3 Cool Things to Stand Out at In Person Events

3 Cool Things to Stand Out at In Person Events

Last week we talked about the importance of building your community in the real world by ​attending in person events​. Today we’re talking about three things that can help you stand out at events!

1. Business Cards

Business cards may seem old school, but they are still an important part of your marketing and networking tool kit. They are a way to stand out and help people remember you. With an eye-catching logo and a clever tagline, you make a memorable impression when you hand someone a card. And of course, if they have your name and contact information, they are more likely to keep in touch.

Your cards don’t have to be complicated or elaborate. Concentrate on expressing what you do and your personality through color choices and your tagline. You can write a fun tagline by starting with your ​personal logline​. Shorten it and use punchy, vivid words to create a tagline.

I get my business cards from ​moo.com​. They have hundreds of fun designs, or you can design your own in ​Canva​.

2. Name Tags

Some bigger conferences have attendee badges that have your name on them. But those are often hard to read, or they get flipped around. And most smaller events don’t offer name tags. To stand out and help people remember your name, wear a name tag.

I got the idea from a couple of clubs I belong to that have name tags. It makes the meeting so much more fun when you’re not worried about remembering everyone’s name. These are plastic name tags with a magnetic back so they don’t ruin your clothes. I just ordered mine from a company called ​newbart.com​. Here’s the rough design.

3. QR Codes Plaque

If you have a table where you’re selling merchandise, like at a comic convention or book fair, have a plaque with QR codes to your website and social media. I got this idea from my chiropractor. Hers is fancy with the social media icons molded in plastic, but you could print one, put it in a frame, and it would look great. It’s quick and easy to make a QR code at free sites like​ adobe.com​.

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Every Problem Has an Answer

Every Problem Has an Answer

Last week we talked ​about how being helpful ​can make you feel good, build your network, and help your career. There was one situation that I didn’t cover.

Sometimes you don’t even know you can ask for help.

When we feel that we are in an impossible situation, it doesn’t occur to us to ask for help. ​Don’t panic.​ There is always a solution. It may not be the one you hope for or the one you like, but there is always a way to make your problem a little better.

Don’t assume that you know all the answers. And secondly don’t assume you can’t ask questions. If you are in a real bind, discuss your situation with a trusted friend and brainstorm solutions.

Ask for help, brainstorm, and you will be surprised at the outcome.

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Roadtripping for Inspiration

Roadtripping for Inspiration

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller

When it comes to growing your career, reaching your goals, and achieving your dreams, every book, article and thought leader will at some point talk about getting out of your comfort zone. This advice is abstract and unhelpful.

There is a fun way of getting out of your comfort zone – physically going to a new place. When my clients are stuck, the number one thing I recommend is to get up from your desk and walk around the block. My daily walks are some of the most productive and creative parts of my day. I mull over things I’m currently writing and come up with new ideas.

A Change of Scenery

In the first two weeks of May, I went on a road trip with my dad and stepmom throughout the southeast. My family has a long tradition of road trips and they are always full of adventure. We drove over the third longest bridge in the United States in the Atchafalaya Basin, saw beautiful green rolling hills, explored quaint small town downtowns, toured a cypress tree-filled lake by boat, and stayed in the oldest hotel in Texas.

My stepmom wanted to find a giant ball of string or some other equally enormous tourist trap. Instead, we found a mini Stonehenge and a bar straight out of Captain Hook’s pirate ship.

All the crazy things we saw and did, the places we stayed, and food we ate fueled my creativity. I encourage you to go somewhere new or revisit a favorite place. If you can’t afford to travel or you don’t have time, go exploring in your city. Go to a part of town you’ve never been to. Find a new cool park or try that weird restaurant you’ve been meaning to go to.

Seek new experiences to get out of your comfort zone, change your perspective, and get new ideas. And have some fun. We live in stressful times; goofing off is important.

Here are some road trip inspired writing prompts:

  • What is your favorite place?
  • Where is the most unusual place you have stayed?
  • Pick a painting in a museum and write the story behind it.

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Not Everyone’s a Morning Person

Not Everyone’s a Morning Person

When you read as many books and articles on habits and productivity as I do, you hear a lot about the wonders of getting up very early in the morning. Getting up early and taking time to pray, meditate, or journal sets you up to have a good productive day so conventional wisdom goes.

But there is a big but about that advice, and it is not everyone is a morning person.  Some people say that you can force yourself to become a morning person by getting up 10 minutes earlier every day. But that is not always the case. Everyone is different. Everyone’s level of energy, health challenges, and their own physical rhythms are different. Being a morning person is not a one-size-fits-all piece of advice to improve your life.

