Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to Reach Facebook Fans in a World of On-line Noise


Back in the day, I could send out a Facebook invite for an upcoming performance and a couple of things would happen: 1) About 90% of those I invited would rsvp (either yes, no, or maybe) and 2) About 40% of those invitees would actually show up at my event. It was my most effective marketing tool.

When Facebook decided to turn on its money making machine about a year ago, the typical invite got lost in the shuffle.  Now,  I'm lucky if I get a 20% RSVP rate and for a 100 seat theatre, I'm lucky to sell 3 tickets from Facebook invites.

I understand the problem. Having nearly 1,800 friends on Facebook myself, not only do I get a lot of invites each day (about 15-20) but I also get a lot of other stimulation on my Facebook page that ends up looking and sounding a lot like on-line noise. There's just too much stimulation on my page for me to pay attention to something as specific as an invitation.

Although I've always tried to be personal with my marketing efforts, I have to be even more diligent now to make sure that my own invitations can be seen and heard through the haze of saturation. To be honest, I have ADD when it comes to Facebook and if you're planning an event, you should assume every friend you're sending an invitation to has ADFBD (Attention Deficit Facebook Disorder) too.

Here are 10 ways to make sure your invite gets over the firewall:

1) Use a title that describes the event itself or the location. For example "Illumination: Four Tellers Telling in Maryland" is better than just "Illumination." There is a balance between including interesting, length and location in your title.

2) Within the body of your invite, place just enough information to spark someone’s interest. In other words, don't cut and paste something from your website into your invitation. I don’t want to read through every review that’s ever been written about you.

3) Attach event-related photos, videos and other links on the actual invite page. Sounds obvious, but don't make me search to find out more information about the event. Also, use captions with every photo.

4) Put a “click-thru” link on the invite that will take invitees to a place where they can purchase tickets.

5) Invite all your friends, even the ones that live in Spain. Most friends want to stay in touch with you and will want to know what's going on in your performance world. An invite allows them to do this. Besides, if your friends like your work (which they should if they are your friends) this will allow them to forward the invite to their own friends who can attend.

6) Wait two days and then from the invite page, message all your guests with a short personal e-mail such as:

Hi,
Just wanted to let you know about my next performance at Seeker’s Church on September 25 at 7:30. It’s a storytelling concert I’m doing with three friends and I thought you might be interested.

For more information or to buy tickets you can visit.: http://bit.ly/illuminationstory

Thanks,
Slash

*This friendly note alerts people like me who received the invite, but didn't open it or even know where to find it to the fact that you are having an event. Without this note, I'd never know.



7) Four weeks before your event, begin to post one status update related to your event. 

Remember to use the “@” symbol in front of your event title, wait for the link to upload and then place it in your status bar.  For example, “Looking forward to @Illumination: Four Tellers Telling later this month. I’m so excited!” The @symbol should disappear and make your title into a live click-thru link. (Double check to make sure it works)

*Studies show the best times for status updates are usually 8am and 4pm

8) One to three  weeks before your event, post 2 status updates related to your event that are similar, but different than the one above. For example, “Tickets for @Illumination: Four Tellers Telling are selling well.”

9) One week before your event, go back to your invite page and: a) send a personal note to anyone who has rsvp’ed Yes or Maybe. B) send a new personal note to those who haven’t sent in an rsvp.

10) If you want to bump up your response rate to nearly 35%, then you should actually send out a personal invite to every one of your friends. Yes, I actually do this for important events. Although I have nearly 1,800 friends and this takes a few days, it's an important and personal step.  If tickets sales, filling seats or connecting with friends you haven’t heard from in a while are important to you, you’ll consider doing this too.


If you'd like to see an invite for my upcoming storytelling concert on Facebook visit http://bit.ly/illuminationstory

For more info storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Question of the Week: Funding

Hey Mister!   I gotta a question for you. When you are looking for underwriters and donations, do you send out a feeler e-mail or do you send the whole kit and kaboodle?      Gotta project I am trying to make happen. It is so close, but thinking maybe I could get someone to underwrite part of it - then it would actually happen.      Thoughts ideas??      Thanks!    


It depends on what you're looking for in terms of donation amounts.  Asking for $10 donations is very different than asking for $5,000. The latter requires a different approach.  

As a general rule  - the more personal the better - there's no shortcut for that.  And the more options you give for giving the better with it clearly spelled out what they are contributing to and how it will help you.  

Blast a *yawn* *yawn* cut and paste e-mail out into the e-mail or snail mail ether and you're lucky to get a 1% response rate. 

