Six Ways to Tell Your Story as a Teaching Artist

Storytelling hereAt TAG we’ve explored various concepts as teaching artists in our Meet-Ups and online conversations – and what we learned was our Teaching Artists not only needed to learn about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and social media in general, but also about the message and story behind the media. We’re Teaching Artists. We understand the depth of characters, we can pull off dramatic moments and pauses within a story, and we can certainly create an experience that changes the perspectives of an audience, individual, or classroom. Can we do this in our marketing? 
We continued our Teaching Artist Meet-Up series, diving deeper into the conversation about how we market ourselves, exploring the core question: What is Your Story – And How Do You Tell It? A dozen teaching artists gathered at the Marsh Theater, hosted by Marsh Youth Theater Director Emily Klion, for a conversation and writing exploration on this core question. Here’s what we left with, guided in part from reflections from Daniel Pink’s book, “To Sell is Human,” which you can read a full summary of here, and specifically regarding the end of the elevator pitch.

What is your Elevator Pitch?

You may have an “elevator pitch” about your work, but today most people on elevators are reading their Email, Facebook and Twitter feeds — we have to change our delivery from a solid face-to-face engagement to a few bite-size experiences of your message. Here are the ways to pitch that we explored, per Pink’s book:

  • the one-word pitch
  • the question pitch
  • the rhyming pitch
  • the 140-character Twitter pitch
  • the subject line pitch (which promises useful content or elicits curiosity)
  • the Pixar pitch (a six-sentence narrative structure supposedly used in all Pixar movies)

Let’s look at examples.

one word pitch examples:  “search” – google   “priceless” – mastercard
question pitch examples: “Are your kids able to explore their creativity and expression at school?” [No? Well you could invite us in for creativity-integrated-math workshops. How about that?]     “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a community space that provided after-school programs, adult-based learning, and theater that everyone could afford?” [There is! Come to our Community Theater.]** Note that I made these up so they are meant to show you how a question engages the listener – we also acknowledged that questions could suggest deficit or abundance being met by the teaching artist or organizational offering.
the rhyming pitch examples: Business Insider includes this one: Johnny Cochran’s “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”– they add “Rhymes increase “processing fluency,” the ease with which our brains can take in a phrase or statement and make sense of it.” Perhaps in our world it might be something like: “art: the important item needed in every kids shopping cart”
the 140-character Twitter pitch examples: how #twitpitch got started – and why it’s cool. As Forbes describes, two great examples are from Apple: “iPod: “1,000 songs in your pocket.” MacBook Air: “The world’s thinnest notebook.”… the Twitter pitch isn’t a replacement for a presentation, but rather an invitation to engage, to take the conversation further. Pink’s pitch of his book? “We’re all in sales now, but sales isn’t what it used to be.” I know that we artists, who scrutinize fonts and tones of voices and silences and movements could iron out some really fun and engaging ones. Any ideas you want to try? Pitch it on our twitter page.
the subject line pitch (which promises useful content or elicits curiosity): based on Carnegie Mellon research into what emails get opened and what emails are ignored, our email subjects are in fact pitches. Everyday you are putting the word out about your business, are you making them useful or curious? “The most effective subject lines are either a promise or a benefit to the person opening the email, drive curiosity, or include ultra-specific information…. A mushy subject line like improve your golf swing achieves less than one offering 4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon.”
the Pixar pitch (a six-sentence narrative structure supposedly used in all Pixar movies): Once upon a time____________.  Every day____________.  One day____________.  Because of that, ____________.  Because of that,_____________.  Until finally___________.

Here’s the one for Finding Nemo: Once upon a time there was a widowed fish named Marlin who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo. Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away. One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into open water. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in the fish tank of a dentist. Because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo….Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite, and learn that love depends on trust.

What’s yours? We all dove into that example in our writing exercises – it was actually quite fun to do, as you can create an outlandish story that really reflects the core of your message.

Let’s try it! Post on our Facebook page for feedback. Or email us for feedback! We are here to hear your voices and stories – and would love to share them on our sites. After we’ve written the various versions of our message, it’s time to share it. Write blogs about the ideas that matter to you, that tie back to this eternal message, and tag accordingly!

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