Episode 250 — How to Reach Busy People


Episode 250 — How to Reach Busy People

It is so critical to know when you are reaching out to people who are extremely busy. If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes when you communicate with them — and understand how they’re going to react — that’s worth its weight in gold. And it helps you communicate better with them, knowing what their needs and problems are.

It’s something you have to be strategic about:

  • How do you get their attention?
  • How do you get them to read your message?
  • And most importantly, how do you get them to respond?

In this Podcast, Allan talks about the subject of how to contact hard-to-reach people — Heads of studios, HR Managers — and gives tips on how to get them to respond.


[03:23] Defining Empathy
[04:06] Confronting the Lack of Awareness
[08:30] The Don’ts of Emails
[13:01] “Jab, Jab, Right Hook!”, or the Art of Writing an Email
[18:23] Conclusion


Hi, everyone! This is Allan McKay.

Welcome to Episode 250! I can’t believe we’re at this mark. But if you have been listening for a while, I hope you’ve benefited a lot. In this Episode, I want to talk about something that I get asked a lot. At the same time, a lot of people tend to be a bit naive about this subject. Which is: How to get in contact with hard-to-reach people. If you want to reach out to a Head of a studio, an HR Manager, an author of a book, this Episode will give you some tips.

There is a lot of strategy involved with this. I see a lot of people reaching out to hard-to-reach people and they get frustrated when they don’t get a response. That’s because they don’t realize just how busy that person is and the mindset that should be applied when reaching out to that person. I hope you find a lot of value here.

Let’s dive in!


[01:18] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[21:23] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!



[03:23] Something that comes up in meetings a lot is the disrespect (maybe that’s not the right word for it) or the lack of awareness for how busy people are. I talk about that empathy a lot: How to put yourself in other people’s shoes. That’s why empathy is such an important thing. [03:43] If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes when you communicate with them — understand how they’re going to react — that’s worth its weight in gold. And it helps you communicate better with them, knowing what their needs and problems are.


[04:06] This comes up quite a lot in meetings. People are demanding things from me (and other people, I’m sure) without any awareness of how busy I or other people are. I’ve always wanted to put together on how to get attention of busy people. But first I wanted to share some insight because if it’s happening to me — it’s happening to others. I hope this rings a bell. Let’s say someone puts out a video and right away you respond as, “You didn’t cover this or that and you suck.” That to me shows a lack of respect. I do experience a lot of people posting, “Hey, I asked on your Instagram that you put out this Nebula tutorial. Where is it?” I’ll get emails like that, “Hey, I want to call you. What’s your number?” For me, even if a studio contacts me for a number without giving me details about the job, it’s still a red flag. It means they aren’t aware of how busy people get. For me, it’s essential to get come details about what the call would be about. Or I don’t want to take the call in the first place. That’s already a red flag for me because that person / studio isn’t playing in the same field that I am because I’m always paying attention to these things all the time.

[06:40] Whereas someone who is professional and courteous and shows empathy and interest toward me — and gives me some context on what they want to talk to me about — that says that this is a person who gets it. They value my time and their own time. It’s night-and-day different when you get that first type of email.

[07:20] It’s standard etiquette. It’s true about other things. When someone publishes a video and you’re post a complete irrelevant comment like, “Where is this?” “Do this for me!” — it makes me think if you’re even reading / watching the material that you’re commenting on. Are you absorbing it? Here you are asking for more of my time, but in the mean time, you’re ignoring my post about how to write an email — and asking for a Houdini tutorial, for example. If I were to drop everything and make that tutorial, it makes me think that you don’t care about what I just posted. You’re just spitting out commands toward the other person. If I were to make that other thing for you, chances are you wouldn’t want it either because you’re in a “Give me, give me, give me!” mindset.


[08:30] This is so critical to know when you are reaching out to people who are extremely busy. I like to think I’m in that position these days. I have email meetings every week and my reaction to most of them is “No”, unless there is a good reason behind responding. I have to pick and choose where my time goes. I will be blatantly honest that it is a massive turnoff when I hear people demanding stuff from me without any curtesy or respect. “Hi, where is that thing?” comes off as if the sender of that email isn’t even talking to a real human being. This is why I want to put you in a position of empathy for a minute.