If I got a request from you, I would most likely delete it or throw the request away myself and I know you.  Don't send anyone anything unless you've developed a relationship with them to begin with AND they are expecting to receive it. If you break this rule, it's sort of like sending a big huge can of spam, especially in the world of money. The money people are getting hit up every other day to make a contribution for the next, best, greatest thing. A couple of my business mentors always had a pile of requests on their desk from people they didn't know that grew taller each day.  

Better to spend 40 hours making phone calls than to spend 40 hours stuffing envelopes and sending out e-mails. It all goes back to old-skool rules. The politicians do it every time an election rolls around - One handshake at a time.           



For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Question of the Week: My Press Release


Q: Hey there!
I'm getting ready to do some press-release-sending out, and am wondering...is it better to actually mail a press release or to go ahead an email the release and a few photos to the contacts you sent? I suppose I got the cart ahead of the horse, and didn't think about method of sending. Thanks, Khalima

A: 
How to Use Your Media Contact List
The E-Teaser
A month and a half before your event, send out a short 1-2 line e-mail to each, individual journalist. In the subject bar type “story idea” in small case letters. In the body of your e-mail use their name and ask them, for instance, “If they accept story ideas relating to theater related events.” See the example below:

Subject: story idea
Hi Mike,
Do you accept story ideas for the San Francisco area? If so, I think I have one your readers would really enjoy.
Thanks,
Slash Coleman


Your initial e-mail serves two purposes. One, it allows your initial contact to get through the spam filter. By using all small case letters in the subject bar and keeping your e-mail brief, chances are better that your query will get through the spam filter.

Two, an e-mail such as the one I suggest puts you in a position of power. Rather than asking the journalist for something, you’re identifying that you have something that may help the journalist. Journalists, like artists, are usually hungry for their own big break. Could you be the key to that break? Maybe. The short e-mail like the one I’m suggesting is usually enough to perk the interest of even the busiest journalist. In addition, it allows you to make the first step in developing a relationship with the person on the other end of the e-mail – it’s a polite introduction of sorts.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly most media representatives will answer a teaser like the one above.  Response times vary from 1 hour to 2 days. In  some cases, the journalist will let you know a better person to contact.  If they e-mail back saying they're not interested or they refer you to someone else, thank them and save their e-mail for the future if appropriate.

More likely than not, you’ll get a short response back that reads something such as “We sure do!”, “Yes” or “Go ahead and pitch me.” When you get this answer, send a press release.


For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Monday, June 28, 2010

Question of the Week: A PBS Program

 Q: Hello Slash. My name is Sam Dirani. I know this is untoward, but a friend of my fiancĂ©, living in Richmond VA, recently told me about your work and with PBS and she recommended I send you a message asking for some advice.

My friend Matthew and I have finished developing a new children's educational science show and are now dealing with the difficulties of speaking to networks, producers, and agents. We were wondering if you could offer some advice on how to find agents and get in touch with the right people.

While still in its infancy, Matthew and I have developed a new children’s educational series focusing on all branches of science. This unique and innovate children’s show, the likes of which not seen since Bill Nye left the airwaves twelve years ago, is appropriately named Adventures in Science with Matt and Sam.

This new series promises to entertain children and keep them interested, all-the-while nurturing their curiosity and love for science, and ultimately to keep them asking questions about the world around them for the rest of their lives.

Please check out the link below to the theme song we developed and put together for the show.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your career.

Sincerely,
Sam Dirani and Matthew Mendler.








A: Hi Sam, I couldn't really tell a whole lot from your song and my guess is that the decision makers will wonder what else you've got as well - that's why tv shows usually shoot a whole pilot season before they present it to the network.

It's an expensive but necessary risk.

Perhaps you already have 5-10 episodes, and if not they'll want to see snippets of some sort of season so they can make their decision based on the continuity of the program.

In addition to this, you’ll need to test market it yourself in front of some classroom children and then give the kids and teachers a questionnaire about the program. The information you get from this is all stuff they’ll want to find out anyway. This target demographic should be similar to the PBS demographic.

You get one chance with this and it’s important to have everything in place before you make your pitch rather then get impatient and blow an important opportunity.

Another important aspect of your presentation will be testimonials - filmed and written. But, kids on camera in your target demographic is just one part, you'll need to get testimonials from teachers, principals, etc. And this list should include important industry peeps (and even famous people can't hurt). Would a decision maker really say "No," to a show endorsed by Bono?

More important than your show though is your media kit - which is similar to a book proposal which will spell out your intended demographic in very specific terms and why your show is needed. This marketing plan will comprise the most important part of your pitch. I recommend a book called How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. The Marketing Plan info in the book will help you get really clear about what you’re trying to do with your show. 



