The Ultimate Guide To Networking For Actors | Part 2
In Part 1 of this guide we explored the reasons why everything you think you know about networking is wrong and began to shift your mindset towards the mindset of a master connector. We then discovered the importance of setting networking goals and how we could make our goals S.M.A.R.T to increase our likelihood of seeing them through.
In Part 2 of The Ultimate Guide To Networking for Actors we are going to delve into the actual skills you will need to meet and connect with any Casting Director, Agent or anyone you like. Don’t forget to Download the free PDF Action Plan with worksheets to fill out, a resource to show you 5 Free Tools To Network Like A Master and a 30 Day Networking Challenge to take all this theory off the page and into the real world.
Always Be Prepared
Who, where and why you meet someone new is often a matter of right place and right time but that doesn’t mean it has to be left to chance and it certainly is no excuse not to be prepared for your encounters.
If you meet a casting director or agent briefly, at an audition, a press party, a workshop or a seminar it’s a good idea to add them to your database of contacts with a brief note about how and when you met them. Then you can spend some time going back and doing a bit of homework. Follow them on social channels, take a look at their website or blog, familiarise yourself with their recent projects and spend a bit of time online to learn as much as you can about their work and passions.
Even more so if you are planning to attend an event that you know somebody in particular will be at. If it’s a press night find out who has been invited or who is guaranteed to be there. The director, the casting team, the agents of the cast, the writer, the producers.
Prepare a one page summary of each of the people you would like to connect with before hand that includes anything that tells you more about what this person is like, not just in their job but as a human being. What is important to them, their challenges, goals and what their proudest achievements might be. Everybody naturally cares more about what they do than anything else so it really helps to be informed enough about them to comfortably step into their world and talk knowledgeably.
There are a lot of shortcuts to making more valuable connections, this isn’t one of them. Doing your homework is not an option, it’s a requirement that takes time but pays dividends.
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Warm Things Up
Nobody likes telesales calls, right? You know they don’t care about you, let alone know you and it’s infuriating when they ask how you are like they’ve known you all their life. Well the same is true of creative professionals. These types of interactions are called “cold approaching”, like a cold call only it could be over the phone, in person, via email or through any other mode of communication and as networkers it is our job to ‘warm up’ these types of interactions before we make a fool of ourselves.
These types of first introductions tend to be the ones done badly and as such they are most likely to piss off the person you are introducing yourself to, which is why most people are scared to death of trying it with important people.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, there is a secret to cold approaching that no one ever tells you;
Don’t do it!
If it can be avoided, then cold approach should not be your first port of call, I myself would never ever approach someone in person out of the blue having never made a connection with them before hand if I can help it. I like to do whats called “warming the lead”.
To “warm up” a cold lead, a stranger that you want to turn into an acquaintance, you could begin to connect with them over a number of weeks or months through as many different channels as possible so that when you do meet them in person you have hopefully, already had multiple, informal conversations with them, breaking the proverbial ice..
Here is an idea of how you would go about doing that;
Starting with social media is always good as these are informal and public. Begin by following them on twitter and see if they have a public facebook page. Do they admin any groups you could join? Are they members of any groups you could participate in?
You want to begin contributing to their social sphere, retweeting or mentioning their posts that are of value (not just for the sake of it), pointing them in the direction of a resource they might find helpful if they are talking about something of interest to you, answering questions or flagging questions to them from people in their groups.
After a number of weeks/months of casual social connections and hopefully a few conversations you can to go one layer deeper, find their websites and blogs and any others that they write for and begin consuming the content that they write. People are very appreciative when you engage with their writing, this shows you spent time and effort and put care and attention into what they are working on. You want to begin leaving insightful comments on their content. Can you add anything? Did they miss any resources you know of? Are others asking questions that you could help answer? Honest critique is fine too, but keep it constructive. This will begin to flag you up on their radar and show that you are not just another doe-eyed follower.
In your Free Networking Action Plan I go into detail on how exactly to connect online with what tools and when to maximise your efforts.
Finally, after you have connected with them a number of times on social channels, at least three months of the above, you can begin researching how to contact them via email.
Email, is a beast all of its own, you have to treat a persons inbox with sanctity, like a sacred temple. Anyone can get in if they know where the door is but once inside you must respect it or you’ll be condemned to networking hell. Ominous as it sounds email is serious business, most people now a days run their whole lives through their email accounts which is why people are so guarded about giving out their details, especially online.
The good thing is, because spammy email is so prevalent right now it means that you have a golden opportunity to impress with a well thought out and valuable contribution to a persons life. Sending someone an email in the hopes of building your relationship with them is really no different to walking up to that person in real life. You wouldn’t walk up to a big casting director while she was busy and beg them to call you in for the show they are casting so why would this ever be OK by email.
For general connections that you make with those outside of the casting room you want to find their personal emails, not their work emails or office ones that way you can begin engaging with them on a personal level and they won’t be annoyed that you are wasting their time. Sending cat videos to your new CD buddys’ work email might not go down so well.
