Many of my colleagues spent the weekend schmoozing it up at the Austin Film Festival. Even though I skipped out on the festivities this year, I find myself pondering the question that all conferences and networking events bring up: how do you sell yourself and your talent while still acting like, well, yourself? I know some screenwriters who live and die by Burger King meals and tequila-spiked sodas as their pre-pitch ritual, and yet others who swear their elevator pitches go ten times smoother when they remember to tense their butt muscles the whole time. Personally, I like channeling the energy and confidence I feel on particularly good hair days, but this tactic tends to backfire if it draws my attention to the fact that I’m having the antithesis of a good hair day in reality.
All this is to say: screenwriters take the “imagine everyone in the room naked” concept to a whole new level. My only guess as to why we coin this new kind of crazy is the simple fact that writers are generally most comfortable when alone at a desk…We love to let our work speak for itself, but the reality is that when you’re trying to make it as a screenwriter you need to know how to speak for your work instead. I think it’s this counter-intuitive necessity for writers to have good speaking skills that leads us to invent such zany coping mechanisms. Other than tossing my hair and imagining everyone’s seeing the best-possible version of me, what little I’ve gleaned about schmoozing is as follows:
- Only talk to people who genuinely interest you. (The more interest you express in them, the more interest they’ll have in you.)
- Approach everyone with the attitude of “what can I learn from you?” instead of “what can I get from you?”
- Before attending an event, practice a 30-second summary of who you are, what you do, and what projects you’re working on. Also, practice a five-minute pitch with which to follow this up if people want to know more about your current screenplay.
- Remember to listen attentively and ask thoughtful questions.
- When all else fails, drink tequila and imagine your locks blowing in the breeze.
Do you have any other tricks that help you deal with public speaking and self-promotion? Have you ever tried any of the methods mentioned above? Please dish.
Image source: Pinterest.