And finally, I recommend spending some money and hiring a few PBS/Public Media crew members. It's a sure way into a long term and fruitful colloboration. You should contact several stations and get a quote as to how much some of their crew members would cost or even how much they would charge to produce the show. You'll avoid a lot of dead-end roads if you pre-plan with this in mind.

 However, this is just a stepping stone to the next step which is pitching your finished program to a distributor  - which is how it gets played on the actual stations. This requires an entirely different set of rules and planning.
Anymore, it’s not really about how good a product is… it’s about what you can do with your product and how big your platform is. There’s a ton of good information throughout my blog that should give you tips to fill in some of your platform gaps. Read through it and get back with me if you have more questions.

Good luck,
Slash



For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sponsorship and Fundraising 101


Part 1: How do I get sponsorships?
There is an idea that getting sponsorships is as easy as finding an address of someone who has money, writing a letter, and then waiting for the check to arrive. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Most often, those doing the fundraising will target big companies since these seem to be the most likely targets. Aren’t these the companies we see in the newspapers, on TV or on the radio sponsoring everything from the local Breast Cancer 10K or the 7th Annual Apple Jamboree?

Most people will approach these companies first, get shot down and then walk away from their fundraising efforts deflated. Before you approach that large local bank or grocery store it’s good to have a basic fundraising plan in place.

Part 2: The Money
How much money do you want to raise and what exactly are you going to do with that money?

I know it sounds silly, but most creatives go into a fundraiser thinking they’ll take as much as they are given and they have no real plan of what they plan to do with the money once they get it. Nothing reeks of a lame fundraising opportunity more than this.

Most companies and individuals want to know exactly how much money you’re attempting to raise and what you plan to do with it. You should have a budget in place and a detailed plan that is available to potential funders.

Often times raising a small amount is actually harder than raising a large amount. Most big companies will scoff at a $10,000 goal, but may be more than happy to contribute to a $65,000 goal. They know that a larger budget means more exposure and more community outreach potential for them.

Part 3: The Approach
When we approached companies for my PBS special, “The Neon Man and Me,” (a television program that deals with bereavement and loss) we first targeted large drug companies who created anti-depressants. The problem we ran into with these companies was that their budgets were usually planned and accounted for two quarters before we even contacted them. After researching and contacting these companies, we shifted our plan midstream and began to seek companies in the funeral industry including book publishers and funeral organizations. We found success with our new plan.

Most large companies like Target, Pepsi, and Kraft have grants that you can apply for, but they are mostly for non-profits, extremely competitive and have specific deadlines that usually occurred six months before you decided to visit their website.


Part 4: Linking the Like with Like
The salesperson I hired for my Neon Man sponsorships was someone who was extremely familiar with the funeral industry which made things extremely easy for us. I think this fact is extremely important. It helps build rapport. In fact, it’s so important that I would take someone with knowledge of a potential sponsor’s industry over someone with sales experience and no knowledge of the industry 9 times out of 10.


Part 5: Misconceptions
I raised the budget to create my PBS special by doing a living room tour. I made a DVD documentary about what I was attempting to do and took it into living rooms all over the state of Virginia. A host would invite me over to his house, and then invite 10-15 friends over. We would watch the 30 minute documentary, I would talk about what I was trying to do and then guests would make donations. I was able to raise $65,000 this way.

When you are fundraising there is no right way or wrong way to do things. But you should have a plan for how much you’re raising, a detailed outline of what you plan to do with the money, be able to explain what potential sponsors will get out of the experience, and provide multiple ways for people to give.

You should have a link on your website that allows people to donate to the “specific cause” (not just a general donate button) and you should have items for sale where a portion of the sales will go directly towards your goal.


Part 6: WIIFM
WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me? Why are you approaching a company or a person for sponsorship? Is it because they have money? If so, think again. That’s not a good enough reason. 

You should approach companies and individuals because you think there is a good fit. A good fit means that there is a reciprocal link. In other words, their own mission should be compatible with your own. You are helping them and they are helping you. You should know how your event will benefit a company or individual before you approach them and ask for money.

Part 7: Initial Contact
If you have all your ducks in a row (See Parts 1-6), and have a two-pocket folder full of the above information which you can mail to perspective funders (only when they’ve requested it), and the event now appears prominently on the first page on your website, I recommend you start by writing individual e-mails (the more personal the better) to your fan base.  

Let me repeat the most important part of that last sentence - the more personal the better to individuals.

