Friday, January 16, 2009

Teach Me, Don't Sell Me

In the business world, this is classic marketing advice: get bodies in the workshop seats by promising to reveal the secret of quick bucks, mete out just enough information to entice your mark, er listener, then close the deal with the sale: "Everything you need to know -- and more! -- is in my book/DVD/day-long retreat. Only $199. But wait! There's more!"

It's come to the art world in the last few years in the form of tele-seminars and workshops. And it's giving all of us a bad name.

I know I don't know everything-- in fact I hardly know anything at all. When it comes to art, I know where to get my instruction. When it comes to the business of art, I'm struggling. 

Daily I get three or four reminders to sign up for workshops or webinars or teleconferences that will "jump start my art," "connect to the best galleries" or teach me the "secret of selling to the best collectors." This year the hook is "how to survive a recession." 

Yeah, yeah.

Every once in a while, I bite. I'm still annoyed by an hour I wasted this week on a "preview webinar." The idea, of course, is to give the listener a taste of the full session and hope I'll pay for the full thing scheduled for a few days later. Apparently a lot did. I cannot imagine why.

First, I cannot stand "perky." The marketer of this session interrupted every few minutes to make her pitch. And she was WAY too perky. I'm sure somebody coached her to sound that way. It sounded fake and disingenuous.

But the part the really repelled me was the way the hour-long webinar was handled. THERE WAS NO INFORMATION GIVEN! Nothing. Oh sure, there were little tidbits tossed out, but those nuggets were followed by: "I really don't have time to explain it all here, but I'll get into depth on Tuesday night." I looked at my watch. We have 45 minutes left! So what she was really saying was "You're not paying for this so I'm not telling you." 

Instead of enticing me, I came away doubting whether this person really did have something useful to share. Honestly, I expected her next sentence to be: "This little bottle of Dr. Brown's Elixir will ignite your muse, clear your desk clutter, wash your studio floor and finish your taxes. Why, I even knew one little lady who sold paintings to five major Chelsea galleries after one little sip!"

Yep, I felt like I had spent an hour with a snake oil salesman. 

I'm not saying that all of these mass seminars are bad, but if someone is selling something at the end, the build up better be useful and practical.

Lots of artists teach. I do. I love teaching -- not as much as creating art, but teachers learn so much from the act of sharing.  Every time I lead a workshop or class, even if it's to 5 year olds, I come away with a new understanding of my medium -- and more ideas for new work. 

Sharing our knowledge with each other doesn't diminish us -- it enriches us. We don't have to share it for free -- my workshops cost money too -- but we don't have to sell something at the end, do we?

Teach me. Stop selling me stuff.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Good post. I agree.

These days, there's plenty of information for free on the Web. I think that if you spend enough time reading blogs written by people who do the same thing you do, you'll pull out bits and pieces of helpful information you can build on.

Good luck -- and keep blogging.

mira said...

Oh my goodness, I'm almost positive I listened to the same one hour preview . . . and came away with the same thoughts.

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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