We’ve all heard the familiar time management tips, productivity tips, tips on how to focus and tips on tapping into creativity. But what some of us need is serious practice in bringing balance to our lives.
We freelancers are a motivated bunch. We take the time to learn the greatest technologies and stay on top of industry standards. We work hard on behalf of our clients, better known as our bosses. (And I’ll bet you thought being a freelancer meant you were going to be your own boss…)
Here are a couple things I’ve learned over the years about keeping balance in your life as you manage your own business.
Self-Care is Key
I don’t think I can stress this one enough. You have got to take this seriously, especially as you get older. How many times have you pushed yourself to your absolute limits leading up to an important event, opening, launch, etc.? You barely sleep, eat terribly, stress yourself to the max, and finally, it’s over! Then you crash. You come down with a huge cold, the flu, a stomach virus, whatever. It’s your body’s way of telling you, OK, I held it together when I needed to, but now you better pay attention to me.
This is really not the most practical way of doing things (overstating the obvious). If you must push yourself past your normal limits of endurance, then at least try to get enough sleep, minimize your coffee intake (at a certain point, it taps into non-existent resources and just drains your vital energy), and eat nourishing food. Fresh fruits and veggies are great, and not too many sugary, fried things. So yeah, the cronut and latte diet you had in mind is not going to be your best bet.
And don’t forget to exercise. Now don’t look at me like that – exercise is not a punishment. In fact, anything that involves working up a sweat by using different parts of your body will do. Getting your bones and muscles working keeps your heart pumping and your lungs nice and strong. Stretching on a regular basis (yoga!!) helps keep you from developing low back pain and other chronic muscle aches and spasms. Playing sports, going for long walks, having sex – these are all fun activities that will help you stay fit and relieve stress… yes indeed…
Make Time for Yourself and Your Family
Another vital piece in maintaining balance is making sure that you spend enough time doing fun things by yourself and with your loved ones. There’s a reason why we have weekends. There’s also a reason why we have vacations. You can’t just keep going without a break and not expect to lose your mind.
If you are worried about your level of productivity, then you should also want to program in time for relaxation and fun. You know as well as I do that there are times when you’d do better taking an extra-long lunch break than forcing yourself to sit at your desk, when all you’re doing is anxiously looking at the screen, or worse, relieving your anxiety by flitting all over Facebook or Twitter.
Remember the yin/yang symbol? That equal mix of black and white? It’s the symbol for duality in the universe. We have to give ourselves downtime to balance out the uptime. You might be tempted, but don’t feel guilty about needing to veg out in front of the TV at night, or indulging in other “time wasting” activities. Spend some time with your kids doing silly things, whenever possible… or your pets, or your nieces and nephews, or yourself. Read a book, write a poem, bake some quiche, knit something. Ride your bike. Go out to the movies. Have fun. You won’t regret it.
Aaaah, the freelance life. It sounds so leisurely, doesn’t it? The reality is that we freelancers are working hard to hustle up an income. Sure, we get to make our own hours and choose our clients, but we don’t have the luxury of a regular paycheck and a list of assignments handed to us by a boss. We must not only generate the work, but organize our time to make sure that we manage all the details properly. It can be a lot to handle.
Those of you who are already working as freelancers will be familiar with these basics. If you’re considering becoming a freelancer, here are a few essentials that you better make sure you have in your toolkit:
1) Good Internet Service
Honestly, this is the foundation of everything. I almost hate to say it, because I don’t love the idea that my livelihood depends on access to electricity and WiFi service. However, it’s true. Our business, especially in the events industry, depends on connectivity. If you work out of your home, invest the few extra dollars in high speed service. It makes a difference. Hopefully, you have a reliable carrier. Investigate all of your options and go with the one that offers the most consistent availability and highest quality service. This is a basic tool, so it’s worth the investment. Don’t skimp here!
