ways you have left people wanting more! Or, if you need some support on how to handle any of the above 4 ideas, let me know. Perhaps it just a little pep talk you need, or perhaps your career would benefit from a little bit of coaching. I always offer a free consultation so we can get to know each other and you can see if this kind of coaching would be right for you. I would be honored to be a member of your team.

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.

2 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Lenka said...

Very smart thinking! Love the reference to dating. It's funny how when we try to impress, we take it too far and think the more the better, when in fact the less the better.

Erin Cronican said...

Thanks, Lenka! I came up with that reference by lots of trial and error. :)

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