In our final part for ‘how to become a working actor’ we’re going to talk about the fourth component which is very much to do with people.
And what do I mean by that?
It really doesn’t matter what line of work we’re in, at the end of the day we are in the people’s business and the film or theatre industry is no different.
In an era of rapidly advancing technology, it’s easy to become complacent. While social media has the power to bring us together online, there’s nothing quite like meeting people in person, face to face, to establish a genuine connection.
And this is the fourth component – ‘Networking’ going out there and meeting the people or as I like to say MTPing.
Because the more we MTP the better the chances of us making the right contacts.
Us humans thrive on communication and interaction and to a certain degree it even nourishes our soul. By connecting with others it generates fuel. And at networking events we aim to seek three things:
no. 1 – Knowledge – to gain some form of understanding from the people we meet and interact with and at the same time be prepared to give advise and information. The focus here is to give more than to receive since the optimum networker is 98 percent looking to give and two percent to take.
No. 2 – contacts – we’re here to acquire not just contacts but the right ones. At the same token we should also aim to share contacts with others if we’re to find it of benefit. If we can aim to connect others and allow them to develop their own relationships we will be way ahead of the curve. One thing that’s worth doing at the next networking event is to test ourselves to see how we may provide a contact or a solution to someone else’s needs.
No. 3 – Transactions – when we come across a potential contact that we’d like to stay in touch with we should exchange digital cards, business cards, emails, phone numbers but with the true intention of keeping in touch with them in the future. There’s no point in exchanging contact details if we feel that there’s no value or mutual transaction to be gained from either side.
The best piece of advise I’ve once received when it comes to networking was to approach each conversation without expecting anything in return. The thought of ‘what can you do for me?’ Should be weeded out of our lexicon since it reeks of desperation, particularly if we’re an actor speaking to either a producer or a director.
To go into a conversation with the intention of seeing what someone else can do for us is like saying ‘Hey, relieve me of my journey as an actor, I’m too tired to keep doing it myself, so give me the magic shortcut to reach my goal.’ This could very much translate to others as us being lazy and unprofessional, were we can’t be bothered to do the heavy lifting ourselves.
The aim is to avoid thinking ‘what’s in it for us?’ And instead consider what we might be able to offer the other person instead.
Even though most conversation may end up cold with no recourse for change this is a great exercise to flex our muscles and develop networking skills for the times that we will bump into a potential contact that we’d be excited to connect and potentially do business with in the future.
The energy we bring to the conversation is essential. Our creative spark, complimented with a smile is already a good start. Standing against a wall while nursing our drink is not going to do us any favours so we have to make the effort of walking up to strangers in the room and making the first move for polite conversations.
The great thing about networking, when doing it right, is we don’t have to talk that much. Being a great listener is an essential requirement. Our intention, when first engaging with a person, is to excavate as much information as we can from them and listen without interrupting. We might be compelled to jump in with a thought or a suggestion but let’s hold that thought and concentrate on listening even further.
People, in general, like to talk, and mostly about themselves, so let’s allow them do so. If we sense that the speaker has said their part then we’ll ask a follow up question but be sure to make it an interesting one.
The questions we ask have to be open ended questions such as how, who, where, what and why. The last thing we want to do is ask a closed ended question where the answer will be either a yes or a no.
See this as a game, a skill to master where the questions we ask will actually make us even more curious about the other person. It’s normal at networking events to ask someone their name and what they do for a living and if that’s the case let’s make sure the follow up question is an exciting one for the person to answer.
For example if we find that the person is a director, instead of jumping in with ‘Oh, have you directed anything recently that I might’ve seen?’ Let’s say something along the lines of ‘That’s great, I’m curious to know how you got involved in directing and do you remember the first time you wanted to do that?’ This can open up a whole treasure trove of memories for the person to look back on their lives and remind themselves how they got started in their industry in first place.
Our aim is to evoke feelings and preferably emotions so that we can bridge the gap further to knowing the person we’re facing and seeing if there’s a way to build a closer relationship.
Another question we can ask is ‘What was the first film project you directed and do you remember the toughest challenge you had to overcome?’
Make networking friendly and fun rather than being a burden or a chore. It may feel awkward and embarrassing to begin with but the more we practice at speaking with strangers and asking interesting questions, the better we’ll become at it.
Make a point of going to at least one networking event each week and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with film or the arts. There are plenty of events going on on a daily basis whether it’s to do with fashion, design, business, health, sports even finance since you never know who you might come across that might, just might be interested to connect with you for whatever reason that may be.
Remember MTP – and let’s go out there and listen closely, give unreservedly, transact intentionally and connect wholeheartedly.