If you work outside of your home, make sure you have a few good options. Honestly, regardless of where you work, it’s always good to have a back-up plan. Most good coffee shops have excellent WiFi – the two usually go hand in hand. If you have a favorite hangout in your neighborhood, great.
If you get sick of spending money on caffeinated beverages, consider finding a public library. Most branches have reliable, free service, and offer a quiet working environment. You may even decide to invest in a spot at a co-working space. Good internet service is a key feature in all shared work spaces, as they are typically designed by and for entrepreneurs.
2) Scheduling Software
Organizing your workflow is one of the most important aspects of working for yourself. Personally, I find it helpful to write myself a list by hand at the beginning of the week, including the amount of time it’s going to take to do each thing on the list, and then the day and time I’m blocking out for that task. This can work for a while if you are a one-person operation. However, it can get messy if you aren’t good at crossing things out and throwing away the old lists.
A good alternative, especially if you have any assistants or collaborators, is a program such as Asana or even Google Calendar. These are both online platforms that allow multiple users to share and edit information. Google Calendar offers a basic task tracking function, while Asana allows more granularity in categorizing different projects and saving related data.
3) A Good Bookkeeping System
It’s important to track your income and expenses. For many of you, this might seem like a thankless task. Believe me, I know. My first temp bookkeeping assignment out of college consisted of me taking a shoebox full of receipts and entering them into a spreadsheet. By hand.
Fortunately, nowadays we have a few good tools that can help streamline this activity. If you are handy with an Excel spreadsheet, you can certainly use that basic tool to record all your financial data. However, you may want to consider something even more automated, such as Quickbooks, which can easily sync up to your online bank statement. This go-to accounting program offers several affordable versions well suited to freelancers. Not sure what finance management tool is right for you? Check out this handy tool from Cloudwards!
If you are an independent event planner, then you are no doubt well acquainted with the unpredictable life of a freelancer. Like any entrepreneur, your time is split between developing the inner workings of your business and making your presence felt in the world at large. How do you find the time and energy to tackle that second half without feeling completely overwhelmed?
You do it by finding your natural audience, which is very different than trying to sell people on the idea of you and your business. This is a topic that I’ve been thinking and writing about a lot this past year, in an ongoing conversation with my friend and colleague, creative development advisor, Marc Zegans. (His book, which I highly recommend, Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience offers an easy, step-by-step approach to thinking about this whole subject.)
Connecting with the people who will become your allies, champions, loyal customers and clients should feel natural and easy to you, once you figure out who they are. The principles around building good relationships with the right people to help grow your business are pretty intuitive and easy to understand. They are the same for artists and creatives as they are for event planners and other entrepreneurs.
In the event industry, much of our business is generated in social settings like networking events and other small gatherings, as well as via social media. You never know where your next business lead will come from, so it helps to be prepared for productive conversation by remembering some of the following principles:
1) Be real!
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can share with you. Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or have twenty years under your belt – be yourself! You might as well be up front, since eventually, the real you will surface. Since so much of our business depends on good working relationships, transparency right from the beginning will help you determine if there’s good chemistry before you get too deeply into a business partnership.
2) Build your business community.
After you’ve decided to be yourself, the next logical step is to share your story with others. Part of finding your natural audience is building community, and you have to have something to offer. Think about what you know, where you’ve lived, what other kinds of experiences you’ve had that you’re excited to share with others. You will not find a client every time you open your mouth, so don’t expect that! One larger goal should be to connect with people in order to build a community of friends and allies within your chosen industry. In the event world, once you find yourself included in a circle of people, you’ll find many opportunities for social and business interactions opening up to you.
3) Understand the needs you are qualified to address, and be ready to describe how and why.