In the subject bar you should include the person’s name. The e-mail shouldn’t sound spammy, like you’re trying to sell something. What you’re offering is an invitation to collaborate.

This shouldn’t be a 10 page e-mail. It should be 2-3 paragraphs which outlines your goal, includes what sponsors will get out of it and include a link to more information. In the e-mail, you aren’t asking for money at this point. You are asking the individual if they know an individual or company who may be interested in sponsoring your event.

Once you get some return e-mails with individual names, phone numbers or e-mails, then you can contact these new individuals using the recommendation from the first person.


Part 8: Don’t give up
Big companies don't have an easier time with raising money. It's still done one handshake, one phone call at a time, just like a Presidential election. Even with big companies, that have a department dedicated to sponsorships, it’s no easy road. If you think a large company has an easier time, consider that they have to hit up potential sponsors year after year. If you think getting a person to give once is hard, trying getting them to give twice.

You should spend at least a month developing your plan and give yourself a deadline with a specific date to meet you fundraising or sponsorship goals. Three months should be plenty of time to do this. Less than that and you’re really not giving yourself enough time to brainstorm new ideas if your original ideas fall flat.

Don’t give up. If you believe in what you are doing, then so will other people.


For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

10 Keys to Platform Overdrive


I get a question once a month from someone who wants the NASCAR version of platform building. They see all those fast cars wrapped in sponsorship dollars racing toward the finish line and they want to know the secret. They see the finish line, but they don’t see how much time it takes to not only finish the race, but to get invited to race in the first place. 

For instance, the Checker Auto Parts 500 in Phoenix is actually 312 laps and 312 miles long. These days, creatives think everything is like American Idol. One day you’re standing in line with your “pants on the ground” and the next, you're a Supa’star. (If you need a footnote then make sure check out Steve Martin’s, “Born Standing Up,” and you’ll get a glimpse for what 12 appearances on prime time TV talk shows, won’t do for your career).

Everybody and their brother wants to be in the race now. Everybody and their brother wants to see the checkered flag now, but very few people want to spend the time to complete the 312 laps.

“Hey, I heard if I start a blog, I’ll be making $50,000 by the end of the year?”

“Hey, I heard if I start Tweeting, I’ll be totally famous by the end of next week?”

When did anything that was ever worth anything get birthed into the world without effort? If you doubt me, just ask your mom how easy birthing was. Whether you have a great platform and a great career or a crappy platform and a crappy career, good ol’ momma went through a lot to get you to where you are now.

A lot of what I have to say about Platform Overdrive comes down to basics. In fact, there is simply no other way around it. Building a platform is no different from running a presidential election. (Sure, texting was an essential part of Obama’s election, but it only comprised a small part of his success). It’s still done one handshake at a time - one relationship at a time. Social media applications that give you short cuts to get you more friends or more follows won’t change this.

Even if everything below seems obvious, it’s worth it to re-examine your relationship to each of my points since half of them involve social media applications. The fact is, things are changing constantly and what worked 3 months ago can sometimes be obsolete by the time you put it into practice or even master it.

I believe building a platform is really about having conversations with individuals. And so, I’ve broken 10 Keys to Platform Overdrive into 2 parts. The first part is about places to have your conversations and the second part is about the types of conversations you should be engaging in.


The 5 Conversation Platforms
In terms of the 5 conversation platforms, Facebook is the most limiting because there is a fence around it that denies you access to the outer web world. Search engines can’t get in to see what’s going on in Facebook (except for the Fan page, which I oppose – see my article 10 reasonsWhy You Should Kill Your Fan Page Now).

So, in many ways, Facebook is like a little cult on a big ranch that is kind of secret to the rest of the world. This is Facebook’s greatest weakness and greatest strength. As a weakness, if you’re not a member of the cult you’re denied access. As a strength, it also has the potential to create your tightest bonds because there’s a huge common denominator connected directly to your profile.

Know that Facebook is more than your number of friends and your status bar. Facebook is a platform where you can shape your image much better than a website will allow you to do. Why? Because it allows you to create an on-line image and then have others reflect on your image. Because of these reflections, potential fans (as voyeurs) get a much better idea of who you are and what your mission is all about. Whereas a website is a one-sided your version of you, your Facebook profile is your version and then a reflection of your version as told to the viewer by others through comments and status updates.

To use Facebook effectively you should look not at how many friends you have (it’s not My Space), but how aligned those friends are with your mission. Facebook is a community and communities like it when you participate in conversations that inform, challenge or inspire. To get the most out of Facebook it’s a necessity to give others a glimpse of you in photos (lots), videos, links to important and recent media coverage about you, and notes that will inform, challenge or inspire your friends. Remember,as a rule, Facebook is more than a website and must be maintained.



