Be Smart About Art

You have to start somewhere...

written by: Susan J Mumford June 10, 2018 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 538 views

You have to start somewhere...

Whether you want to use a new social media platform or take up public speaking, you have to start somewhere. As much as you prepare ahead of putting yourself in front of people, the best way to become a pro is by doing the activity - a lot of it. 

It’s understandable that you’ll see a professional make an activity look easy, and want to do it just as well. Not only is this unrealistic, it’s helpful to understand that you’ll do it differently with your own special twist. What’s helpful is to understand that you won’t know what that twist will be until... you put yourself out there. 

This discussion frequently arises when talking about social media in BSAA webinars that I run for artists and art dealers (coming up soon: Art Dealers’ Bootcamp 2018). Want to use Instagram better? Start using it more, play around with the platform, see what others are doing and develop. Consider when Instagram Stories was a new feature. I distinctly recall jumping into @besmartaboutart’s profile with intrigue, realising that I’d have to create posts  in order to understand how it works. (If you have a personal profile that’s separate from your business profile, how about trying out new features there first?) However much you search online, watching videos and reading blog posts, as well as getting 1-2-1 tutorials on such subjects, you learn best by doing. 

The same principle applies to public speaking, which brings to mind stories of my own. Whereas people often comment that I must have always loved speaking and am a natural, the reality is that I can only make it look natural by having done so much of it! 

Consider when I was the ‘Chapter Director’ of a business networking group. The most powerful discovery for running the meeting, in which I would present to a room of thirty professionals in a grand setting once a week, week in, week out, was this: I realised that nobody else knew what was going through my head. The nerves were my little secret. It resulted in a breakthrough in confidence. 

Also consider the first Be Smart About Art talk, which took place in February 2012. The topic was set to be about artists getting representation by dealers, and ahead of the event, I conducted research to incorporate into the presentation (so as to present findings, not only anecdotal observations). When it came to the important matter of who would be the person to deliver the speech, well, I fell into it as I’d set up the business and didn’t have the funds to pay someone else at the time. Without any guidance, I put together points to cover, had them laid out over several pages in a text document, and had the document open on the laptop that was placed in front of where I stood and delivered the talk. 

Today, I could pick out multiple improvements on the format, engagement with the audience and more. And that’s okay. It was necessary to start somewhere, and I eventually discovered (in April that same year when moderating a panel discussion for the first time) that I seemed to enjoy public speaking. Ever since, I’ve worked hard to continuously hone the craft, and only this past Saturday pitched an entirely different talk subject to a selection of ‘speaker bookers’ and a room of professional speakers at the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) - an intimidating audience! Would I repeat the experience? Definitely. 

What about you? What are you not starting or doing more of, owing to not being as good at it as you’d like to be - and yet by doing more, you would improve? 

I urge you to take out a pen and piece of paper right now and think about what you can get going with. Understand that when you start doing, you will expose yourself, and that this is part of the journey. In time, you’ll be able to look back to where you were at this time, and be glad that you did something about it. 

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