The following information is excerpted from the Berklee Online course Business Communications.
Whether you’re a performer, artist manager, or an executive at a record company, if you’re in the music industry, you need to have sharp business communications skills. Though the music industry tends to be much more casual in business tone, the same principles that can make or break your career still stand. No matter how good your musical chops, you won’t get very far if you’re not engaged at important meetings, emailing in a professional manner, and using your social media strategically.
Learning these business communication skills will serve you well in your music career. Here’s a breakdown of each mode business communication skills you’ll need:
In an increasingly global business world, in-person meetings are not always practical; Still they are preferred. In-person meetings allow each party to assess the other and adjust the discussion based on their reaction. They also open the opportunity to move the discussion to a more casual, neutral setting or into smaller groups. Business professionals typically schedule in-person meetings in advance, though they can occur spontaneously at conferences or social events.
A benefit of the in-person meeting is the ability to make immediate assessments through verbal communication and body language. Remember that you’re making an impression on the people you’re meeting with, and everyone else you encounter along the way. From the administrative assistant to the people you meet in the elevator, be friendly and professional to everyone.
Dress appropriately, prepare, and arrive a little early. If the meeting is located in a place that you’re unfamiliar with plan ahead. Give yourself ample time for traffic, public transit, and navigating the right building and floor. If you have the time and ability, test-run your route to help you feel more at ease on the day of your in-person meeting.
In-Person Meeting Etiquette Tips
While it is normal to bring a device to a meeting, be sure that you prevent notifications from intruding. You can do this by muting the volume or putting your device in “do not disturb” mode. Unless there’s a need for you to use it, turn your electronic devices off and put them away before entering.
If you are expecting an important notification that cannot wait until after the meeting, let the attendees know. Silence your device and if you receive the message during the meeting, excuse yourself to respond to it.
There are numerous apps that support video meetings and webinars. The benefits of video meetings are convenience and cost savings; participants can log in from wherever they happen to be. You could hold an international business meeting at 3 AM to reach an overseas contact during their regular business hours.
Remote meetings can be convenient, but it is important to properly prepare for each individual meeting. If you are not familiar with the meeting platform, or it’s been a while since you’ve used it, try it out in advance. You may find that you need to create an account or install or update software before you can log in. It’s best to do this on your own time and not be late for the scheduled meeting. Explore the features and find out where the video and mic mute controls are. Also make sure that your mic and webcam are properly connected.
Most platforms have a preferences section where you can perform mic and video tests. Some allow you to blur your background or use a virtual background. If you choose a virtual background, use common sense, and make sure it doesn’t offend the other party. You might think the basement from Wayne’s World or a public restroom is funny, but these choices are not hallmarks of good business communication skills.
When attending a video meeting, select the location from which you are logging in carefully. Find a quiet area with a wall behind you to minimize noise and distractions. Everyone should have their camera on, their mic muted (unless speaking), and appear to be paying attention. Turn off audible and visual notifications on your device. When you are the speaker, be sure to unmute your mic and focus your eyes on the camera. This may feel awkward, but it is the closest to making actual eye contact with others. If you are sharing your screen, make sure to have the tabs you need open, and close anything you wouldn’t like to share.
Online Meeting Etiquette Tips
When listening, it’s fine to briefly mute your mic and video (e.g., while coughing, sneezing, eating, changing locations, etc.) when your actions on video could be distracting. If you will be muted longer than a few seconds, do not verbally interrupt the speaker. Instead, post a short note in the written chat “am listening but will be off video for a few minutes.”
An unprepared attendee creates a disruption, and that can waste meeting time. Make sure you’re able to properly connect by being in a place with a strong internet signal. A weak connection may result in unsynced audio, pixelated video, and lost connections. It’s difficult to pick up on the range of nonverbal cues when someone has their video and sound turned off.
Breakout rooms are provided on many platforms for small group conversations, but it is not the same as the ability to continue the conversation in a more casual setting. Even with all of these drawbacks, video meetings are a key business communication skill to become proficient in.
Whether it’s the office landline or a cell phone, telephone calls should still be in your arsenal of business communication skills. Telephone calls are most useful when looking to have a discussion immediately. They are also relatively low cost—unless the call is international. Even then, you can use platforms such as WhatsApp for free international calls, so long as you have a wifi connection. Some drawbacks are that you only have the person’s voice to interpret how they are receiving your message, and unless your call was expected, you may be interrupting the person you are calling.
Business Call Etiquette Tips
When calling someone, begin by identifying yourself and your company. Have a few lines prepared to express your reason for calling and be sure to ask whether you have called at a convenient time for them to talk with you. If you have not, and your matter is not urgent, it is often more productive to ask to make an appointment to talk when they are expecting your call than to insist that they speak with you at that moment. If the matter is urgent, you have options: Ask how they would prefer that you leave the information so that they can get back to you when it is convenient for them. This might mean leaving your phone number, that they transfer you to voicemail, or that you send them an email.
Email is still the primary form of communication within and between most businesses. Some benefits of email are that it allows a clear message to be distributed simultaneously to multiple people, a recipient can read the message and reply at a convenient time, and it leaves a record of the conversation. Drawbacks of email include improper use of “reply all,” using language that is too casual or too impersonal, and misinterpretation of tone. Also, when using email to seek new business or clients, an unsolicited contact can create a negative impression of the business or end up in the spam folder.
