You know the scene. You’re at a holiday party, and over the eggnog or crudité, you run into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while – someone in your social circle or even in your industry. They ask the question you’ve been dreading.
“What have you been up to?”
b) run quickly for the coat closet where you hide for the rest of the event
c) mutter something unintelligible about “stuff” and “the times we live in”
OR d) have a kickass answer that makes you feel comfortable, launches a meaningful conversation, AND greases the wheels for extending your network?
I’m guessing you’d like to pick “D,” and it would be my pleasure to show you how to get there.
Here’s the deal. When you are engaged in a creative profession, your work life is somewhat unconventional. You are your own engine, which means you are the engineer, conductor, blazing hot furnace and also the mouthpiece for your work. When put on the spot, that can feel like a lot. Oftentimes, we don’t want to seem like we are bragging, or the inquiry into what we are working on itself triggers every bit of self-doubt within us. Oh god, what have I been working on? Have I accomplished anything? What is it all for? So we mumble something self-deprecating, and just as quickly turn the question back on the other person.
What if you looked at the chance to talk about your work not as a form of torture, but as an opportunity for connection, inspiration and growth?
What if you also looked at it from the other person’s perspective? They asked a question because they want to know, and they are hoping desperately that you will have something interesting to say so they won’t have to fall back on small talk, or worse, answer that same question themselves.
What if, in presenting your work in an engaging manner, you are saving the party? Now you’re not bragging, you’re a hero! A million opportunities have died over plates of limp crudité, but you, my friend, you are a champion, a savior, a master networker and a champ.
FUN FORMULA FOR A PARTY PITCH
Having an answer for “what have you been up to” is similar to an elevator pitch, but I think of it as an on-ramp. You want to end with something exciting that launches you right onto the freeway, so that the conversation flows naturally. So that the other person is inspired to make connections for you. So that they can respond like this: Oh, I know so and so, they would be so interested in this. Have you submitted to XYZ? Can I get on your list, I would love to hear more about that.
Let’s use an example from one of my private clients, M., an actress in New York. This year, her primary focus has been seeking a new agent, but she also made a short film, has done bunch of new film projects, theatrical work, and even begun her own writing projects. Instead of bemoaning her current lack of agent, I worked with her to sing the praises of her accomplishments. Here’s a sample answer:
Partygoer: So, what have you been up to?
M: I’ve been up to a lot of things! Working with new directors and playwrights, some residencies upstate, and I produced and starred in a short film that we’re submitting to festivals!
See how she ramped up to that? She gave some context for the scope of her work, mentioned new opportunities, and then ended with an exciting announcement about her film and it’s future goals. Now she can talk about who she’s worked with specifically, what she worked on in her residencies, and she can promote her film. If appropriate, she can even work into the conversation something she’s struggling with, like, “By the way, I’m in the market for a new agent. What’s the word on the street about SO-AND-SO?”
Now it’s your turn to make a party pitch! Answer these questions:
1) Name 3 things you’ve worked on this year.
2) Name your 2 biggest accomplishments.
3) What’s something exciting that’s on the horizon?
Put them all together, and you’ve got an effortless party pitch.
Need help? Email me your answers and I’ll help you craft it.
Reach me here.