In order to further your business building goals, connecting with people in an authentic way has to include a clear presentation of the specific services you are offering. Calling yourself an event planner is not enough. You need to be able to articulate the unique thing you are bringing to the table. What are your greatest strengths, or your particular skills as a planner? What kinds of events are you especially good at conceiving or managing? Are you particularly good at managing divorced couples who happen to be the parents of the bride or groom at their children’s weddings? Do you have experience incorporating circus performers and live animals into large scale events? Do you have talent as a video tech geek and have managed multi-media presentations? Or are you good at overseeing fashion shows? Find the people who need what you’ve got by knowing and articulating exactly what you have to offer that is uniquely, utterly you.
4) Know where your natural audience is hanging out, and go find them!
You may find some of your audience at live events, but you will also find them online. Learn where the people you want to meet are hanging out in cyberspace – what social media platforms they like, what publications they read, what products they buy. Knowing these things gives you access to connecting with other like-minded individuals in a genuine fashion, re: comments, likes, follows and online gatherings such as chats or live podcasts. These types of connections can be as valuable as the ones you make at industry mixers and conferences. In fact, you will find that over time, live meetings and virtual ones will begin to enhance one another.
Got any tips for building your natural audience that you want to share? Let us know!
At this year’s techsytalk LIVE, which took place on August 14th, I interviewed a cross section of speakers and exhibitors, to learn more about their involvement in the event industry and new technologies. One of the day’s featured speakers was John Trumble, Managing Director of the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival Presented by Food & Wine (NYCWFF). Together with NYCWFF founder, Lee Schrager, John has created and curated over 120 events for this year’s festival, to take place over four days starting October 15th.
John has been with the festival since early 2013, overseeing all of their marketing, PR, sponsorship and production activity. He came to this position after leading the events marketing department at Gilt City, a digital flash sales site (think online sample sales), spearheaded by fashionistas Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis. In that position, he produced many exclusive, live experiences, including fashion shows, movie nights, pool and cocktail parties, and high end, intimate dinners featuring one of the growing numbers of celebrity chefs he would later come to work with more regularly at NYCWFF. Prior to that, John was a producer for ten years at MTV Networks.
In his current role, John helps to get the chefs onboard, as well as the talent and the right event producers. He also closely watches over ticket sales, as the NYCWFF is a 501-3c non-profit organization. All festival proceeds are donated to their partner organizations, the Food Bank for NYC, and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.
I asked John what gets him most excited about his work with the Wine and Food Festival…
John – Two things. First, I kind of like the process of process. I’m very much a creative person, especially from my 10 years at MTV networks, but seeing the lifecycle of the festival from start to finish and seeing the things we put in place, and solving problems on the fly, I think makes you a better producer… In events, and live events especially, something’s always going to go wrong, so it’s about solving those problems in a quick, efficient, calm kind of productive manner.
And then of course, I’m a huge foodie. I love to go out to eat. I love to consume any piece of food that I can. I spent a lot of time in the rock and roll world and creative world with MTV Networks and getting into the production world in the culinary space. Chefs are the new rock stars of today. Everybody wants to get close to these guys, everyone wants to partner with them. I can’t tell you how many guys in the VC or banking world are like, I’m jumping ship to go open a restaurant with X chef. There’s a lot of people really loving the space right now.
As John continued to tell me more about how he’s working to expand the festival and diversify its market, it became increasingly clear to me how interrelated his work in the culinary space is to his prior work in the music industry.
John – First and foremost, we’re kind of a mainstay in the culinary space. We’re the biggest wine and food festival in the U.S., and our core ticket buying audience is a big food geek, loves food, goes to nice restaurants, follows chefs… What I want to do is work with Lee to expand the festival a little bit and maybe put a little more of a lifestyle focus or filter on some of these events. You know, we’ve expanded into other events and partnerships like our Jets and Chefs Tailgate Party, which is a big partnership with the Jets. We basically throw a big tailgate party on the roof of Pier 92. That partnership is great because it brings in a whole other set of ticket buyers for us.