[09:25] If you are speaking to someone who bills $100-$200 range per hour, or they’re working 7 days a week / 15 hours a day and yet they’re still putting out free content, that’s where demanding more stuff from them means that you aren’t aware. And if the person does give what you’re asking for, most likely, you will not be grateful for it. For me, on the messenger app, I get hundreds of message. I am talking about this, so that you get some insight. When I get a message that starts with a “Hey” or a “Hi”, I cannot respond to it. The least that person should’ve done is communicate with me like a human being; show some etiquette. If you aren’t willing to string a sentence together, I’m not going to string together a sentence to reply.

[11:15] The flip side of that is when someone writes pages upon pages in an email. There is a good chance I won’t reply to that either. A long message shows that you haven’t taken the time to compose a readable message. Instead, it’s a verbal stream of consciousness. When I’m writing an email, I try to make it easy to understand, to make sure it delivers the key information that’s necessary and that it gets a response. There are many different factors that I consider when writing an email.

[12:05] I always say, “There are no good writers, only good re-writers.” That rings true to me. The first email is for you, the second one is for them. In other words, I will write an email and then re-write it for the person I’m sending to. There are people I know who have 3 million followers. I know some don’t even read their messages, or they have a team who handles correspondence.


[13:01] So that’s a critical factor to think about. When you’re reaching out to someone, I recommend doing a “Jab, jab — right hook!” In other words, if you’re applying for a job and you need to discuss some things, initially, it’s all about establishing the communication. You have to make it about the other person and establish the rapport. The other person needs to learn what you’re about, first. Only then, you begin to move into everything else.

[13:32] The way I always do it — is front load the work. Say, you need help. Start out with an easy question. “Hello, I really enjoy your work. I followed your material such as this [Podcast, Article, etc.] I have a quick question about this particular subject.” This shows that you’ve actually applied what they’ve taught in the past. If that person were to help you, you will follow through. There are people I see who keep asking really dumb questions. They will ask the same question for years. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but these folks don’t really apply what they learn. So if I reply, they go silent or say something like, “Okay, thanks.” It’s not respectful of my time.

[15:38] If you want a legitimate response, you need to show that you’ve done the work yourself. The best example I can come up with is something that I’ve seen. Someone sees you walking by their desk and asks for your help. You sit down to help them — and they get up to go get some coffee. They’re looking for you to do the work for them. I’ve seen that with people I supervised. When they ask for help and I tell them to show what they’ve got, they will go and tell others that I’ve taken over that particular shot. The key thing is to show that you’re willing to do the work. That’s the jab! When the person responds, you throw the right hook because you’ve established the relationship. They know you’re serious. At that point, you can follow up and say, “Thank you so much! I’ve done what you said and here is the result. From here, how do I go about doing this other thing?” That person is more likely to invest in you because you were willing to put in the work.

[17:39] Some people ask me how to get people to mentor you. You do that by creating that rapport, by having that conversation. There’ve been so many people for whom I’ve dropped everything to help them; but they would cancel on me. Instantly, there is a feeling that my time isn’t valuable to them. My time is really limited.


[18:23] I hope this resonates with people who are doing this. Before I got my office in Portland, I would work out of a cafe. I like to people watch. I studied the people who were handing out flyers on the street, or the ones who are collecting signatures. It’s really hard to get a person who is in motion to stop and talk to them! It is easier to continue moving. If the person is busy, to get them to stop and give you their time is a really tricky thing. It’s something you have to be strategic about:

  • How do you get their attention?
  • How do you get them to read your message?
  • And most importantly, how do you get them to respond?

[19:41] Even with Instagram messages, I’ve got some ninja tricks. If I know my message will be a bit lengthy, I divide that message into two, realizing that the last message will show up as a preview next to my name. It’s the part that will get their attention. I’ve been very aware of that. I want to put in the time that will make them to stop and open my message. That’s how I’m able to start building those relationships: by getting that initial response. If you’re just firing out messages and expecting people to respond to you, you will be frustrated. The reality is that you’re probably reaching out who could make $10K in a week, so you have to value their time. They’ve put in the time to get to where they are; and the opportunities they have outweigh the time they have, and they constantly have to make decisions about where their time goes.

I hope you enjoyed this Episode. Please share it with others.

Until next week —

Rock on!


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