One of the things I love about the music world is that it is still a people business. We have not outsourced the face-to-face contact that is so vital to making great music and sharing it with live audiences. It is no surprise, then, that successful musicians know the art of networking: a combination of using your head to be strategic and your heart in order to make a genuine connection with someone new.
For many of my students and other musicians whom I encounter, the first stumbling block to networking is knowing what to say about themselves when they meet someone new. That is where an elevator pitch can come in handy.
An Elevator Pitch focuses on the person with whom you are speaking, not on you! Your pitch should whet the appetite of your listener so that he or she will want to follow up with you. In just a few sentences, a good elevator pitch tells your listener
• who you are and what you do in such a way that you stand out from the crowd
• so that the person you are speaking with will want to find out more about what you do, have another encounter with you and become a part of your network.
An elevator pitch is NOT intended to get you a job or a gig! Indeed, many musicians I know feel pressured when speaking to new people since they think that they have to “sell themselves”. No wonder they feel stressed! Instead, by thinking of an Elevator Pitch as a way to introduce yourself to people with whom you feel a genuine connection, it takes the pressure off.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may need a number of different elevator pitches. Since musicians’ careers typically involve multiple activities, it makes sense that they network with different types of people. Perfomers probably want to meet presenters. If you teach, you might want to meet potential students or deans or professors of conservatories who are in a position to hire you. If you are looking to create an ensemble, you may want to meet potential collaborators. Therefore, you will want to develop a number of different elevator pitches, depending on whom you are meeting. Since your elevator pitch is focused on your listener, consider what about you would interest that particular person.
Since good networking starts with preparation, create your Elevator Pitch before you step out the door to meet new people. And remember that networking is about creating quality connections so save your elevator pitch for people with whom you feel a genuine connection!
Here are the elements of a good elevator pitch:
1. Who am I and what do I do that is unique and distinctive?
Give some thought to what sets you apart from other musicians that might pique the interest of the person you are meeting. Friends of mine describe themselves as
• “Bass Player and Cultural Ambassador”
• “Trumpeter and Teaching Artist”
• “Composer and Arts Educator”
For help in thinking about what set yourself apart from other musicians, create a brand statement that articulates what makes you unique and memorable to your target audience.
2. What is my connection to the person with whom I am speaking?
In preparating to network, think about the different types of people whom you want to meet, whether it is a specific individual or a category of person who can lead you to your target market. The more you can establish a connection to such a person when you first meet, the more likely you are to make a genuine connection.
3. What are my projects or career goals?
Musician’s careers typically are built on their different projects and activities so once you have established a connection and the person asks you what you do, talk about your recent or upcoming projects. Or share your career visions and goals. Use your intuition to feel out the best way to make a connection!
4. Who is my target market?
Taking a page from the world of marketing and branding, it helps to identify your target market: the people with whom you feel a special connection and who resonate with what you do.
Visualize your ideal audience member. Where will you find that person? Who can lead you to your ideal audience member? That is your target market.
In the words of one of my students, when you find someone in your target market, it is like hitting your sweet spot and it is that much easier to connect.
5. How does what I do benefit my ideal audience member?
It also helps to know how you benefit your target market. What experience does your target audience member want? How do you provide that? In my class, we discover this mission by creating a perfect world, thinking about whom you are impacting and imagining your role in that perfect world. This is a way to describe your mission. And when you are able to share your mission, this brings out your passion and help you to speak confidently!
6. What would I like from this networking encounter?
The last part of the elevator speech helps you to take this new contact to the next level. Once you meet someone with whom you resonate, think about how the two of you can stay in touch. What are you looking for? A meeting? An introduction? A resource? ASK! Have your business card handy so that it is easy for the two of you to stay in touch.
Here is the template to get started:
My Elevator Pitch
My name is____________and I am _____________________________.
(your credentials and what you do)
I am interested in speaking with you because_________________________.
(your connection with this person)
I am currently_______________________________________________
(your target audience)
so that they_______________________________________________
(describe the benefit that your target audience derives from what you do)
May I :______________________________?
(your goal from this encounter).
Once you have drafted your elevator pitch, refine it as follows:
• Change any long words or jargon into the language that your target audience will understand.
• Cut out unnecessary words
• Finalize your speech by making sure it is no more than 90 words long (excluding the last sentence on your goal from this encounter).
Be sure to practice it out loud so that you sound conversational and natural. Have some fun practicing your pitch with friends! In my class, we roleplay networking so that everyone has a chance to practice making an introduction with his or her elevator pitch and finding an effective way to connect. In this way, you are ready to meet the people who can become your business friends.
This template is just a starting point for engaging in a conversation when meeting someone new. However, using a generic speech is not useful when it takes you out of the moment and prevents you from listening carefully to the other person to sense what the two of you have in common. When you are meeting someone for the first time, listen before speaking! Listening with an open mind is one of the keys to making effective connections because it gives you a sense of what you and the listener have in common.
And do not deliver your pitch robotically! Instead, look for openings to insert the information and drizzle out the elements of your speech when appropriate.
One more thing.
Do you really need an elevator pitch?
If you are adept at meeting new people and enjoy talking about what you do, you probably do not need your elevator pitch! Your goal in networking is to make a meaningful connection and grow your network with quality connections. Once you are comfortable being in the moment and feeling out the situation, trust yourself to say the right thing. That confidence enables you to convey the passion that will excite others so that they will want to become part of your network.
Have fun networking!
Meet Astrid Baumgardner
I discovered coaching after a traumatic life experience—a sudden and nearly fatal illness— that altered my concept of a fulfilling life. After several surgeries and a month in the hospital, I could barely walk or talk. Yet something inside me knew that I was going to be okay. With an unfailing sense of the positive, a lot of hard work and determination, together with incredible support from family and friends, I regained my health. I realized that I had been given the opportunity to create the life that I always wanted. This led me to discover that I had a mission to inspire and empower others to find and live their authentic selves and I have been coaching ever since.
I bring more than 30 years of varied experience as an attorney, non-profit executive, musician, arts advocate, Board Chair, wife and mother. I am also the Coordinator of Career Strategies and a Lecturer on Careers in Music at the Yale School of Music. This experience, combined with rigorous training from one of the world’s leading coaching institutes, gives me a unique advantage in helping clients create balance and derive greater satisfaction from their professional, creative and personal lives.