This rant is coming from somebody who is most definitely not a morning person. I have tried over the years a lot of different techniques like getting up much earlier before work to get a jump on the day. It just doesn’t work for me because I feel lousy in the morning.

One time in desperation, I googled how to have more energy in the morning. A lot of the articles mentioned doing three things to help you wake up:  getting out in the sun, drinking 16 ounces of water, and exercising.  These articles all said that this routine would wake you up better than a cup of coffee. I tried it and found it really helped, but I do it plus two cups of coffee. 

Even though I have finally found a morning routine that works for me, I still am not a morning person. I know I cannot be creative in the morning or productive with other people. I’m lucky enough to be able to design my own schedule and my mornings are spent reading, researching, and answering e-mail.  Working with clients, teaching, and writing are for the afternoon. Creatively I really am a night owl and sometimes I do my best writing from after dinner till midnight.

When are you at your best?

As we start thinking about new ways to design our work and creative life in 2023, I urge you to figure out a routine that works best for you. Are you a morning person, a night owl, or something in between? When are you the most productive? The most creative? How can you design your day to take advantage of your rhythms?  I understand that not everyone has control over their schedule.  However even if you are a corporate worker, there are a few meetings under your purview and you can pick when to schedule them. Also, try to schedule any difficult work conversations at your most optimal times.

Get Some Sunshine

Unfortunately, working at your most focused times isn’t always possible. When I was working in Hollywood, I dreaded having screenings or story meetings at 9:00 AM. Sometimes you do just have to drink a lot of coffee to push through. On days like that when you do have a break, get outside in the sunshine, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. I used to take breaks and go sit in the parking lot under a tree for 5 minutes when I needed to recharge at my last corporate gig. It can really help boost your mood and your energy level.

Find Your Evening Routine

Another hack for non-perky morning people is find an evening routine that sets you up for success in the morning.  I have to lay out my exercise clothes and my work clothes the night before. I fill my water bottle and make my coffee.  Then I review my next day’s schedule and write a list of to dos.  These evening habits help me run on autopilot before I’m fully awake. And my to do list that I’ve written the night before helps me jump into work quickly and be focused.

Spend the next few weeks as the year winds down noticing what your internal energetic rhythms are and thinking about ways you can design and revise your current daily routine to sell yourself up for success.  If you’ve discovered some hacks that work for you, I would love to hear about them.  Comment below and let me know. 

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How to Paint a Narwhal

How to Paint a Narwhal

This past weekend I went to a paint your pottery place with my three sisters (sister, sister-in-law, and pseudo sister). As always when we get together, it was an adventure. Of the four of us, I had never been to the pottery place before and I am the least artistic, by a lot. I mean if there is a visual artistic talent continuum, I might be the baseline for no talent.

The top talent of our group were my sister and sister-in-law. My sister is a talented artist. When she was a teenager, she would draw these elaborate animals that looked like numbers for the page numbers of her letters from camp. I vividly remember a beautiful swan she drew to be a number two. We also had a family craft tradition of drawing on these special plastic plates. Her sun and rainbow plates were legendary. During the Lockdown, my sister-in-law got really into decoupage and learned how to make candles. You can check out her stuff here on Instagram. She also got her real estate license. (That last bit has nothing to do with creativity. I just wanted to show what a go-getter she is. I spent my Lockdown, thinking the world was going to end, drinking a lot of wine, eating a lot of Oreos, and binge reading cozy mysteries.) As for my pseudo sister, I wasn’t sure where she was in our sister artistic continuum, but I knew she was above me.

A Fabulous Foursome

My sister picked the biggest coffee cup you have ever seen and started putting letters on it to spell peace and happy and drawing her trademark sun and some clouds. My sister-in-law arrived with a project in mind – a bowl with an elaborate design. She had reference pictures on her phone of the the types of birds she was going to ring the bowl with. Pseudo sister chose a shot glass. A very wise choice in terms of surface area to paint. She took her inspiration from one of the store’s finished pieces that had lime slices on it. The store helpfully provided a stencil and she went to work. I chose to paint a narwhal coffee cup. As you know, I am a coffee cup collector and the thought of a self-painted narwhal cup made me smile. I have a minor neurological problem with small motor control, which means that using my hands for detail work like painting is a bit harder for me than most people. I thought painting the narwhal would be easy because it was mostly one color with a little detail in the face and horn.

