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Guest Writer

Let people experience the real you
Going public with your work
by Carolyn Campbell

o thoughts of 11th-grade speech class run through your head whenever you think of speaking in public?

Even with a master's degree in theater, 20 years of teaching and hundreds of workshops in my past, I still avoid anything that reminds me of persuasive speaking. But if you're serious about your work there comes a time when you must share what you do with the world.

Whether you're pitching your artwork to a gallery, promoting your designs or gaining recognition as an artist, it's vital that you build a public presence.

No matter the venue, I suggest you begin by asking:

• Who do I want to connect with?
• What can I offer to improve someone's business or enrich their life?
• How do others like to learn?
• How can I use my style to engage a specific audience?

More than ever, the options of "going public" have expanded to include in-person connections as well as cyberspace interactions. By taking the time to answer these questions you can be ready to move forward.

1) Design an event that highlights your strengths in a style others will enjoy.
If you enjoy lecturing, great! If not, create a cyber slideshow. Partner with a nonprofit to show your work and invite key referral partners to the event. Host an interactive evening that allows people to experience your work. Offer a class through a community education program. Lead a teleclass by phone. Create a blog. Ask a public speaker who loves your designs to wear your clothes.

The options are endless. What's key is that you align your style with the interest and needs of your clientele. And remember, it's not a one-hit deal, but an ongoing approach for exposing others to the power of your work. Each experience will allow you to fine-tune your approach.

2) Design the content to suit your intended outcome.
How do you want the event to change people's lives? What do you want them to know about you and your work?

These questions will help you stay focused as you plan your pitch. In fact, I often design my content or experience with one or two specific people in mind. Why? It focuses my attention on their life concerns and pushes me to provide tangible, applicable outcomes.

3) Set the stage.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of public outreach. An inviting, stimulating environment creates a context for your work before you even begin.

• Choose visuals, audio or sensory experiences that are inviting and intriguing. Gallery owners get dozens of submissions a week. How will yours stand out?

• Bring people in. You need to leave any timidity at the door! If you are using chairs, arrange them to minimize distance and maximize connection. If you are communicating via phone or e-mail, set the tone by engaging your audience quickly in the purpose of the conversation.

• Have informative materials available on site or via the Internet. Articles by and about you increase your credibility and let people know more about your expertise.

4) Create materials that support the event.
For interactive seminars or workshops, I create a workbook or journal. For collaborative events, a program with bios of each participant is extremely helpful. If you don't have materials, take a moment to provide an overview. The more unusual your presentation, the more important it is to clarify the parameters.

Give people the assurance that there is a structure so they can relax, enjoy and connect. The added benefit with print materials: people leave with a memorable take-away that they can refer back to or share with others.

5) Finally – and most importantly – connect!
Be curious and find out about your audience. What are their interests? Why are they listening to you? Tailor your presentation to their life. Share stories that show how you've used these concepts in your own life. Let people see your vulnerabilities, then match it with your expertise. That's how people begin to trust that you are like them and that you have something to enhance their life.

It all comes down to daring to share yourself, your work, your expertise and your desire to pass on something valuable to others. Choosing a format that puts you at ease will allow you to relax and connect in ways that are dynamic and engaging.

Make it fun and meaningful. In the end, you'll increase your public visibility, credibility and, ultimately, the value of your work.

Carolyn Campbell is a life vision and leadership coach in Portland. Check out her previous work in our archives, check out her profile in Sketch Pad, visit her Web site, e-mail carolyn@thecoresource.com, or give her a call at 503-493-9497.

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