In terms of the 5 conversation platforms, this one has the steepest learning curve. Anyone can get a free e-mail address. Anyone can sign up for Facebook. Anyone can become a parent. Twitter is a little more difficult to use. After a tumultuous start to my own relationship with Twitter (See my Break-up Letter to Twitter) and seeking Twitter counseling from friends, this social media application has not only become my favorite, but has the most potential for getting the attention that your platform so desperately desires. Better to bite the bullet now, keep your judgments out of the way and open a Twitter account. Before you do though read my “10 Ways to Love Twitter Better,” it will soften the hard knocks you’ll experience on the way up and down.

If you put a sign in front of your apartment or house that reads, “I’m selling Radiators,” do you think anyone would stop by and buy a radiator on the first day? The second day? How about a year later? The idea that a blog = instantaneous fans is a myth.

It takes time to not only develop your blog voice, but to develop a following. Just like with anything else connected to your creative endeavors there will be two parts to it:
1) The creation of your creation
2) The marketing of your creation.

It will take more time to market your blog than it will to create it. And if you’re just in it because you think a blog = instantaneous fans, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.

Blog readers tend to follow blogs where the writer allows his “human vulnerabilities” to shine through. As a blog reader myself, I just don’t want smart, quirky and intelligent writing, I want to get a glimpse into a blogger’s own struggles and vulnerabilities. If you’re wanting to hind behind your blog then it’s DOA – Dead On Arrival. If you want to use your blog to creatively and publicly track your path through life then you’re on the right track.

In terms of how much you should blog or what the typical length of a blog entry should be  is up for debate. Skull a Day met with great success because designer Noah Scalin created and posted one skull a day for an entire year. However, most fans of marketing and business don’t want to read a blog entry a day – it can be an overload.

Steve Pavlina who I interviewed for my book “The Art of Business for Creatives,” believes in lengthy blog entries, which are intelligent and thorough. And who can complain with a guy that has worked to gain over two million blog readers.

4. E-mail Database
So, yeah, it’s true even my 15 year old nephew thinks e-mail is old skool. But so is the post office and they haven’t gotten rid of that - yet. If you’re not collecting names at every single event you are a part of, you are way behind the times. You’re website should have an e-collection pot, your event should have an e-collection pot, heck you should even be carrying an e-collection pot around with you at all times.

Talent doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes time to taking your career to the big leagues. Agents, Publishers, and A&R music executives want to know how big your e-mail database is, how effective it is, and how you can leverage it. For instance, a typical call to action with my fans yields a whopping 25% return on any call to action  and my list is tiny. It’s a meager 10,000.

Until the e-mail succumbs to the same fate as the VHS tape, you better go to Staples and invest in a good clipboard and start collecting those suckers on a sheet of paper. And FYI, collecting e-mails doesn't mean you leave the clip board laying on a table. The word "collecting" is a verb. Nu-uh, you’re going to have to ask others to sign up on your list and have a pen available. (I know, life as an artist just got really complicated and extroverty all of a sudden, didn’t it?)

“Dude, I’m going to put a video up and go viral.” Yeah, right. Ask anyone who’s created a viral video and I’ll bet it was almost completely by accident. If there was a company you could hire to create a viral video it would have most likely existed in the front pocket of Jack Kerouac’s jean jacket.

Ask any marketing person and they'll most likely tell you, "You should be creating value with your work instead of thinking about what’s most likely to go Viral.” You should also know that You tube, although an important part of your platform, is shaped by the images you create. Shape a less than appealing image of yourself in terms of content and quality and it’s going to reflect poorly on your work as an artist. Remember, people have died of over exposure.

The 5 Conversations

6. Media Conversations
When an idea is in your head you are limited as to how many people know about it. Talk about it and it’s people reaching potential expands. Write it down and it expands further. Fax or e-mail it to your buddies and it’s just taken a huge leap. Send it to a radio or TV station, a magazine, or a newspaper and (pending coverage), you’ve just done something amazing!

You legitimized your idea, increased it’s value, strengthened your web presence, and expanded your audience tenfold.  How much media coverage have you received in the last year? If you’re not getting it 1-2 times month (at a minimum) it’s time to look carefully at #10 and begin to develop some realistic media goals for yourself.

7. Community Conversations
In the book “The Artist’s Way,” one of the homework assignments is to take yourself out on an artist’s date. Yeah, you read that correctly. You take yourself out alone on a date to an event that will artistically inspire you. A foreign film, a concert, a reading at a book store. Below, in #9, it is all about your own agenda where you have a high perceived value from the public. In #9, you are the rock star. In #7, you're a humble "no-body," a mere fan.


