Oh, The Place You’ll Go in 2016: The Seuss Museum, in Springfield, MA

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

In an effort to ensure no other city will claim Dr. Seuss for its own, Springfield Museums has announced it will create “the first museum dedicated to the life and legacy of (Springfield) city native Theodore Seuss Geisel.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 at the Quadrangle, precisely two blocks away from the real-life Mulberry Street, the site of Dr. Seuss’s very first picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The museum will also be only a few blocks from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Geisel’s stepdaughter, created bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, and Yertle the Turtle.

The new museum will feature all those characters and many more, and include a mural of an illustration from that first book, “which launched Geisel’s career as the most recognizable in children’s literature.” The first floor of the museum will open in 2016, and a second floor, which will include a “recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio,” is scheduled for completion the following year. The Springfield Museums has raised more than three million dollars toward the project, which includes “funds from donors, foundations and $1 million grant from the state.”

As WAMC-Radio reported, “The Dr. Seuss Museum will include interactive exhibits featuring the classic characters from the children’s books,” which “include references to many local landmarks.”

Like the hugely successful Eric Carle Museum not far away in Amherst, Massachusetts, the new Dr. Seuss Museum will promote both its namesake and children’s literacy overall. Dr. Seuss’s books are sold in 17 languages in 95 countries, making this development important for tourism and as a place to promote and cultivate a love of children’s literature. Museums officials, citing the worldwide popularity of Dr. Seuss, expect the new museum will result in a 25 percent increase in visits to the Quadrangle. They also believe it will help advance the cause of literacy in their community and beyond. In Springfield, currently “only 40 percent of the city’s public school students are proficient readers.” City officials hope to double that percentage over the next year by the time the new museum opens.

Springfield Museums President Holly Smith-Bové said at a meeting of the editorial board of the Republican, “With input from the Davis Foundation, educators from the Springfield public schools and Square One early childhood agency, the museum will also be a place where children can practice the basic reading skills including letter recognition, vocabulary and rhyming.”

This is important for all visitors, because, to quote another Dr. Seuss book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Libyan Antiquities Feared as Next ISIS Target

Leptis Magna, Libya

With the horrifying images still fresh from ISIS’s attacks last month on rare, precious artifacts and statuary in the Mosul museum, Newsweek is reporting that officials and experts around the world fear the antiquities of Libya are in imminent danger.

Stating that “ISIS holds an intolerance towards items that are deemed jahili (pre-Islamic) and antiquities that depict humans,” Dr. Hafed Walda, the pending deputy ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO, has said “Their eyes are on big museums which have fine collections of Greek and Roman sculptures…. This, coupled with the fact that ISIS’s power has grown substantially in Libya, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline, has brought the group closer to sites of historical significance.”

Among the sites cultural and government leaders believe are most vulnerable in Libya are the ancient Roman theatre, Leptis Magna, just outside of Tripoli; the coastal town of Sabratha, a former Phoenician trading post with the remains of an amphitheater, temples and a basilica; and the archaeological site of Cyrene, considered one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world. ISIS militants have also proclaimed the city of Misrata, which houses a museum, a Roman forum, and a great basilica, as one of their primary targets.

Issandr El Amrani, director for International Crisis Group’s North Africa Programme, doesn’t hold much hope for securing the “completely unprotected” sites. He says, “ISIS is driven to a large extent by doing things that have a propaganda value more than a practical military value so, yes, they could be tempted to [attack the sites], to create the narrative that they are fighting anything that is jahili.”

Responding to the wreckage in Mosul, Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology Lamia al-Gailani Werr said in an interview with Reuters that “the militants had wreaked untold damage” and that at stake was “not only Iraq’s heritage; it’s the whole world’s.” She and others have compared the devastation to the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban.

Other militant groups have done the same over the centuries, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis in Germany, and many more. As has happened many times before, the motives are shock value, undermining the cultural identity and heritage of others and, more practically, for the monetary gain of the terrorizing group, selling what has been pillaged on the international black market.

