Category Archives: Writings

Don’t Congratulate Me, Yet

So, I have been receiving a lot of congratulations on my recent move from my regular full-time job to focusing on my own businesses full-time. I appreciate the sentiment, but I keep trying to tell people this is premature. Right now, we are still in the pre-revenue stage. We are living off the money we saved up to make this move. Congratulate me in a year when (if) we haven’t starved.

The good thing is, now I will have time to monetize it. We need to find sponsors and funders to pay for the events. I have no doubt that we will, but until we do, we are living on borrowed time (money). When we land some big sponsors and grants, when the big events start rolling with thousands of attendees, then it congratulations will be appropriate. Until then, we really appreciate your support and your good wishes, but don’t congratulate me, yet!

#SMCSFblog 26/30

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Art Basel Is Coming

Can you believe it? I am certainly not ready. Art Basel Miami Beach 2013, the biggest art week of the year, with dozens of huge art fairs, and hundreds of shows, parties, exhibitions and events, starts in just a few days! That is why I am a day late on this edition of the #SMCSFblog challenge. I have been hard at work on our Soul Of Miami Art Basel Roundup.

Of course, the ironic part is that, for the first time ever, Soul Of Miami will not be covering the official @ArtBasel. For the first time since event before the start of our site, we were not granted media credentials. We have promoted this show since their second year (our first year in Miami), but this year, they did not find Soul Of Miami to be “arty” enough.

In any case, there is way too much to do that week, anyway. Be sure to check out our massive Soul Of Miami Art Basel Guide. We do our best to include all the events, but even we miss a few. Also, start your #ArtBasel week off at the Life Is Art Award and Art Basel Welcome Party on December 2! Only $20 for tons of eventainment, food and drinks!

#SMCSFblog 25/30
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Happy Happy Joy Joy

So, for those of you who know me, you know I am not always the most positive person. My Facebook #LateNightRants are fairly (in)famous. I drunk rant on Twitter sometimes, also to much acclaim.

But, it is more than just being a lunatic on social media. I pretty much just tell it like it is. I try to keep it somewhat reserved, but if you ask me “How are you,” you may get more than you bargained for. If I have an event that sucks, or business is doing bad, or I am not feeling well, I don’t do very well at hiding that. I admit it. I even wrote a long description of my breakdown of a couple years ago.

Yet, I have been counseled, numerous times, to keep things on the bright side. If an event does not go as well as planned, keep a positive spin on it. Keep things positive. If things are not going good, put on a sunny smile, anyway. It is actually a common strategy and one that many, many people and businesses use. And if it works for them, great.

But, I don’t buy into that. I’m more into “keepin’ it rrreahh”. I like to be “representin'”. (Bonus points for identifying those quotes.) You know, life is what it is, sometimes good, sometimes bad. I think people appreciate it when you are more like a human and less like a billboard. I think that letting people know that things are not always sunshine and flowers lets them trust you more.

If all you ever do is accentuate the positive, even when things go wrong, how will people trust you? How will they know that you are not just leading them along? If all you ever say is good stuff, while hiding the bad, then people have no way to know whether you are being truthful at any given time.

People know I will tell it how it is. If things are going badly, they know I will tell them. That way, when I say things are going well, they can also know I am being straight-up. I guess this is what they call being genuine.

Of course, same issue applies in reverse, you don’t want to overdo it and be a negative-nanny or whiner, so just admit when things aren’t perfect, but don’t overdo it and complain all the time.

#SMCSFblog 24/30

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Hey World, Welcome to the New Miami!

It is time for the world to wake up and realize that Miami is different than it once was. Miami is now more than just beautiful beaches, awesome nightlife and rabid corruption (though we still do have all those things). Recently, the Miami New Times reported that the Huffington Post ranked Miami “Eighth Most Overrated Place in the World”. (Actually, pretty much the entire list is nonsense. Where would they like to visit?)

