For Teh Lulz (Email Communication)

I know. You’re sick of explaining to your clients what your performance rates are… I mean how many times is going to take for them to realize you are creative professional and that you won’t work for anything less then the cost of the labour and materials?!?

And THAT is for charity work.

If we’re talking about a professional show or a corporate portrait, you gotta get paid, dear readers!

Earlier this month, I committed to the idea that basic communication is essential in all interactions; if you don’t have good communication skills, you are going to struggle with all of the ups and downs of life, from the small to the large ones. Ultimately this means you are moving against the flow of life OR being led by the flow, but never setting up your own course of navigation.

Why Don’t You Write A Book About It?

All great navigators know how to control the movement of their vessel from one place to another, and while navigation is defined by land, sea, air, and space, communication is divided up into 4 main forms – written, oral, non-verbal (gestures, words, facial expressions, body language), and interpersonal (personal relationships). And I’ve chosen to start this topic off right or rather write, with written communication.

But why writing timotheories?

Because writing is the form that I am interacting with you in this specific moment, dear readers. You creative cuties!

After all, true writing (read: contextual and encoded writing) has been with us since the bronze age of history, with proto-writing likely preceding 2000 BC, but definitely in that ballpark of time. Though to be clear, this was not a sudden change throughout the world, but a slow one, which developed from symbols and tablets.

History lesson aside, what that means is that written communication is here to stay, and we better figure out how best to interpret it, less we become even more delayed in our growth. Which would suck.

PC Load Letter, What The F Does That Mean?

Speaking of suckage, have you ever seen the Mike Judge classic Office Space? I’m not going to go into a bunch of detail on the movie, instead, you should wait for our upcoming Watch Culture on it, but I will share this little clip and some wisdom.

Life is already difficult as it is, so leave the jargon at the door! You’ve got memos, reports, bulletins, email, text messaging, and a host of other types of written communication to juggle on a daily basis, and thanks to smart phones, these things pile on quick.

It’s not so difficult to manage though, if you rely on a checklist of etiquette and follow through with it, of course. Let’s use the ever-so-popular email format as a basis in demonstrating the  7 C’s of communication (clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous). And clean language too if you want to emphasise courtesy, unlike what Mr. Bolton just did.

  1. Respond to emails promptly. This is one I personally struggle with, as I want to be attentive in my responses, but responding within 24 hours is ideal, within 8 even more preferable, and within 1 if you want to be a rock star.
  2. Proofread your work, and think twice before sending. It should go without saying, but leaving your emotions out of a response can be extremely difficult, and written communication is so easy to do, you can articulate your thoughts and rearrange them. Also, spend some time reading over your work, typos are the worst.
  3. Know your audience. In case it isn’t obvious, don’t blind copy everyone in a response either. Knowing your audience in every instance is difficult to be perfectly honest, but if you pay close attention, you CAN learn others motivations and keep projects moving forward amicably.
  4. Also, please stop forwarding your junk onto others. For example, if you like sharks, and want to let the world about shark week, but your work buddy lost his family in freak shark tank incident, he probably doesn’t want to deal with your email.
  5. Brevity is king. Keep emails brief. People hate reading long boring things. See?

It’s up to you obviously in how you go about enabling these new habits, but at the very least, you now have some basic tools of written communication that will help you better convey your ideas to others. And just like that printer that Michael hated, people can give messages which just don’t make sense… Frustrating for sure.

 

theories Summarized

You don’t want to be like that printer folks. That printer eventually got taken out to pasture and bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat and a few swift kicks to the paper tray. And yes, maybe that’s an extreme example of the risks of bad communication, but worse things have happened in real life. And unlike a theory, I’ll share some examples in the next post of this series to prove it.

Tim!

Basic Training (Communication Basics)

Here at timotheories I believe it’s important to provide you dear readers with a depth and breadth to my content which is fairly uncommon in many blogs of the day.

I write about the arts (music, film, events), share global wisdom and learnings I’ve uncovered on how to maintain and flourish as a creative professional, and build lots of stimulating content about the value of art, often focusing on the medias of movies, table top gaming, and interviews with salt of the earth artists. I follow a monthly schedule to ensure I release a lot of quality content: written and video.

One of the reasons I do this because I believe that good communication is one of the key skills you need in life. Another of the reasons I have this workflow down pat is because good teachers and leaders practice what they preach.

#sobasic

So many of the lessons I share are cyclical,  the kind of stuff you’ll hear over and over in your life and which you really need to learn, those things you run away from until you finally own up to your obstacles and face them head on. It’s one of those theories that is so compelling when life is going great, but difficult to accept when you’ve just been handed a shit sandwich after life pummeled you and then ran over your dog.

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

Pema Chodron

I found this quote from Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan and practising Buddhist. One who happens to be both an ordained nun and acharya. In case you’re wondering what an acharya is, it’s someone who is a senior instructor in religious matters. They teach the next generation of monks and nuns, and are generally expected to stay put, rather than wander the earth as so many Buddhist monks do.

