With year-end top 10 lists abounding, I would like to contribute my top 10 tips for effortless and effective networking since the successful musicians I know have all figured out a way to create supportive and effective networks. And networking has a double advantage: not only is it an effective career-building tool but it can also be fun!
My definition of networking is very simple:
In other words, networking is an opportunity to connect with other people, share and learn something new and expand your community by remaining relevant to people with whom you feel a personal connection. Think of it as a way to make life-long business friends!
1. Be strategic
Since musicians are busy people, it helps to be strategic about your networking. Spend some time preparing before you go off to meet and make new business friends. Think about the types of people you would like to meet and where you are most likely to meet them. Have a goal before you go off to network, whether it is to meet a specific person, acquire some new information or practice making new connections. By being strategic and prepared, you can reduce the “unknown” factor and feel more confident.
2. Be yourself
To be yourself, you first have to know yourself! Figure out your strengths and create a flow affirmation of what you are like at your best. These are two powerful confidence-boosting tools that tap into your best qualities.
Know your personal brand and create your brand statement that articulates what makes you unique and memorable to your target audience. Networking is an opportunity to show people that side of you! And since networking is about making genuine connections, this is an invitation for you to be genuine as well.
3. Be positive
It is very important when you meet new people to be positive and confident. It helps to play to your strengths while networking. If you are blessed with good people skills, networking is a lot of fun! If you like to think and strategize, networking is an opportunity to use those skills as well. If you love to learn, networking creates myriad opportunities for acquiring new information and learning from others.
4. Listen and be curious
Too often in networking situations, musicians nervously launch into a speech about themselves without considering to whom they are speaking. Listen! Listening is an essential communication skill that can help you to connect effectively with others. Be open to learning something about your new acquaintance. Explore what you have in common. Ask questions and be curious. Then, when the occasion is appropriate, share about yourself. That’s the way to make quality connections.
5. Know what to say
Once you have connected with someone who expresses interest in what you do, it helps to know what you want to say to your new business friends. Prepare an elevator pitch that summarizes who you are, tells the listener why he would be interested in connecting with you and invites him to take the relationship to the next level. And rather than memorize and deliver a canned pitch, drizzle out the different elements of your speech so that you sound conversational and natural!
6. Quality, not quantity
A lot of musicians think that networking means showing up at an event, meeting a lot of people and handing out your business card at large. And not surprisingly, they are intimidated by the notion of having to meet a lot of new people! Here’s the good news: while glad-handing may work for some people, in my experience it is not the best way to make a genuine connection with someone. So focus on meeting a few people whom you genuinely like and want to stay in touch with.
7. Share and be of service
Networking is about sharing, not about getting. Too many people approach networking situations with the goal of getting hired for something. This attitude translates into pushiness and arrogance. Similarly, many musicians are unwilling to network because they don’t want to “sell themselves”. If you think about networking as an opportunity to share, it takes a lot of the pressure off. Be generous and be of service. Not only is this a way to overcome fears and exude positivity but it also a much more effective way of creating high-quality connections.
8. Look for opportunities to network
Networking can happen anywhere! In addition to the obvious places like post-concert receptions, festivals and competitions, you can network anytime you meet interesting people whose lives interest to you. And go outside the music box to forge connections with potential audience members, collaborators and potential supporters. My students and colleagues have successfully networked on train and plane rides, at social gatherings unrelated to music, in car pools on the way to gigs, with stand partners during intermission. So be on the lookout for any occasion where you can meet the type of people you are eager to know.
9. Be patient
It takes time to develop a network where you are sharing opportunities and information with supportive colleagues and are a trustworthy member of that community. Think of networking as a long-term investment. In the meantime, enjoy the experience of meeting new people and developing quality relationships!
10. Remain relevant
Once you have met someone and made a connection, follow up! If that person has invited you to meet or to send her a CD or other sample of your work, do it right away. Start a newsletter and update your new friends about your activities. Send a holiday greeting to everyone in your community. Invite people to your concerts or other events. Networking is a life-long pursuit so be sure and cultivate those relationships!
Where do you start?
With the holidays upon us, you have many opportunities to meet new people. So try these strategies and see how you can begin to create a supportive network. And have fun!
Happy Holidays and Happy Networking!