Since you’re reading this, you probably already realize that in Hollywood, as in many other industries (politics and contract work), networking is a very important aspect of a successful career. Strong networking skills are, in fact, more critical than great talent, by the way.
If you’re like most of the thousands of actors and screenwriters I’ve worked with, you probably agree that networking is a key to success in Hollywood, but it probably lives more as a concept in your head than as a real thing that you do. In fact, my guess is that you probably wish it were not necessary, and there’s a good chance that it feels “fake” to you. Bottomline, it may seem like networking is really just trying to sell yourself and get what you want. But if you think of it that way, you are making a big mistake. Relating to networking like that will work against you because you’re going in the wrong way. How do you do it right, you ask?
Here are the Five Golden Keys to be successful at networking.
First Key: Change your relationship to networking itself. Instead of focusing on getting what you want, focus on getting to know people.
If you go to a function, you have to get to know people before you can do business with them anyway. So simply meet people and talk with them as your initial contact. Ask them questions, find out about who they are, what they do, and what they are working on at the moment. As you listen and converse with them, things you have in common will come up naturally.
Second Key: Set a goal for what you want to accomplish before you go to the networking event.
Make a plan to fulfill a goal, such as exchange three business cards with people you could do business with. Or perhaps, introduce and pitch yourself to five people whom you will also learn about what they do. Or it could be to do something like find a potential writing partner or to find a project you can be a production assistant on or an agent whose office you could assist in for a week or a month. There are many kinds of outcomes that you can set that could forward your career – it doesn’t necessarily just have to be getting someone to read your script or getting someone to let you audition for their film. One of the powerful ways that you develop connections is to work with people in other capacities first while not hiding your real aspirations.
Key Three: Make sure you have follow up system in place once you meet someone.
Once you get home, make a strong, clear choice about how and when you will keep in touch with that person and how you will approach them. Then update your contact list and put on your calendar when you will reach them again. Also set aside time for when you will prepare what you will say to them, whether it is to pitch something to them or to offer to buy them lunch or dinner. Then when the time comes, make your call to them. Key Four: Prepare and practice your pitch in advance of the meeting. You need to craft your pitch so that you come across as interesting to whomever you’re pitching to. Don’t just tell about yourself, but sell yourself by telling them something about yourself that they could be interested in.
For example, what I do, from my perspective, is I help market actors and screenwriters. But from your perspective, if you’re an actor, I help you get more auditions that you want or I help you get an agent who can get you auditions. For screenwriters, from my perspective, I help you create a Query Letter Mailing. But from your perspective, I help you get producers and agents to read your script.
When you prepare your pitch, prepare it for what is in it for the audience that you want to do business with and that you are pitching to.
Key Five: Have a strong system for ongoingly keeping in touch with everyone you meet whom you could potentially do business with, so they remember you and they think of you at the right time.
If you’re an actor, go crazy with mailing out photo postcards and messages, update people on your latest activities – whether it’s a new headshot (or just new to them) – or a play you’re doing, a new class you started, or a Guest Star Role that you just got cast in. Get creative about what you announce. If you are taking action in your career, there is always something to announce, I promise you. For Screenwriters, be prolific in coming up with ideas. You can keep in touch letting people know about a new treatment or screenplay you have. You can also contact them to let them know you love their recent project, or congratulate them on something. One surefire way to get them to remember you (favorably) is if you have a fantastic script and they read it, they will remember you for quite some time. It is really great if you also engage in optioning other writers’ scripts because that puts you in a producer role and can give you countless things to talk about to anyone. But that is a whole other ballgame, so suffice it to say that if you are thinking about doing that, it’s a great idea.
If you only want to write or if you only want to act, then you have to get creative about how you can stay in touch or make people remember you. But you must do it. You must put effort and intention in this area of your career.
So there you go. Five Keys for Successful Hollywood Networking. If you taking on mastering these keys, demonstrate patience, and not get too worried about seeing immediate results (although you might see fast results), then over time you will be blown away by the results you produce. If you would like coaching on developing your Quick Pitch for networking events or any aspect of networking, follow up, approach contacts and making requests, check out my Melody Jackson Coaching page and call me to arrange a time.