I have learned though many years of experience, trial and error and failure, that the most important part of doing business, no matter what career you are pursuing, is being great at networking. That means creating and maintaining relationships, then following up, right? That is the sum of what it really is.
Many emerging artists freak out because they don’t know how to network. Networking is, simply put, sharing information, ideas and resources. No big deal! So whenever you meet new people, be present and prepared for the opportunity to do just that and you are rewarded by building relationships and doing business all at the same time.
Here are a few tips to help break it down.
- Bring business cards with you wherever you go. You never know who you might meet that would be interested in what you are doing. They might be interested in becoming part of the audience when you perform or perhaps it’s another singer that knows you are looking for a church job and happens to know someone who knows someone who is looking for a section leader, or they might have a lead on the perfect audition, competition, or singing gig, want to become a patron, etc. Also remember to ask for their business card as well so you can put them on your “A”or “B” Contact lists when you get home.
- Networking involves great communication, and as I said before, the exchange of information, ideas and resources. It might happen unexpectedly in a casual setting, or you may be attending an event where you have a specific outcome in mind, like meeting a particular person who might write you a letter of introduction or give you permission to use their name in your letter of introduction in your PR packet, etc. So as you get better at using this tool, you will almost always be thinking business and have a specific agenda in mind when out in public.
- Networking is not personal or emotional, it’s business.
- It is a professional courtesy to use whatever title one uses with a specific profession like Dr. or Reverend etc., or Mr. – Mrs. when speaking with someone you’ve just been introduced to. Allow them to give you permission to call them by their first name. Otherwise continue addressing them as I’ve suggested. This type of behavior helps solidify and build your Personal Brand.
- Become a great listener without letting your mind wander or presupposing and composing your answer to what others are saying as they are talking. People love to talk about themselves so ask a few pertinent questions, then really to listen to their story. By listening you will find points in their conversation that will then prompt you to ask further questions or make comments, which makes for real conversation. And you will be favorably remembered.
- Have a creative, informative and always updated web site to which you can direct those interested in knowing more about you.
- If there has been real rapport or you feel this is someone you would like to add to your professional Contact List, ask if it would be OK if you did so. “Would you mind if I kept you updated concerning my upcoming performances?” It’s always best to ask permission and a professional courtesy to do so. If they say “no” remember not to take it personally and don’t get all emotional, it’s just business. Move on.
- When you get home, add the names you were given permission to use, to your Professional “A” or “B” Contact lists and do any follow-up that is necessary. Your “A” list will be made up of all those that can possibly move you closer to your career goal: anyone who is further up the professional ladder than you; stage directors, conductors, colleagues, etc. Also anyone you think might be able to help you with advice, financial situations, taxes, etc. Your “B” list will be those that are interested in following your career and attending performances: family, friends, potential patrons, music lovers, etc. Creating an audience is an important part of building a singing career.
Then when you have an event or performance coming up, no matter where it might be, you send out an invitation via email with a very short and concise message to your “A” and “B” lists separately. You will blind copy those on your two lists, setting yourself as the “to” receiver with no specific name in the greeting line. Example of the opening line of your message: “I want to let you know about my upcoming performance. Etc.” You then also send out any comments, reviews, etc, after the performance in exactly the same way. This let’s others know you are a viable emerging artist, who is performing and worth keeping an eye on.
This is the work! So start it now, even if you are not yet performing on a professional level. Creating this habit will serve you well now and into the future.