Hey all, NAMM is over and things have been settling down here. It was great getting to catch up with old friends and meeting new ones! We can’t wait to do it again next year!
In honor of the recent music conference, we thought we’d share a few networking tips to help you get the most out of any music conventions or meet-ups in your area (or even those that you plan on traveling to).
Being up on stage in front of an audience is a completely different experience than walking into a room and introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers. It can be tempting to stick to the arms of people you already know and avoid starting a conversation with someone you’ve never met.
So how do you get past that fear?
By going into it prepared.
Here are our tips for preparing for a networking event or conference:
1. Decide on how you’ll introduce yourself in advance.
Have you heard of an elevator pitch? If not, read this. If you have, good. Now go create your own. If you want to make a good first impression, get your introduction down. Who are you? What instrument do you play? What style is your music (and none of that wishy-washy it’s a mix of everything but you’ve never heard anything like it nonsense)? What’s one or two of your most notable accomplishments? Get it down so that you can say it without any hesitation.
2. Now that you’ve created your sales pitch, forget it.
It’s only there if you need to fall back on it (or if someone specifically asks you what you do). Networking events are about creating relationships not about hard selling. Just do what you can to get conversations started and keep them going. Companies and musicians have people coming at them all day with their “sales pitch” about why they should be endorsed, who they are, etc. Don’t be yet another musician who assaults the artist rep with a list of reasons why they should be sponsored by the company. Get to know people, exchange contact information, enjoy conversations about things other than work, and then follow up on business stuff AFTER the conference is over.
3. Get interested.
Ask the people you meet questions about who they are and what they do. Get interested in other people. No one wants to get stuck talking to the person who only knows how to brag about their own accomplishments. So don’t be that person. Ask easy questions that show your honest interest. It’s a great way to get a conversation going and avoid hanging out on the fringes of the room/booths waiting for someone else to approach you.
And when you ask questions, make sure that you actually listen to the responses. When you follow up, throwing something they told you into your message (in a way that makes sense) can be a really great way to keep the relationship and conversation going. “Hey so-and-so, I was thinking about our conversation on xyz last week and…”
4. Be enthusiastic.
When you have an opportunity to talk about yourself and what you do, don’t downplay it. Share your enthusiasm for your music and your craft. It’s contagious. If you constantly tell people “it’s not a big deal,” they’ll start to believe it.
5. At the same time, however, be humble.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of making new friends and business partners. It’s a fine line between enthusiastic and humble, but it’s one you’ll have to learn to walk eventually.
6. Make an effort to remember others’ names.
It can make a huge impression at a large event with a ton of people – like NAMM.
7. If you’ve arranged a meeting, don’t be late.
It’s easy to get caught in the crowds or get drawn too long into a conversation you didn’t mean to fall into. If you made a commitment to someone to meet them at a certain time, stand by it. Excuse yourself from whatever you may be involved in, make arrangements to meet back up if you need to, and honor your commitments.
8. Go on, be happy!
If you look grumpy, people will perceive that as you being unapproachable. If you want to get to know other people, make sure you look like someone they can walk up to and talk with. Plus, you’ll feel better. Smile before you enter a room, walk into a booth, or while you shake hands with someone you’ve just met. Show them that you are happy to be there and that you are pleased to meet them.
9. Dress comfortably.
You’re going to be on your feet all day so make sure you wear something that won’t be painful and that you don’t have to worry about adjusting.
10. Follow up.
If you’ve agreed to follow up with someone at an event, make sure you keep your word after it’s all said and done. Wait a few days to give them time to get home, back to work and settled after the event and then send them a short message to tell them you enjoyed meeting them and a short summary of what you discussed so that they’ll remember you.
What to Bring With You to a Music Event or Conference
The networking itself can also be supplemented with a few tools. Here are some things I bring with me whenever I attend a conference or music event.
1. Business cards. And lots of them.
2. Mints. You’re going to be up close and personal, leaning in to have conversations over the din of trumpet players fighting to play higher than one another and drummers sampling every bit of percussion known to man. Make sure your breath is nice and fresh so that people will want to continue the conversation with you rather than run away.
3. Aspirin. So that a headache doesn’t take you out or make you grumpy.
4. A phone charger or extra battery. But if you bring a phone charger, be prepared to battle it out with a dozen other people for the accessible outlet.
5. Snacks. The food at conventions is often overpriced and terrible. Bring some stuff to munch on so that you survive the day.
6. Ear plugs. Protect your ears! You are a musician. They are a part of your livelihood.
7. Hand sanitizer. Just trust me on this.
8. Something to write with – pens or sharpies. Sharpies are usually better as they’ll work on more surfaces than a normal pen.
9. Demos or cds if you have them. But not too many because you will be carrying the ones you don’t hand out around with you all day.
10. Flyers. Have a new cd or website you’re trying to promote? Create a postcard flyer our handout to pass around at the event.
Before I close out the post, I should also mention that you should make the effort to stay healthy during music events. It’s easy to push yourself too hard, trying to go to every performance, every demonstration and signing, running yourself ragged. Learn when to call it quits and take it easy. You’ll end up getting more out of the event that way because you won’t be trying to function in an exhausted, Red Bull-fueled stupor. Get a good amount of sleep the night before, take Airborne or Emergen-C if you need to and eat as healthy as you can. And wash your hands. Often.
There you have it. What are some of the things you do to prepare for music conferences or events? How do you get the most out of them? We’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.