During my tenure as a TV executive and director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program and the WGA Showrunner Training Program, I’ve had more than a thousand meetings where I helped decide the fate of the person across from me.
Some were good, some great, and sadly, many were less than stellar. People are nervous, unprepared, too loud, too shy, or they never learned these four strategies, so they don’t close the deal.
Here are four strategies you need to nail a meeting:
- Make the right first impression.
- Make a personal connection.
- Know the professional experience of the person you’re meeting and be prepared to discuss it.
- Talk about yourself in a way that makes them want to be in business with you.
1) Make the right first impression.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestseller “Blink”, says we make instantaneous assumptions about a person. How long does it take? About two seconds. So how do you make the right first impression?
Project calm confidence without coming across as an arrogant jerk. Your mother was right, stand up straight. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy does a great TED Talk on the whole posture thing. Worth watching. Make eye contact without giving a stalker vibe, and offer a genuine smile and firm handshake (no fish hands, no death grips).
2) Make a personal connection.
Research the hell out of the person you’ll be meeting. Where are they from? Where did they go to school? Any hobbies? If you snagged a meeting with Glenn Geller, President of CBS Television, you would have read his interview, where he describes himself as “… just a gay guy from Indiana who doesn’t play basketball.” If you also happen to be a gay guy from Indiana who doesn’t play basketball– Bam! — you’ve got a personal connection. Bringing up a connection is as easy as saying, “I read you graduated from Emerson, so did I” or “I sing in a choir, too.”
3) Know the professional experience of the person you’re meeting and be prepared to discuss it.
Know what projects the person has been involved in — past and present. Have something thoughtful and complimentary to say about their work. Make it genuine. If you’re on an executive or business track (assistant or otherwise) know what’s going on with the company – ratings, deals, series pickups or movie green lights, reviews. This is bonus information if you’re a writer or director. Great to know, but it’ll probably never come up.
4) Talk about yourself in a way that makes them want to be in business with you.
This is a super-important topic. In my role as a career coach, I spend tons of time helping my clients craft stories that make up their compelling entertainment industry “brand.”
One piece of this puzzle is your Personal Logline, which answers the question: “What do you do (for work)?” In Hollywood, everyone is really interested in what you do. It’s about learning to pitch yourself in a minute. Click here for a free guide on how to Break into Hollywood in 5 Steps, which includes a template that takes you step-by-step through creating a killer Personal Logline.
Going further, you should be able to tell your life story in under two minutes in answer to the question: “So, tell me about yourself.” One of the biggest sins in Hollywood is being boring, punishable by non-employment. Make sure you have lots of colorful stories to tell about who you are and what you’ve done. They’ll make you memorable and you’ll stay on the person’s radar after the meeting is over.
Use these four strategies to make yourself irresistible to the people who can hire you.
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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 break in, move up and navigate the 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 make your mark in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, including her Virtual Course: “Hollywood Bootcamp: How to Get Your First (or Next) Job in Entertainment,” Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them blast past barriers and take their careers to the next level.