Attending conferences are funny. It’s the one situation where regardless of gender, everyone gets to know what it feels like to be an objectified woman – because there’s a tendency for people to first stare at your chest before looking at your face. Name, title, affiliation, then eye contact, “Oh, hi.”

Producers want to meet funders. Directors want to meet Producers. Playwrights and designers want to meet Directors. Actors, well, they just want to meet anyone who’ll pay them any mind. And if you’re an individual artist with no organizational backing, you had better smile a lot and introduce yourself first.

At one theater workshop I attended, I remember being introduced to a game where nine participants were each secretly assigned a playing card, one through nine, each representing a place in societal hierarchy. We were then given a scenario – like, say, an office holiday party – and we had to improvise our way through until we clearly discovered and portrayed where we each fit in the social structure. I was terrible at this activity. I had a hard time reading those cues because I’m not, in my regular life, overly concerned with status. Plus, I find in reality that those who flex the most outwardly are usually the weakest emotionally, no matter what their level of actual influence. In other words, being bossy doesn’t make one a boss. Oops. Well, luckily, that exercise hasn’t appeared in any of my auditions.

The problem I have with titles is they cannot possibly identify whom it is I really want to be speaking with. How could I want anything from anybody according to some superficial position? I’m a cultural worker, lecturer, workshop facilitator, performer, writer, marketing strategist, businessman, and board member. One day, I hope to accumulate surplus funds to also become an investor for other people’s creative projects and ventures. And connecting my many roles is the fact that I am a values- and mission-driven individual.

As in any gathering, all that business card swapping won’t get you anywhere if shared principles aren’t firmly established to start with. When I meet people at networking events, my burning curiosity isn’t: What can you do for me? It is: What are you passionate about? So, I see a potential partnership with everyone.

Best of all, because of this, I get to relax and really enjoy myself at these schmooze-fests. It’s tiresome having to decrypt some totally ridiculous pecking order, especially knowing full well that we all start and end the same way. Not to be morbid but do you really think your rotting corpse is going to look prettier than mine at the end of the day? I’m just saying. It doesn’t hurt to have to be present for and be nice to all people, regardless of rank.

What I care about… If you want professional development and artist survival for all, if you know the importance of resource-sharing, wealth-building, and skill-building, if you observe personal responsibility and you commit to your own sense of word, if you practice The Golden Rule, if you value your health, if you believe we live in a friendly universe, if you express thanks regularly, then I don’t really care what’s on your badge – Game on, fellow hustler. That’s the great benefit of knowing when we’re of the same ilk. We will be able to truly help one another over the duration of a lifetime. Our connection has a chance to grow beyond the fleeting details of any one-time elevator pitch.

However, I do get it, we are all human so I’m sure you’ll still ogle at my chest. “Hey, my eyes are up here, buddy.” Just know that I’ve got a lot more going on than what can possibly be conveyed through the inked up paper-rectangle peering back at you from the vinyl window dangling at the end of an ultimately uncool and perfectly silly-looking lanyard – that you’ve got on too.


If you like where this post is going and it resonates too with your values, please use the buttons below to share with your network. Wanna hear the sweet song that inspired the title of this blog post? Click the Play button in the video below. Andre 3000 meets Norah Jones.