One of the most important skills that everyone needs in life is networking, which is a part of the ability to communicate with other people. The people who are most successful in any endeavor whether it be in your business/work life, and in your personal and even social life, are those who have very good communication skills and are not shy about meeting new people.
Some people are just naturally good at it, while others, who might just be shy or introverted have problems in dealing with others. This can lead to others interpreting this in the wrong way, which can lead to other problems.
Your being shy might make people think that you are aloof or unfriendly. Lets do a brief study on this, and later we will talk about how you can work on improving your networking and communication skills even if you are painfully shy.
If we break this down to the most basic concept, in life, every single person has things that they need in order to function in the world. For that person to be successful, they need to be able to communicate those needs to others.
In The Workplace:
In the workplace, for an organization to be able to achieve success, different people from different departments need to communicate with each other so that they can achieve their common goal. This tenet can be applied to every business, including those in the entertainment industry.
Whether it be in print modeling, commercial acting or theatrical acting, collaboration is vitally important. Everyone needs to be doing their part, and communication between all parties is the key.
If people are not on the same wavelength, then it becomes much more difficult to achieve a common goal - doing that perfect commercial, print ad, film or TV show.
In The Entertainment Industry:
Now lets get into the specifics of networking as it relates to the entertainment industry. For our purposes, networking would be defined as communicating with people who have the knowledge and connections to help in the advancement of your career in entertainment.
Another part of networking would be to meet and communicate with your peers in order for you to work together to help advance your careers. For example, as an actor, you may want to meet with other actors (particularly those more advanced in their careers than you) and ask for advice on what acting class would be best for you to learn and improve.
You should also find out about parties and social functions where you can meet other actors, but also producers who might meet you and decide that you are perfect for a part in their next project.
Networking is all about developing relationships with many different people in the entertainment industry. That is done by meeting people in theatre groups, at dinner parties, and social events that are associated with organizations, charity events, and film festivals or fashion shows.
You have to learn to communicate with others and be generous with your peers. If you are invited to an industry party, ask if you can bring a friend. In most cases, the party host will want to welcome other actors or models.
I am currently working with a former fitness champion and model, who moved out to California from a small town in Canada. Her goal was to become a star by becoming a good working actor. Maddy Howard is her name, and she has achieved some nice early success.
Besides being beautiful, talented, and a hard worker, she is an excellent networker. Before she even had her work visa, she had already met with a journalist who invites her to come with him to Hollywood premieres, and she had met an Executive Vice President in charge of casting for one of the major Hollywood studios.
She happens to have a sweet and very bubbly personality, and is very easy to talk to. She does not have any problem talking to people she does not know.
Getting Over Shyness
OK, your excuse is that you are painfully shy, and have a problem talking to people who you DO know at a party.
What do you do? What you have to do, if you want success in the entertainment industry is to get over your shyness, and learn to better communicate with others. If you can do this, you will see that your life in other areas become better because you will have the communication skills to be able to get what you need and also what you want.
How do you get better? Here is something you can do. I would guess that you feel pretty comfortable communicating with your family and closest friends. Practice your skills with them. Pretend that you are at a party, and that you don't know them. Start a conversation with them, and talk to them about things of common interest. If you are a funny person, use that skill.
It's very important to be yourself, and for some of you, it may be important to find out who you really are. You also may want to write some things down that you feel comfortable talking to strangers about. Study them, and then practice them with close friends or family.
You can also go to local parties where you live and practice your communicating skills with people in your town at a summer picnic or a party given at your gym.
You will see that as you get better at communicating with people you don't know is pretty much the same as doing so with people you do know. The truth is that it will eventually get much easier because you will realize that you have a lot more in common with people in the entertainment industry because you have something in common with them.
The more networking you do by going to parties and public events, the more comfortable you will be, and you will actually start to really enjoy networking. Make it a fun event that you look forward to, rather than "Gosh, I am nervous - what do I say to them - sheeesh, I can't wait for this to be over." That is the wrong attitude to have. I will give you an example of what I did to break the ice with an actor who is a household name.
Breaking The Ice
I was at a NY premiere of his film. Afterwards there was a party in a nightclub. I went to the bar to get something for my date and I, and he happened to go to the bar as well. We were standing next to each other, so I said "hi," and then said to him, "Did anyone ever tell you that you look EXACTLY like (I mentioned his name)?" He chuckled and said, "That guy is a jerk, stay away from him."
I happened to know an old girlfriend of his before he was famous, and she worked at my favorite restaurant, so I asked him if he had been to that restaurant lately. He said, "Wow you are bringing up ancient history." We chatted for a few moments, and then the bartender came over, and I let him order his drink first. When he got his drinks, I introduced myself and told him that it was nice talking to him.
He shook my hand and he said, "Hi, I am (his name)," to which I said, "Yeah, I know." I had put him totally at ease because I used my sense of humor and treated him like a normal person. As you can see, I have no problem talking to strangers either, but this is a skill that can be learned. You just have to work at it, and practice.
Next Month: Union Jobs Vs. Non-union Jobs - SAG, AFTRA, AEA