Authenticity Is Everything
Be authentic. So I want to encourage you to continue to be, you know, the Professor Pinkerton Xyloma of your circus (laughing). I want you to continue to be crazy and eccentric and be yourself. I mean, I'm all buttoned-up in this, and they introduced me as a mural artist, and I know you're like, "She doesn't look like a mural artist." 'Cause I'm not in my mural artist clothes right now! It's important to still be you, though. I mean, even if I'm in a little button-up shirt, and I don't usually wear button-up shirts, I am still me. I am not afraid to make a mistake or drink my coffee in front of you or whatever. I just, I'm over that stage in my life, and I want you to also be over that. I actually, speaking of what I'm wearing, have you guys read the story that Dr. Seuss wrote about, it's like, "What Am I Afraid Of?" or "What Are You Afraid Of?" and it's all about a pair of green pants. (audience laughing) So I'm wearing these green pants symbolically because, in the story, those of yo...
u, again, with kids, Dr. Seuss says that, the character's like, "I was in the woods, and there was a pair of green pants "with nobody inside them!" And the pair of green pants, like, chases them through the woods, and they're so afraid, and at the end, you find out it was all their imagination. So don't be afraid of the green pants. That's what I want to tell you today. Be yourself, you know. The thing is, the thing you're selling is kind of yourself. It is your enthusiasm. It is your freakiness, your differences, you know. If you're selling a vaudeville circus, most people can't do that, even if they wanted to, even if they also thought that was cool, they don't have the authenticity and the depth of knowledge you have on that art form that you do. So you should be really proud of that, and you should really wear that up front and just, like they say, own it, just own that. And walk in and say, "I am doing a garden initiative. "I have, my parents were gardeners. "I grew up on, you know, a farm. "I know all about this, I'm passionate about it. "I know I can do this well." So show that passion. A few caveats from being authentic. You know, don't be inappropriate. That's why, I, you know, kinda dressed myself up a little bit for today. Don't wear the wrong thing. Try and, you know, be authentic without necessarily being confrontational. Especially if you have a very strong look about you, maybe try and build a bridge between yourself and them without trying to be them. I can't be specific 'cause I don't know who you are and who you're approaching, but just try and keep these tips in mind. Build bridges with people. Be humble. Don't go in and tell them that you're an expert, or that you're a genius, or that you're the only one, any of that kind of language that is off-putting to people, right? Because you want them to feel that there's an entryway to your world. Don't overpromise what you can't deliver. Certainly don't go in and say, especially if this is the first time you're trying to get an idea like this off the ground, yes, you may have a background, but this is the first time this idea's being done, so don't overpromise. Be humble about your expectations. Don't pitch projects that are really, really safe, either. So I want you to find, this is my best advice to you, is to go ahead and shoot for the stars and have a big vision for what you're doing, but don't do something that's so safe and mainstream that, why would they even fund you? Like, there's already nine projects out there exactly like that in the city. You're kind of just a copycat, or you're just doing something that has already been done so many times that it's not interesting anymore. If you're being accused of that, you should have some self-reflection and say, "Well, why do people think that this is so mainstream? "Like, I think mine's so different. "Like, this cafe that I'm doing, "I know we have a lot of coffee places in town, "but at my cafe, you're gonna be able to pet live cats. "And we don't have that anywhere in the city, "except with the cat cafe that I'm opening!" By the way, that's happening in Milwaukee right now. It's like a Tokyo, it's really popular in East Asia. Yeah, yeah, okay. So it's in other cities, I get it. When we first heard about it in Milwaukee, we were like, "What?" (laughing) And then we looked it up on the internet and were like, "Oh, that's cool, all right, cool, great, cat cafe." So if your idea's like that, you need to know, what is the cat in your cafe? Like, what makes it not a typical coffee joint, okay? So just don't pitch things that are safe or mainstream, just don't, and don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of the green pants in the woods. Don't be afraid that you're gonna fail because you're gonna fail, I mean, you are. It's, (laughing), right? I mean, you are! Because, what are the, there are so many statistics out there, you can go look them up. I haven't memorized them, but, you know, like, new businesses typically fail. If you're pitching an idea to, internally, at an agency, the client might not like it. I mean, it might just be off-base. It doesn't mean you're stupid. It isn't something that you should take personally. You should be flexible and have different flavors of a new idea all ready to go. Be an idea factory. Don't let this one idea just bog you down. I'll give you a great example of this actually, that I just thought of. I've illustrated some children's books. And so I've kind of dabbled in the children's book industry for a while, which was a frightening industry, by the way. It was great, you know, doing the artwork, but it was kind of a dog-eat-dog, very, very competitive environment. And so, in order to get myself up to speed, I attended a conference in New York City, which, of course, is the center for all publishing in America, and it was all targeted towards new authors and new illustrators and how do you break through, and how do you get noticed by an art director and/or an editor with your manuscript? And they taught us a million things. The biggest takeaway that I had from that weekend in New York was they, the people who come up and say, "I have an idea for a children's book," immediately discounted, immediately discounted. Because, guess what? Everyone has an idea for a children's book, okay? Everyone has written a book. Everyone's mom has said, like, "I used to tell you that story about the turtle "when you were little, and you thought it was really funny." You know, everyone has an idea for a children's book, singular. That is not what a publisher wants. They want you to say, "I have 30 manuscripts "that I've written, and I'm committed to this craft. "I'm really interested in stories that are targeted towards "African-American children." Boom! Now you're gonna get noticed, right? Because you've demonstrated that you're an idea factory, that you know your audience, and you know what you're good at. If you walk up and say, "I have an idea for a children's book," don't be that person. And I want that to apply to everything that we're doing today. I shouldn't be going to people and saying, "I have an idea for one alley," even though I kinda did. (audience laughing) It was one specific alley. We knew that we had permission there, but what I didn't do was we didn't allow our team to get too hemmed-in on the specifics of that idea, and we went with the flow and the feedback that we were getting. So don't be afraid to fail with your initial idea because you're gonna be so excited to go to the very next idea. That should be the mindset that you're in. Yes.
