This would likely be one of the most scary subjects I could present to most actors and I totally understand why. It is within our nature to be expressive but that doesn’t mean that we’re all “outward” folks, with gregarious personalities or find chatting with strangers easy.Ultimately most actors I’ve know over the years are scared shitless to really “Network” the room, the event, the set or just within their own day to day life and social circle. Well please let me go on record and say that “I’m totally with ya.” I HATE it…all of it. It’s gross, feels false, seems like you’re a sell out on the inside etc. etc. The reality is there is a massive amount of subjectivity as we all know in networking that we can’t control it. This reality simply causes us great pause…and in all honesty, it should.
So here is my “thing” about the concept of Networking…is to change your title to it being an art of engagement. You see the word networking implies a “goal” it implies that you’re WORKING for some type of outcome and/or CLEAR forward path to “getting something” from the conversation, event, party, or other environment in which there was a meeting of two people. Well screw that and get it out of your head. Networking, much like acting, has to “look like” to the audience that what is happening…isn’t what you’re really doing.
So the “Art of Engagement” is to have you walking away from someone who simply had a “nice experience” meeting you and that whether it was specifically discussed or not, they’ll be “open” when hearing from you again in the NEAR future after meeting you. This is networking, but it needs to be done from the perspective of engagement and just like acting creates a “willing suspense of disbelief” that you’re actually networking with them. THEY have to feel that you were never networking you were just engaging with them.
To me this art is about your “mind’s focus” and nothing more. Your mind needs to be in a state of freedom, curiosity, relaxed and allowing yourself…to be you. Do NOT have an agenda when meeting people of all kinds in this profession. I say this because by definition, when you say (and you should) that you’re an actor when asked (and they will) THEY already know what your essential agenda is…it is a given. So when it is a given you don’t need to push that. What is refreshing for them is when they have a brief, medium or even long engagement with a non-star actor who “appears to not have an agenda.” This is wonderfully refreshing and leaves them with a “positive” about you.
Listen, you can ask for their card if it FEELS appropriate, but my thing has always been that if you chat with someone and ask the right questions then you’ll know their full name, the name of their company, what they’ve done etc. etc. and in today’s world with Google, IMDBPro, and many other resources it would be easy to “find them” later and get them a note to (as I always say) “commence an association.” Learning how to be yourself in all situations is a monster key for actors and being able to engage “key players” in this industry you meet without them feeling that you’re “hitting on them” is an ART.
Practice it, work on it, put yourself in the position a lot…and I assure you someday you’ll be totally comfortable, never think twice about it again, and you’ll consistently be building the numbers of people you know, and that know of you, in your marketplace wherever that is. I wish this both for you and also for your career because it makes “being an actor” away from a job, or class, or rehearsal or on stage…much easier.
Always on your side, @TheKevinE