Attending a virtual event? Here are some tips on how to do it like a pro.
ScreenCraft has so many great virtual events, panels, and interviews to check out, each one covering specific topics designed around the expertise and experience of the guest speakers.
These events are geared toward helping you sharpen your skills as a professional writer. They are masterclasses with some of the greatest voices in the industry. The best part is that all of their experience and knowledge is available and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
So how can you get the most out of these virtual events (or any, for that matter) and be more efficient with your interactions? Let's dive in!
Research the Speakers
Find the industry professionals that speak to you. Do you love the writing from that show you just binge-watched? Maybe the showrunner is appearing as a guest on a free panel you can attend.
Even if you’re attending a virtual event and don’t know all of the guests, look them up and see what they’ve accomplished.
By doing this, you’re able to hone in on questions that relate to their experience. By centering your question around their credits, it’s easier for them to conjure up a memory and deliver anecdotes on how they approached crafting your favorite scenes.
But one of the best reasons to research speakers is because every writer’s journey is different. There are so many roads and footpaths into Hollywood. You can learn from every single one of them and come out with a better understanding of how to navigate your own path forward.
Come With an Open Mind
You never know, a single phrase uttered in passing during a panel discussion could spark a fire inside of your soul when you’re least expecting it. That’s the beauty of listening to writers, producers, and representatives who have extensive experience working in the industry. There is so much to be learned.
Creatives never stop learning, so there’s no reason to go in thinking you know everything about the topic at hand. Odds are, the panelists will touch on areas you hadn’t considered.
The topic might not resonate with you at the moment, but one day it might. I was recently writing an action scene when I recalled what Tony Gilroy said about the importance of physical location in a fight scene during ScreenCraft’s 2020 Virtual Summit. I had no idea at the time (I was eating spaghetti) that what he said would inform my writing over a year later.
Leave yourself open to learning all you can if you have the opportunity.
Use what you learn today to become the guest panelist of tomorrow.
Stay On Topic
Some of these discussions are general Q&A’s that touch on a variety of subjects, while others are meant to be a deep dive into the specifics and technicalities of craft and career. Questions that may be appropriate in the former may not exactly be a good fit for the latter.
Some questions are unavoidable.
How do I land an agent?
What should I include in a query letter?
How can I get into a writers’ room?
Sure, these are perhaps the most pressing questions writers face early on in their careers, but if the panel is called Writing the Perfect Action Sequence, they’ll likely do no service to the discussion at hand.
If you have the opportunity to ask a question, try to build on the conversation at hand instead of derailing the discussion with a question that comes out of left field.
During the ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch Finals, producer Jessica Matat came onscreen to ask Ben Cory Jones a focused question that continued the conversation about pitch decks and look books that he had already been discussing. Her question allowed Ben to clarify and dig deeper, thus broadening the scope of knowledge on that particular topic.
If the conversation is about World Building in Sci-Fi & Fantasy, it might not be the best time or place to ask, “Where the agents at?”
Keep the flow going by staying on topic.
Prepare Thoughtful Questions
If there’s an aspect of the topic that hasn’t been discussed yet, don’t be afraid to ask. The goal for many of these conversations is to cover as much ground within that specific topic as possible.
During the screenwriting panel Raise the Stakes: How to Write Action & Adventure That Sells, an audience member asked a technical question that helped expand the conversation to cover more ground. They asked, “What are some of the biggest challenges you face when it comes to adapting from source material?”
Each member of the panel was able to talk about their personal experience in adapting source material. The topic added another angle to the conversation that had been missing.
Interact and Network
The chat rooms for these events are a lot of fun, and I always come away with a handful of new people to engage with on social media. It’s a great way to meet fellow writers and build a community.
A lot of times, it’s not the showrunners and agents that will give you that big break, but the unrepped writers and assistants that you come up with who will soon assume those very positions of power. It’ll be the writers and collaborators you’ve met along the way who will refer you to others.
Meet as many people as possible and cultivate those professional relationships over the years and you’ll always have a safety net to fall back on.
Be Ready to Be On Screen
Just like attending in-person events, make sure you’re presentable if you have the opportunity to ask a question live. Clear the clutter out of the corner of the room, and make sure your audio and video are set up beforehand so that there are no surprises.
When presenting your question, try to be succinct and clear.
Make a great impression.
Approach these panels with a plan to take in as much information as you can. There are so many amazing speakers who offer great insights for up-and-coming writers. Take it all in and apply the lessons you learn to your craft and career.
You’ll be a stronger writer for it.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Check out ScreenCraft's upcoming virtual events! They're free!