I find our range of creative approaches really interesting. We have some creator archetypes here.

  • The Free Wheeler – Having an idea and discovering more along the way.
  • The Planner – Coming with a project and reference material.
  • The Handywoman – adeptly using tools (the stencils).
  • The Realist – knowing her limits and picking a project to suit.

So what are the take aways?

  • Everyone approaches creative projects differently. So find the approach that works for you. And if it works for you, don’t compare your process to someone else’s.
  • If what you are doing isn’t working, try something different.
  • Every project is different, so what worked last time might not work this time. Be open to shifting your approach, even mid stream.
  • Play to your strengths or recognize your weaknesses and set expectations accordingly.
  • And finally things rarely turn out the way you planned.

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Your Pitching Secret Weapon – the Project Cocktail Pitch

Your Pitching Secret Weapon – the Project Cocktail Pitch

The project cocktail pitch is a short powerful way to pitch in any situation from cocktail parties to business meetings.   How do you talk about your projects in a compelling and entertaining way?  First, remember that pitching is selling, not telling.  Your goal is to sell your project, not to tell all the details of your story.  How do you sell? By getting your listeners to connect with your story and say “tell me more.”  Instead of just telling your story, ideally  you grab their attention so they want to hear more.  Think of your cocktail pitch as an audio version of your movie trailer.  The best trailers don’t show the whole movie.  They show just enough so that you know the concept and the characters and want to go to the movie to see what happens. 

Tell me more can mean a bunch of things that get you one step closer to a sale.  It can mean:

  • Send me the material.
  • Come in for a meeting.
  • Keep talking and tell me more of the story.
  • And the holy grail, I’ll buy it!

How to Craft Your Project Cocktail Pitch

1. Start with your genre & format.  By labeling your project, you let your audience know exactly what kind of story they are listening to.  Examples: Single camera sitcom, supernatural TV drama, spy thriller feature.

2. Use touchstones.  Mention successful projects that have a connection to your story.  The tried and true blank meets blank (Frozen meets the Avengers) is the most common way to bring in touchstones.  The meets technique may feel cliched, but it is a cliché for a reason; it works!  If executives hear Frozen meets the Avengers, they immediately know a lot about your movie.  It is princess superheroes in a fairy tale world.  Sold!   Another way to use touchstones is to put them in a different setting like Frozen in high school.   A third way is to mention projects that share the same audience as yours.  This movie is for fans of Frozen & The Princess Bride.  In this example, we know that this pitch is about a comedy fairy tale romance.  HINT: Be sure to use commercially successful touchstones.  It doesn’t help you make the sale, if you’re comparing your project to a box office bomb or a show that didn’t make it through the first season. 

3. Hook your audience with the emotional hook. Emotion sells.  Make your characters’ struggle relatable.  You can use a metaphor (office politics is high school with suits.)  An archetype (the high school mean girl is now ruling the PTA.)  Or ask a question.  Have you ever wondered what happened to the high school mean girl?

4. Next, introduce your main character and their emotional drive.  Katniss is an ordinary 16 year-old girl whose selfless sacrifice to save her sister’s life starts a revolution. HINT:  If you have an ensemble, start with the group leader and then make everyone archetypes.  (The Con Man, the Optimist, The Brains.)

5. Then onto the Story Appetizer, which is 3 to 5 sentences about your story.  Here is where you can share a bit more about the main character, what they are trying to accomplish and how they do it.  If you need to, here is where you can talk about the world of the story and the bad guy.

6. Finally, end on a Cliffhanger.  Emphasize the emotional stakes.  Can your characters do it?  Will she get a date to the wedding or be at the singles table with the great aunts? Will they rob the bank so Joe can get his kidney transplant?  With the cliffhanger, you leave your listener on the edge of their seat so they say, tell me more.

Cocktail Pitch example

This animated movie is The Dirty Dozen meets the Big Bang Theory.  This is that age old struggle of the  geeks vs. the jocks and how it feels when you know you can be the hero, but you’re always overlooked. Our story takes place in the world of holiday icons where Santa and the Easter Bunny are the cool kids.  But when they’re kidnapped, the unsung holiday icons lead by Earl the Groundhog from Groundhog Day, must rescue Santa and save Christmas. Will our group of ragtag heroes be able to work together and get Santa back to the North Pole in time?

When do you use a cocktail pitch?

  • Networking
  • In meetings
  • In emails
  • As the introduction to your longer formal pitch

Now you have the project cocktail pitch formula, and with little practice you should feel ready to pitch to anybody, anywhere, anytime. 

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