Psst! I have a secret… one that you might be surprised to hear.
But before I spill it, let’s acknowledge the holiday season. Last week we talked about how the holidays could bring up feelings of rejection. But the opposite could happen, too!
Thanks to Messiah, Nutcracker, caroling, and gigs galore, this time of year could mean that you’re making money (yay!), playing music you probably already know, and most of all, being around a lot of people.
In other words, ‘tis the season for networking.
And that brings me to my secret. What is it?
I hate networking.
It’s true. In an industry that thrives on relationship building, I admit that I don’t enjoy crowded social situations. I do well one-on-one but in a big group, I feel invisible yet highly self-conscious.
Through many conversations with musicians, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who dreads networking. In fact, the majority of musicians begrudgingly admit that they know they should be networking more, but don’t — because they’re too busy, they’re overwhelmed, or they feel like they’re reintroducing themselves to the same people again and again.
How can you navigate talking to people at holiday events, parties, and concerts while making it professionally productive and, dare we say, fun?
Here are a few easy-to-implement networking tips for musicians during this busy holiday season.
Be the audience, not the performer
Often, our clients tell us that when they network, they feel like they’re performing.
The trouble with that is that, the focus is on YOU and how you well you’re doing. So of course you’re going to feel self-conscious — and maybe even pushy or awkward.
Instead, think of yourself as the audience, not the performer. This way, it’s not about you at all. You’re observing someone else, getting to know them, and letting them be the start of the conversation.
This is liberating! It takes so much pressure off.
View it as time to practice (lower the stakes)
A networking event provides great practice opportunities for those of us who feel like fish out of water.
Things you can practice:
- Starting conversations with strangers
- How to non-awkwardly (or, for me, awkwardly) occupy your time when you have no one to talk to
- How to pitch what you do
- How to come up with questions to ask to get others talking. (My philosophy is if the other person is talking, my job is easy!)
You can even make a game of it. Bring an index card and put a checkmark next to each “assignment” that you tackle.
When a friend asked me to attend his mandatory faculty/staff mixer, I agreed. Note that this was both a highly awkward yet low-stakes scenario. I was going to an event where I literally knew not one person and I would never see any of these people again.
My role was to a) not embarrass my friend, b) stay out of his way so he could do his thing, and c) be able to report back to my friend afterwards about what a nice time I had.
Old me might have spent the whole time alternating between grazing over the buffet and looking at the hosts’ family photos on the wall.
But, instead, after doing those two things for the first 10 minutes as a warm up, I managed to find a friendly looking lady who was happily digging into the hors d’oeuvres at a table by herself.
I joined her and managed to strike up a conversation. Soon, others joined and I got to ask them about their work (which was actually quite fascinating!), and the conversation flowed easily, with me not even needing to say much about myself. I left with my friend, and could honestly report that I had a nice time, indeed!
Seek the rewards of taking action through fear
When I take a scary risk, I feel really proud of myself afterwards. You approached someone, you went outside of your comfort zone. Good job, self! Also, it wasn’t so bad.
Practice your acting skills.
Remember, most people are just as shy and uncomfortable about networking as you are! So take a risk, be the one to make a move.
One trick is to play a character. Tell yourself, “I’m going to pretend that I am an outgoing, social butterfly.”
I remember going to an event all alone and feeling painfully awkward. But then I realized, no one knows me here! No one knows that I’m shy and introverted.
What if, just for tonight, I pretend that I’m the life of the party? I’ll smile at everyone, I’ll initiate conversations and be willing to join people who are talking.
This is one of my favorite tactics for going to a networking event if I know absolutely ZERO people and am going alone.
Remember, people are interesting!
The fun part of networking is getting to meet cool people and hear their stories. I’ve come to enjoy the experience of getting to know people.
I went to a holiday party a year ago with my family, and I didn’t know anyone there.
Old me would have basically just followed my parents around and stayed in conversations with them. New me was willing to talk to strangers.
Afterwards my dad said, “Jennifer, when did you become such a schmoozer? Where did you learn that?” (Both of my parents are pretty socially awkward.)
I simply kept an open mind, asked questions, and genuinely tried to get to know people. Even though it was uncomfortable, my confidence grew with each encounter.
Push Past Your Comfort Zone
Socializing at events with strangers is learnable. And the benefits of learning how to effectively network are huge.
That’s why we’re offering a free networking webinar, Effortless Holiday Networking. You’ll learn how to make connections with industry influencers, talk about your projects without sounding pushy or fake, and widen your circle of collaborators. Click here to reserve your seat.