Of course, all they mention are the overpriced drinks, humidity and nightclubs. It is time for the world to wake up and realize Miami is much more than that. Just this week, we are in the midst of the Miami Book Fair International, one of the largest and oldest annual literary gatherings in the world. In a world of video games and social media, that is really something of which to be proud.

Following almost immediately on that, of course, is the Art Basel Miami Beach week of art. Thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world come to Miami to take part in the dozens of art fairs and shows. It has even far surpassed the original Art Basel in Basel.

Aside from our big cultural fairs and festivals, we have a growing arts and cultural establishment. The Adrienne Arsht Center has grown from the early days of empty seats to regularly sold-out shows, with some of the most prestigious companies passing through their doors, as well as a host of unique, alternative productions. The Perez Art Museum Miami (forever Miami Art Museum to me) is nearly finished with its spectacular new space. For those who have not seen the amazing renderings of the new Miami Science Museum, you really have to check them out. The HistoryMiami museum is taking over the old Miami Art Museum space in the Miami-Dade Cultural Center and will have greatly expanded exhibition and program space, including a theatre.

In addition to the big institutions, more and more arts and cultural groups are popping up all over. Life Is Art, Miami’s Independent Thinkers, YOMiami, Cannonball, Locust Projects and many others have started supporting the arts over the last decade or so (a few are a little older).

The tech scene is small, but growing. Places like MEC261 and LAB Miami are helping to bring the tech community together and provide resources. We have resource groups forming to help entrepreneurs find investors. The Beacon Council works diligently to court business big and small to move to Miami.

I will skip over our food scene due to time constraints, but suffice it to say, we have many excellent food choices, once you get your head out of the… tourist traps.

So Mr. and Mrs. HuffPo, and you, the rest of the world, yes, we do have amazing weather, beautiful beaches and some of the best nightlife in the world (stop being jealous), but we have much more than that and are growing every day. Come by and I will be happy to give you a tour.

23/30 #SMCSFblog
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Where Are You From?

People ask that all the time in Miami. Personally, I hate the question. I was born near Los Angeles because my parents met at college, far from both their hometowns. I lived in Seattle until I was 8 because my father was a professor at Puget Sound. Then my dad got a job in Dallas and I lived there for many years. But that is not where I am FROM.

Honestly, I do not care where you are from. I always ask, “What do you do?” Not, “what do you do for a living,” because that is often different. But, I often have to rephrase the question to, “What do you want to do?” The follow-up is inevitably, “Why are not doing that?” But that is a different story.

Anyway, where am I from? I usually feel like I am from nowhere. Or maybe everywhere. I am from Earth, in the Solar System. in the Milky Way Galaxy, in this Universe. What else matters?

I am definitely not from where I grew up. I have almost no family there, except the sister we left behind, and her husband and kids, and I have very little in common with the prevailing attitude of the area. I do still have some good friends back there, but most of those are not childhood friends, they are from high school or later. I definitely have no “hometown” affinity for where I happened to grow up. So, what is the point of “Where are you from?”

My mother’s family is midwestern, spread out across many states. When I go there, I do feel some affinity for the place. I can see the look in my maternal relatives, you can tell these are hardy midwestern stock, and they did survive some of those hardships you see in the movies or books. And I am proud to have their blood in my veins, I think it is what gives me a lot of my perseverence.

My father’s family is southern, though sometimes it is hard to tell (there is even an Echols county in Georgia that is named after my family line). The trail of my direct surname ancestors leads down the eastern seaboard starting in 1650. My grandfather moved to Everglades City in the 1930s from the Alabama/Georgia line, with seven of his female cousins. More Echols followed into Florida and now I have literally hundreds of second and third cousings/aunts/uncles all the way from Naples to Clewiston.

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So, you tell me where I am from. I do think salt water runs in my veins. I feel most at home in the Everglades, more than any other place I have been. I am definitely a water person and the ocean is one of my loves. But, even there I feel restless.

I think mostly, I am always keenly aware that I am, like every other being on the planet, stardust.

