Whether you’re interviewing to be an assistant or it’s your fifth showrunner meeting and you haven’t been staffed, here’s how to master the five steps of the meeting “dance.” There are different kinds of meetings in the entertainment industry -- from a “general” (where there’s no specific job); to a formal interview with executives; writing fellowship gatekeepers, agents, managers, and showrunners. We’ll get into the specifics of each type of meeting in Part II of How To Give Good Meeting and Get the Job. But for now these are the five steps to mastering the meeting dance.
STEP ONE – Waiting in the outer office
You’re reviewing what to say, your mouth is dry and you’re getting sweat rings under your arms. What do you do?
Always get there 10 minutes early – not more, not less. You need the time to center yourself. Go the bathroom to check for spinach in your teeth. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and visualize yourself having a great meeting. In the waiting area, they will offer you a water, coffee, soda, or tea. Take the water. You’ll need it if your mouth is dry, and just as important, if you make an assistant do more than grab a bottle of water, you’re already annoying.
If you end up waiting an hour, or worse, they want to reschedule, don’t complain. Be gracious, say you understand, then scream in your car after you leave the parking lot.
STEP TWO – Small Talk
This is when you make a personal connection by finding common ground. If you make a personal connection you become an “us,” not a “them.” People are predisposed to feel positively toward someone they perceive as an “us.”
So, what do you talk about? If you’ve done your prep work, you’ve researched the person you’re meeting: where they’re from, where they went to school, hobbies, mutual friends (that’s why God made Facebook). You can also bring up topical subjects: movies, sports, recent earthquakes. If all else fails, comment on something in the office – posters, artwork, etc. If you’re desperate, try the old Saturday Night Live sketch approach from “The Californians.” Share your secret to navigating the 10 to the 405 to the 101. Finally, if you’re not connecting, move quickly to the next step.
STEP THREE – Heart of the Matter
Every type of meeting has its own rules, but there are a few things every meeting must accomplish when you get to the “heart of the matter“ -- you have to sell yourself and be memorable.
Demonstrate you can do the job. But how? You don’t want to recite your resume. You can use your personal stories to highlight your skills and previous experience. This is not time to tell funny stories about your mother, unless you’re a comedy writer, then go for it.
If you want to be an assistant, talk about the 200-person wedding you planned in a month to underscore your organizing skills. If you want to be a staff writer on a procedural drama, bring up your obsession with crime novels. If you’re further along, like a junior development executive, discuss your suggestion that the lead be a woman instead of a man, and which resulted in a sale.
STEP FOUR – The Close
How you close a meeting depends on where you are in your career and what the job is. But some things should happen at the end of every meeting. Make a gracious exit. Thank the person for their time, say what a pleasure it was to meet them, and how much you’d love to contribute to the company or project. For jobs where agents are not involved, say you’d love to follow up, if they don’t mind. They will usually hand you their card.
STEP FIVE – The Follow Up
Successful Hollywood insiders nurture relationships by following up after a meeting. How to do this:
- Send a short thank you email within 24 hours (a few sentences). If you don’t have an email address, a handwritten card is fine – no kittens or flowers on the cover.
- If it was a “general", or if it was a good meeting but you didn’t land the gig, send a check in email two months later.
- Send another follow up email three or four months after that, and another every six months.
The exception: something positive or exciting has happened to them or to you, i.e. awards, new projects, new jobs.
And be sure to check out next month's blog, "Give Good Meeting Part II: Four Strategies You Need To Nail A Meeting".
Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.