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The Secret to Networking Success? Be a Good Listener

The Secret to Networking Success? Be a Good Listener
Photo Source: @linashib via Twenty20

Networking. You either love it or hate it. Have you ever felt awkward or nervous at an industry event? Has it kept you from connecting and meeting new people? You are not alone, my friend.

But what if your approach to networking was related to your acting technique? Specifically, let’s think of good networking as being an amazing listener and rather than being so worried about what to say, you just react to what’s happening in the moment.

The following may seem obvious, but if you’re not currently and consistently building fabulous relationships in the industry, start here. 

We all want to be heard.
Rather than worrying about your elevator pitch or making sure folks know your website URL, let your next interaction be all about the other person. Whether you’re meeting a fellow actor, director, or writer for the first time, remember that they’re also humans and therefore want to be loved, accepted, and heard.

So make it about them. If you’re joining a conversation, be polite and start by listening. There’s nothing worse than someone barging into a conversation and breaking the flow, but it’s certainly cool to observe and join as you see fit. Approaching someone who’s on their own? Great! Begin with what you already know about them—compliment their work, outfit, etc.—or ask a question. This will give you the opportunity to learn more, find common ground, and, most importantly, breathe. And if you have no clue what you have in common, start with the most obvious: the event you’re attending.

Great actors are great listeners.
B
elieve it or not, you will stand out in conversation just by being interested in the other person and listening more than you speak. So often, actors are quick to make it about them...what a bore. That said, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to talk or share about your own life, career, and interests. Just curate it to what comes up in the conversation.

READ: The Powerful Art of People Skills

It’s just as important to be interested as interesting.
Here’s where reacting to what’s happening in the moment comes in. In reaction to what you learn, share a bit of you: your personality, values, and humor in reaction to what they say. You are interesting just by being who you are; trust that. 

A few practical actions to try at your next social or opening:

  • Say hello to those who welcome you. Be open physically.
  • Hang with who you know at first to get comfortable and be open to introductions.
  • Graciously connect your acquaintances and colleagues.
  • If you’re attending as a lone wolf, find others who are also there solo and approach them with warmth and kindness.
  • Ask interesting questions.
  • Read the clues. If someone isn’t interested in chatting, you’ll know. As an actor, you can pick up these vibes.

You can certainly be ready to go with an elevator pitch—a 30-second intro about yourself and your career—and business card (in fact, I do encourage that), but let these tools come into play once you’ve warmed up the conversation. And don’t forget to ask for their business card so you can follow-up. 

Okay, I hear you asking, “Yeah but do I really have to? If I’m auditioning, submitting, and working as an actor, why is networking so important?” I guess it depends on how big your acting goals are. If there are folks in the industry who are a level above you and you hope to work with them someday, meeting at a networking event may just be the detail you need to move your career to the next level if you ever encounter them again.

This industry is still often about who you know, so get out there and know a few more people!

Still not convinced? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Check out the #GlobalActor Networking Challenge for more tips and motivation. 

Elise Arsenault is an actor, coach, and founder of The Global Actor. She offers private and group coaching for actors looking to book work and live life in multiple markets. Get your #GlobalActor GPS here! More at www.theglobalactor.com

Get all of your networking questions answered by peers and experts on the Backstage Community forums! 

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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