Power of Style: Please Don't Wear a Hoodie to a Tech Meeting
Facebook's head of market development tells Hollywood to lose the sweatshirts — and expect a different meeting culture — when headed to Silicon Valley.
The outdated view of a polished Hollywood dealmaker confronted with a Silicon Valley solely populated by hoodie-clad hackers is as cliched as the last Entourage feature. These days, if there is a style continuum, both sides now live sartorially more in the middle. But where the two cultures still stand apart is in how the meetings themselves are valued and conducted. For Hollywood, the jiujitsu of scheduling and rescheduling the meeting is sometimes more complicated than the deal being discussed. In the Valley, this version of the "Hollywood Shuffle" has no analogue. Meetings are seldom rescheduled, and to reference a classic Larry David sketch, the fact that the meeting is set means that it also is confirmed.
What this means is that since schedules are as tight as conference room availability, meetings start on time, and after quick intros, level-setting on desired outcomes from the meeting usually are detailed upfront. And, as with a Beverly Hills therapist, a one-hour meeting actually ends at the 50-minute mark, giving attendees the time to make it to their next meeting before the inevitable knock on the door from the group coming into the room at its appointed time, whether or not you think the meeting is actually "over."
This is due to another Valley anomaly: Conference rooms, like Hollywood corner offices, rarely are dedicated to a single owner. This is the NorCal status equivalent of a killer parking space — few and far between — so conference room time is dear.
Seasoned Valley visitors have learned that listening first and understanding what matters to the other side engenders the most good will. Leading with "What is most important to you?" and "What business problems can we help you solve?" and caring about the answers doesn't always happen in L.A., but is a routinized best practice in the Valley. And if the purpose of the meeting is to recap the state of a current project, then honest feedback on what's working or not in the relationship is expected and appreciated — transparency matters.
As much a geographical necessity as a Hollywood tradition, the norm is for agents, writers, talent and execs to visit each other's respective lairs from Burbank to Santa Monica, cross-pollinating information like so many modern Johnny Appleseeds. In the Valley, tech company campuses tend to be more inward-facing. There isn't an analogue to The Grill — a place where everybody goes to lunch and runs into each other — in the 650. So meetings are thought of differently — they're not that common an occurrence, so they're not trivialized, and they have very clear goals and objectives.
But the cultures of the Valley and the Hills are more similar than different these days — the civil war of the Californias is subsiding. Ten years ago, Hollywood didn't fully grasp that new companies would be created and morph to solve the in-home distribution conundrum and a major complaint was that Silicon Valley didn't "get" creativity. Now there's a symbiotic relationship between the two worlds, with Netflix, a technology company at heart, likely ordering more pilots than any given traditional network. The reason for these two tribes to work together is now much clearer. I think it's fair to think of these two cultures less as antagonistic animals like the snake and mongoose, and more like the ostrich and emu — similar creatures, but still species apart.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.