These days, being an artist, photographer, or virtually whatever else it is that you do, you are going to have to come up with some kind of elevator speech. In case you don’t know what an elevator speech is, allow me to introduce you to one. From the Wiki,
“An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event…The name ‘Elevator Pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business card or a scheduled meeting.”
So, there you have it. Picture yourself trapped for (slightly less than)
two minutes in an elevator. By trapped I mean you are stuck in there
with somebody important. Imagine what you might say to that oh-so-important person. “Hi, I’m (insert name here) and I…” Basically, your
elevator pitch (speech, statement, whatever you want to call it) is the
completion of that sentence.
“Hi, I’m Carol and I’m a fine art photographer and visual artist from the Austin, Texas area.” That’s a short one. It could be mine, in fact, it is often mine. (I’d say you can borrow it, but you probably don’t want people calling you Carol unless that’s you name, in which case, have at it, Carol.)
“Hi! My name is Melissa and I’m the lady who paints giant murals on the side of Taco Bell restaurants all around the country. I got started painting as a child when, coincidentally, I also started eating a lot of tacos. My love for tacos eventually grew into the founding of my own business-painting murals for small taco establishments along the Texas coast-until I eventually moved into the position of painting all of the murals for all of the Taco Bells around the world. Chihuahua be damned, if you’ve seen a Taco Bell, why I’ve painted the fake taco on the side of it.”
That’s possibly a really good elevator pitch for somebody who’s a really odd painter, but there you have another example of one. Probably a better example too. (Again, I would recommend against stealing this one unless you are really all that into tacos. Mmmm. Tacos.)
It’s really important for artists and creative types to have a good elevator pitch. It’s really a good idea to practice your elevator pitch before doing something like going to a portfolio review, going to a professional round-up, or even going to something as simple as a networking or art group meeting. If you’re a photographer, it’s a good idea to have some kind of elevator-like pitch, along with business cards, that you can use to get people to let you photograph them.
A lot of photographers, especially those who want to do more portrait work, ask me all the time, “how do you get the courage to go up and ask people to pose for you?” For some reason, photographers are shy. Now, I haven’t discovered a magic bullet here, it’s just that I’ve found over the years having a little bit of an elevator-like pitch, along with a business card, goes a long way. This is why I almost always carry my Moo cards and I almost always introduce myself to lots of people I bump into along the way. The little spiel, “Hi! I’m Carol and I’m a…” gets used a lot, especially as a travel or go on location. I’m also always handing out business cards, even to people I’ve never met. Here’s my website, here’s my card, “Hi! I’m Carol…” Yes, I do that lots.
“Hi, I’m Carol. I’m a fine art photographer and artist from Austin, Texas. I often take photos so that I can paint from them. Would you mind if I take your picture today? Can I take a few pictures of you?”
That sort of an approach goes a long way in getting a “yes” response out of my subjects. If somebody says “No,” why I respect that, but it’s a good idea to have a bit of a pitch ready for these times. I’ve met photographers who are too shy to even call themselves “photographers” or “artists.” They get hung up on the words. “Well, I’m not really a *photographer*” They will say to me, “I just like taking pictures.” Mmmm. Right. Newsflash! People who like taking pictures are called: photographers. (Have another taco and try it again. Once more with feeling and all.)
The experts recommend that we all practice our elevator pitches. Practice, practice, practice. This is probably a good idea. I’m not the best at doing them, I too could use a lot more practice. I’ve got some friends who could work a room so good you’d be dizzy just watching them (it’s like an indoor sport of some sorts, that is, really.) I’m guessing anyway, they would get a lot of free tacos. (Not me. No, I usually have to pay for my tacos but, hey, I sometimes too get a bit lucky and get some free salsa.) Other friends? They get hung up on the words, like “photographer” or “artist” and don’t want to use them. My guess is that, if they’d practice a bit, they’d get over those hang-ups and just starting taking pictures or painting.
There is one thing all these folks have in common though. It’s virtually impossible to become a successful photographer or artist these days unless you have a good elevator pitch. Unless you are comfortable, squeezing into that elevator with that oh-so-important person and jabbering off about “Hi! My name is…” You are probably not going to make it in the art world. It’s just a sad fact of marketing reality, so probably best to deal with it early in your career and get yourself on over that hump. There are bigger problems you will grow to face, trust me on that one. You’ve got bigger fish to fry so, go on, man up and “Hi! I’m…” whoever you are. Fill in those blanks, practice it a bit, and move right along.
So, there you have it. Elevator pitch. You. Work. Go. Do. Best of luck with it too.
Until next time…