But this section is more than just taking yourself out on a date. This is what my new Twitter pal Patience Saldago would define as a random act of kindness. Yes, egoless kindness or paying it forward or tithing or mentoring or whatever you want to call it is a great way to earn some creative clout in the Bank of Artist Karma. The more you give, the more you get. Aaron Wong's blog "Looking for My Life," devotes much more to the topic that I can here.

I attribute much of my success with my PBS special, “The Neon Man and Me,” with tithing on a regular basis. Sometimes I couldn’t pay my rent, but that didn’t stop me from giving away at least 10% of everything I made on every show. On paper it doesn’t make sense, but most things in the creative world don’t. Try it for a week, a month, a day. Pay it forward, pay a compliment to someone every day for a week. Give someone your time or give someone your ear, you’ll be amazed at one can come from it.


8. Web Conversations
When you type your name into Google Search, you should be appearing on at least the first full 2 pages and then scattered about on subsequent pages. For your industry, you should be ideally appearing on one of the first three pages. For instance, if you are Steve Hofstetter, Comedian, you should appear under both your name and comedian. If you’re not, you’re not having enough conversations. #6, #7, and #9 are all about how you are expressing your mission into the world. What are you waiting for?

9. Event Conversations
You might be comforted to know that there have been creatives that have lived as utter introverts and still managed to carve out a successful place in the world for themselves, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. It’s a myth that someone is going to come along and discover you.

From my experience, each artist who was ever discovered (and I’ve interviewed dozens of artists who have “made it” for my book) has created her own opportunities. That’s why Tony Robbins is such a popular motivator. The guy’s no snake oil salesman. The guy can teach you how to create these opportunities for yourself.

I’ve seen unsuccessful creatives hide behind a litany of excuses that are rooted in myths of limitation that are better serviced by a good therapist than a fledgling arts career. You should know that unless you’re willing to get into the public eye on a consistent basis, it’ll be hard for #6, #7, and #8 to reach their full potential. 

During the first year of my career as a solo-performer and storyteller I did 4 public performances. The next year it tripled, the next it quadrupled and it’s doubled every year since then. Although I’m working on developing a 200 day tour this year, last year it reached about 150.

Meeting your fans and making new ones is essential to any creative career.

10. Your Goals & Objectives
There are all kinds of good quotes out there about goals:

Carl Sandburg: Nothing happens unless first we dream.
Ella Fitzgerald: It isn't where you come from, it's where you're going that counts.

As my 10th grade physics teacher used to say, “A person will self destruct without a goal.” It’s true, but you’ll not only self destruct, you’ll wake up hundreds of miles from where you really want to be.

If you don’t have time to write up a full blown business plan, I suggest that the least you can do is write down one thing you’d like to achieve in the next year on a napkin. I can’t tell you the number of artists I meet with on a regular basis who chase their tail year after year. (see my entry on How to Make a Business Plan in 6 Easy Steps).

When you have specific goals and objectives that are written down, it allows you to carry them out into the world and begin to have conversations about them. When we converse with others it allows our ideas to take root with others.

Photographer Gordon Stettinius writes down his top 100 goals each year on his blog. Guess what? By the end of the year he’s usually able to cross off a good chunk of his list. It’s amazingly simple. It’s so simple, you’ll most likely finish reading this and still not write down your goals. I’ll tell you what, to make it easy, leave one goal as a comment below. I dare you! Now, you really don’t have any excuses do you.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Great Contest!

If you are a writer you might want to check out this very cool contest. Entry requires little more than following a few very talented and gifted authors with representation on their blogs, Twitter and Facebook. The grand prize is a partial review from an agent from Fine Print Lit

Here's the link: Contest

Good luck!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Learning the Hard Way: Self Esteem & Self Confidence Classes for Teens

For the past two weeks, I taught a course as an artist-in-residence at a private, school for privileged teen girls. The course was entitled, "Super Hero Training for Girls,"  and I created it to help teens and pre-teens boost their self-esteem, build their self-confidence and to ultimately help them counter some of the biggest challenges facing pre-teens and teens today including: bullying, anger, eating disorders, violence, substance abuse, anger, delinquency, and suicide.

I've taught the course to inner city impoverished teens and pre-teens with a great deal of success. The curriculum works really well with boys, girls, and with classes with boys and girls. I think a lot of that success stems from me being a dependent, positive male role-model to kids in situations where positive, male role models are far and few between.