According to National Geographic, “Experts outside of Iraq are now engaged in remote triage, watching the footage frame by frame and trying to create a list of the real artifacts that were destroyed.”

Those on the ground in Libya and who watch from around the world say it will take a massive joint effort to head off future violence. Newsweek Reporter Jack Moore concluded:

“As the North African country continues its slide into chaos, becoming a magnet for foreign fighters, and an embryonic extension of ISIS’s caliphate, there seems to be little hope for Libya’s cultural legacy. […] In the aftermath of the Mosul attack, UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova told a press conference that the UN’s cultural body ‘does not have an army’ and ‘there is not much we can do’ to prevent the looting and damage of antiquities in war-torn areas. But, for Libya, Dr. Walda disagrees with Bokova, proposing tough security measures as a solution to protect his country’s rich history. ‘We have to fortify the museums,’ he says.”

Experts, including Al-Gailani Werr, concur, saying, “This as a cultural tragedy with a global impact. These things are part of the history of humanity. If you destroy them, you’re destroying the history of everyone.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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End of an Era: NYC’s Last Store to Sell Classical Sheet Music Closes

Frank Music

Frank Music Company is the latest brick-and-mortar music store to bow to the pressure of online competition. Store owner Heidi Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that Frank Music had been struggling for years and that she’d gone from “seeing 15 to 20 people per day to seeing two or three” as music “became readily available online.”

The store, which opened in 1937, has been a place where musicians, composers, singers, educators, students and music lovers young and old would shop and also have a chance to meet, socialize, and get answers and ideas from staff and from each other. Ms. Rogers, who bought the store in 1978, said while there are other places that carry classical sheet music, including the Julliard School’s bookstore at Lincoln Center, Frank Music is the “last store in the city dedicated to selling classical sheet music.” According to theJournal, the store’s celebrity clients included pianists Emanuel Ax and Jeremy Denk, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pamela Frank, and cellist David Finckel. Readers commenting on the WSJ Frank Music story reflected on its closing as a loss of a city landmark, a social gathering place and a trusted venue.

Last June, the Washington Post similarly announced that Dale Music, the D.C.-area’s last sheet music store, would be shuttered after 64 years. And a few months before that report, Naomi Lewin, host of New York City’s classical music station WQXR, reported the closing of the iconic J&R Records, after 43 years, saying it had “gone the way of Tower Records, HMV, Virgin Megastore, Sam Goody and other brick-and-mortar shops that used to make New York City a music superstore haven.”

There’s been great concern about decline in audience for classical music recording and performance. Last month, Slipped Disc, a site that reports on classical music and related culture, somberly quoted Neilsen Soundscan data saying “only one classical record—The Ultimate Bocelli—sold more than 350 copies” in that previous week. However, it’s worth noting that Slipped Disc itself reports having site traffic of more than a million visitors, so arguably there’s substantial audience to be had.

But sustaining a brick-and-mortar store is particularly difficult these days, as evinced by the struggles faced by the book, music, and other industries to compete on many fronts with digital giants like Amazon, specialty websites, and the myriad free sources of music and literature that seem to spring up at every turn.

Ms. Rogers told CBS 1010 WINS Radio’s Al Jones that consumers are “voting with their dollars or their lack of dollars, and the only thing I wish is that Amazon would go bust.” Unfortunately for other Manhattan retailers who may wish the same, they may soon have added competition on the ground if Amazon proceeds with plans for their own brick-and-mortar store in midtown.

But for Frank Music, which is closing tomorrow, the finale will consist of sending the store’s remaining stock of “hundreds of thousands of scores” via a gift from an anonymous donor to the Colburn School, a music conservatory in Los Angeles.