Communication is at the root of us facing our fears in life creative cuties. As soon as you recognize that other people aren’t actively trying to limit your actions, but rather further their own lives (just as you do), it becomes way easier to recognize that the EST models of life are a real thing – exist, survive OR thrive.

As I mentioned in my first post on communication, there are seven aspects of communication to consider and make crucial in your life – clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous. I’m not going to spend the rest of this post outlining how those aspects all work and what to do with them, though I can see that becoming a future series down the road, if I get enough interest from you fine folks…

Instead I want to go over the basics of communication.

All About That Base

I found this really cool chart from Psychology Today which demonstrates how communication works. I’m not sure if they made the chart themselves or got it from somewhere else, but kudos to whoever came up with this diagram. It’s on point.

You see friends, communication can happens with multiple people simultaneously, but more importantly it is always a process that happens between a sender and a receiver. I could be delivering a presentation to a group of fifty people, but no matter how many people I present to, I am conducting individual communications with each party in the room.

So while nineteen people could understand the message I am relaying about marketing, one person might shut down as soon as I mention how we need to use more third party services as an annual media mix. This is because as the sender I have a responsibility to consider how I encode my message for the receiver and to be sure I truly understand the subject matter I’m speaking to. If I have complicated thoughts and feelings about the topic, I may not explain myself well, and so the listener is more likely to miss the message.

Now from the perspective of the receiver, a few things could happen which led to the misunderstanding. They could have not really been listening to the message for one, and for two, they might not have the comprehension skills needed to decode the message, but refuse to acknowledge their limitations. Which is a whole other loaded challenge of its own. And third, by adding a separate meaning to the message from what was intended. i.e. the person might think I’m suggesting incompetence in them and by stating we should hire more third party groups, I am affirming to the receiver that I want another company to support the workload because they are more talented.

theories Summarized

All that said, communication is most definitely something we can all learn to do better, and while it is a two way street, as you become more competent you’ll succeed more,. That means choosing your words and expressions more carefully, as well as being aware of your shortcomings in communication AND asking others to explain back to you what you’ve shared. Then you can expect to have better results getting help with editing your videos, distributing your brand new EP, or booking that photography shoot with the paint night lady.

It might not be a basic instinct, but communication really is key to success in the arts, and business in general. Just a theory I have.

Tim!

I Think We Need To Take A Break (Cross Talk Ep. 18)

I’m gonna keep the preamble short this time creative cuties – Sometimes franchises get stale.

And if I can be so bold as to use an analogy, franchises can very easily become like all relationships. If both parties don’t look past their differences, accept that the things they may have once loved now have a capacity for irritation, and focus on appreciating and nurturing the things that they generally DO like, then the relationship will experience fatigue.

What I’m basically saying is that you cannot change someone, that person has to decide to change on their own. But when you communicate about the things that bother you in a loving manner with no intent of changing the person, then there is room for growth.

635959344460903075-1462849219_rule-1

After all, likes and dislikes are completely subjective, so that hair twirling which you “hate” may be completely endearing to someone else. Movies are complicated, okay?

A movie franchise which always leads in with the same soundtrack and repeats similar themes over and over again can be really good, but only if you appreciate those qualities. When it starts to get stale, it might be time to move on or potentially appeal to reason by spending your money on franchises which keep it interesting.

Which is why today, Chris and I explore what we think some franchises are doing right, what others continue to do despite not growing in other ways, and how others completely miss the mark and wonder why they are so lonely. It might be an exhaustive effort but this is what franchise fatigue does to us.

And because we know there are a few elephants in the room, we’re just gonna get the superheroes and space adventurers out of the way immediately – Because let’s face it, they are low hanging fruit.

This is episode eighteen of Cross Talk, and dammit if I ain’t proud of all the franchise staples we were able to come up with in under twenty five minutes. Now it’s your turn to take a breather, settle in with your favourite snack and meditate as we bring up some interesting theories on how to combat these challenges…

I am #sorrynotsorry for the relationship analogy, because I think all relationships take work and I have this great theory about how we can learn from people in addressing this topic. But if you watch the video you’ll see what I mean. Another day, another theory realized my friends.

Please comment, subscribe, and share this video with friends. We want to hear your feedback!

Tim!

Just Let It Gel (Facebook How-To… Page)

When laying down a canvas, I think it’s important to set the foundation first, usually with white gesso, but sometimes simply with some soft gel. Almost every visual artist will tell you same, unless they are painting on paper, mylar, or some other strong gripping surface. Then again, said artist might not even want to create an archival work OR rather the degradation of the work is key to the process. Whatever the case we understand the basic of what to start with.