People talk about recipes and cooking being generational, I’ll tell you what, the only thing that may be more generational and in the fiber of somebody’s being and family is sports and athletic team allegiance. These guys that are tailgating outside the Giants and Jets stadium are people who have been doing that for years and years and years with their mom and dad, their grandmother and grandfather, where their grandma would make her famous potato salad – those recipes are generational, so it’s a really cool kind of hook.
Music is another one of those things that really brings people together, without sounding too cliched, whether it’s a great moment in your life or a bad moment in your life, or a very stressful moment, there’s always this soundtrack to your life, and I think that food and music kind of very much pair together in those types of things.
Under John’s leadership, the NYCWFF is integrating technology in very interesting ways. At last year’s festival, they partnered with our friends at ClearHart to use the Savor Band. This wearable NFC device gives guests the opportunity to easily swipe recipes and other information into their own personal database, as well as cast votes for different chefs and their food. This type of interactivity also offers great opportunities for the event organizers to measure ROI while tracking attendee behaviors.
Pushing the envelope of industry innovation even further, this year NYCWFF is introducing a brand new event in conjunction with Bloomberg LP, called FOODi: Food, Business and Technology.
John – What we’re doing is bringing together the best thought leaders out there in the culinary and tech investing space and having, much like techsytalk, kind of a power discussion on what’s going on. We have people like Danny Meyer, Martha Stewart, Tyler Florence and Charlie Walk from Republic Records, so we’re really getting together a bunch of power players and thought leaders in their field to really talk about disruption, where you bring in other disciplines and see where they can disrupt your field and bring in new ideas.
We have three panels; one of the panels is a discussion… because the margin in restaurants is so small, the difference between making it and shuttering your doors is like a percentage point. If we can take two Bloomberg analysts who do nothing but look at numbers all day and are paid to make other people make more money, we’re going to pair those people with a restaurant group and see how they can analyze their numbers and add a percentage point to their bottom line. And then we have a FOODi challenge where we’ve done a several month search for submissions, almost like our own version of a Sharktank panel with a culinary filter on it. It’s pretty cool.
And by the way, submissions are still being accepted for the FOODi Challenge until September 14th. If you have a unique business idea related to the hospitality industry, and would like a chance to pitch it to a panel of experts, you can find more information and a submission form here. Note: FOODi is by invite only, unless you submit something and your submission gets picked, and then you will be able to present.
Operating in such a high profile public forum has given John access to many levels of innovation within the event and hospitality industries. He predicts big changes to come, even in the next 3-5 years, as VC investments continue to support industry disruption via the backing of new and exciting ideas. He believes the collision of the food business and technology will lead to improved restaurant reservation apps and other services. Imagine being able to pay in advance, or have your food and drink preferences or dietary restrictions retained by your favorite restaurant, even shared within a group of restaurants. We’re talking the kind of elevated dining experience where you arrive and find your drink waiting for you, just the way you like it, or a bottle of your favorite wine already chilling on the table. Seems like we are preparing for a whole new level of dining experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
You’re an event planner, a designer, or another type of solo practitioner. You’ve developed a good list of clients, but now you’re at capacity. The problem is, you have no margin of earnings to cover your budget if you lose one or more of your projects. And in the freelance world, this is ALWAYS a possibility. Perhaps you could handle more business if you had some assistance, but you’re not yet earning enough to pay someone else.
You need an intern.
“That’s it!” you cry…
But before you get too excited, there are a few things you need to know. Bringing on an intern may not be the answer to all your prayers, but it certainly can be a great way of getting you through the transition from a one-person show to a company capable of significant growth and development. The right kind of assistance can help you become more organized and capable of increasing your revenues.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you think having an intern will be helpful to you.
Interns Are People, Too
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an intern is little more than a servant, or worse yet, a slave. You will get the most out of this arrangement if you treat it like you would any working relationship – as an opportunity to create a mutually beneficial exchange.