So, you ask me where I am from? I am from the stars, just like you.

22/30 #SMCSFblog

Commitment

I made this commitment to blog every day for November, and even on days like today, when I have already worked 15 hours, when I don’t have any inspiration for what to write about, when I am running behind, I am keeping with it. This is one of the most important keys to success. When you say you are going to do something, you do it, no matter what. So, I’m lying on the couch, dead dog tired, without a thought in my head, and blogging about not being able to blog. It still counts!

This is one thing I have noticed with many people, they do not have the commitment. They might have good ideas, they might even have great ideas, but I’ve said it before and I will say it again, ideas are worthless. Ideas are just words until they are put into action. And the action is worthless unless it has commitment and follow-through. So many people just give up when they find out their idea is harder than they thought. Nothing wrong with that, of course. We need people to sit in cubicles and do the grunt work. But, if you really want to be an independent success, you have to learn to commit.

So, even though this is just a personal challenge with no real penalties for giving up, here I am, about to fall asleep, typing out whatever comes into my brain because I am committed (or should be).

21/30 #SMCSFblog

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Life Is Art

Just thought I would share this little guy with you all. He’s a Green Heron who visited us during the River Walk Festival this past weekend. He was so good at posing, I had to shoot a few photos of him.

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And yes, this is actually why we named our organization.

20/30 #SMCSFblog

Toilet Paper

Toilet Paper. The answer to the question, “How do you tell you are at a poorly organized event?”

I have been to some bad events in my time. Recently, I have been to some really terrible events. It seems like we have an event-epidemic these days. I am not going to name names, so don’t bother to ask. Even if organizers are good intentioned and “doing their best”, if the event is poorly executed, it reflects badly on not just the organizers, but on other similar events. It brings everyone down. The more bad events that are produced, the more likely people will not attend future events, even if by a different organizer.

You guys know this is a pet-peeve of mine, that anyone who can pick up a phone and rent tents thinks they are an event producer. Event production takes careful planning and execution, and to create truly great events takes lots of experience and understanding of what the attendees want.

So, toilet paper. Toilet paper is one of those small things that makes a big difference. Running out of toilet paper is a huge no-no. Ladies, especially, hate it when there is no toilet paper, and when the ladies are in a bad mood, you know the gentlemen are, too. The thing about toilet paper is that this is so easy and cheap to fix, yet many inexperienced producers forget about it.

Sure, if you have a TON of money, you can rent massive stages and glorious tents, and make it look all pretty, but if you forget the toilet paper, this is a clear indication that you do not know what you are doing. It is like the canary in the coal mine. I can guarantee you that any event that runs short on toilet paper also has issues backstage. I would bet you that if you asked the performers or participants, they would tell you a horror story. Poor communication, bad marketing, disorganized execution, delayed payments, schedule running behind, all of those things are likely happening behind the scenes. There is no chance that an event producer who forgets toilet paper runs everything else smoothly, it is a clear indication of bad organization.

Now, so what? So, please stop supporting bad events. Buy continuing to buy tickets from the same bad organizers, you continue to encourage this bad behavior. There are so many bad events in Miami and the reason is that attendees have low standards. Raise your standards. So what if your favorite band is playing, they will be back soon. Spend your money with those who do a better job and soon either the bad producers will go away or learn their lesson, which improves the event scene for everyone. But, you have to raise your standards!

As more poor events are produced, more sponsors get burned by these producers, which means that they will be less likely to sponsor other events, even if my different organizers. This means less money for the good events and fewer good events. These bad events really do ruin it for everyone.

If you are one of those whose events ran out of toilet paper PLEASE GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS and let the ones doing a better job grow. You know who you are and you are making us all look bad. There are better ways to make a living and it does not matter how good your intentions are, if you are doing a bad job, you are hurting everyone.