After that decision is made, I start applying broad strokes to block in shapes and highlights, carefully choosing colour(s) which will give a tone to the story. Once that step has happened and I’m confident in my decisions, I begin the process of focusing on areas of the painting, slowly laying in or uncovering details and telling stories within the story of my canvas. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of it all, so I’ll spare you that as best I can.

ah-romance_o_903595

This might seem like a common practice, but there really are a lot of different ways to make a painting. Truth be told, no two artists will tackle it the same way, even if we pretend subject matter and material choices are the same. And frankly, I don’t expect marketing to work in a catch-all matter either, even though many people think it’s a simple process.

And given my personal experiences with it, once you set the foundation, just like fine art, marketing comes down to taste, experience and the message to be delivered.

About Face

Way way back in November 2016, which feels like ages ago, I met a beautiful woman and we had our first date. It was wonderful, and she is very special to me, when she reads this post we will have passed our 3 month anniversary, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Right, I promised no more romance.

Well, I’ll just try this one more time.

Way way back in November 2016, I wrote a post about Facebook. Now at the time, I didn’t expect to cover the whole social networking service in one post, so I decided to break it up into several parts, aptly naming the first part, Facebook pt. 1. And like any good franchise, I’m going to immediately deviate from that pattern and set out to call the next set of posts Facebook How-To … (insert topic here).

Clever right? Yeah, I’m usually pretty clever, but it all depends on what I have else I have going on upstairs in that old noggin of mine. Which I think makes perfect sense, and even if it doesn’t immediately make sense for you, you’ll find a workaround I’m sure.

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

 

Let’s talk about Facebook pages my dear, sweet, and wonderful readers. You creative cuties, you.

I’ve said this once before, but Facebook pages are to individual profiles what corporations are to small businesses. This is where you share content with your followers and get them involved in your personal brand. You have to set up your business page if you want to get to the ads step, so do that first. Then focus on lifestyle over product. You also want to be actively involved in comments and service… this can include incentivizing your user base and sharing user content too.

How do you accomplish this you ask? Well with 3 (condensed) tips like this:

  1. Build your community by focusing on your members and how the page provides value – This means using the page as the voice of your brand, but always eluding to insights that are available for people who have purchased your product(s) to make them feel special. You don’t have to treat page likes based on sales, but exclusivity is important. Then focus on followups for customers in PMs and for answer questions when you can.
  2. Discuss current events and promote events too – But I would add that you keep it relevant to your user base at all times. People will get frustrated if you talk about sports when that’s not in your business mantra, for instance.
  3. Communicate with your biggest fans. If you build strong relationships with those who love you, they’ll reach out for you, but it also allows them to network WITH EACH OTHER. Like attracts like as the old adage goes. And if you have team members, it gives them a place to function as ambassadors and stewards of your brand.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is to keep your page active and allow people to participate in a discussion, much like how a Facebook group is forum for it’s user base, the Facebook page is the podium. It allows you to build trust with your fans and become a representation of your brand.

Obviously I’ll spend some more time in the future on success stories, but for now, you have some foundation to set up your canvas. I hope you can keep on rocking in the free world creative cuties, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a story about a concert. It’ll probably be romantic though.

Tim!

Visionary Storytelling (Byron Martin preview interview)

 

Every good project tells a story.

A story about goals, its members, deadlines, and what is required for completion. It also requires management to understand the story they need to tell, and to deliver it with gusto. Also, a REALLY good story follows a proper story arc, no matter if it’s an urban myth, a made-for-TV movie, a comic book or a stage play. Heck, even an improvised musical follows an outline to get to where it needs to be.

When you are in theatre (or any professional setting), you have the same kinds of responsibilities as any other business operator. You set a budget, plan out the year, and set meetings to ensure everyone is onboard as things happen.

No matter what you might think, communication and teamwork are at the centre of it. When you have a vision, and you bust your ass to see it happen, time movies along quite quickly. Every self-made business person will tell you this…

Learning to coordinate others and juggle the program is at the centre of it.

If you look at it in a very simple way, there are really seven major steps to consider as the process unfolds.

  1. Define project goals.
  2. Have daily, weekly, monthly deliverables.
  3. Set and then celebrate project milestones.
  4. Build an annual budget.
  5. Assign team members.
  6. Produce progress reports.
  7. Assess risks.

 

It seems like an easy set list, but not everyone is up for the task. Marrying a vision to an agenda is essential.

Byron Martin has a big vision for the Edmonton arts community, and while some of the projects his theatre company Grindstone Theatre puts on, like Henry V, might start out with conversations at a local pub, he’s learned to keep track of his ideas and commit to his vision with a myriad of tools.

He has intimately committed these steps to his vision and can do them without consciously thinking about it, and he has fun at the same time. Another good friend of mine, Byron Martin is a much needed presence in the Edmonton theatre scene.

I hope you enjoy this preview of our chat.

Yes, I am out of theories for the day friends, but I’ve got a vision for 2017 and this upcoming full length Byron Martin interview is a part of it. For now let’s focus on the good things which have been shared, and the exciting possibility of another week with Gord Downie.

That’s right, I just might have another album review coming which features the Tragically Hip frontman. But that could just be a theory.

Tim!