7 Must-Knows for Attending Music Conferences

Music-Conference-speaker-audienceFor those of us who are a little shy, a little unsure of ourselves, and terrified of the scary word that is “networking”, music conferences can be a pretty frightening thing. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated professional shy away. But as a self-proclaimed introvert, and someone who is afraid of nearly everything, if I can overcome my fear of talking to strangers, anyone can.

So pack your bags, and get ready for your next big conference! With these tips in mind, you’re going to own it.

Create Goals

This one is, in my opinion, often overlooked. Before you even arrive, figure out what your goals are. Is it to meet as many industry folks as possible? Is it to zero in on a couple specific people? To relax and enjoy some good music? Whatever it is, make sure you have a strong understanding of your goals, and at least a rough idea of how you’re going to accomplish them. For instance, if you know that one of your favorite musicians is leading a panel, and you know there will be time to mingle and talk after, how are you going to approach him? What will you say? How will you stand out? While winging it may seem like the easy option, that doesn’t make it the sensible one. Is that kind of unpreparedness really a risk you want to take in what could be a once in a lifetime moment?

Connect ahead of time

One of the things that is simultaneously incredible and kind of miserable about this industry, is that most of the people we work with live in different parts of the country than us. So when there’s an opportunity like a conference to finally meet some of those people you work with regularly, you have to jump at it. Find out who’s going, and make sure you meet up with as many people as you can. For some of the smaller conferences, you may not run into too many people you work with, but for larger conferences, like SXSW, you can expect to find a ton of your colleagues there, and not only finally put a face to the name, but potentially make some new connections as well.

Do your research

One of the things that really stuck with me after attending this year’s Launch Music Conference was something Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman shared with the audience. And that was, don’t be afraid to internet stalk the people you’re interested in talking to. Now, don’t get carried away, I don’t want to see your name on the news over this, but the internet has become an incredible resource for finding out about the people you admire. And while they may love talking about their work, they’re still people with hobbies, and passions outside of their companies, and if you can hone in on a shared interest, you’re a lot more likely to leave a lasting impression. For instance, Lyman kept repeating that what he’s into is BBQ and fishing. That he loved it when fans would come up and talk about those things with him, and it made for a much more memorable experience (IE much more successful networking) than just drilling them about their company. Be smart about it, don’t get creepy, and this is one trick that can really make you a lot of new connections, as well as friends.

Get comfortable talking to strangers

Just for a moment, I want you to forget everything you learned as a child about talking to strangers. If you’re going to network, you need to be able to break down those walls. You know that old saying “practice makes perfect”? It’s withstood the test of time for a reason—it really is true. The more you practice talking to strangers, the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the better you’ll become at it. No one expects you to climb Everest in a day, so start small. Tell that girl in front of you that you that you like her top. Ask the guy next to you where he got that cool gadget you like. Even something as simple as making eye contact with strangers on the street will build your confidence, and push your boundaries. It sounds simple, but try it next time you’re out—it takes some courage and concentration. Learn to notice when your shoulders tense, or your heart starts beating a little too fast. When you feel your palms start to sweat and your anxiety begin to rise, take a moment to just breathe, and refocus. It can be on anything. Think about that tasty sandwich you had for lunch, or that trip you’re taking next month. The point is to calm your brain down from fight or flight. Then, once you’ve taken a moment to breathe, try again. These are some great, basic tips to build your confidence, and prepare you for when you get to the conference and finally have the chance to approach those you admire.

Business Cards

Hopefully you already know that you need to bring business cards. But if you’re networking effectively, you’ll likely be grabbing a lot of business cards yourself, and it can be really easy to lose them. What I do is, take a photo of the card (front and back) as soon as I get it, and email it to myself. There’s a ton of apps for storing business cards this way, but it’s also just a great way to ensure you’re not losing it, and the email will also serve as a reminder to reach out to your new connections once things have settled down.

Map out your day

This one seems like common sense, but most conferences will be packed with events and shows that you don’t want to miss—so why risk it? Take a few minutes a couple days before your conference to put together a rough itinerary of your days. It doesn’t have to be exact, but if you wait until the morning of to decide everything, you’ll end up so rushed for time and frazzled, that you’ll likely end up missing out.

Pack snacks and travel light

I am the queen of snacks. Seriously, I can’t go more than a few hours without eating, and on conference days, there’s hardly a moment to sneak off to go the bathroom before the next panel or concert starts, so you’ll want to pack snacks, and a bottle of water, to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Personally, snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or popcorn are my go tos, because they’re relatively healthy, packed with nutrients, (well ok, maybe not the popcorn) and easy to carry and pick at, without any offending odors/noises/etc. On that same note, pack light. I have a tendency to pack as if I’m going away on a year long journey, every time I spend the weekend away. But the truth is, you really just need a few basics. Good sneakers for walking, a sweatshirt for chilly nights, and a few basic pairs of clothes. You have enough to worry about, without lugging your 80-pound suitcase all over town.

Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up and coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, we’ve secured placements on sites such as AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more. You can find us at www.MuddyPawPR.com