‘Do you ever have moments on stage where you forget where you are, lose your next note?” David Rubenstein, TV host and co-founder and co-chairman of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, asked the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma Tuesday night on stage at the National Museum of American History here in Washington, D.C.
Ma’s answer felt universal, and a line later in the discussion had me thinking about our upcoming AMPLIFY 2023 conference. He became just the 9th person presented with the prestigious Great Americans Medal—following the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Colin Powell—for his extraordinary impact as a musician and cultural ambassador.
Just before asking about forgetting notes, Rubenstein asked Ma how much he still practices. He kind of avoided that first question, but after the second, Ma took a deep breath—the questions had added up—and told his friend: “David, my mind doesn’t wander because I’ve trained myself to be absolutely present, absolutely there.” That, he indicated, is what practice is all about for him. (My webinar rehearsals should improve now.)
Then, because Ma played a piece on the museum’s 1701 “Servais” Stradivarius, Rubenstein asked why, with all the technological advancements today, is such an old instrument still the best? Ma went into a longish answer that because between 1650 and 1740, the three best instrument makers all “hung their shingles on one street” in Italy, so all of their knowledge was shared.
As the competition increased over the years, so did the secrets, and the quality of instruments went down, Ma said. “Good things happen when you share knowledge.”
Let’s repeat that: “Good things happen when you share knowledge.”
That was music to the ears of this longtime writer for media associations. We all come to association events to hear others share their knowledge, be it on building a better cello or in our non-instrument case, AMPLIFY’s 3 main-stage talks: The Fast-Evolving Guide to Audience Engagement; IMPACT Showcase: Measuring Meaningful Progress in DEI; and Practical Things You Can Do Right Now with AI (And How to Use it Ethically).
Ma’s words about being present remind me of a blog post I read from Nathalie Lusser about the importance of listening. “It’s easy to get distracted and think about what you’re going to say after the person you’re talking to finishes their point. Don’t let your mind take over! Instead, focus on what the people you’re with are saying and chime in without pre-rehearsing what you’re going to say in your head. I promise it will come out just as smart, but you’ll have the added benefit of knowing exactly what people are saying, and giving them your full undivided attention. People will notice!”
It’s also clear that Ma has the outcomes in mind before he takes the stage. At AMPLIFY, you should treat your networking like that.
“Many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen,” wrote Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. “You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others and recognize it when you see or hear it.”
Korhan scripts his daily schedule for meetings, breakfast, exercise and all. For in-person events, he likes to show up a bit early; “it’s a great time to make invaluable connections. Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events.” I love this having written a column recently titled, ‘You Want to Leave Room for Magic’; How to Plan for Serendipitous Outcomes.”
I’m not sure how much serendipity Yo-Yo Ma plans for his concerts—he said that he travels “only” 14 weeks a year now. “I’m getting old,” he added, while looking and playing so youthfully. We hope you join us for all the stages of AMPLIFY (see the complete agenda here); we think our speakers will also hit just the right notes.