How to Network When You're Really Uncomfortable Networking
by Christine Occhino on June 4, 2019 via Soundfly
Networking is undoubtedly one of the most important things for every musician to do. Oftentimes we see people experience success based on who they know, and not necessarily because they are the most talented or qualified person for the job. I wouldn’t go as far as saying everything in this industry is a popularity contest, but the circles you keep are surely one of the biggest catalysts for “getting the gig” or highly coveted opportunity. So what is a musician to do when they know they need to network, but are really uncomfortable networking?
GET OVER IT! Kidding. But only sort of. The truth is, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone in order to make some quality connections, especially with the people you really want to make contact with. There are a few ways you can dip your toe in and make things a little easier before you reach your final form as a networking extraordinaire. Here are some tips:
First, make sure you have a well-done business card at your disposal at all times. This card should include all the important info including full name and/or stage name, phone number, email, relevant social media handles, what you do, your website, any related professional associations you’re a member of, etc. This can save you the trouble of having to rattle off your resume on the spot under pressure or awkwardly searching for a pen and needing to write your info down on the dreaded drink napkin. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find someone who is willing to easily exchange numbers right there on their smartphone, but more than likely if it’s your first time meeting someone, they’ll be just as happy to take your card and sift through your info later so you can have a genuine discussion.
Next, you’ll want to know your audience. Who is it that you’re talking to and why are they there? Position your introduction in this way so it doesn’t just feel like a speed dating adventure. Some examples: If you’re at the bar at an album release party, ask how they know the band. If you’re at an educational event for say songwriting or production, ask how they found out about the event and what made them come. If you’re at a formal music business function, ask the person at your table about their career and how they got started. Those are all great icebreakers and also allow that person to throw the question back your way so you can share your background as well.
You can also always opt to bring a friend to help put you at ease. Ideally someone who has some connection to music or the same reason you’re there, but it gives you the chance to mingle amongst each other until you establish a foothold in this unfamiliar setting and have the opportunity to meet new people. But be careful to not bring a friend that’s not a good fit for where you’re going (read: the lush, the over-talker, the complainer, the inappropriate joker, etc). You want to bring a friend that shows the good company you keep, and is a positive representation of who you are as a person.
Lastly, keep your goals in the forefront of your mind. What do you hope to achieve from connections here? Why is this important to your life and career? What kinds of contacts are you hoping to make? And most importantly, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone takes your card, leaves, and you never hear from them again? OK. You are in the exact same position you were before the networking began. Nothing changes! No one suffers, no one dies. There is literally nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Remember why you are great, why you’re here, and where you can add value in the world. Be brave, and don’t be afraid to share all the things that make you awesome. These people will be better for knowing you, and you need to walk into that room like you know it. Connections with other people are what make the world go round - so share the gifts you’ve been given and the experiences you’ve had, and become the networking champ you were always destined to be!
About The Author:
Christine Elise Occhino (@XtineElise) is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the music business. In addition to being a vocalist herself, she is the CEO of Elise Music Group, Artistic Director of The Pop Music Academy, and owner of Stamford Recording Studio. She is also the proud Founder & Executive Director of Hope in Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses music to help and heal those in need. Christine is a member of the Grammy Recording Academy, the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers, and Berklee College of Music Alumni Association. She has experience speaking on many music industry panels and has been a contributing writer for music business publications for over a decade.