So, like the community center it once was, the remains of Frank Music will be redeployed for the public good.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Changing the Landscape of Theater Education: Pig Iron Theater and UArts

©Pig Iron Theatre

©Pig Iron Theatre

Breaking the fourth wall in theater education, the University of the Arts’ Ira Brind School of Theater Arts will bring avant-garde theater inside the ivory tower. Beginning this fall, the university’s faculty will work side-by-side with company members of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre to challenge and train graduate students to push traditional boundaries in performance to hone a new generation of “theatrical innovators.”

The partnership will create two new degrees at the University of the Arts: a Master of Fine Arts and a Certificate in “Pig Iron School’s Devised Performance program.” Poised to “change the landscape of theater education,” according to Broadway World, the MFA and Certificate programs will be under the direction of Pig Iron’s cofounder Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, within the UArts Ira Brind School of Theater Arts led by Joanna Settle.

“This partnership breaks down the traditional boundaries of a theater education to create a program that is adept at serving the current landscape of performance,” said Settle, director of the Ira Brind School. Students will train alongside award-winning faculty, who are artistic practitioners and educators.

Settle believes devised performance represents the future of theater. Devised theater has been gaining momentum globally. It draws “from the collective inspiration of the group, not from a script written by a singular playwright, and performances are not confined by the boundaries of the stage, but often occur in found or public spaces.”

“If you’re a theater student or professional theater practitioner, this is pretty big news,” reported PhiladelphiaMagazine. “From an artistic standpoint, the new program is a win-win: Pig Iron’s current program will be accentuated by professors and additional coursework at UArts.” As Bauriedel told Philadelphia:

“We are thrilled about this partnership because the curriculum as we’ve designed it and as we’ve taught it will remain intact. The core of the program is the same and the faculty will not change. Now, students who want to earn an MFA will spend 2 years in the studio with the certificate students, training to become theatre practitioners. MFA students will take additional courses at UArts: they’ll study visual art practice and music theory; they’ll learn an instrument and will study theatre pedagogy. MFA students will also stay for an additional semester (making the MFA a 2.5 year or 5 semester program), during which time they’ll stretch their learning toward full-length original works, site-specific pieces, [and] collaborations with visual artists, composers and choreographers. They will also have the opportunity to partner with a community organization to test the meaning of devised performance beyond the conventional spectator/performer relationship.”

Founded in 1995, Pig Iron Theatre Company has been lauded internationally. The New York Times called them “one of the few groups successfully taking theater in new directions.” In 2011, the ensemble created their diploma program, Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. The program trains artists in physical theater rooted in Lecoq pedagogy and ensemble theater practice.

Established in 1876, the University of the Arts is one of the only U.S. universities dedicated solely to educating students in the visual and performing arts, design and writing. In January 2014, noted director Joanna Settle was brought in to lead the Brind School, and the program has evolved quickly under her leadership.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Art and Trauma: The Soldier Art Workshop

©Art Therapy Alliance

©Art Therapy Alliance

Art may not be the first therapeutic tool that comes to mind when treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has proven to be effective and is being used in a number of places to help returning soldiers. In El Paso, a new collaborative project called the Soldier Art Workshop Program will be launched by the El Paso Art Association in March. The volunteer effort brings local artists together with area soldiers and their families and is designed to teach art to the soldiers as they “make the transition to normal military and family life after deployment.” Twelve workshops will be held at the El Paso Museum of Art and the Fort Bliss Family Center over the course of a year. They will focus on visual arts, including oil and watercolor painting, mixed-media encaustics, and digital photography.

Arts organizations participating in the Soldier Art Workshop Program include the El Paso Museum of Art, Plein Air Painters of El Paso, the Pastel Society of El Paso, and Rio Bravo Watercolorists. Military sponsorship has been provided by Ft. Bliss MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation), the Warrior Transition Battalion, and the Ready & Resilience Center. Among the El Paso artist volunteers are Jan Wisbrun Dreher, Krystyna Robbins, Julie Caffee-Cruz, Nina Walker, Ben Avant, Pat Olchefski-Winston, Darrell McGahhey, Jimmie Bemont, Ron Fritsch, Melinda Etzold, and Rami Scully.

