If you are a singer, you must also be a business person! You are the face of your company! You are your entire company and without you, your company would not exist! For today’s blog, you will learn some of the best networking practices as a singer AND as a business person. Our next blog post will focus more on singing with an interview with a true Queen of the Night, the wonderful Greek Soprano Christina Poulitsi (Stay tuned!), but for now, let’s get down to business.
If you’ve ever gone to a competition, convention or event, it can be scary to try to talk with groups of people you have never met. Furthermore, if you are there to network and make connections, the stakes can be that much higher, making you that much more nervous. Here are a few best practices to make sure you maximize your networking experience.
PART I: All things practical.
Bring business cards. Almost every professional carries around a set of business cards in their wallet to hand out at a moment’s notice. Why should singers be any different? If you meet someone you want to connect with later, especially if it is related to a professional singing gig, you don’t want to be scrambling in your bag for a pen and old receipt to write your email on. Make your own business cards! Go to a business card creation website and use a template to make your cards. Or, if you are InDesign savvy, you can create your own unique design. Also, it’s a good idea to include a small version of your headshot on the card. People have an easier time remembering who you are if they can put a name to the face.
Pro Tip: I’d recommend www.vistaprint.com for creating business cards and www.canva.com for creating your own designs if you aren’t very experienced with design software. They make the process easier than pie.
Maintain your online presence. Once you’ve given someone your business card, the last thing you want them to do is go to your Facebook fan page and see that your last post was from a year and a half ago. Make sure that your website and all of your public social media pages are up-to-date. This includes updating your about sections, links, and posting consistently. Likewise, if you have a YouTube page with your performances on it, you may want to make some of your older performances private. A talent agent will probably not find that video of 12-year-old you singing O Mio Bambino Caro as cute as your parents think it is.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t created your own website, I’d recommend www.wix.com , www.weebly.com or www.squarespace.com. They are extremely user friendly and offer sleek, customizable website templates.
Dress appropriately. You know that person - the girl who wore the jeans to her interview or the guy who wore a tux to his 10:00 am audition… Don’t be that person! Know the attire for whatever events you attend. That being said, don’t take a chance on being underdressed. It is better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed at all. Dress for the job you want. Look professional. For auditions, business attire is always appropriate. For convention classes, something between casual and business attire is a safe bet.
Side note: Also, don’t be that person at the convention with terrible hygiene. PLEASE brush your teeth and wash your hair. The world thanks you.
PART II: How to feel confident networking.
Know that you are not alone. Have you ever walked into a store and been slightly embarrassed to be there, hoping that nobody you know walks in and sees you? (Admit it ladies, we have all been to Claire’s well past age 15…) Well, guess what - there’s no reason to be embarrassed because that person who walked in is there too! They may be thinking the same thing! It’s very similar to what happens with networking. If you are feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed, chances are that others in the networking group are too. The good news is that you are all there feeling awkward together. Networking can be intimidating, and you are not alone in feeling that way. Bask in the awkwardness.
Give yourself a pep talk. Make a list of your accomplishments and keep it in your pocket or your purse. Every time you are feeling unsure of yourself, pull it out and read it through quickly. You are amazing. You have done ALL those things on your list and you should be proud of yourself. You belong at the convention. If you have particular quotes that inspire you, write those down too!
Memorize your elevator pitch. Have a few key points about yourself that you would like everyone to know about you. These points may include any of the following: your name, age, school, last competition, last contract, upcoming performances, current teacher, career goals, etc. Make sure you can say all of this easily in 30 seconds. If anyone asks you to tell them about yourself, you then have your quick summary ready to go. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but should tell them the 3-5 most important things you want them to know about you. Now, before you go crazy, STAY HUMBLE. Don’t wax on and on about all your accomplishments in a list. This pitch is more about what’s important to you and a tiny bit about you. If the other person has questions about you, they will ask! Make sure that you also ask them questions. Networking is a conversation, not a monologue.
Remember - we are all humans. It is always helpful to think of interviews or networking as if you are having a conversation with friends and family. When people are interviewing you or networking with you, they really just want to get to know more about you. There’s no right or wrong answers. And if you don’t have an answer for something, it’s okay to say that. Nobody expects you to know everything! It’s only a conversation, human to human.
Be your most outgoing self. You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. It may be nerve racking to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. What’s the worst that can happen? Pretty much nothing. (Okay, okay, they could burst into tears from social anxiety. But, they probably won’t be at a convention if they are that nervous.) If you tend to be shy, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you see a booth that interests you, go introduce yourself to the exhibitor. All you have to say is, “Hi, my name is [insert your name.] Please tell me about your booth!” A really good way to start a conversation with someone new is to ask them a question. When you ask a question, it puts the ball in their court to talk. There are several people out there who LOVE to talk about themselves. This is a surefire way to begin a conversation with someone you want to network with. Try to do this with as many people as possible. You never know if that person you’re standing next to in the elevator is Renee Fleming’s BFF.
Pro Tip: When I get nervous in any given situation, I like to pretend I’m performing. As a performer, this can be an extremely helpful tactic. If you get nervous walking up to a convention booth, think of yourself as playing a super confident character in a movie who is attending an awesome convention. Give yourself an alter ego character name. If Beyonce does this, so can you!
Have a list of questions. Have trouble coming up with conversation questions on the spot? Make a list of questions ahead of time and memorize some of these questions. (I may or may not have done this on my first date in high school. Don’t judge.) They should be easy to remember and open-ended. Ask things like:
How to gracefully exit a conversation. Ugh. The worst thing is when you cannot break away from a conversation. It can be so hard to leave when you want to or need to! Here are a few tactics you can use:
Have fun! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Likewise, don’t treat it like a vacation. Find that perfect balance of work and pleasure. Every experience you have had has prepared you for this moment. Trust yourself!
Share this article with your friends or students if you think they benefit from it, too and let us know your experiences with networking.
GVAI's director Christine is already very excited to be at the CS Music Convention over Memorial Day Weekend. Visit her at the German Vocal Arts Institute exhibit. There will be games with a drawing for a free online German diction voice coaching, sweet treats from Germany and much more.
And don't forget her class:
A Singer's Career in Germany and German Diction
Friday, May 26th, 1pm. Grand Sheraton Chicago
Do you dream of going to Germany to make a living as an opera singer or to study voice at a college, but don't know where to start? This class can help! In part one, Christine Menschner, director of the German Vocal Arts Institute (GVAI), will offer a step-by-step process on how to audition for agencies, theaters, or graduate schools. In part two, she will work with you on one of the core pillars to make this possible: German diction. Lacking feedback from native speakers, many singers believe they know how to sing in German, but to recognize the degree of openness of vowels and umlauts is challenging. Learn to distinguish the differences and get real hands-on or better yet ears-on experience. Bring your German song or aria.
Are you all set for the summer?
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Most blog posts from June 2017 - June 2018 were written by GVAI's blogger Anikka Abbott who has just started her journalism studies. We already miss her. Learn more about her here or connect with her on Facebook.
Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....