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Seven things I learned from giving my first seminar

Recently, I blogged about a presentation I gave to artists, teaching them the basics of D.I.Y. media relations. I’ve sat on panel discussions before and spoken in front of the Association for Women in Communications South Florida (as president and past president), but I’d never had the opportunity to stand at the front of a room under bright lights, and speak for 45 minutes about one of the topics I’m most passionate about. And I can’t wait to do it again. Here are five things I learned from this new experience:

  1. Organizing the presentation: Make it a thought process. Lead the audience step by step through this thought process, with as few detours as possible. Not only is it a very effective teaching technique, but it relieves a lot of pressure to memorize, memorize, memorize. Standing up in front of a room full of people, looking expectantly at you, can be a hair trigger to losing your words (and your mind, and your composure)  all of a sudden. If you work yourself through your own thought process, you’ll never forget what you need to cover.
  2. Wear something comfortable – physically and psychologically. I chose my go-to jeans, a comfy blouse, and a blazer that never fails me. If you’re up there tottering in heels too high, or uncomfortably shifting around a wedgie, or worrying if your bra is showing through, your level of effectiveness is going to be inversely proportional to the level of your uneasiness. Pick something you know looks good, feels good, and is going to hold up under hot lights and moving around on stage.
  3. Gauge your audience. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure how experienced my audience was with media relations, or even (what we might consider simple) tasks like setting up a Youtube channel. And I was surprised to learn what they needed to learn. Yes, the “raise your hand if…” opener is a bit cheesy and overused, but if I didn’t ask a few of those before I began, I might have ended up teaching people what they already knew, or failing to teach them what they really needed to know.
  4. Shut up early and let the audience take over. That “15 minute” Q&A session is never, ever going to be enough time for everyone to pose their questions. Next time I give a seminar, I’m going to hold it to 35 minutes and then let the discussion do the rest.
  5. Get there early and stay there late. Not only is this another great way to gauge your audience before you begin your seminar and find some familiar faces you can use as anchors in your view of the audience, but it also lets the “never long enough” Q&A session continue afterwards. Hand out a couple of business cards. Invite people to contact you later with more questions. The closer you get with your audience and the more information you have time to provide, the more you – and they – will get out of your seminar.

Any experienced speakers out there like to weigh in? Leave a comment!

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Artists need media love too

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

On February 15, I gave a seminar, “How to Get The Media’s Attention,” teaching DIY media relations for artists. The event was sponsored for an amazing local organization, Life Is Art, which advances and promotes Miami’s own artists.

Many might think artists ≠ public relations. They do it for the joy of creation and ideation, right? – hoping to sell just enough of their work to finance the next round of paint, clay, or film.

But when I asked for a show of hands from those who want to make a living off their art, every hand in the room – right back to the standing-room-only peanut gallery – shot up.

“Essentially, then,” I said. “You are an entrepreneur. You are your own small business. Why shouldn’t you use the same marketing techniques and strategies so critical to the success of any other entrepreneur?”

About fifty light bulbs clicked on over the heads of the audience members.

“The fact is, public relations ain’t brain surgery,” I told them. “Anyone with some basic training and materials (and a lot of time and energy) can do it. And I aim to have each and every one of you walk away with the education and materials you need to get the media’s attention.”

I showed them how to create a “home base” where people can find their work, their events, and their contact information. I recommended either a simple website or, even better, a free WordPress blog where they can host their videos, audio, or images. Then, I explained why having a social media presence was so important – each profile, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or Flickr – is another “lily pad” leading audiences back to their home base, and which of those social media platforms might be most effective in promoting their work.

Eventually, I told them, their lily pads will be articles in the New Times, American Artist, the New York Times Arts Beat blog, and other media hits they garner – yet more signs guiding potential buyers to the artist’s home base.

From there, we moved to tactics. I showed them formats for basic media relations documents, including calendar announcements, media alerts, and press releases. I taught them how to use those documents, when to use those documents, and who to send them to. Finally, I showed them the most important tool of all: the personal note.

As any professional PRer knows, the power of the personal note cannot be underestimated. If I’m tracking a reporter who I think might be interested in my story, I research their recent stories and read each new one they publish. One of the top ways to open a dialogue and begin the process of building a relationship is to just drop them a line with a comment or insight on one of their articles. After a few of those notes, the foundation is set, and I can ask them to consider my story. Artists are communicators as well, and arts writers connect with them in a much different way than they do with a public relations professionals. My bet is, the artists who attended my seminar would be much more likely to get some deeper coverage if they opened a dialogue with a writer whose previous work shows a potential interest in the artist’s story and work. I explained the best ways to research a writer and the best ways to communicate with them.

In the Q&As, though, things got down and dirty. The conversation turned to social media, and I sat down at my laptop behind my projector to show them, in real time, how to use some of the platforms, and examples of other artists who were using them well. We talked about how to sell a story, how to stage a publicity stunt, like a live graffiti muraling or performance art piece. I gave each attendee a handout with the templates to use, and emailed each a media list of contacts in the local media, broadcast media, and national arts and consumer media.

Now, let’s see who makes the news….

For more information, check out this write-up we got from the Miami Herald. Or, view the full program description here.

ART AS BUSINESS

Seminar in Wynwood tonight: how artists can manage their own PR

By Jared Goyette

When artists decide to make a living from their talent, to make their passion their career, they become their own small business, and suddenly have to a manage a slew of new responsibilities of that are not typically mastered in art school or in studios. One of those tasks is managing their own PR, and that entails more than just opening up a Facebook page

How artists can manage their own public relations is the subject of a seminar being held tonight at 6:30 p.m. at GAB Studio, 105 NW 23rd in Wynwood. The event is sponsored by the Life is Art foundation, and there is a charge of $10 at the door. Julia K. Wakefield, a Senior Account Executive and Director of Social Media at Schwartz Media Strategies, will present, and plans to give the artists in attendance the rundown of what they need to know about the world of media relations.

“I want them to walk away with the ability to do some very basic public relations to get the media’s attention to their work,” she said in a phone interview.

The presentation will go through how artists should set up their own platform – a homepage, a blog, social media accounts — and how to build an audience. Wakefield will also go through the basics of traditional media relations, and will distribute a press list of local, national and international art writers and journalists.

She believes that developing artists are more than capable of managing their own PR, as it’s “not rocket science,” but that getting the basics right can be important for their success, especially if they want to make art their career.

“Most artists do it for the pleasure of it, but everybody needs to make some money,” she said.