In helping executives prepare for business in China, we are often asked 1) whether people really DO karaoke during business and 2) whether it is necessary to sing.
The simple answer to both questions is YES. Particularly as the US-China business climate becomes more contentious, karaoke is a way to defuse, decompress and bond.
In case this whole concept is new to you, the much loved tradition of karaoke comes from Japan and involves singing along with a music video or soundtrack at a bar or in a private room with a group. The background music and written lyrics to the song are provided. The karaoke participant follows along with the video prompt and sings the lyrics into a microphone—usually while standing in front of a group—facing the video screen and not the audience (who are also the participants). Not a singer? Fear not; most of the vocals are auto-tuned.
For many in the West, the idea of singing in front of an audience, over a public address system, is just ahead of having oral surgery without anesthesia. But, with the right approach, karaoke can be fun and will definitely help your business. Here are 7 tips on how “to do karaoke right” in China:
- Being open to the idea shows goodwill and good character—both are necessary for doing business in China and throughout Asia. Karaoke is one way to fast-track business relationships
- Just try. Singers are not penalized for lack of singing ability though he/she can be viewed negatively for not participating at all.
- At least make it look like you’re singing. If you sing well or are used to karaoke, help the non-singers. Reluctant singers may be more comfortable singing with a partner or in a group—this is acceptable
- Choose songs in a language you know, or sing a song you already know well. Written lyrics pop up very quickly on the video screen.
- Praise the singing ability of others. Some people are genuinely good; most appreciate the reassurance.
- Keep drinking. Alcohol and karaoke go hand-in-hand. Drinking water or juice, in addition, helps to prevent hoarseness and bad business decisions.
- Lighten up. Karaoke is a socially acceptable forum to “let loose.” Participants should do their best, but should not take themselves too seriously. Like life, karaoke is as fun as you make it!
After-dinner karaoke is an activity that female execs can excel in. I used to do this when the singing was in a “hostess bar” – singing was a way to override some of the awkwardness, and because there were few (or NO) other businesswomen involved, I got more notice for participation. So, next time business takes you across the ocean, warm up those vocal chords and get ready to bond over tunes with your China business counterparts!
Blue Heron Holdings provides executive briefings, advisory service, and intercultural business training for organizations seeking to thrive in the US-China arena. For more about how to be successful in China, review our free articles or contact us directly.