I was curious how things would turn out in a situation where the home conditions for these students were more ideal - homes with both a mom and dad, college educated parents with good jobs, and homes in a stable economic bracket.

In the class, I give students a lot of room to express themselves in a multitude of creative ways including: creative writing, heart-to-heart discussions, confidence building theatre games, and lots of hands-on exercises meant to challenge participants to think differently about how they interact with the world and their family. It's worked in the past because I treat the students like adults, give them a lot of freedom to be responsible for their own behaviors and establish a safe, judgment-free environment.

What did we do in the class?
One homework assignment including going home and telling everyone in your family that you loved them and noting the reaction in yourself and each of your family members. Did the family member deflect it, take it in, ignore it, or make assumptions? 

Another assignment included standing in front of a partner, looking them in the eyes and complimenting them. Both partners were required to note how they felt in the moment, including body language and any feelings that came up.Part two of the assignment included judging your partner.

Another included performing a Random Acts of Kindness. I even had them visit Patience Salgado's Kindness Girl Blog (@kindessgirl) to get ideas. They were required to give to someone anonymously. I told them things like this went into their karmic bank account and directly boosted self-esteem.

We also covered a section on how gratitude helps to boost self-esteem as well and I invited two guest speakers to come in and talk about the subject: Book editor, Valley Haggard and ex-super model Kim Alley. I even had them visit Nancy "Fancy Pants" Illman's blog to see how someone else has found a way to fit gratitude into their own life.

The examples above, to me, make up the foundation of self-esteem - how we deal with love, how we deal with judgments (both positive and negative) and how selflessly we give to others. These are akin to the fundamental drills a coach makes an athlete practice over and over again whether they are just beginning or they are an experienced, highly-paid professional athlete. In basketball, this would be like practicing your free-throw until you could do it in your sleep and then practicing it some more.


I explained to the girls that we often have lofty, confusing, and abstract ideas about how to make the world a better place that aren't rooted in practical, methods of implementation. For instance, it's more acceptable in our culture to go into the post office and tell the clerk off by saying, "You sorry, SOB, I can't believe you're so slow. I hate you," than it is to go in and say, "I really love you." 

Often we want soldiers to drop their weapons, but could we except them to be able to look one another in the eyes after doing so and honestly give and receive a compliment and say I love you? Not likely! 

We hear people all the time say that we'd like to have a world filled without wars, gang violence, fights, and a society filled with anger, but what then? Isn't everyone escaping through food and video games and drugs because the "what then" scares them? No one seems to be equipped with the skills to interact in a healthy way when we drop our defenses and no one seems to be interested in providing the skills to do so.

Over and over again, even in a safe environment, by repeating the compliment exercises, I couldn't get these girls to give and receive a compliment to one another and feel comfortable about it. When they went home and gave family members compliments, the compliments were either:

a) Deflected  - "I think you look great!" "Oh, I think you look great too!"

b) Seen as Ingenuous - "I think you look great!" "What do you want? I know you're only being nice to me for a reason."

c) Ignored - "You're the best." silence or cricket, cricket


The concepts were simple and so were the exercises, but I know that what I put these girls through would have made most adults cringe. How well do you accept a compliment? Do you know what to say when you are judged by someone else? If I asked you to give a compliment every hour for an entire day and an extra compliment every time you heard someone sneeze, could you? Has anyone ever asked you to write down your top 25 goals and dreams?

Despite their awkward teen ways I didn't expect them to really change in 2 weeks. Although the over-all average self-esteem for the class increased by 15 points based on a questionnaire I gave the girls before and after, nothing really prepared me for what I read on the evaluations that I had them fill out on the last day of class. 

The majority of girls felt the class was a waste. They felt the exercises were fake. They said the class was disorganized, the exercises were irrelevant, and the environment was creepy. 

When I put status updates last week on my Twitter and Facebook profiles, I got a lot of positive feedback for teaching the course. But, I'm just guessing though, that if most adults had the opportunity to participate in a class like this, they'd find themselves rowing the same boat as these girls.

The quandary question then, is this: Is there a problem with our vision in our world or is there a problem with the implementation of our vision?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.



For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reinventing Yourself as an Artist

If you know me, then you know I've re-created myself many times over as an artist. Originally, I was a cartoonist where I grew up in my father's art studio as a kid. Some parents keep their house well stocked with whole milk and good food, my father always made sure I had a fresh sketch book , plenty of art supplies and an eccentric posse of artists to inspire me.