Think about what you have to offer, besides money, to someone who is giving their time and energy to you on a regular basis. Your industry experience, your day to day knowledge of running a business in the real world, your connections – these are all valuable resources you can share with someone who is motivated to learn from you and contribute to your success.
Create a pleasant environment for your intern. Little things like snacks and beverages can make a difference – maybe pick up an extra latte when you take a coffee break. Think about how you’d like to be treated, and do the same for your intern. You have the power to foster a positive vibe that will motivate your intern to work hard on your behalf. Don’t waste this opportunity!
A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Colleges are a great source of talent when it comes to finding a qualified intern. If you are lucky enough to be located close to an institution of higher learning, investigate their internship program. Most colleges and universities will offer their students academic credit for putting in a certain number of hours towards the fulfillment of a specific internship based project. Check out the requirements of the schools in your area. You may be surprised to learn about the possibilities.
Keep in mind, some colleges prefer that their interns work in more traditional businesses, with offices. If you’re like most nascent entrepreneurs, you may not yet be able to afford an office, let alone a spot in a co-working space, if there’s even one near you. You may, in fact, do most of your work in your living room, your bedroom or your local Starbucks.
If you don’t have access to a designated business location through a friend or colleague, consider proposing an alternate arrangement to the institution with whom you are attempting to build a relationship. If your work can be done remotely, why not suggest working with the student at a campus library, student center or other public meeting area such as a local coffee shop or other mutually convenient and safe location.
It’s understandable why schools would not be comfortable sending one of their students to someone’s home. However, the reality is that most new businesses, even the ones that become the most successful multi-million dollar operations, start from very humble beginnings. Any college or university that is serious about training their students to become entrepreneurs should understand the changing nature of the employment landscape and be willing to evolve their thinking in this matter.
Today’s Intern Could be Tomorrow’s Employee
If you are diligent in your screening and interviewing process, you should be able to find someone who is motivated, talented and able to learn how to best serve your needs as a business owner. If you give them appropriate guidance, your intern may grow naturally into the role of paid consultant or employee.
Make sure you have clear goals for what you want your intern to accomplish in the time he or she is working with you. It helps if you specify not only the daily tasks you require them to perform, but understand how you can use their time to help make your business more efficient and capable of handling additional work going forward.
Having an intern gives you the opportunity to start thinking like a business manager. You must be ready to delegate specific responsibilities to someone else, in service of your larger goals. Make sure you build in time for regular communication and exchange of feedback. If your intern is doing a good job, let them know. If not, be clear about what you would like done differently. Give them an opportunity to make adjustments, learn from their mistakes. At the end of your time together, you should have a good idea as to whether or not this person would make a good long-term addition to your company.
When managing a collaborative team, whether you’re producing an event, building a website or directing a promotional campaign, it’s important to know how to get the best out of everyone while meeting the goals of the operation.
This can be a tricky balance to achieve when dealing with an established brand, and the more money and corporate firepower is behind the project, the harder it may be to achieve any autonomy. However, creativity and originality are valuable commodities in today’s marketplace. When you bring people with fresh ideas onto your team, the best strategy may be to encourage them to go all out.
Let’s look at some ways you can make this happen.
Good casting is 90% of the game.
When scouting for talent, the smartest directors know to cast actors with just the right stuff and then let them loose to do what they do best. The same holds true when putting together a collaborative team. When choosing creative partners, whether they are designers, writers, social media strategists or event producers, look for people who bring something special to the table. Then, let them do what they do!
Learn the skill of constructive criticism.
No one says you have to say yes to everything, or that you can’t be critical. But there’s a difference between telling someone, “Nope, that doesn’t work,” and saying, “Listen, this part is OK, but this part is not really what I’m looking for… and let me tell you why.”
This does not mean an endless litany of things you hate about the work your collaborator has delivered. Instead, try to build on the things that work. Explain what you like about it, and how it can be expanded or altered to be closer to your vision. Ask questions. Find out why he or she made the choices they did. This may go a long way towards understanding how to get from what they’ve delivered to what you ultimately want and expect.