Stacey, I have a question about being authentic in that elevator pitch, and talking to people in person. Who would you go practice in front of, or,
Oh, that's a--
In your experience, did you practice different lengths, and different words
And different things, and get that feedback?
How would you approach that?
There are so many groups out there that are designed just for that, and I would say, at the simplest level, to go to just, like, a business networking thing, even if, I wouldn't even say even if, especially if that is not your jam, especially if that makes you deeply uncomfortable. If you're not a businessey person, go to one of these business networking events, and try pitching it all night long, and it's okay if it fails. Because really, those networking pitches are, they're kinda B.S. in a way anyway, especially if you're really trying to get sponsors. People who are at a networking event are so focused on their own idea, guys, really, that they are hoping you're the one, and you're hoping they're the one. So there's a whole lot of this going on at networking events in my experience. But you should still go. Because that's gonna give you the spine that it takes to just tell your story over and over, and to pick up a glass of wine or the cracker, and be like, "You know what I'm doing is blah, blah, blah," and have like, a decent segway into it, it's hard. If you are female like me, or you are a minority, or you have other sort of sub-groups that you can be a part of, there are women's networking lunches, there are women-in-business-type events, there are minorities-in-business kind of events. There are subject-matter events that are specifically for people targeting, you know, trying to become a children's book writer. Find those kinds of events, especially if they are, if they seem fairly unfriendly and really hard, go! Because that's the kind of challenge, you know, you need to have a really strong backbone to get through this, and I think that that's the way to do it. Don't do the easy stuff, where you just, like, sit in front of your significant other and go, "Okay, okay, how does this sound?" 'Cause they're gonna tell you you sound awesome. They think you're adorable. So that's not gonna help you. (laughing) I think try and develop that courage early on.
Yeah, sure. I think that's a great question, actually. So now we're gonna talk about tidying yourself up. We're going to think about how you want to look to the world, what are you sending out there? What impression are you trying to give, okay? So, be consistent. We're going to help people to visualize. I mentioned this early on, and I haven't given it a lot of emphasis, but I would like to, which is the whole notion that, because this does not exist yet, because this is an idea that only exists in your notebook, someone asked me early on if I could Photoshop our alley with murals on it, and I rolled my eyes, like "Oh my God, that's the dumbest thing ever!" But I did end up doing that, and it really helped, actually. It was so obviously Photoshopped, you guys. But having something that people could visualize was helpful. What I had been using up until then were images of other cities, which, to me, made perfect sense. Like, "Look what they're doing in Philadelphia." You know, "Look at what they've already done "in Chicago on the south side," and I was showing these examples, but the problem is people are very provincial, and they were like, "Well, yeah, well, "Milwaukee doesn't have buildings like that. "Well, that would never fly in Milwaukee, "blah, blah, blah, blah." And so the naysayers, right, you're gonna meet a lot of them in this process, and that's okay. They're doing their jobs. You know, you can't take this kind of stuff too personally. When you're thinking about the power of persuasion, you want to think about giving off exactly the kind of visual materials, that, it's again, about building bridges, right? I've said that before. Building a bridge with them mentally. Help them get to your side of the table, and help them understand why your idea's awesome. And that often involves visuals. If you're not a creative who can already whip up graphic design stuff, you know, a great logo if you need it, Photoshop mock-ups if you need it, if you are not that person, you probably have friends who are. So if you're more of a musician type, or you're more of another, of a writer, you know, find people who can help you with visual materials because we're visual creatures, and you're gonna want to do that. You don't necessarily need really slick logo, website. I don't want to stand here in this very, I'm in a very beautiful and very professional environment, so I don't want you to assume that, I don't want, myself, I'm giving off a very professional, a very polished, this course on CreativeLive is very polished and professional, and I've got this beautiful screen. You may not need to look like this when you present. If you were Pinkerton, you would need to look like you know how to run a freakin' circus, you know? And so you have to find that balance. You may not need, a logo may be a really corny thing for what you're doing. If you're doing a community garden initiative that is really all about, like, getting your hands in the dirt and growing things, and organic, just love, in the community, you might want to show up in just the kind of clothes that you would wear in the garden, or a nice, flowy skirt, or whatever it is that people want to see in you that will make them see who you are and the authenticity of what you're doing. On the other hand, if you are opening a cafe, right, you do probably want to have a logo, some really tight mock-ups of what the interior of the cafe will look like, some really tight mock-ups of floor space, some really specific menus of what you're gonna be serving, right? You know what I mean? So you have to figure out where you are on that spectrum of authenticity. If your idea is about being polished and professional and really, what'd I say, mainstream? Or something that's gonna appeal to a more mainstream audience, then yeah, that authenticity, you can't be messy. You can't be scrappy and, you know, "Hey, I used to run a circus, "but now I'm gonna open a cat cafe." Like, you can't be the both of those people, so you need to, you really do want to have really proper branding, beautiful photography, really great logo, and really great website. They don't necessarily cost that much, especially if you have cool friends. So you might have talent all around you and people willing to help you through bartering and so forth that can make you look really, really, really tight, if that's what you need. But that can also be a mistake, you know what I'm saying? If you go too tight, when your idea is all about being organic or being artsy, or what have you. So just, authenticity is huge. Solid research is huge. Having a really clear, you know, identity, and a self-identity, and you know who you are, and you know what you have to sell.