Networking - Why Reinvent the Wheel?
I have learned though many years of experience, trial, 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 unexpecidely 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.
The Art of Writing a Compelling Bio.
Recently, I have read and been directed to many complaints about artists’ bios by numerous critics and other influential people in the music industry.
I feel the same way because these bios tell me nothing about the artists personally, so I can be interested in them. Instead, they give me the obligatory laundry list of where they have been, what they have performed and with whom. I don’t care. I want to know about the artist as a person.
The London Independent's arts editor, David Lister recently attended a Proms concert featuring the excellent German violinist Julia Fischer. He bought a program and what did he find? "A mine of useless information," he says— “a list of where Fischer had played in recent seasons, where she going to be performing over the next several months and a list of her recordings. A whole lot of biographies provided by artists and their teams read exactly that way. To me, it's not just an issue of trite phrasing or poor grammar, though those problems exist. It's a larger matter of conception and approach. Instead of making these endless lists of locations and names, why not spend a few sentences in a bio on topics more engaging, more human, more connected?” Lister suggests that instead of creating a laundry list of where and what you have performed, a bio is an opportunity to shape one's personal brand. He says “it’s an opportunity for a bit of self-reflection. What makes what you do—and what you want to express—meaningful?” Composer Dale Trumbore suggests that an artists’ bio should make the artist’s impression both as an accomplished musician and a memorable human being.
I totally agree. The whole purpose of a bio is to “hook” your audience into understanding a bit about you the person. This is where they often find commonality with your story and, just like in the world of sports, fans and audiences want to support and cheer for someone they feel they know; someone who perhaps came from a small town or had some adversity that they overcame, etc. This, like your publicity photo, should give the reader an idea of who you are personally. And this often happens before your performance even begins. They want you to be great; they want someone to cheer for, buy their recordings and support. So don’t give them a resume. They can find that on your web site if they are interested.
I have taught this principle for a very long time and know it works through reports from those who have actually used this technique. It’s in my book, ARIA READY, The Business of Singing, in the business section.
Here is the formula.
Start with a powerful, theatrical assertion:
"From her beginnings as a young performer growing up in a small rural town in New Mexico, to winning audiences’ rave reviews, Ms. Smith has generated a loyal following with her persuasive acting and delicious voice."
Now back it up with facts:
'At her most recent recital, Ms. Smiths’ innovative program and beautiful singing was not only enthusiastically appreciated by the audience, but she received a glowing review from the San Jose Sun. Jack Place said, 'A beautiful program, a beautiful voice and a beautiful young woman.'"
Last, let everyone know what’s coming up in the future:
"Having recently won the Pit Award, Ms. Smith will next perform at Town Hall in New York City. While there she will coach with Maestro Tullio, in preparation for her debut as Inez in Il Trovatore at Albert Hall in March of this year. If you would like to know more about Ms. Smith, please go to www.anitasmilth.net."
Reading this bio, gives you a real picture of who this young lady is, where’s she’s from and where she is going. It helps create a unique and personal bond between audience and artist. They want her to be good so they can cheer her on and perhaps become a fan.
So, be bold and brave in exploring what you want those hearing you, your audience, to know about you the person. It is part of your personal branding, so make sure you check and recheck spelling, grammar and punctuation. It matters. And notice the kind of response you get after a performance. Ciao for now. Keep me in your loop. You know what I think, let me hear what you think. Avanti, Carol
Step Up and Forge Your Own Path
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda
How responsible are you for what’s happening in your life right now? Are you just going with the flow? Are you forever in an emotional state that keeps you distracted? Do you often blame others for what is or is not happening in your life?
Often with new students or during consultations, I hear and feel the pain, frustration, fear, anger and disappointment they are experiencing because this or that didn’t happen like someone said it would. Or that they totally believed their teachers without questioning or doing research themselves to find their answers and then in a respectful way ask questions about what is or is not happening. No one has all the answers. We are all subject to the flaws and fragility of being human. We all make mistakes and fail, that is a given, and in fact it’s an important part of forging your own path. It’s not the end of the world, but the beginning of enlightenment if you stop blaming and instead choose to find the pony in the pile of horse poop, so you can learn the lesson and move on.
