One of the things we 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 the most composed of actors.
Therapists often say that in order to face your fears, you need to deal with the worst case scenarios and the “what ifs?" So, here are the top 10 worst pieces of advice for networking.
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. This advice is especially useful if your monologue is from Shakespeare.
5. 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-pas 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. You shouldn’t do any of the things listed above. But, you’d be surprised. As a career coach and producer of the NY Actors Tweetup I see these networking mistakes 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. 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. Ask them how they know the host, or what brought 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.
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 is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with more than 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays, and musicals. She also runs The Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit, indie company in NYC. Passionate about sharing her knowledge with other actors, Cronican is the founder of The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level. First consultation is free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and like her on Facebook.