The dreaded networking events! Actor networking is a real thorn in the backside of everyone who wants to make it in the business, but we’re constantly told it’s necessary. How exactly are you supposed to win over a person in a five-minute conversation and get them to give you that job?
Very few people know the answer to this question. I doubt any have the answer. I’ve heard some strange plans. Like, bumping into the person you want to talk to three times, so on the third time, you can say “Oh my God, we need to stop meeting like this. Hi, my name is…”
But I’m going to share with you the secret answer! I’m going to tell you how to approach people at Networking events.
As a general rule networking events aren’t all that great. The kind of people who go to networking events are usually the ones who are looking for someone of note to network with. The art of networking happens elsewhere.
The Art of Networking
Spoiler. There is no such thing.
Most people after a hard day don’t want to talk about work. The first tip: leave the business at the door. Don’t engineer an opportunity, just chat to people.
If you go for drinks after a show and the whole cast and crew are there and you decide to jump in the deep end not knowing anyone or having seen the show. It’s going to be a tall order to get through any conversation, with anyone.
Why not congratulate someone? Tell them you enjoyed their performance, their last performance too and wait for the reaction. Here is your first flag, they may react positively, if so, carry on. If not, let it go. You don’t want to be the annoying pest in the room. Be assertive and instigate conversation but be sensitive to their reactions too.
When networking, your job isn’t to get the job there and then. It is to just meet, find out what people have lined up and find out if they need anyone.
I can not stress enough about knowledge of the industry here if you know nothing… it shows. Not sure how to deal with this? why not read my article Making a Career in Theatre: The Importance of Expanding your Knowledge?
I’m lucky enough to have a small amount of understanding about this. A couple of years ago I put on a play with a friend, once we made it public what we were doing, well, wow! People really do become interested. We had sorted all the logistics, I needed people to come to see it and get excited about what we had made and wanted to make. Not try and get a job.
As I said above, most networking events can be full of people trying to meet someone important, but no one of importance there! However if you are are starting your own project, these places can be invaluable. A group of young, talented, enthusiastic people looking to get the feet on the ladder in the Arts industry.
I believe the best way to network and get information from people is to do it straight up. Why not email a Casting Director, Producer or Director and ask them what they do. Although people don’t like talking about work almost everyone likes to talk about themselves.
Ask them how they do there job. When does the casting process start? What’s the best way to hear of auditions? I could go on. Don’t just ask questions that make you sound good, your sitting with a possible job giver, rinse them of information.
Remember you have something to offer. You are an Artist. Don’t down yourself, your perfect for a job you have to find it. If you think this way you’re making yourself equal to everyone else. This can help your confidence.
My final bit to add would be, in my opinion, networking is a scary word that has scary connotations and business-like expectations. I prefer to call it going for a chat with someone more experienced. These people you should learn from, and they may just take you under their wing.
Take a look at more of our helpful How To articles to help you gain a foothold in the world of theatre!
John is a graduate of the YEP Actors and Writers courses and is currently studying Acting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He continues to write his own plays in his own time. He is also an avid football fan and is trying to make his debut into the Liverpool first eleven. Acting was always the plan B.