These artists are in good company in using art with returning soldiers. A National Geographic cover story this month, “How Art Heals the Wounds of War” by Andrea Stone, reported on an art therapy program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which had soldiers making masks revealing an aspect of their experience. Melissa Walker, an art therapist who works with veterans at Walter Reed, said the program started in 2010 to help returning injured service men and women. “We needed to look for additional types of treatment,” Walker said. “At the time, I’m not so sure people understood the impact it would have, (but after) a very short time, it became clear [they] were taking to art therapy.”

Jackie Biggs, a 2013 masters graduate from George Washington University’s Columbian College Art Therapy Program, was given a National Endowment for the Arts grant to “integrate art therapy into treatment for active-duty military patients at Fort Belvoir,” one of the first in the country to focus on the area of art therapy for trauma victims. That treatment has now become a standard component of the hospital’s patient/soldier protocol. Biggs believes it’s been effective because “this is a group that tends to internalize their trauma; they hope it will go away if they don’t talk about it.” But swallowing trauma like that can lead to depression, abuse, or suicide, whereas art therapy can “give them a voice when words aren’t there.”

Another program that has received national recognition is Operation Oak Tree, run by the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) in Chicago. Operation Oak Tree utilizes art therapy and the creative arts to help military families from the time of pre-mobilization and deployment through reintegration. It gained the attention of Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden when it was part of a presentation made in June where Dr. Biden was touring to promote an initiative she’s promoting with First Lady Michelle Obama to mobilize all sectors of society to give members of the armed forces and their families opportunities and support.

The new El Paso program has the potential to serve as an affordable model in this vein because it encourages the local arts community to serve as a conduit for supporting soldiers and their families at a very difficult time.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Innovation in Education? Bridge International’s Academy-in-a-Box

For six years, an innovator in charter school education has moved quickly to educate some of the world’s poorest children – for less per month than it costs to buy a Venti Frappuccino. Bridge International, a Silicon Valley startup with aggressive goals, has just had its founders named Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by The World Economic Forum for its innovation and success in educating children in Kenya. The company, which now boasts the “largest chain of private schools in Africa,” according to Izzy Best reporting for CNBC,” is poised to enter three more African countries this year.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102361103#

“The first Bridge International Academy opened in 2009 using a “school-in-a-box” franchise model. The objective, says Best, was to give “children a quality education for roughly $5 a month, beginning with early childhood development classes through 8th grade.” Now, founders Jay Kimmelman and his wife, Dr. May Shannon Kimmelman, have established more than 350 locations with more than 100,000 pupils in Kenya and have received significant recognition for Bridge International, which was named one of the 25 Most Audatious Companies by Inc. Magazine in 2014.

Supported by big name investors, including Bill Gates and Pierre Omidyar, the company looks to provide quality schooling to children living in extreme poverty. According to The World Bank, Best reports, “one billion people will live in extreme poverty in 2015, while 2.2 billion people live on less than $2 a day…For many who live in developing economies, this means that access to good schools remains elusive, as the effects of poor education limits employment opportunities and increases inequality for women. Bridge International seeks to remedy this problem with a low-cost educational model.”

Bridge International has achieved this by using technology, including tablets and smartphones to run curricula and administration packaged in their program. They have standardized the lesson plans and put them on a timed system where their teachers are delivering proscribed lesson plans at exactly the same time using the tablets. Administrative tasks, including tracking teacher scheduling and subsequent evaluation is included, so they can be sure their “Academic Masters,” as teachers are called are delivering the program as expected.

“What we’ve done is taken a systems approach and looking at all the parts of the educational process and say, ‘What parts do you need to deliver world-class quality education, but at a price point that a customer is getting an experience that you’d get at any great school anywhere in the world?’ ” Best quotes  Kimmelman as saying.