Regular communication is essential.
Particularly in new collaborations, it’s really important to have regular communication. As you are getting to know one another, you’ll each have a need for clarification and feedback at every step along the way. These early interactions are the fundamental building blocks of what you hope will become an ongoing relationship, or at least a successful partnership for the duration of your project. If you don’t put the time in to get clarity up front, you will never really give the relationship a fair shot at meeting its potential.
This one can be tricky, especially if your personal brand is on the line. It can be really tempting to walk into a collaboration with a set idea of what you expect, looking for your creative partners to just deliver what already exists in your brain. The bad news is, this probably won’t happen, and if it does, you have most likely squeezed the creativity and enthusiasm out of your team members. If this is your way of working, then you would do better to bring on some interns or some entry level administrative assistants, and groom them to suit your needs. But if you are working with other professionals, you need to make some space for them to bring their own personal touch to the table. The chances are very good that the final product will be more interesting than the thing you imagined.
Remember the old saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?” I believe this is true, more often than not. We just have to make the space to allow each part to contribute its unique resources to the whole.
You’re a freelancer and you’re a parent. Me, too. Can we talk for a minute? I mean, I love my son more than anything in the world. And yes, I enjoy being flexible with my time. Isn’t that what freelancing is supposed to be about? All that independence giving us the freedom to work when it’s most convenient for us…
So why do I feel like I have no time, I’m up every night until two in the morning completing my assignments, and my to-do list is still a mile long?
Because it’s summer. And there’s no school. You don’t realize how much you value all that delicious, quiet, alone time, until it’s ripped out from under you.
So here are a few of my survival tips. If I don’t make it through to September, please make sure you tell everyone still waiting for work from me that it was on my to-do list.
1) Keep your house clean.
When times are tough, it’s time to go back to basics. When your kids are not in school, they are probably under the impression that all bets are off. No getting dressed, no making their beds, no going to sleep or waking up on time. And they’re probably right. But if your kids aren’t in camp or some other organized activity, the creeping disorder of their mess is going to make it into your work space sooner or later. Stop that in its tracks. At the very least, keep your kitchen and bathroom clean, because those are the real sanity busters. Make them help, the lazy slobs.
2) Make your lists.
More important than ever, is to have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish in a given day, and when. Deadlines don’t stop just because school is out. Figure out which blocks of time are non-negotiable and let your kids know you are off limits during those times. Bargain if you must. Let them watch extra TV or video games. Grit your teeth, and schedule some quality time in the evening or the weekend, when you can all go swimming or to the park or a museum together.
3) Get some adult support.
If you are part of a two-parent or better yet, multi-generational household, you may be in luck. Coordinate with your spouse wherever possible to gain some relief time from the long days. Single parent addendum. There’s no one to hand-off to… Arrange trades with your kids’ friends’ parents – one day the kids are at your house, one day they all go over to their place. Depending on your kid’s age (mine’s 12), they often do better in pairs, so they can occupy each other. Hanging out with their friends as often as possible is key.
4) Beware of the patience testers.
These are the conversations that are designed to see how well you are at putting all of your theories about non-violence into practice. Here’s an example:
My son: Mom, I’m hungry.
Me: OK, just a minute.
Fifteen minutes go by.
My son: I’m starving!
Me: OK, I’ll make you a sandwich.
Forty five minutes later, after I’ve ripped myself away from the computer and am preparing something in the kitchen.
My son: Is that the only bread we have?
This is the moment where you get to show off all that deep breathing and serenity work you’ve been practicing in yoga class. Go on. Make me proud. Don’t yell…
5) Enjoy your education in special subjects.
