Okay, so I was a speaker at the New Media Expo and did a couple o’ panels for the IAWTV. It was a great excuse to go to Vegas with my bestie (who was nominated for an award, there) and start the year off with some networking. Except I was totally ill-equipped for the kind of networking going on. I showed up thinking I’d hit one panel, do a lunch, schmooze a bit, hit the speakers’ reception, meet some online friends in the flesh, then write a column, do a coaching session via Skype, do another panel, have cocktails, attend a keynote, attend an award show, schmooze some more, call it done.

Right. All good. But I’m a Twitter junkie, and I saw loads of my fellow NMX attendees tweeting while I was otherwise engaged that they were taking development meetings with people. People with whom I swapped business cards and said, “Sure. We’ll connect next week. Back in LA.” Whoa. Have I lost my hustle? I used to be a comer. I was one of those kids who was developing a deal five minutes after meeting a like-minded creative. This time out? I wasn’t so quick on the draw. Is this what being 43 means? Or is it something else?

When one of the primary elements of *being* at a conference, a festival, a convention, an awards show IS the schmoozefest, what happens when you’re not showing up as much as you should?

Now, in case you think I’m being hard on myself, let me state for the record that I schlepped around copies of SMFA: The Ninja Within, coaching brochures, and business cards like a good little girl, ready to “yes, and…” anyone who asked about what I do. And what happened? EVERY single time that someone asked about hiring me to cast their project, hiring me to coach them on their next red carpet experience, putting my books in their curriculum, having me produce their next baby, whatever, what did I do? I blushed and said, “Oh, sure, that sounds like fun.” *crickets*

Number of wee books I gave out? Zero. Number of brochures I gave out? Two (and only after thinking about it later and reconnecting with someone and handing ’em out then). Number of business cards I gave out? Eh, probably 30. But considering most people hit festivals, conventions, award shows, conferences packing several hundy? Yeah. I failed.

I also didn’t hit nearly enough panels, keynotes, or “speaker only” events. The freakin’ red carpet was *literally* rolled out and I neglected to show up. What?!? I KNOW the importance of a step-and-repeat. I teach actors about how to master this stuff! I’m actively hooking up clients with press at Sundance right now (more below)! And I ignore multiple requests for interviews while I’m in town? What?!?

Yeah. Doctor, heal thyself.

I get it. I also get how very difficult it is to train a muscle that’s not naturally active. Inertia can be a beast, and mine was in the direction of cocooning, basically because I had walled myself off from all people while finishing the fourth edition of Self-Management for Actors in recent months. That’s a lot of full-on anti-social time, by design. So, coming from the deepest of caves, here are some tips for how to let the social part of networking and connecting and “yes, and…”-ing work for you maybe even before you’re ready.

First, let Twitter take notes for you. I’m serious. One of my big issues at any event is I’m sure I need to write everything down. Ask anyone who has ever been around me at any event, ever. I always have FIVE things with me, when I’m speaking on a panel: bottled water, lipgloss, breath strips, pen, and paper. Those last two are so I can make notes about everything. Because I worry I’ll forget a gem.

Lesson learned during NMX: Someone is tweeting every gem. If they don’t tweet it, it wasn’t a gem. Relax. Learn the hashtag for the event and follow that. Learn who’s in the room as the social media expert and follow their stream for the hour. You’ll get notes, leaving you free to engage and HEAR things that resonate with you. It’s very freeing.

Second, set yourself up for success. If you’re headed to Sundance (sidebar, if you need press there, hit me up — I have an on-camera hookup if your stuff is awesome), map out your time, map out the screenings, map out the panels, map out your meetups, map out your SLEEP. You *will* need it! You should never show up at any event, festival, con, whatever feeling like you don’t know which end is up, because — unless it’s the inaugural event — you can Google your butt off about what to expect. This is the generation of the overshare! Take advantage of that and read up on what others have blogged, vlogged, live-Tweeted, or Instagrammed about their experiences. Benefit from knowing which gifting suites to hit (Sephora) and the parties on which to pass (the Andy Dick one).

You don’t want to leave an experience kicking yourself for what you didn’t experience. That’s the good news about my time at NMX: It was filled with people I’ve known in person for more than a decade, people I’ve only known online (but for years), people I’ve worked with before, people for whom I’m total *fangirl*, people that do the total *fangirl* or *fanguy* thing for me, and full-on totally new people who will absolutely be a part of my life for at least my next few decades in the biz. I’ve signed two NDAs for casting and producing gigs since returning to LA. I didn’t totally suck at making the most of my time in Vegas.

But, I learned a lot. To be surrounded by some of the most passionate, proactive, “I’m not waiting for the industry to cast me, so I’ll make my own shit and, oh, hey, now I have an Emmy” people on the planet is very cool. Especially when I auditioned them on my first feature film 11 years ago, and noted *spark* was there. The main thing I want to share with you — especially if you’re headed out on any of the major festivals, conventions, award shows, events in the coming months — is that you must not live your life pegged at either end of the spectrum. Don’t be so shy that you never promote yourself and don’t be so gregarious that everyone ends up rolling their eyes, trashing your business card, and going, “Oh yeah, *that* guy” when you’re brought up by others who found you tedious. Find a really yummy middle ground at which you connect with the people who are meant to be a part of your path. Practice here at home, first.

And if you get it wrong, always know you can do it over next time. Oh, and my final OMG must-do tip (thank you, Sarah, who taught me this six years ago and it’s forever changed my travel health): Use Ayr! Put it in your little nostrils before takeoff at the airport. Put it in again before the big networking events. Do it before you sleep. It’s like a health salve. You’ll thank me (and Sarah) for that one, especially.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001765.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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