Today, Best reports, “more than 100,000 students are enrolled at nearly 350 Bridge schools, all in Kenya. They are staffed with approximately 4,500 teachers who leverage technology and use digital devices to deliver class lessons created by education specialists. Student evaluations are electronically tracked and monitored by school administrators.” The Kimmelman’s intend to expand the program soon into India, Uganda and Nigeria.

According to the company’s website, they “invested large sums of capital in research, development, technology, and curriculum before even the first pupil was admitted,” to achieve “efficiencies both in terms of the overhead costs required to run an academy and in terms of increasing the….The vast majority of non-instructional activities that an Academy Manager would normally have to deal with are all automated and centralized through a combination of our Academy Manager’s smartphone application and our Teachers’ tablet application.  This frees our Academy Manager to focus on the critical work that must be executed locally – overseeing classroom instruction and building and managing relationships with parents and the local community.”

Their scripted curriculum delivered via tablet has “step-by-step instructions explaining what teachers should do and say during any given moment of a class.”

Terrance Ross, reporting in October in The Atlantic on what the Kimmelmans had achieved with Bridge International said, a report by the World Bank indicated in contrast that only “35 percent of Kenya’s public school teachers showed “mastery of the curriculum they teach….Previous attempts to solve this problem have been expensive, and ineffective.”  According to the same report, he said: “The government spends more than any of its neighbors. There’s a disconnect between Kenya’s spending on education and learning outcomes. More of the same is not enough….This is where Bridge has found its niche: somewhere between the exorbitantly expensive private schools and the absentee-ridden public ones.”

According to Ross, “So far, it’s been working: Bridge’s students score an average of 35 percent higher on core reading skills and 19 percent higher in math than their peers in neighboring schools. But not everyone is on board. Kate Redman, a communications and advocacy specialist for UNESCO’s Education For All initiative, isn’t convinced by Bridge’s long-term prospects.

“Redman also warns against Bridge and other private schools for potentially “imposing external cultural values” on the country. While private schools can help, it can be a slippery slope as well—the onus should remain on public schools to keep improving.”

Others have questioned Bridge International’s formulaic approach. Jason Beaubien, NPR’s Global Health and Development Correspondent for “Marketplace,” described this way, “Their business model takes the franchise model of Mcdonalds; merges it with a tablet computer’s efficiency at delivering information; automates daily operations through a smartphone and then plunks the final product down in a third world slum for $5 a month.”

His segment included comment from  Ed Gragert, the U.S. director of the Global Campaign for Education, who said, “If somebody suggested that kind of an educational model, in this country they would be laughed out of the educational community,” which advocates for increased access to education in the developing world. “That’s not how kids learn best,” he says. “Kids learn by interacting with each other. It seems like we are going back for the sake of somebody making a profit to where a robot could teach that class.”

Bridge International’s May Kimmelman disagreed saying the company had a different view of their teachers. She emphasized the company is working to “solve one of the biggest problems facing the poorest of the poor — the lack of access to decent education.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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How to Market When the Product is You

“Without Promotion Something Terrible Happens…Nothing”   –P.T. Barnum

Marketing yourself is one of the biggest challenges creative people face. No matter how much help you get from your agent, well-meaning relatives or friends; the person you need to get squarely on your side is you.

While there are notable exceptions, those P.T. Barnum types who have no problem being their own best ad man; the greater majority find it easier to promote virtually anyone and anything else, than to trumpet their own work and accomplishments. I’ve found the same with arts organizations, much more so than in dealing with business and industry. I think the reason is due to the intimacy you have with what you’re promoting.

Take for example tech or service companies that have a new product or training program they believe will be useful. They can talk about capabilities, improvements in quality and increased productivity; how they can improve what’s being done. That’s much easier to quantify in terms of ROI.

