All Artists are Storytellers.
On some level, your art – your performance – tells a story. The composition, the play, the sculpture and the dance all convey a message of the human condition. However, art doesn’t speak for itself. Beyond the auditions, the gallery exhibitions, the movement and the music, your personal story is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can master. As Mike Woolson says, by way of Stella Adler, “You have to have a talent for your talent”. Great artists aspire to make great connections with the audience – a personal connection that reveals who you are, through your talents and gifts.
Art Doesn’t Speak for Itself.
You have to be able to tell the story of your personal brand, and describe your artistic vision, if you want to make a difference. Develop your talent to a virtuoso level, but don’t forget to connect with your audience – even in an elevator pitch. Your personal brand is the way that people connect with you, before they hear you play, see you dance, listen to your monologue, or check out your painting.
Every great work of art tells a story. What’s Yours?
In our seminar today, we talked about the component parts of an elevator pitch. There are many ways to deliver an elevator speech…but please don’t let your message (or your art) be commonplace or average. If you want to reach the broadest audience, with a message that separates you from the rest, here are the component parts you should remember:
- Introduction: Frame your opening and introduce something unusual, unique or unexpected
- Aspirations: Describe your accomplishments, your characteristics and/or what you hope to accomplish while at Meadows, and beyond. What can you do with, through and for others? Art can be expressed in many forms and in many ways – what’s your particular contribution? What could it be someday?
- Choose the Words that Help You Most: Remember “Why” and “Because”. Incorporate the work you have done in the course so far. What matters to you, as an artist?
- Closing: in the world of Web 2.0 is an invitation. A great elevator pitch ends with the listener saying, “Tell me more..” Art is about collaboration and working with others – no one lives by themselves on “the Island of Ballet”, for example. Ultimately, your art must be about other people. Consider your audience, as all artists must: what is the outcome you seek?
Here’s some elaboration and reminders on the building blocks of your story:
1. Introduction – using one of the “setup” phrases. Set the stage for your listener.
- “Have you ever noticed..?”
- “You know how…”
- “I’ll never forget the time when…”
- “Doesn’t it seem like..”
2. An Introduction Includes a Creative Twist: Remember what Norbert Leo Butz said at the Tonys? “I may not be the most talented among this group, but I’m certainly the most grateful.”
What is the surprising twist – the unexpected part of who you are- that is key to your elevator speech? Your ‘twist’ should produce a “tell me more..” moment. Remember, it can’t be a hokey gimmick – your introduction has to be honest – but make it memorable. It could be what you believe to be true about art, your aesthetics, or your values. It could be something simple that might not be expected. Your introduction could include a provocative statement like:
- “Technical competence in the trombone will only get you so far – there’s more to performance than just practice.”
- “I really admire Damian Elwes, not only for his talent but for his research into the lives of artists like Matisse and Gaugin.”
- “Modern dance isn’t all that modern, in my opinion…but I think I know a way to make it relevant in the digital age.”
- “Architects are the only artists who require a license to practice their art. But that doesn’t mean that illustrators aren’t professionals…”
- “The most exciting thing I’ve seen on stage this year was Chamblee Ferguson in the Tempest. But his dedication to students is even more impressive than what he did at the Theater Center…”
3. WHY and BECAUSE: Why does your art matter to you? Why violin, why not the cello? What’s your “because”? How can you use this powerful word to create some agreement from your listener?
4. Think about what you can do WITH, THROUGH and FOR others. Your performance, your art, is your gift. Focusing on the audience (in this case, your listener) means your accomplishments need to be phrased in terms of what you can do for them.
5. The closing is based on web 2.0: An invitation to continue the conversation.
Example of an SMU Meadows Elevator Pitch
Note the component parts, and how the speaker includes her ACCOMPLISHMENTS in terms of the listener:
“Have you ever heard that song by Johnny Cash, “I’ve Been Everywhere?” Well, that’s the story of my life – with one important twist. I don’t always wear black. My name’s Alexa Raye, and I grew up all over the US because my dad was in the military. But the one thing that always helped me to connect with people in every town was my love of dance. When I was growing up, I would have been totally lost without dancing. That’s why I’m REALLY passionate about modern dance, because it helped me to stay connected – no matter where I lived. Dance was always there for me, and – if I can – I’d like to show people what dance means to me, by starting my own company some day. Does your dance company need anyone to do some outreach work, maybe in exchange for auditing some classes here over the summer? I’d love to know more about your upcoming season…do you want to grab a quick cup of green tea and talk for a minute?”
- What’s the “tell me more..”?
- What does she want the listener to do? Does she answer a “so what?” about her accomplishments?
- Does she explain “why” and “because” to your satisfaction? Like the nine actors changing a light bulb, what would you do differently if this were YOUR story?
- What does Alexa believe she can do WITH, THROUGH or FOR others?
So, there you have one example. BE CREATIVE (because it’s what you do best) and come up with a unique story about YOU. Practice with others and make sure that you sound natural – not rehearsed. Incorporate your concepts of aesthetics and artistic vision – for Alexa, education and performance are important. What matters to you – and what can you do for others because of your talents, skills and training?
If you want to see five more examples of how to create a great elevator pitch, check out a copy of my new book on Amazon.com.
Here’s my “elevator pitch” that introduces the work – does it make you say, “tell me more…”? How will you use your creativity to present what matters to you – either in a similar way, or in a way that improves on the information we have discussed?