To kick things off, we’re going to start at the very beginning. Picture this-inspiration has struck, and you’ve had an idea for a show that you’ve just gotta make happen! Except….that’s all you’ve got…because at this point, you haven’t done a darn thing except think the thought. Today, I’m going to walk you through my process for clarifying an idea, so that you’ve got something that’s digestible to others. I believe that ideas themselves are a dime a dozen, but that a well-described, specific, and communicable idea allows other people to get interested and excited in what you’re hoping to accomplish.
When I first had the idea to make Ephemera (my first large-scale producing venture), what I really had were vague notions of wanting to make a dance piece set in a bar, and inspired by the writings of Anais Nin. I didn’t have a tagline or an elevator pitch, and at that point in my career, I don’t think I even knew what those things were. I often felt awkward or embarrassed when I started to tell friends and family about my plans to make a full-length show. I’d start with language like, “So my friend and I are doing this thing”…in other words, I gave my own community a truly shoddy project description, and made it almost impossible for the people to “get” my idea.
At a certain point, some wonderful soul did actually ask me “what is your elevator pitch?” and after mumbling some sort of nonsense response, I researched what an elevator pitch actually is. In case you’re like I was, and also don’t know: An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in a project, idea, – or in yourself. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. They should be interesting, memorable, and succinct. They also need to explain what makes you – or your organization, or idea – unique.
For me, and my dance project Ephemera, the pitch I eventually settled on was, “A composer and I are collaborating to create an immersive dream ballet set in a bar. The show features an eclectic score that will be performed live, and involves lots of drinking, dancing, and debauchery”. I also had the shorter phrase “Ephemera is an Immersive Dream Ballet in a Bar” at the ready. Let me tell you- once I had something I could just rattle off, life became SO much easier. And I noticed something- people actually started to ask me questions about the project, because they had tangible specific words to dig into- “eclectic score- tell me more” or, “a dream ballet? Like in Oklahoma!?” At this point, the people I was talking to were still mostly family and close friends. However, by talking about the show in an elevated way to my inner circle, I gained valuable experience that I later used when pitching the show to potential investors and audience members.
It’s taken me far, far, FAR too long to truly learn that words matter at all times. You may be the best producer/director/designer/whatever in the world, but if you can’t sell yourself or your project, your journey will always be a struggle. In the past, I always felt like my time was at a premium, and that time was best spent in ACTION. Now, I realize that taking the time to do additional planning that seems optional (like the crafting of an elevator pitch) will actually pay dividends down the line. Instead of forging ahead with securing a venue, or making a budget, or doing any of the supposed next steps you may be imagining for yourself, set aside a couple of hours to create a pitch you can rattle off with confidence. Your future self will thank you.