When the product is more personal – how much someone will enjoy your artwork, game or book; experience a concert or new play; what you’re promising is quite different. It’s subjective. And knowing that is what stops the creative business person in his or her tracks – because they want to deliver what they promise.

What to do? Once you get past your initial inclination — pulling covers over your head (not at all effective), wishing someone else will do marketing for you (costly and only works well when you’re prepared to be fully engaged), hoping you’ll get discovered and duly rewarded for your hard-earned talent (wonderful when that happens on its own, but not a waiting game most can afford to play), you need to find a good, practical solution.

The answer lies between knowing what inspires you and what makes you mad. If you’re devoted to the creative life, you’ve chosen to forgo what others might have advised would be a safer path. Revenue’s not guaranteed, there’s not defined career ladder, and you don’t know how what you’re creating today will be received when it’s eventually brought to market.

It’s the strength of your passion about what you’re creating and the belief others should want it that must motivate you to succeed. Beyond that, what’s crucial is a clear understanding of what’s distinctly marketable and knowing what to do to advance your product or cause.

It can be helpful to get mad –“How dare they not see that they should buy this?!” Then it’s good to step back and look at what may be missing in your approach. How can you be clearer, add value, convey excitement? What’s worked in the past to get you to buy or commit?

Marketability is unique to each situation. Ask yourself, does this advance a trend? Is it a departure from the norm, a new technique, require a particular mix of talents, or offer an audience new ways to engage? Ask yourself which elements are primary and what drives you to go back to your work again and again to do better? That’s how you’ll find the key elements.

Then look at tools and techniques you can use. Start in your comfort zone then expand from there. Outline possible strategies and make a case for how what you’d like to do is best suited to advance your goals. Now, go back to your publishers, promoters and friends. Ask what they suggest. Try several ideas out, reassess and decide what’s working well and what may need to be changed.

Keep your ego out of it as much as possible. It’s not about being accepted or rejected; it’s whether you’ve found the right message and techniques to convey what you believe in to your potential audience. If you believe you have something worth sharing, this is not sleight of hand; it’s acting on the strength of conviction that you wouldn’t be investing so much time and talent, unless you believe you have something of real value to impart. Success is both in doing the work well and in finding those who want to be part of the experience you can offer.

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The Art of the Pitch

14 Art of pitch

Pitching well is tough whether you’re on the mound or in the board room. It takes focus, concentration and a lot of practice. Pitching in a business setting is challenging because you’re expected to deliver your message in a succinct, meaningful way and your pitch time can easily be cut short if you aren’t well-prepared. No wonder that this type of selling can produce performance anxiety much the same as public speaking, which is known to be a top fear for many people.

Learning to pitch effectively is well worth the effort and the secrets to doing it well, not surprisingly, lie with research and preparation. But other factors can impact your success, and it’s important to understand pitching as a form of performance and engagement as well as sales.

First, think about whom your audience is and the time you’re likely to have. These days, almost inevitably, time will be short. Think about the setting you’ll be in. Will it be a person’s office, a conference room, or a booth on a convention floor? What potential interruptions or distractions might there be? Will you have access to the set ups and equipment you might want to use in your presentation? In terms of content, ask yourself what you have to offer that will engage and interest the person or people you’re talking to. Consider what you can you do to make your presentation to them memorable both audibly and visually. Do your research well in advance so you can 1) make sure you’re talking with the right people, 2) know their concerns and possible objections, and 3) come equipped with a way to present that you’re comfortable with and is appropriate to the setting.

Know too that despite the fact that we’re constantly being told that everything is about storytelling, pitching well is about having interaction that’s designed to draw out meaningful information. It’s like a first date – you want to introduce yourself, but also get to know the other person to see if your styles and interests will mesh. As with dating, being nervous is okay and showing that you genuinely care about the other person will go a long way. Courtesy – being punctual, respectful of the time being given to you and staying focused on what their objectives are – is imperative as is honesty and a willingness to walk away, if you find it’s not a good fit.

