Too nervous to network?

Does the word “networking” make you cringe? Do you break into a sweat thinking about walking into a room and talking to strangers?

If you are building a career as a musician and/or a music leader networking is an essential way to make lasting contacts that can lead to exciting opportunities for collaborative working.

I was that nervous networker! I can now see how crucial networks are in my life and career. I’ve worked and performed with some brilliant people as a result!

In the Music Education Code of Practice “Working well with people” is one of the quality statements. Music leaders need to develop skills to communicate well with a whole range of people. Some preparation before an event will help to build your confidence. Think of it as a rehearsal!

So what might help with those network nerves?

Get sorted!
· Before you go get clear in your mind why you are going and what you want to get out meeting these people
· Be able to tell people who you are and why you are here
· If possible start with those you know before moving on to other people
· Prepare how you can introduce yourself
· Have your card with contact details ready to give to other people

It’s not all about you!
· I’ll bet when you go to any networking event there will be others feeling equally nervous. So you are not the only one.
· You might be feeling self-conscious  - in reality most people are too busy to be judging you. Don’t take things personally!
· Find out about other people. Truly listen to what they are saying.
· Remember people’s names!

Be generous!
· Genuinely engage with other people – smile, show interest in what they are saying. Can you see things from their point of view?
· Ask open questions (those that allow people to say more than yes or no!)
· Introduce any contacts you have made to others
· Let others into your conversations
· Tell people what you have to offer. Think of ways you might be able to collaborate or work together.

 There is masses of research and advice on networking if you do a google search.

These are some of my thoughts from my experience and learning.

Be someone others want to work with!

Enjoy making proper working relationships that will help build a diverse and exciting career.

You never know who you will meet next!

Share your thoughts and tips with this network


34 reads


Paul Weston's picture

Good advice Jacqui. I especially like the point about introducing people you have met to others. Never assume that just because two people come from the same place and do the same thing that they know each other.

Kate_MB's picture

Excellent post! I also think that sometimes the word 'networking' can be very off-putting and if you just think of it as getting out and about and meeting other like-minded people in your sector, that can feel easier. A bit like the chat at the water cooler or over lunch when you work in an organisation. It can be lonely working as an independent music leader, so I usually just love finding out about other people, projects and approaches. I tend to find events where networking is built in, but not the only focus, to be the most beneficial.

Lucy Stone's picture

Jacqui - I too was a very nervous networker when I stated my career - although many would say you wouldn't know that now! My first boss in the arts really helped by getting me to memorise questions like
- What projects are you working on at the moment?
- What developments are you planning for the future/ really excited about?
He always said never pretend you know something you don't - ask questions, no one minds! People love to talk about what they do and that networking is as much about listening and talking!
Get stuck in - you never know what might come of a conversation.

Sophie Appleby's picture

really useful advice! I like the tip (which I learned, ridiculously, from Bridget Jones' Diary) that when introducing two people to each other, you should tell people an 'interesting fact' about the other. So you might say, 'Emma, this is Sarah, she's been telling me about a great project she's working on with looked after children' which gives them something to start talking about. This can also be your excuse to then move on and talk to someone else, which I always find the hardest bit to know when to do!