It is not something that comes naturally to me. I would much rather write about people schmoozing than attempt schmoozing myself. (But as much as I hate doing it, I do love to say the word. Say it with me: schmooze, schmooze, schmooze.) Call it what you will—networking, hobnobbing, rubbing elbows—it is a skill that everyone should know how to do, even choral singers.
Why is this important for singers? Because you often have to do "meet-and-greets" after concerts as an attempt to make your audience more in love with you than ever in the hope that they will come back to another concert and possibly (yes!) donate money. (And if your chorus does not currently do meet-and-greets, you should seriously think about starting one up. Think of all the networking opportunities you are missing out on.)
The truth is that you (yes, you, the alto in the third row) are an ambassador for your chorus, on and off the stage. It's not just the person who draws up the flyers—all of you have to work together to sell your chorus. So, here are some tips for schmoozing success!
Step One: Inner Poise and Zeroing In
First, before you seek out someone to talk with, silence any and
Tell yourself that you are poised, articulate, and exude confidence and charm. "No, no-I'm really not like that," you say. But to this I say, "Yes, you are!"
all negative thoughts about yourself (e.g. "God, I'm so awkward and bumbling") or other frightening images (e.g. wayward clumps of saliva catapulting out of your mouth and landing on the other person).
In situations like these, tell yourself that you are poised, articulate, and exude confidence and charm.
"No, no—I'm really not like that," you say.
But to this I say, "Yes, you are!" (You just may not have been up until this moment.) In the words of some famous, wealthy person: You are who you choose to be.
Most people will be in groups, so just pick one and go.
Step Two: Greeting and Introduction
"Hello" is a popular greeting choice among English speakers. This is usually followed by the presentation of your name. Combined with a smile and a handshake, this one-two punch has been known to elicit a positive reaction.
The person(s) to whom you are speaking will usually respond by saying something glowing about the concert.
But the oohs and ahhs, raves and praises about your concert will only get you so far. Now that the safety of formalities has passed, what do we, the schmoozing-impaired, do next? How can we avoid that awkward pause, that fight-or-flight impulse?
Step Three: Small Talk
If you are lucky, they will ask you a question before you have to jump in with one. If not, you will have to kick off the conversation. Here are some good openers:
"Is this your first [insert name of chorus] concert?"
"How did you hear about our concert?" (This question is money. Seriously. Your chorus marketing team will love you for getting feedback on this.)
"My favorite piece to sing was the ______." (They will usually pick up on this thread and offer a comment of their own.)
If you are on tour, say something nice about their town.
Step Four: The Exit
Your meeting need not be long. Thank them for coming. Point them in the direction of the CD sales table. Wish them a goodnight and say that you hope to see them at your next concert [insert pertinent info on date and location if you know it!].
Step Five: Repeat
You should try to meet at least three new people or groups during a meet-and-greet.
What to avoid:
- Gossip. Sometimes your audience may be aware of choir scandals (e.g. the last director's mysterious departure, romantic trysts and breakups between people in the chorus, member mutinies, member expulsions, etc.) Be prepared with diplomatic answers, especially if something like that is going on in your chorus.
- Negativity. No matter how horrible you think your performance was, do not say anything disparaging about it (e.g. "Did you hear how sharp the sopranos were during the 'Alleluia'?" or "I can't believe the director tripped on the podium!"). More likely than not, your audience didn't notice, and even if they did, don't draw more attention to it.
- Retaliation. If you meet a Debbie Downer who has the gumption to point out the flaws of your performance, simply direct attention away from her negative comments. "Well, there's always room for improvement, but doesn't this place have beautiful acoustics?"
A point to remember
People are notoriously forgetful. So you were nervous and got tongue-tied. So while you were talking, a fleck of dust fell on your contact lens, causing your eyes to water and your nose to run uncontrollably. So what? Chances are they won't remember that you accidentally said, "My favorite piece to sing was the Brahms Rectum." And if they did, so much the better. After all, this is showbiz, kid—it's better to be remembered than forgotten.