Be prepared to keep the first meeting brief and to the point, and don’t be “pitchy.” Think beforehand about you can offer and what the obstacles might be. The most common are cost, whether the person has decision-making authority, if needs are likely to be met, and time commitment.

Don’t make the mistake of turning someone off by coming on too strong. These days engagement is expected to be a two-way street with both parties having equal chance to provide input. Customization and personalization are of great value. Use what you’ve prepared as a jumping off point for meaningful conversation rather than keeping to a script, but still keep in mind the information you need to remember to convey. Decide ahead of time what you’d like to take away from the conversation, let the person know how you’d like to follow up and, when you do, consider whether there’s anything else you can provide them by way of thanks – which can be information, a connection, or suggestions based on your conversation.

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Trends to Watch as Gen Z Comes of Age

Gen z

Now that we’ve hit the end of the generational alphabet with Generation Z (mid-1990s-present), we’re in the midst of courting a group born and cultivated with more market savvy than any who preceded them. Forrester Research has found them to be “demanding consumers” exposed to many brand choices. And, compared with their parents and grandparents, they are proving to be more resistant to persuasion and fully expect to have a say in the evolution of products they consume. Further, they’re digitally savvy, constantly connected and experience driven. They’re also looking for ultra-personalization in their buying choices and in how they connect with marketers and companies.

A study published by the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, http://bit.ly/1iRLUh7, found four trends likely to characterize Generation Z as consumers: 1) a focus on innovation, 2) an insistence on convenience, 3) an underlying desire for security, and 4) a tendency toward escapism.

It’s interesting to view these in light of trends recently discussed by Randi Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, at Vocus’s Demand Success conference. Engagement, innovation, and crowd-sourcing were all highly touted by Zuckerberg as critical components to successful marketing in today’s competitive environment. Author and illustrator groups might want to take a turn at what companies like Google and Facebook have done with their hackathon initiatives – where employees are encouraged to take time every few months to stay up overnight, brainstorm and try out new concepts with the group based, not on what employees do in their day jobs, but on their individual passions. Zuckerberg said that at Facebook, many of their most interesting innovations had been conceived in that environment.

Per Gen Z’s second priority, we’re certainly seeing consuming made increasingly convenient and customizable. Purchasing today has much less to do with physical location or availability than with discoverability of products and services. Online shopping has prompted a massive shift, and now we’re hearing about almost instantaneous gratification, with the imminent package delivery by drones (which Zuckerberg believes is something we’ll see from Amazon in the next couple of years), and with 3-D printing of virtually anything you can imagine – and some I hadn’t – from designed-on-you clothing to printed spaghetti and pancakes to (and apparently China is working on this) 3-D printed homes you can live in. This ties-in with Gen Z’s desire for convenience and for products that have been personalized for them, so be prepared to have your customers want to engage more and more in the products they purchase.

Fun and engagement are also paramount to this group, and that’s where gamification fits in – and is prepared to be part of every minute of our daily lives. Having trouble waking up to catch your next flight? Snooze is an alarm clock app that pledges $0.25 of your own money to charity every time you hit the snooze button. Want to visually capture a day in your life as an artist to share with your fans?  The Narrative Clip is a new wearable device that can take and store a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Wondering where your dog or cat goes when he vanishes out of site? Tagg or Tractive, which use GPS technology, give you the chance to virtually “ride along” with your pet as they prowl the neighborhood – good perhaps for authors overcoming writer’s block on that next animal fantasy story. And for sci-fi, it’s hard to imagine what’s next when there’s so much technology we couldn’t have even imagined five or ten years ago cropping up all around us — and which will be the reality for Gen Z. Next up, in the generational nomenclature – a group some are beginning to call Generation Alpha. Terrified to think what that may indicate when we meet them as consumers.

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