Having you around all day is an open invitation to your child to share with you everything about his latest obsession. My son’s is Mortal Kombat. Apparently I’m the good luck charm. He comes and sits next to me when he’s downloading new bonus features. He tells me all about the characters and their powers, their moves and their fatalities (lethal moves). There’s more, but honestly, a lot of the time when he’s going on and on about the game, I can see that his mouth is moving, and words are coming out, but I’m not really hearing anything.
If I sound kind of cranky, it’s because I am. My house is a mess, I haven’t eaten yet today, and I know I’m going to be up until the wee hours again tonight. Maybe a sandwich. I’ll check and see what kind of bread we’ve got…
I recently had the pleasure to speak with Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sree came to his position leading the Met’s digital media department in 2013 after teaching digital media for 21 years at Columbia University. When asked to describe what that transition has been like, he explained that it’s been an amazing couple of years, during which he started out knowing nothing, and by now he’s learned a lot. But don’t let that humility fool you. Recently named as one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People of 2015, Sree has made a tremendous impact as the first chief digital officer at this world renowned arts institution.
During the time that he’s been at the Met, the former dean and chief digital officer of Columbia has initiated some brilliant innovations, including placing all 2600 pieces of the museum’s audio guide on Soundcloud, developing a series of art tutorials with the Khan Academy, and partnering with Facebook on Place Tips, a new pilot app that brings localized information to users connecting to businesses through a dedicated beacon. In September of 2013, in the month after he began his new position, he launched Digital Underground, a blog that chronicles all of the digital activity at the Met and The Cloisters (its branch for medieval art and architecture located in upper Manhattan).
Sree describes his position at the Met as running, “… a 70-person startup inside a 145-year-old company.” His department’s mission is to connect the physical, in-person experience of the museum to the digital, online world. One of their main challenges has been to help potential visitors get past the notion that the museum is an overwhelming place. By dispensing information in what he calls, “digestible chunks,” he’s been helping people to understand that the Met is a place where they can feel comfortable, and not have to see everything at once.
Another obstacle is that many people don’t know what they’re missing. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to the world’s largest baseball card collection outside Cooperstown – 30,000 cards! I did not know that. In fact, most people have no idea what’s happening at the museum. Says Sree, “We have to grab them by the lapels and tell them what we’re doing.”
In the larger exploration of how people are touching and engaging with his institution, Sree notes that the museum’s biggest competition is not another museum, but rather, “… Netflix, Candy Crush, life in 2015.” Indeed, how does one break through the layers of distraction inherent in modern living?
In tackling the process of overcoming all of these barriers to attendance, Sree and his team have been able to rely not only on the latest technologies of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also on more “old school” tools such as blogging, email, newsletters and podcasts. Perhaps this is because, as Sree suggests, new technology has made it easier to implement these older tools. In fact, the Met currently sends out over 55 million emails a year, they have now exceeded the one million mark on Twitter and, according to a study by the digital agency La Magnetica, have achieved the position of most influential museum on that platform. Clearly, the innovation here lies in a successful blending of old and new technologies.
“We can learn from anybody and everybody,” is a theme that runs through Sree’s entire approach to leading the digital activities of the museum. In the development of their newsletter, for example, they found inspiration at The Skimm, a kind of political Daily Candy geared towards millennial women. Operating in a global landscape as they do, the Met must also take into consideration a diverse, international audience. According to Sree, their largest source of incoming traffic is from China. Accordingly, the Met now has a presence on the microblogging platform, Weibo, the Chinese answer to Twitter.
In establishing a strong digital presence for the Met, Sree has had to consider that the institution actually comprises four locations, and this necessitates a unique way of working. There are the three physical locations, including the main building along 5th Avenue, The Cloisters and the Met Breuer, formerly the home of the Whitney Museum, which will open as a modern art outpost in 2016. Their fourth location is the digital Met, whose visitors Sree considers with the same care as their millions of physical visitors. How exciting is that?
