How To Make A GREAT First Impression
We are lucky to be a part of the entertainment industry where, even if you live in a smaller market, there are so many amazing artists and collaborators and content creators here in LA and other markets, and there’s a lot of amazing opportunities to be had if you put yourself out there and meet people.
Now, I’m sure you have good ideas about where to meet people, but I wanted to focus this blog specifically on how to make a good first impression.
After all, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. ;)So, here are some tips and tricks that my clients and I have learned while meeting people in the entertainment industry!
Easy Ways To Initiate Conversation
Smile! Say hi! It’s amazing how many people want to chat with others but a lot of people are equally unsure of how to strike up a conversation. I know it seems obvious, but really think about smiling and saying hello to people when you’re at your next party or festival or event.
Not only does a conversation eventually happen, but sometimes you can make lifelong friends through a casual word in the lobby of a screening. I’ll often comment about the weather or about a film I just saw. I’ll also say hi or compliment someone on their shirt or their shoes – a genuine compliment, of course – just to break that initial awkward first moment.
In fact, I’ve had great success commenting on food… Often festivals have a tea or breakfast or dinner as part of one of their parties, and usually, it’s a buffet set up.
I will ALWAYS say something about the food to the person standing next to me… I’ve said stuff like “oh that looks good doesn’t it?” or I’ll see someone holding a plate and ask, “how is that, good?” Another option is to ask about specialty cocktails/beverages that are being served at events, I’ll say, “oh is that a margarita? How is it?”
Keep The Conversation Going With Questions
Yay! You’re talking to someone about the food at an event! Oh no, you’ve said all you can say about the salsa… They’ve commented extensively about their favorite cheese… What do you talk about now??? Ok, take a deep breath, you’ve got this. I LOVE to ask questions about how people heard about the event as a gateway into what they do for a living. I generally make it a point to talk a little about work at the start, “Oh you’re a writer! Cool, do you have something in this festival?” and then after a minute talk about that, I LOVE to steer away from industry talk and learn more about the person. This usually leads to a deeper connection because the two of you end up talking about life stuff. Ask genuine questions, things you’d actually like to chat about, from asking if they have any pets or kids or if they loved the most recent Star Wars. Focus less on the fact that they’re “in the industry” and more on the fact that they are a person looking to have a connection at an event.
Focus On The Positive During Your Conversation
This is an industry full of long weeks and long days… and we all want to work with people that we can hang out with for hours on end, with no drama, who are fun and professional and have a good sense of humor. Well, at least I do! Ha! So, I look for that when I chat with people. If someone is rude towards a bartender, or complains incessantly about a film, I tend to not want to chat much longer with that person. Maybe they even make fun of someone nearby…
Regardless, it’s negative and it’s not someone I want to spend a lot of time with. Remember to just be nice to people, to focus on things that you loved about a particular block, to not talk badly about other people in the room, to ask questions and be authentic when chatting with others. I love to ask people what project they have coming up, to see them get excited as they talk about it.
I also love to offer some way to support them, like offering to give the project a follow on Facebook or by asking them if there’s an upcoming screening for their film. Each of us has special skills that we can offer to others in our industry that can support them, and when we offer support, we are seen as a great asset for future projects.
Follow Up With Gratitude
Let’s say you have a great conversation with someone at an event, and you guys exchange info. I love sending follow up emails within 3-5 days recounting our conversation and offering GRATITUDE for something during our interaction. For me, it’s been everything from saving a seat in a theater to recommending a great cocktail to offering up a book I should read. There’s ALWAYS something that we can be grateful for, and when we offer gratitude to others, it only deepens the relationship with them. It could even be as simple as saying thanks for telling a particular story or writing a specific scene or a beautiful camera movement that made me smile.
You’ve got a lot to offer, including Great Conversation!
Ok ok, I know what you might be thinking, “RACHEL!! I don’t have anything to offer others! People don’t want to get to know me! What do I do?” Well, first of all, I’d say that you, OF COURSE, have amazing things to offer, and like myself, you’re just temporarily forgetting them at this moment.
See, I used to be a really shy kid… I was super scared of strangers, I never wanted to answer the phone, and I had it in my head that anyone that wasn’t related to me or went to school with me was actually going to harm me. So I chose to stay very introverted and not go out and meet people. Once I moved to LA and started pursuing this career more aggressively, I realized that I had to put myself out there in order to succeed in any way.
So, little by little, I forced myself to strike up conversations with strangers at events, to remind myself that I am a great actress and that people want to see my work as part of their projects. I started to gain some confidence and started to meet people that I would eventually work with again and again. This was tough and had a lot of growing pains for me… Honestly, I have a lot of beautiful growth left in this department, but I wanted to let you guys know of one way that’s really helped me grow in this way.
Make A List of Why Your Friends & Family Love You
Think about it, talk to you family about it, talk to your friends about it, and really consider reasons why people love you. Then jot it down. It’s important for you to tangibly see this information, so that every time you want to NOT go out and meet new people or NOT take a new class or NOT go to a networking event or NOT put yourself out there, remind yourself of why people love you. Because this could help encourage you to get your butt out the door and to strike up a conversation with someone.
If you never strike up a conversation with someone, then THEY are being robbed of the reasons that you’re such a great person. IF you never meet anyone, and never let them know that you’ve got such a great handle on developing character, then potential collaborators will never know the amazing nuances you could bring to their production. Or maybe they never see the awesomely collaborative sense of humor you have, that could liven up even a 15-hour workday.
There will be so many opportunities this year to meet wonderful new collaborators and friends, and I am excited for you to make it a priority in your life to network even better! Remember to focus on being kind, asking questions and to simply get yourself out there.
— Coach Rachel