19/30 #SMCSFblog

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How To Promote Your Event Part 1

I get this question a lot, so I figured I would share with everyone. The other day, I received an email that said, “What will be the best way to promote this event since you, of all people, knows best how to start the proceedings and communicate to the proper contacts for this event?” Here is what I answered (slightly edited for public consumption):

What you ask is a really in-depth question, but I will try to answer a bit briefly. We have spent the last several years going out to every event we could and networking, shaking hands, trading business cards and passing out flyers. Some nights we would hit five or more events. Through that we built up our network and name recognition. That is where you start (unless you have a giant marketing budget).

In terms of promoting any individual event, I use all the channels available: website, email, social media, personal connections, physical flyer distribution. There are at least two dozen online calendars in the area and numerous journalists who write about events. For larger events, radio is the first advertising media I choose, followed by print, then television. Billboards are also good. Having an advertising budget or being able to set up media sponsorships is very important for bigger events.

I find it very helpful to hire a professional and experienced PR management team. I think that is key. Hiring a professional PR team can really make the difference in news coverage, they have the connections and reputation with the reporters to make that happen. You will get much more coverage than just trying to reach out yourself. A good one will already know all the channels through which you can promote.

Sponsorship of similar style events is also a really good way to get your name out. That would place your name directly in front of the current attendees. Just make sure you are getting good value for your money when you choose who to sponsor.

We always print up physical flyers. Many people have given up on this form, but I think it is one of the keys to our success over others who have tried similar things and given up. Online stuff is nice, but there is nothing like a good piece of glossy paper in your hand to make the event seem more real.

Also, email advertising is still very powerful. Do not dismiss it in favor of just doing social media. Social media is important and should also be handled by someone trained and experienced in it, but email still have better conversion for events, in most cases.

You know, a lot of it really depends on what you are looking for and what your budget is. Do you have a program outline for the event?

I embellished a bit there, but that is essentially what I told them. Marketing is a big part of business, and this is something people do not always realize. Too many people subscribe to the “build it and they will come” theory and that just does not work. I have been to quite a number of larger events recently that were very lightly attended. Yes, you start with a quality product, but then you have to let the people know it is there. Once you have shown them that you can create something good, they will eventually show up. Eventually. Meaning the other part of the equation is persistance, but we’ll leave that to a future writing.

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Saturday in Review

This is a pretty standard weekend day for me these days. Pardon the quality on these photos, they are from the phone.

Of course, the first thing is always updating Soul Of Miami with new events and such. Never ending. Then onto working on our upcoming Life Is Art events. Finishing up details on the Arts and the Affordable Care Act seminar and working on promotions for our T-Shirt Award and Art Basel Welcome Party.

Far before I was ready, it was time to head out to cover as many of the events happening that day as possible. It seemed like every event we hit was just ending, but we still got some shots.

Started off at Downtown Miami Riverwalk Festival. It was very nice, but I did not even manage to get a phone photo. Was not even really all with it at that point.

Down to Coconut Grove for the Mad Hatter Arts Festival, a fun and funky festival put on by the artists of the Grove. It hearkens back to the good old days when Coconut Grove was a mecca for music and art. It was nearly over by the time we got there, but we did catch some nice music and get to chat with most of the artists.
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Off to the Miami Airport Convention Center for Sabor Peru. Again, got there just as it was ending, but we got to see a really cool traditional dance show.
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After that, we headed up to Fort Lauderdale. MAC Fine Art grand opening was the first stop. We loved them in Wynwood, and their new space is huge. Really nice event and some great artwork.
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We stopped by the FAT Village Art District. Of course, nearly everything was closed, but it looks like a really cool place. The Art Heart for Rwanda was still going and had some very interesting pieces.
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And our buddies from C&I Studios have added this super hip coffee shop / mixology bar, where we also got some great BBQ ribs!
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Finally, it was off to the Bar Stache 1920’s Drinking Den grand opening. I like this place a lot.
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Finally, back home. Now on Sunday, @thepumagirl is hard at work posting photos and I am back hard at work on the Life Is Art shows. Hoping to have time to update our woefully behind Art Basel Guide.

17/30 #SMCSFblog