Through the years, I have found myself at times feeling like I have needed to defend my chosen career path, the choice I have made to be a professional actor, a freelance artist…
Unfortunately, the career path of an artist is not quite supported or encouraged here in the United States (at least not when compared to the paths of doctors or lawyers), but I am always thrilled when I see my artistic training translating to application in non-artistic work with “real-life” folks.
I recently was involved in planning an event for a non-profit organization and was lauded for my efforts in the planning phase through execution and follow-up. To me, my efforts seemed common-sense and obvious. But they weren’t. As an actor, I have been honing my communication skills for years, so they were obvious to me.
What follows are my takeaways from both my artistic and event-planning processes:
1. Connect with audience before the event
So back when I was auditioning for national theater conferences as a college student (for summer stock or year-round work), I would research the list of participating theaters and casting companies I might meet at a particular conference. I highlighted the key companies I thought would be a fit, and sent them a postcard with my headshot introducing myself and asking them to look out for me on the specific day and time of my audition. This little drop of communication proved to be fruitful time and time again-job after job.
I encouraged the organization I was working with this past month to be creative with our audience outreach. We used a multi-pronged approach which included a combination of MailChimp invites, postcards, personal phone calls and personal e-mails. Our RSVP list was three times larger than past events of this size!
2.) Engaging with audience during event
The event is showtime. Whether it be an audition or performance, it is what I have been trained for and it is “the thing” I live for, the story I desire to tell that day or evening. I breathe in the same air as my audience, pursue the action, deal with the obstacles and stay grounded in the truth of the moment.
While I have been preparing for weeks before debuting a new performance or audition piece, the same should be true for any other kind of event. Preparation is key.
Small hiccups did occur the evening of the event, and I realized that sometimes during the speaking portion I found myself wondering why this person didn’t say something “this way”, or “include that”. Simply- we hadn’t practiced-- at the risk of micro-managing, I tried to let some things go. I took for granted how many times I have been onstage in the spotlight. What I thought was common sense, is not, it is a honed skill. I am always meeting new people and coming from a place of service-- essentially asking “how can I help you?” in each and every audition room I enter. I need to come across as approachable and likeable, and with practice I have learned to stand in an honest, grounded place.
3.) Following up post-event
Post audition or performance, I follow up with either the employer or potential employer (or audience member). A genuine thank-you is important, including a specific personal connection. If there is an “ask” (“I’d love to be considered for ‘xyz’, if you think I’d be a fit”) now is the time to go for it. I also add the contact to a list of people to periodically update.
As far as the organization I was working with, I pointed them to a ton of resources and blog posts that already laid out templates for what is to be included in a great follow-up! They may or not receive instant response from their audience, but I know that if they practice consistency following these steps, their audience will grow and engage in a meaningful and intimate way, with regularity.
Let me know what you think.
Please post questions or thoughts below.
And if you will, please share!
the global actor