Email Etiquette Tips
Keep your message short and professional. Use proper language, spelling, and punctuation. Avoid using all capital letters, emojis, or abbreviated text-speech (e.g., BRB, LOL, k). Read what you have written before you send it. If you need to share a great deal of information, consider using an attachment.
Read: Email Subject Line Tips for Musicians
Texting is used to send an immediate short message that is time- and date-stamped, and should not be skipped in the conversation about business communication skills. They are being used more and more by businesses for a variety of purposes. Benefits internally include their use for discreet person-to-person or team messages, as well as urgent, business-wide announcements. Externally, they provide a way to interact with clients or customers with special offers, links to news articles, notifications that a project has been completed, or confirmation of an appointment. A drawback in this format is that you can send too many messages, annoying the recipient. Also, the auto-complete feature on the device you are using, which anticipates what word you are typing, can present problems. It is not always correct, so it is important to check your message before you send it.
Texting in a business setting should be reserved for situations where you know the recipient is on the go, or in a setting where they can’t pick up a phone call. It’s also appropriate for situations where you need to get a message across faster than it would by email. If you don’t already have a text thread going with your intended recipient, make sure to introduce yourself with your first message, so the recipient doesn’t have to try to piece it together.
Texting Etiquette Tips
Most people text in their private lives in an extremely casual way (abbreviated words, slang, emoticons, emojis, giphys, images, etc.). Applying that style in some workplaces will be seen as unprofessional. If texting is not regularly used in your workplace, reserve it for sending urgent messages during work hours.
Instant messaging (IM) or chats, whether used as a standalone application or as part of a larger system (e.g., Google Workspace, MS Teams, Slack, Zoom, etc.) occupy the middle ground between a verbal conversation and an email. It is a way to quickly communicate a short message or share a file.
Instant messaging offers a way for team members to keep up-to-date with each other’s progress, and helps people who are working remotely to collaborate both in real-time and asynchronously. It also creates quick and efficient back-and-forth communication without the formalities that an email requires. In some IM platforms, you even have the added benefit of editing or deleting already sent messages (a luxury you don’t have with email). A drawback is that you may become distracted from planned tasks if you’re receiving numerous messages throughout the day. You might feel the pressure to respond ASAP to instant messages, but keep in mind that it’s a better show of your business communication skills to pause and write back effectively and professionally.
Instant Messaging Etiquette Tips
Keep IMs short, but also take the time to use proper language when communicating in a business setting that includes people from outside of your immediate workgroup. It doesn’t take that much more time to use capitalization and proper punctuation and gives a better impression to your colleagues. Also, if the person you’re IMing is not online, do not send them too many messages. Having them return to their IM window and see a novel from you is decidedly not good business communication.
This article provides more information about how IM is increasingly being used by today’s businesses. It also addresses security for business communication skills over IM.
Businesses and individuals use social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to maintain a public dialogue. They provide information about their business or service and share information about their field of expertise. Social networks offer instant feedback on new projects, allow people to engage with the company, and enable customers to share and review their positive experience with their own networks. For musicians in particular, social media allows you to reach your fans in a more personable way.
A drawback is that maintaining an interesting and ongoing dialogue takes time. If you are doing it well, you may attract people who post honest negative experiences or false negative content. All posts need to be monitored and addressed. If you are a small business, you may not be able to maintain it. Additionally, social media is increasingly a “pay to play” situation for businesses. Your page will go much further with paid promotion, though there are some ways to break through with strategic organic content.
Social Media Etiquette Tips
Your business networking should be consistently on-topic. Posting comments or news articles that relate to your business or are about your business is appropriate. Composing them offline with a full-screen grammar check and spellcheck can help to keep the tone of your messages professional. Consider keeping your professional life and your private life separate on social media. Avoid sharing the cute thing your pet or child did, the meal you are eating, or commentary about religion or politics with your clients unless it is part of your business.
You can use business letters when seeking new contacts or clients, providing a quote for services, or when making an important announcement. They will follow a standard business letter format, and will typically end with a request to schedule a meeting, a statement that the sender will be following up with a phone call, or a request for action on the part of the reader.
The benefit of using a business letter is that it looks professional and is not intrusive. A drawback is that there are no guarantees that the recipient will read it, and there’s less incentive to act upon it than a person-to-person interaction.
Business Letter Etiquette Tips
A business letter should be drafted using a formal tone and proper grammar and punctuation and printed on high-quality paper. Printing out a business letter on low-quality copy paper makes less of an impression than printing it on high-quality stationery. Graphic designers can provide you with a digital version of the stationary they design for your business. Be sure that it is formatted correctly in your word processing program (e.g., Pages, Word, etc.). Also make sure to adjust the design so that the letterhead looks great on a screen and printed out.
Every brand and workplace has different business communication skills and methods. If you’re navigating a new workplace culture or client relationship, there’s no harm in starting your communication out buttoned-up and professional. As you become more familiar with the people you are communicating with, you can better judge how to incorporate some more colloquial language or inject more of your personality.