Taking a meeting in Hollywood can be intimidating, especially if you are new to the business. Like any business, Hollywood has it’s own customs and rituals when it comes to meetings. Here are ten tips to find success in the all-important art of the meeting.
1. Know who you are meeting and why.
Research the person you are meeting and the company they work for. Look at their credits and upcoming projects on a website such as IMDbPro. Search for recent news on Deadline.com. If you haven’t done so already, try to see their latest project. You should also know why you are meeting with someone. If you arranged the meeting, it will likely be your agenda, so be prepared. If you were invited to the meeting, understand the purpose. Some meetings are about specific projects and other times they are just get-to-know meetings (sometimes called “general meetings” or a “water bottle tour.”) If you are meeting with multiple people, introduce yourself and try to remember everyone’s name. Get business cards for all, if appropriate.
2. Dress professionally.
The film and television business has a casual dress code, especially for creative types, but don’t wear your gardening clothes! Wear something nice and appropriate for a professional situation. You’re not going to the beach or a nightclub. You probably won’t wear a suit, unless you are trying to get a job as an agent or lawyer.
3. Be early.
It is bad form to be late to meetings. Give yourself plenty of time to deal with traffic, parking and finding the office, especially if it is the first time you have been to the location. Ideally you want to arrive about five minutes before the meeting so you have time to catch your breath, use the restroom if needed, and settle in. They will likely keep you waiting – use that time to get your thoughts in order. If you do end up running late, call the person you are meeting as soon as you know. Let them know how late you might be, and offer to reschedule if it’s better for them.
4. Be easy to work with.
Talent matters, but people want to hire and/or work with people whose company they enjoy. Don’t get angry or defensive if someone criticizes your work. If this is a notes meeting, take the notes with grace and gratitude. Also, be polite and respectful to the assistants. You may end up working for them someday!
5. Manage your stress.
It’s natural to be nervous. Being prepared will help. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself for this one meeting – you will get other opportunities.
6. Be an interesting person.
There will be a period of small talk in any meeting. This is an opportunity to show them you’re someone with something to say. Think about what is interesting about your life. Identify two or three “talking points” about your life and steer the conversation to those. But choose carefully – like any social situation, politics and religion are probably best avoided. And of course stay away from things that might be considered “TMI.”
7. Be ready to pitch.
If you are a writer, director, or producer, be prepared to talk about your credits or the things you are working on. Even if this is not an official pitch meeting, have an answer to the question, “What are you working on?” Prepare a pitch for a project that is appropriate for the people you’re meeting (see step 1). Keep the length of the pitch appropriate to the situation (no more than five minutes for a general meeting, no more than fifteen for a formal pitch meeting).
8. Read the room.
Don’t be so focused on what you want to say that you ignore the cues of the people you’re talking to. If they look bored, move on to the next topic. If they get excited about something you’ve told them, dive in deeper. Don’t use profanity if they don’t (and it’s often best to avoid it even if they do). Listening can be more valuable than talking.
9. Know when to leave.
The people you meet with are busy. Respect their time. When you’ve concluded your business, thank them for their time and leave.
10. Follow up.
Send an email or even a note to thank them for the meeting. And of course send any requested materials (like scripts or short films, or other information) they asked to see – but do not presume to send something they didn’t ask for. The business is built on relationships. Play the long game, and make sure you build your relationships.