Guest Post: Five strategies any musician can use to become a better networker

Seth Hanes is a horn player, digital marketing consultant, and the author of the new book, Break into the Scene:  A Musician’s Guide to Making Connections, Creating Opportunities, and Launching a Career, which is available now on Amazon.

 

We have probably all heard this phrase trotted out countless as freelance musicians…

 

“…it’s all about who you know.”

 

Many musicians hate the idea that many gigs are obtained through connections rather than talent.  The idea that people get calls for gigs exclusively for their talent is a nice thought but has no basis in reality.  If you fight this truth, you are only making it more difficult for yourself to succeed in the world of freelancing because your ability to connect with your colleagues has a direct impact on the amount of work you get.

 

Poor social skills can be the deciding factor in whether or not you are called back.  That sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.  It doesn’t matter if you are shy or outgoing; social skills can easily be learned and improved.  Some people are naturally good with others, while the rest of us may have to try a little harder.  You don’t have to have amazing social skills.  They just have to be good enough to make positive impressions on those around you.

 

I have met many people in my life as a freelancer that have an awful time getting called back to gigs because of their complete lack of social awareness.  Like it or not, people are constantly making judgments on others based on everything from how they dress, how well they play, or even how clean their car is. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong; it just is. Instead of fighting it, accept it and use it to your advantage.

 

When interacting with new colleagues, doing a few simple things could be the difference between leaving a great impression or them awkwardly avoiding eye contact with you in the dressing room at intermission. The first time you meet people, they have no preconceived notion of who you are.  However, the moment they see how you interact with your environment, they will begin to form opinions.

 

This is an opportunity and your responsibility to help craft the image you want people to see.  Simply smiling at people across the room is enough to start forming a positive impression. I like to think about social behavior at gigs on a spectrum. On one end you have the people who are extremely shy and keep to themselves. The other end of the spectrum is the overly aggressive schmoozers trying to force relationships out of thin air.

 

My advice is shoot for somewhere in the middle. If you’re reading this and cringing at the thought of having to be something you’re not, don’t worry.  Below are five simple things that anyone can do to improve their social skills while still being authentic.

 

1. Introduce yourself first

You don’t have to wait for others to come to you.  When you make the first move to greet and introduce yourself, it sends a positive vibe and you appear more confident.  Many people have anxiety about making introductions, so they just might view it as a favor if you take the burden from them by saying a friendly hello first.

 

2. Make eye contact

This is different than staring.

Please don’t stare.

Something as simple as making eye contact while speaking with people or passing them in the hall can make a positive difference.  And eye contact is something anyone can do.  You know that moment you felt an instant connection when you happened to meet someone’s gaze from across the room?  It is amazing how much simple eye contact can improve the dynamic of an interaction.

 

3. Shake hands

Don’t be shy about reaching out to shake someone’s hand.  An appropriately firm grip makes a better impression than just saying hello.  Having said that, we’ve all shaken hands with someone who has a death grip.  Don’t make people wince after you greet them.  Yet, don’t give someone a limp handshake where they feel like they’re squeezing a dead fish either.

 

They’ll remember a death grip or a limp fish grip, but not for a good reason.  Instead, go for a grip somewhere in-between.  This might seem like a tiny detail, but I promise it will make a difference.

 

4. Smile

If there’s one thing that can dramatically improve other people’s perception of you, it’s smiling.  Even someone sitting across the room, without exchanging a word, can form a positive impression of you if the person sees you smiling.  I always thought this was odd, but a lot of people rarely smile.  It doesn’t matter if your personality tends to be more introverted or extroverted.  A smile sends the signal that you are happy to be there, and it gives off a friendly vibe. Try smiling at everyone you walk by on the street today.  I bet you will notice a difference in their expression after you smile at them.

 

5. Use people’s names

The sweetest sound in the world to everyone is their name.  Maybe it secretly tickles their ego.  I have no idea. But one thing I know is that people love to be called by their name.  The next time you introduce yourself to someone, make a mental note to remember their name.  When you see them later on your way out, use their name as you say goodbye.

 

Very few people bother to remember names anymore.  I make lists of people’s names in my phone to help me remember those around me. Sometimes I even make notes about what we talked about.  That might sound silly, but people will be blown away when you run into them a year later and remember their name and what you talked about.

 

Conclusion

These tips are just a jumping off point, but I can guarantee that if you start implementing all of these techniques that you will notice a difference in how other interact with you.  We all know that networking is important and the truth is that it should never be inauthentic. People can sense when others are faking it in attempt to “network” with them.
If you can focus on being genuinely friendly and always be on the lookout for ways that you can add value to those around you, you’re going to start expanding your network of colleagues that want you to succeed.  Music is a collaborative endeavor artistically and from the business side of things.  By creating meaningful relationships with your peers, you will enjoy a more fulfilling careers as a musician.

 

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Seth Hanes is a horn player, digital marketing consultant, and the author of the new book, Break into the Scene:  A Musician’s Guide to Making Connections, Creating Opportunities, and Launching a Career, which is available now on Amazon.

 

 

 

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