Forging your own path is a job, not personal or emotional. It’s an ongoing job that requires your focus, attention, dedication and perseverance. It allows you to be responsible for what happens to you, the good the bad, the ugly. You have the opportunity to feel the fear and do it anyway. You have to own it all and decide what you want to do with it. This is what gives your life meaning and purpose. And this often requires change.
Change is easier for some than others. By nature, some of us are wired to seek and accept change more often than others. But, it is a necessary part of growing which allows getting better at everything, including rejection, being assertive, and forging your own path. This is what gives your life meaning and purpose.
Michael Ray says in his book “The Highest Goal”, “When you act from the highest goal over and over again, you slowly discover that you are traveling your own path. This is the key to grabbing on to your highest goal: You have your own way—your own inner power, your own contribution, your own methods and approaches, and your own experience of the highest goal. Once you recognize this, your life can be a quest to discover your path and live from it. You accept that obstacles or tests contain powerful lessons and opportunities. You see that when you give yourself fully to life and the highest goal, as you do naturally when you are tested, a grace infuses you.”
When you are able to do this, you serve as a good example and inspire others. And that in the end keeps you engaged in and responsible for you own journey.
Enjoy the rest of the summer and let me hear from you. I love receiving all the comments, observations and questions. Avanti, and ciao, Carol
Networking - Why is it important and why do I need to know how to do it?
"A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval." - Mark Twain
Whether you are involved in a summer program or not, networking is the most important part of growing a successful business and career. It often strikes fear and dread into the hearts of those who have no skills, tools or experience doing it. How does one get better at it? Here are some suggestions.
First, networking is really nothing more than using the opportunity when people get together to exchange information and ideas. The social setting could be casual or by design, either one-on-one or in a group. It's about feeling comfortable with explaining who you are, what you do and where you want to go, to someone else. You give them a quick, concise overview of yourself in 15-30 seconds.
Don't assume that you are the only one feeling ill at ease when networking. Give others an opportunity to get comfortable with you too. You are here to share information and build relationships. There is no "them vs. me", making them into adversaries and making you feel you have to defend yourself by getting all emotional.
Get good at asking others questions to get them to talk about themselves; everyone loves to talk about themselves. Your main job then is to simply listen without making comments in your head, or wandering off into your own thoughts. You may learn that they have a connection or skill you are looking for that will move your career forward or perhaps you have a skill or ability that might be used as barter in obtaining their help.
Be well read and up on current events so you can carry on an intelligent and interesting conversation. ( Easily done by reading the Times online or looking for interesting articles on subjects other than music and singing.)
Having an agenda when you enter a networking situation is important.
Representing and presenting your own authentic and distinct Personal Brand at all times is always a good start. That means carrying your business cards at all time so you can exchange them with others and keep your web site updated. Once you are home, follow up with a quick “enjoyed meeting you” email. Go knowing what you want to accomplish.
Networking can be easy and fun if you can get your head around making the conversation more about others than worrying about yourself. You get to exchange information (career or otherwise) and use the opportunity to build important and lasting relationships.
A couple of DON'TS:
Never approach a twosome talking. This is usually a personal conversation. Try someone who appears to be alone or a group of three or more. Don't sit down unless you really need to. For most people this is a signal that you don't want to be bothered. Stay up and keep moving.
There are two subjects that should never be discussed in a social setting - religion & politics. These subjects are too personal and often engage our emotions in a negative and defensive way.
Get comfortable and feel confident with "Networking”, by putting these suggestions to use. As you know, practice makes permanent. Remember the heart of any business is the human connection; the relationships one creates and maintains. Networking can and often does happen anytime, anywhere. It's something you already do all the time every day, so start paying attention to how you do what you do and see if you want to incorporate some of that experience into Networking. Keep your old and new relationships updated when there is career news to share with them. Once that communications door has been opened, keep it open. Avanti!