Soon after I started planning my mural project, there was one moment that scared me the most. The obvious detail that needed to be sorted out was the location. There were a few options and directions I could have gone. I could have approached a private business to house the mural. However, my network of property managers was limited and going in cold turkey rarely seems to pan out.
The other option on the table was to approach the municipal government. As our new arts council needed to find a way to get our local government involved and engaged with the arts, this seemed a natural way to go. But that meant I needed to do the one thing I hated most and never saw myself doing in a thousand years… giving a public speech. Seriously, this must be the biggest hurdle for any introvert but again my passion over ruled my fear.
Introverted artists tend to stay in their studios and may not know how the political world works. However, it is important for them to understand that without their squeaky wheels, cultural projects will get overlooked and pushed aside by other organizations that are vying for their piece of the city pie.
In West Kelowna, it is as simple as booking a time in the spotlight to present in a delegation to the city council. The city council meeting dates are listed on the city website. You just have to pick one and fill out the online form with your presentation points. The registration process takes a mere 5 minutes but a truckload of courage. A confirmation email will then be sent and a city staff member will call the week before also to confirm and to tell you how to send in your presentation slides.
I worked for hours and hours tweaking and honing my speech, driven mainly by nerves, but really the presentation came together quickly once I broke it down. Again I started with the “givens”. I knew I had 5 minutes allotted to me. I knew that I needed 10 slides. This meant I had only a short 30 seconds per slide, which is not a lot of time to convey the message I needed to get across.
The key to any presentation is to gain the trust of the listener and I had to make sure my 10 slides did just that. I wanted to give them confidence in my ability so I told them a bit about my set-painting experience and a bit about the creation process. I itemized a timeline to give them a framework of the project. I thought through any questions they may have and I tried to deal with them in the short presentation.
Another key aspect to proposing a creative project is that when you are entertaining a visual discussion you need visuals to convey your message clearly. A non-artistic person may have difficulty “seeing” the end result and will need a concrete picture. So, I physically drove to the location of the proposed installation site, took photographs, returned home and drew a mural on the photograph with my computer drawing program. These visuals were a big part of my presentation to eliminate any guesswork about the end result.
My words had to be right to the point and very clear and succinct. I edited and edited the text. I led with my “why” and concluded with my “ask”. I practiced my words over and over again so that I could look at my audience and not stumble over the words. And, I actually practiced clicking the remote for the presentation slides so that the presentation would be fluid without technological interruptions.
I stewed in my nerves for days but when the time came for my presentation I knew I had done everything I could to secure a “yes” from my audience. I took a deep breath, walked up to the podium and all the practice I had done took over. After I thanked my audience, the city council began their discussions. From that moment on, they had taken control and I moved a bit to the background. They were excited for the proposal and I knew I had succeeded.
If you want to see my 1st presentation to the West Kelowna city council, you can visit this link… http://westkelownabc.swagit.com/play/06232015-1316 , go to Item 7.
The preparation for this presentation took 15 hours but the actual presentation took only 22 minutes. The biggest thing I learned from this harrowing experience was that 22 minutes goes by really fast when you put the work into the preparation. Because this was my 1st presentation, I did not know what to expect and the fear seemed massive. However, the next time I presented to city council, the fear was lessened, as was the amount of prep work needed.
I cannot say that I will jump at the opportunity to do any more public speaking but I at least know that I could handle the situation with confidence should the need arise. The phrase “I have done this before” feels a lot better than shaking in my boots behind the phrase “I have never done this”.
Stay tuned for my next blog post when I will tell you what happened next.