New technology has always gone hand in hand with many aspects of this industry. When I first became an agent’s assistant, for instance, I had to explore and learn every single part of the Breakdowns website. I also had to educate myself on the software options that help us email large files like an actor’s reel. And don’t get me started on Outlook and Google Docs.
I thought I was done with all that “learning” stuff, but thanks to recent changes on the global scene, I’m a student again. This time, my class schedule includes Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. That’s where the action is, and that ain’t changing anytime soon. Virtual meetings are as common now as actors who don’t look like their headshots!
Until our world is back to an acceptable version of normal, I’m working remotely, so I’m using these services to interact with the other agents at my company. I’m also using them to connect with clients and potential clients.
As an actor, you’ll be interacting with industry professionals by using one of these services, too, so learn them inside and out. (Zoom is getting a lot of love right now, but they’re all in use today.) And trust me: The time to educate yourself is not five minutes before a meeting. Just the other day, I lost my patience with an actor who couldn’t figure out how to connect audio.
A good trick is to think of these virtual meetings as self-tapes. You should take into account every detail of how you come across on camera. The only difference between a self-tape and a virtual meeting is that you can’t redo a virtual meeting; it’s a one-take deal. With that in mind, here are my 10 commandments for a successful virtual meeting:
1. Pick your spot. Choose an area that’s comfortable and not too distracting. Make sure there are no sex toys in the background.
2. Figure out where your webcam is located. That’s where you have to look so it feels like we’re making eye contact. It’s tricky, so practice with friends.
3. Experiment with lighting. Make sure it’s flattering. You shouldn’t be washed out or lost in the shadows. For the best results, take screenshots and compare them.
4. Learn how to take screenshots. See above.
5. Select the perfect wardrobe. Choose something flattering that makes you feel good. Don’t wear the same color as your background.
6. Learn to lean. Your energy is different if you’re slouching back in a chair. Tilt forward like the confident actor you are.
7. Keep an eye on foot traffic. No one should walk through the background while we’re talking. There are plenty of online examples in which this happens. Check them out. They’re fun!
8. Silence your devices. It’s insane how many times I’ve heard calls and texts coming in while I’m talking to someone. Nothing could be more annoying.
9. Don’t forget your personality. A lot of actors just sit there like they’re posing for a mug shot. You need to shine!
10. Watch talk shows and news shows. All those guests are calling in using one of these services. Figure out who’s good at it and who’s clueless, and learn from them.
At the end of the day, I will always prefer to meet actors in person, but this is the new world order, so learn it and master it. Your success could depend on it.
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 6 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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