Unless you have a specific reason for making contact; a show is casting, you have a play in a few weeks, you’ve got a new showreel, you are seeking new representation, then do not make email contact through submission or other professional email addresses to a casting director or agent. This will only annoy the person as they already receive hundreds of these emails a day, you will effectively be wasting that person’s time, a big no-no.
If you are not connecting with them personally, outside of what they do as their job, your very first email to a new casting director or agent connection, for example, if they are not casting anything that you would be right for at the moment and if you are not in anything they could come and see, could be as simple as;
Hi [ name of CD that casts lots of TV],
My name is Jason, we spoke on twitter briefly yesterday about House Of Cards, Kevin Spacey really is something else. I just wanted to drop you a line as we have never met before. I am an Irish actor, graduated from Central School of Speech and Drama and just wanted to pop myself on your radar for any future projects you have that I might be suitable for.
Here is a link to my Spotlight and Showreel, which has some clips from my recent BBC appearance.
Thanks for taking the time,
The key here is relevance and brevity. They have less than 0 time to read this, if they read it at all, so keep it short. Lead with a reminder of another connection you have made, or even better if you have actually been in something recently that they might have seen, this warms up the lead so they don’t relegate you as just another spammy actor. Don’t apologise for your outreach (I know you’re busy so I’ll be brief…), they know why you’re emailing and it’s their job so don’t be sorry. Give them a specific reason why you are writing to them, have you just done some TV work? are you in a play right now? Close out with a polite thanks.
Don’t expect any direct response to this email. If you do get a response great, but 99 times out of 100 you won’t get a response. This does not mean you were ignored and remember this is only the first formal contact you have made so don’t expect any jobs to come flying through from this. This is just to flag you up as a little blip on their radar, a blip that will get closer and closer, bigger and bigger as you build your connection with them.
What Could They Possibly Need From Me?
Providing value really is the fuel to a powerful network. It’s really easy to provide value to most people once you’ve understood the previous sections but how do you apply that to Spielberg or Nina Gold
Most people will immediately think; It’s Nina ‘effing Gold what could she possibly need from little old me? I have nothing to offer someone as high and mighty, surely?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Whilst forming a personal connection however distant to these people could be helpful, it can be hard to connect with them at all. People in positions of influence usually guard their personal lives very closely for good reason. You should always respect the personal and professional boundaries and most of the time connections like this are out of your reach in the beginning.
Instead, try to appreciate that your skills as an actor and your particular niche casting is valuable to casting directors, agents etc and the most valuable thing you can do as an actor to build your working relationship is represent yourself with professionalism and accuracy to the best of your ability and at just the right moment when they are looking for someone like you to fit the bill.
There is a reason that Casting Directors hate it when you come in to their audition room and look nothing like your headshot. It makes them look bad to their Director. So, listen to the advice, get headshots that don’t make you look like a commercial model if you are not one, make sure your spotlight is up to date, accurate and never, EVER lie. If you can’t really tap dance, don’t tell a CD that you can. I learnt this the hard way and lets just say that the likelihood of me ever being in Book Of Mormon now is very slim!
Never Eat Alone
Everybody’s gotta eat, right? We all do it three times a day. You already set aside time in your mind each day to sit down somewhere, take a break from what you’re doing and eat. It doesn’t take much extra planning to invite a friend along with you for lunch or dinner and it’s not adding anything extra into your plans because you were going to do it anyway, a great opportunity for you to deepen connections you already have or even better: connecting people in your network to others, building that web.
If you have arranged to meet somebody for lunch or drinks or dinner, why not reach out to your existing network to somebody who you think would get on really well with this other person and invite them along too. You could even do this with a number of people, connecting a group of people with others who have potentially never met each other but could end up providing great value to each other. Your friends will appreciate the introductions and it also allows you to keep in touch with lots of people in your network at once making best use of the time you spend with these people. Everybody wins.
Every once in a while I like to arrange to meet small groups of my friends for dinner or drinks, some of whom have never met each other. I’d like to do this once a week but once a month is a good start. I reach out to 5-10 people that I’ve made a pretty good connection with and ask them if they would like to get together for drinks or a bite to eat with a few other interesting people. I also invite a couple of my closer friends to make sure it’s an interesting time for everyone. By reaching out to 10 people and deciding a date and time yourself maybe half of them will be available, the other half can be invited with a new group next time. Very quickly you will have built up a sizeable group of people that you meet with in person regularly.
This is a huge step forward in building the strength of your network. Why not call your favourite restaurant now and speak to the manager about arranging a monthly table for 5, this will give you the push you need to start making those offline connections stronger.
Part of your 30 Day Networking Challenge is going to be to organise a little get together of your own so don’t forget to download the Free Networking Action Plan
Now that you are prepared with the mindset of a connector and the skillset of a powerful networker it’s time to put those theories into action. In the next section I deal with applying the above advice to three real life scenarios which are rich in potential value for your network.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]