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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ping Me

So this pinging thing - how did it become part of the vernacular? Ping me! I'll ping you! Let's ping him! Nonetheless it is descriptive. It's a nudge. A tinny hello down the wires. A wink. A nod. A Riiiiiicolla! (I can't for the life of me understand why Ricola me didn't take off as a colloquialism but then again I never thought the internal combustion engine would be a hit so color me dense.)

So where were we? Ah yes, pinging. Pinging might in another, more formal blog also be described as "following up." You meet someone at a networking event. They agree to "have coffee" or "read your script" but when you ping them a week later, they ignore your email. I say ignore because they saw it all right. But they had post-networking-why-did-I-promise-that regrets. So you wait another week or three and ping them again. They feel bad so they at least email back with some probably semi-true story about being very "slammed." You wait another month and ping them again.

Now this is the turning point. The fork in the road. One of two things is going at this juncture:

They are either truly, deeply annoyed and forward your email to their assistant with the note Who is this jackass? Tell him I'm having face surgery for the rest of my life!

or -

They break down some and think you know what, fine, I'll have ONE CUP OF COFFEE with this person.

I know this because I have done it. Broken down and had a cup of coffee with someone who kept pinging me. Partly out of assuaging my own feelings that I have been perhaps rude and partly - no wait - no, that's it. Just to not feel like a rude, cold or unfeeling person.

How can you tell if you've pung one too many times? Are you being persistent or are you stalking? Well, I would think that if someone SAID they'd have coffee with you or read your script, if they looked you right in the eye and said that, that you have some latitude with the pinging. Even if you feel rude or oddly persistent. Even when you're beginning to feel like a wallflower begging for a dance. Keep pinging. Politely. Sporadically. Ask the person you're pinging how they are. Comment on their latest hilarious blog entry, their script sale or fabulous new hair cut. Flattery will get you everywhere. Because what's going to happen is that you might just wear the person down and because you pinged that one, last time - they will probably break down and meet you finally.

Now I know this sounds counterintuitive, you're thinking, gosh, if I met an agent or manager at a pitch fest for example, and I ping them more than once or twice, aren't I some kind of creepy, entitled CAPE FEAR person?? The more I ping, the more annoyed they get - it'll have the opposite effect. Well - it can. It sure can. But that persistence could also lead to an amazing opportunity, introduction or relationship. You may just ping the object of your pinging on a day when he or she is bored and they might think you know what - FINE - I'll meet this kid/writer for ONE beverage. And that could be your lucky day. Persistence can pay. I have met a number of people for coffee over time because they were politely persistent or because I was politely persistent. No guarantee any professional relationship will arise - but who knows, right?

So you've met a writer, actor, producer, agent or manager at an event. Here's two to-ping-or-not-to-ping scenarios:

Scenario One:
The person you have met is polite but a bit distant and they do NOT agree to read your work, meet you or anything else. They don't offer a business card either. In fact, they move backward slightly while you talk and scan the room over your shoulder. They are polite and pleasant but totally vague.

Should you ping them later? Not if they didn't give your their business card and not if they expressed zero interest in you or your script. No random pinging, please. If they did give you their card but your experience of them was not particularly energized, ping them once, ping them twice - and definitely let it go. They're just not that into you. You'll get put on the "no call" list. I know of two super persistent pingers this happened to. Believe it. If you get rebuffed by silence more than three times - you're not pinging anymore - you're stalking.

Scenario Two:
The person you met was warm and friendly; they looked you in the eye and when you asked if they can read your script or have coffee sometime they nodded, smiled and said "sure." They really looked at you, man, they really SAW you.

Should you ping this person? Did they mean what they said? Well, they were probably punch drunk and on auto-pilot when said they'd read your work or meet you for coffee. They said that to 10 other people too. They don't remember your name, they don't care that much but it was the polite thing to say. Should you ping them? Oh, of course. Ping once, ping twice, ping three times before you give up trying, in this scenario.

Pinging persistently can absolutely pay off and pay off big. You might actually get that script read, or form a new professional relationship. But do your pinging well. If you ping someone for the first time, do it about three to four days after you met them. Hey, met you at the thing with the thing, just wanted to thank you for an informative evening, love to have coffee some time. Done. You hear nothing back, so ping them again in about three to four weeks - Hey so and so, just checking in. How's your thing with the thing? I read about your sale in the trades - congratulations! My script is coming along pretty well. In fact, I wondered if you might have time for a coffee? No accusations, no guilt-tripping, no you-never-answered-my-other-email. NO NO NO. When pinging be as obsequious the second time as you were the first time. Remind the pingee where you met. Do NOT expect them to remember you.

Persistence can be very high yield - you never know - it might just be your lucky day when you ARE able to meet up with someone in person who might be able to help you out. After three pings (at the most) please let it go.

Remember, part of the reason people agree to "read your script" or "meet you for coffee" is that they are doing a rapid-fire calculus - maybe this writer is someone I WANT to know...they never know, right? But people are busy and they do forget, so keep pinging every once in awhile until the silence or "I'm slammed" blow-offs are loud and clear to you.

There are some who would disagree with me and would champion pinging ad infinitum. I personally send those pings to my assistant with the face-surgery-into-perpetuity note. But maybe that's just me. If you have gotten a note from my assistant with any kind of blow off, you've pung too much.

Now get back to work. And find somebody to ping.

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Seth said...

Hey Julie -- not often enough do I have a chance to geek out in your comments section.... "Ping" as a verb comes from the computer program that used to be used, I think primarily in the UNIX operating system, to determine whether a particular host computer could be reached via the internet. It would send an "echo request" to that computer, essentially saying, "Hey, could you please repeat the following information back to me?" If Ping sent out a request and got the information back, then it knew it could talk to that computer.

Supposedly, the name "Ping" came from the sound a submarine's sonar makes, because sonar sends out a signal and waits to see if that signal bounces back. But I've also heard that the name comes from Ping Pong, where you send out a serve and wait to see if it gets volleyed back.

Emily Blake said...

Hey, this is a lot like what I was going to write about today. Now I'll just look like a copycat.

Good advice, this.

Julie Gray said...

@Emily - great minds think alike!

@Seth - believe it or not, I am aware of all of that. I just think it's funny that it's traveled to include people now, lol. My computer guy has pinged stuff when working with me, so they still do that to some degree. It's rudimentary but effective.

Anthony Peterson said...

Seth, you beat me too it. Maybe "ping" and "ring" just sound too similar and mean almost the same thing. There must be a word for that? I dont think its "homophone" (not that there's anything wrong with that).

DougJ said...

I thought "pinging" meant throwing empty beer cans at someone's bedroom window at 3:00 AM.

What's the protocol on that?

Luzid said...

@ Julie:

I love that the past tense of "ping" is "pung". : )

I can attest to the power of the ping. You were gracious enough to have lunch with me, and thanks to another ping session with a pro writer, he's going to read one of my scripts (as soon as I finish the polish).

But I never, ever ping past the second time if I've received no answer. Just my personal level of comfort, ping-wise.

(I'm enjoying this word too much. Ping!)

MovieGuy76 said...

I loved it. So funny and true. I'm gonna go ping a producer right now that gave me his e-mail a couple of months ago.