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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Presentation skills part 1

Presentation Skills are the second part of Technical skills. Like Computer skills that we talked about before this can be a weak spot for writers. But this is only because they deem it of no interest / importance. Presentation skills are important to get right. We may wish this wasn't so - but it is. The good news is that we probably are already great at presenting - if we just apply our knowledge and abilities in a slightly different way.

For instance, we all get very uppity about the proper way to format a script. And we get very 'into' the different ways that we can structure a scene to make an impact. We like applying a good structire and we like making an impact. But we forget these skills when it comes the layout and structure of the more formal documents we have to write. And its these other documents that we'll be kicking about in the next few posts. Today its the turn of Letters and Emails.

Just after Cannes I copied up a version of my Introductory letter and got some comments on it. A bit long and perhaps almost a bit too slick. The point of any 'cold call' style communication is for you to get your foot in the door by selling yourself in a honest way. So your email wouldn't be exactly like my email. But here are some golden rules that should work for everybody.

One: Keep it short.
If it was a letter then one, nicely spaced and not cramped side of A4. Shrinking your font size to 10 points and expanding your margins to fit more on a page IS CHEATING. You have written too much. Whoever is reading it doesn't have much time. Do them a favour (by not weasting their time) and they might do you a favour (by wanting to find out more about you and your script)
We are a modest bunch, us writers. Everything is 'quite good' and 'nearly there'. Well now is not the time for this kind of talk. If you've won something then get it in there NOW! If your script is the great then say it is. So long as you go back it up. Boasting is not the same as bullshitting.
Three: What do you want?
"Why am I reading this? What do you want?" Its surprising how few people answer these questions in their introductory email. What, specifically are you asking this person to do? Does your request sound reasonable? Does it sound like you have sought them out or is this a cut n paste job? Make your email tailored to the reader, make it clear what you want, make your request easy to grant. For example "I read about your new film in Screen International. I am also writing a Sci-Fi love story. It would be great to meet up at location near to you for half an hour to hear about your experiences, particularly with regards to how you managed to make the dialogue jargon free, a challenge I am struggling with."
Four: Be positive.
In my example above I say 'I would be great to meet up' rather than 'would you like to meet'. A small point but one that shows that you are 100% up for the meeting them. Rather than wanting to do it if they don't mind doing it.
Five:What's in it for them?
The hardest part. But because its hard doesn't mean you should shy away from it. Why should they bother to meet you or email you back or give you work? What's so great about you? Find it. And write it in. I will remind you of rule 2 again!

Tomorrow we'll look at what to write when you want to write 'a little about myself...' Ahhhhhhh!

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