I love coffee dates.
I offer to have coffee dates with almost everyone I come in contact with. Most are great. But the rare few can be crappy.
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Whether it’s someone wanting to learn how to get started in VO, someone who’s just arriving in LA to begin an acting career, or someone who want more information on Rehearsal, I’m all over coffee dates.
But, unfortunately, I’ve also watched actors squander their time with me, and I’ve noted those worst practices as well. Do any of these things, and you won’t get the best bang for your buck.
Here’s what you should never do on a coffee date.
1 You don’t take notes. Be warned. When we talk, I’m going to actually make recommendations as to how to solve your problem. I’m going to give you names of acting schools, the workshops I recommend, the kind of home VO equipment you can get started with, the casting sites you need to have a presence on, even where to go online to find a great apartment. Trying to act like our waiter and not write anything down is just plain wasteful. Bring a notepad, or your favorite smart device. Take notes. You never know when they might come in handy.
2 You remind me you’ve got a fine arts degree. Very few people in the business will give a rat about your BFA or MFA. No, I’m serious. Getting those degrees are great, and fun, and challenging, and will give you tremendous depth to your art, not to mention costing you a lot of money. But now, you’ve got a whole new set of courses to take at the UOR (University of Observable Realities) that has nothing to do with your mastery of Shakespeare, Chekov, Wilde, commedia dell’arte or 17th century costuming. Enjoy the time you spent in school, treasure it, cherish it. Now, move on to spending time perfecting the command of your chosen business, along with the environment and rules of your chosen production center location.
3 You denigrate the business we’re in. I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I’m a theater actor – I would never do television or commercials,” or “Hollywood will suck you dry,” or “Networks/Studios are soulless,” or “There are no parts for actors like me.” Unfortunately, I’ve lost count. Part of me wants to scream at those people to leave LA and go do something that makes them happy. If you want to be an actor/VO talent/performer, learn to love (not just tolerate) the parts of the business that make you uneasy. Lean into the aspects of your career that are difficult, and learn to master them. I can help you.
4 You defend your current theories and practices. I sometimes wonder why people ask for my opinion, advice or to share my experiences, yet remained married to the way they do things now. If you are as successful as you want to be, please, don’t make the coffee date about how to make your career better, more profitable or more successful. Just brag about how great things are for you and let me eat my bagel. But, if you want help, please be open to that help, and don’t waste any time being defensive about what you’re currently doing. At the same time, know that if you’re doing things that work, I’ll recognize that, and happily approve your choices.
Don’t take notes, rely on your MFA, denigrate our profession, and two other ways to have a crappy coffee date with me:Click to tweet
5 You never follow up. After spending all this time with me, picking my brain for all that I know, you leave me in suspense wondering whether or not I’ve been able to help you. I don’t like one-night stands. I think that networking means meeting people, helping them if you can, and helping more down the line. Meet me once, then ignore me, and I’ll think I’ve been used. And don’t think you’re infringing on my privacy to drop me a note from time to time to let me know how you are – I want to know. I really do.
In the comments below, fess up. What mistakes have you made when you finally get a chance to meet a potential mentor? How did you fix them? What concerns you about taking advice from an industry veteran?
Hope this helps.
PS…as I’ve watch engaged, enthusiastic people make great use of their time with me, I’ve jotted down some of their best practices. I shared those with you in another article, which you can find here.