One of the things I love about the music world is that it is still a people business. We have not outsourced the face-to-face contact that is so vital to making great music and sharing it with live audiences. It is no surprise, then, that successful musicians know the art of networking: a combination of using your head to be strategic and your heart in order to make a genuine connection with someone new.
For many of my students and other musicians whom I encounter, the first stumbling block to networking is knowing what to say about themselves when they meet someone new. That is where an elevator pitch can come in handy and having an effective elevator pitch is one of my top 10 networking tips!
An Elevator Pitch focuses on the person with whom you are speaking, not on you! Your pitch should whet the appetite of your listener so that he or she will want to follow up with you. In just a few sentences, a good elevator pitch tells your listener
- who you are and what you do in such a way that you stand out from the crowd
- so that the person you are speaking with will want to find out more about what you do, have another encounter with you and become a part of your network.
An elevator pitch is NOT intended to get you a job or a gig! Indeed, many musicians I know feel pressured when speaking to new people since they think that they have to “sell themselves”. No wonder they feel stressed! Instead, by thinking of an Elevator Pitch as a way to introduce yourself to people with whom you feel a genuine connection, it takes the pressure off.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may need a number of different elevator pitches. Since musicians’ careers typically involve multiple activities, it makes sense that they network with different types of people. Performers have lots of choices, from presenters, arts administrators, orchestra managers to other artists and musicians.. If you teach, you might want to meet potential students or deans or professors of conservatories who are in a position to hire you. If you are looking to create an ensemble, you may want to meet potential collaborators and supporters. Therefore, you will want to develop a number of different elevator pitches, depending on whom you are meeting. Since your elevator pitch is focused on your listener, consider what about you would interest that particular person.
Since good networking starts with preparation, create your Elevator Pitch before you step out the door to meet new people. And remember that networking is about creating quality connections so save your elevator pitch for people with whom you feel a genuine connection!
Here are the elements of a good elevator pitch:
1. Who am I and what do I do that is unique and distinctive?
Give some thought to what sets you apart from other musicians that might pique the interest of the person you are meeting. Friends of mine describe themselves as:
“Bass Player and Cultural Ambassador”
- “Trumpeter and Teaching Artist”
- “Composer and Arts Educator”
For help in thinking about what set yourself apart from other musicians, create a brand statement that articulates what makes you unique and memorable to your target audience.
2. What is my connection to the person with whom I am speaking?
In preparing to network, think about the different types of people whom you want to meet, whether it is a specific individual or a category of person. The more you can establish a connection to such a person when you first meet, the more likely you are to make a genuine connection.
Moreover, as you meet and speak with new people, be sure to listen. Listening is an important communication skill because if you are paying attention to what your speaker is saying, you can quickly figure out what makes this person tick!
3. Why might this person be interested in speaking to me?
Once you have established a good rapport with the other person, think about which of you activities might be of interest to him or her.
Musicians’ careers typically are built on their different projects and activities so once you have established a connection and the person asks you what you do, talk about your recent or upcoming projects. Or share your career visions and goals. Use your intuition to feel out the best way to make a connection!
Moreover, consider how you might be able to help this person or provide new information or resources to him or her. This goes along with the networking principle that you are not looking to get something from your listener.
4. How can I keep this contact alive?
The last part of the elevator pitch helps you to take this new contact to the next level. Once you meet someone with whom you resonate, think about how the two of you can stay in touch. What are you looking for? A meeting? An introduction? A resource? ASK! Have your business card handy so that it is easy for the two of you to stay in touch.
Here is a template of an Elevator Pitch to help you get started:
My Elevator Pitch
1. My name is________and I am _________________________________.
(your credentials and what you do)
2. I am interested in speaking with you because________________________.
(your connection with this person)
3. I am currently working on/my passion/my goal is________________________
(your project or goal or mission that may be of interest to this person)
4. May I____________________________________________________?
(your goal from this encounter)
Once you have drafted your elevator pitch, refine it as follows:
- Change any long words or jargon into the language that your target audience will understand.
- Cut out unnecessary words
- Finalize your speech by making sure it is no more than 90 words long (excluding the last sentence on your goal from this encounter).
Be sure to practice it out loud so that you sound conversational and natural. Have some fun practicing your pitch with friends! In my class and workshops, we role-play networking so that everyone has a chance to practice making an introduction with his or her elevator pitch and finding an effective way to connect. In this way, you are ready to meet the people who can become your business friends.
This template is just a starting point for engaging in a conversation when meeting someone new. However, using a generic speech is not useful when it takes you out of the moment and prevents you from listening carefully to the other person to sense what the two of you have in common. When you are meeting someone for the first time, listen before speaking! Listening with an open mind is one of the keys to making effective connections because it gives you a sense of what you and the listener have in common.
And do not deliver your pitch robotically! Instead, look for openings to insert the information and drizzle out the elements of your speech when appropriate.
One more thing
Do you really need an elevator pitch?
If you are adept at meeting new people and enjoy talking about what you do, you probably do not need your elevator pitch! Your goal in networking is to make a meaningful connection and grow your network with quality connections. Once you are comfortable being in the moment and feeling out the situation, trust yourself to say the right thing. That confidence enables you to convey the passion that will excite others so that they will want to become part of your network.
Have fun networking!