As a kid I would have "art-sleep-overs" with my guy friends. We would check out football books from the library on a Friday and spend all weekend copying the pictures into our sketch books. When I hit middle school I started playing the keyboards in a country band with a bunch of adults across town. I answered in ad in the newspaper and my parents would drive me to band practice each week. In high school, I fell in love with The Police and was in various alternative rock bands through college.

During my junior year at Radford University,  I fell in love with jazz and I discovered fiction writing. I started working as a freelance writer - or at least I tried to, while bringing home the bacon with various day jobs and touring with a jazz fusion band.

After college, I went to grad school to study creative writing and started a career as a full blown traditional jazz pianist. That lasted until I hit the age of 30 and then I gave it all up and went back to my roots. I started making my living as a visual artist in Portland, Oregon, selling my cartoon-like oil-pastel prints at the Portland Saturday Market. This led me back to the east coast where I rented a 1,200 sq ft studio in Easthampton, Ma and started painting on canvas - Large chakra paintings with water based oil paints - some as big as 8ftx8ft.

After a few years, I went back to the stage as a solo-performer which led me into my current work as a professional storyteller.

Hearing Raghava give his talk in the video below was very helpful especially since he and I seem to get a lot out of working with kids. Through the years my kid workshops like Raghava's, have always  comprised a large portion of my work. The world likes to dismiss people like us as "Renaissance Men." But, I don't think this term quite fits. 



Originally from TED TV: Raghava KK: Five lives of an artist.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are You Responsible for Your Friends Behavior?

About 4 years ago a friend of mine, I’ll call him Henry, e-mailed a bunch of his contacts. He said he had just finished reading a book called Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time  by Keith Ferrazzi and he suggested that anyone that took him out to lunch could have a copy of the book for free. I thought it was a pretty incredible and unusual offer and I came home from that lunch with a great book.

The gist of the book was about sharing your network freely and openly and after reading it, it sent my own connection gears into overdrive. Most of my friends have, at one time or another, gotten an e-mail from me where the subject bar reads SUBJECT: FRIENDLY INTRODUCTION. In the e-mail, I introduce two people to one another and explain why I think they should know one another. I’ve done this thousands of times through the years.

Right after I read that book, I connected Henry with an artist friend of mine. The artist stood Henry up twice and Henry was pretty pissed at me. I didn’t see the connection. Once I made the introduction, wasn’t the connection out of my hands at that point? It wasn’t like I was introducing a guy to a potential girlfriend where my vouching for the person might endanger her safety. (If you're interested in this topic in particular check out Andrea V Lewis' blog) This was simply business right? Wrong. According to Henry, the actions of the flakey artist directly reflected on me.

After that experience, I became a bit more cautious in how I handled my network switchboard. Though my new approach went against Keith Ferrazzi’s philosophy, my new path was eye opening. By pre-qualifying connections I was actually ensuring the strength of a connection.

What I found was this. Most artist’s are flakes when it comes to time, organization and business skills. (Sorry artists, it’s true) If I connect an artist who doesn’t show up on time with an important business connection, then I’ve wasted my time and my business connection’s time.

But there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Flash forward 4 years.

Henry asked me to team teach a workshop for his organization on a topic that I am extremely passionate about. He had another friend whom he thought would be a great co-teacher. Guess what happened? This great co-teacher scheduled a time to meet with us to discuss the proposed curriculum and he left us waiting in a café. He no-showed - twice. The co-teacher had great excuses, but Henry was understandably upset and apologized though I saw no need to. I simply do not think that a business connection reflects back on the connector.

This is what I have found in terms of those who "no-show" to meetings.

If our mission is not aligned with a proposed topic, then something interesting happens. We will unconsciously create a series of distractions that will prevent us from making the meeting.

For instance, if you asked me to give a talk about men’s gymnastics (I competed in the sport from middle school through college) I would probably say “Yes” and then when the time came to speak, I would either forget to show up, get delayed at the bank which would make me late, or something else would come up, etc. I simply am not passionate about the topic, even though you might think I’m qualified to speak on it. My mission does not include gymnastics anymore. If you asked me to speak on the topic when I was in college, when it was part of my mission, I would have probably driven across the state to speak for free.

The same goes for Henry. He was in a fraternity in college, but I doubt he would want to give a talk on the topic since the core of his mission now is on social issues. If he didn’t say no right away, he would create circumstances that would prevent him from following through.

And so although Henry thought this co-teacher would make a great addition to a this seminar, this co-teacher should have said no. When things like this happen now, I simply see through it for what it is. It’s not a priority for the co-teacher because it’s not a part of his current mission. It's not good or bad, just a reflection at something deeper.

I think when we see through the noise to what is really going on, it helps us see our own role in how things play out in our lives.

What are your thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com