For those of us who work on a smaller scale (um, that would be most of us), it’s heartening to learn that the same principles we use for promoting our events are the ones that Sree Sreenivasan applies in his highly influential role. Take for example Sree’s event pet peeves – these could have been voiced by almost any of us: “Sometimes I go to conferences and I’m disappointed to see that they’re not using hashtags properly, the invitations don’t have Twitter handles, the name tags don’t have Twitter handles – they’re not curating the conversation people are having in a smart way…” Best practices are best practices, after all…
One of the most exciting digital developments at the Met is the recent launching of The Artist Project, a series of 100+ videos featuring artists talking about the pieces of art at the museum that move and inspire them, followed by physical gatherings with the artists to discuss further. It features a diverse array of voices and perspectives, exemplifying the way in which the museum’s fourth location, under Sree’s leadership, has deepened and expanded its outreach. Currently being released 20 episodes at a time, the series even taps into the public’s current love of binge watching its favorite programs…
In his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sree Sreenivasan applies the best practices of the digital media world to one of the biggest art playgrounds on the planet. The challenge and the gift of his job can perhaps be best summed up by this simple statement of purpose: “I believe the future of everything is in storytelling, and I want to tell a million plus stories about our million plus pieces of art to a billion plus people. So that’s my goal.”
Don’t miss Sree Sreenivasan at techsytalkLIVE on August 14th. Tickets are still available HERE.
Event planners need to have excellent time management skills. When mapping out your time, you need to pay attention to specific event dates, ordering & confirmation deadlines and production timetables. Well, in the same way that you book out your calendar over the course of days, months and in some cases, years, you also need to pay attention to how you schedule your time within any given day.
During an event, your clients, sponsors, vendors and guests are all expecting you to run on schedule. In your work outside the event venue, you should be expecting the same of yourself. Managing your time in your daily work life will make you more efficient and productive, and leave you feeling more satisfied all around. Here are some basics to help keep you on track:
1) Be realistic.
We all have a to-do list a mile long. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started out my morning with the highest of hopes, only to end my day crying in frustration at all the things that didn’t get done. C’mon now… there’s only so much you can do in a given day. The reality is, some days are going to be more productive than others, and things usually take longer than you think. So why not take all of this into consideration and create a daily plan for yourself that doesn’t set you up for failure.
Start with the most important thing first. This may seem obvious, but the fact is, the most important thing is often the most daunting, the thing that takes the longest and the thing that causes us the most anxiety. It’s very easy to put it off and busy yourself with a lot of little tasks, saying, “Oh, I’ll just do this one little thing first.” Then, the next thing you know, the day is half over, you spent the morning on a bunch of little things that really could have waited, unexpected surprises crowd out your afternoon, and before you know it, your day is over and your most important task has gone undone.
Just do it. Do whatever you have to do to make yourself get it done. Afterwards, you will feel so relieved, it will make the rest of your day seem 100% lighter. I promise you, you’ll be so much more productive after that.
3) Schedule your day with time slots.
Once you have decided on your most important task of the day, give it more time than you think it requires. If you think it will take two hours, give it three. If you end up getting done early, great! We should all have such problems. When you schedule your day in this way, you’ll begin to see that your time is more limited than you thought. This will allow you to have more realistic expectations for your day and prevent the kind of frustration I described above.
4) Schedule your appointments in the field in bundles.
If you have to conduct site tours, meet with clients, caterers or tech people, try and limit all of these appointments to as few days in the week as possible. If they can all happen on one day, great! If not, try and schedule them close to each other so that you minimize your travel time as well as the interruptions to the other important work you need to do in the office.
5) Allow for personal time.
Remember, a happy event planner is a better event planner. Don’t forget to program in some time for self-care, family and friends. This is not optional! It’s essential to your mental and emotional health. By taking care of yourself and your loved ones, you are protecting your ability to successfully navigate through the inevitable unpredictability (can you say controlled chaos?) of this exciting life you have chosen.
Got any great time management tips you want to share? Let’s hear em!