3 Attention Activators to stop being an artist bore and get instant interest instead

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

I wanted to reach over and shout, ‘stop being so DULL!’. But she just kept me showing one picture after another.

The artist was clearly talented. I liked her work, and she wanted me to commission her, but she was making one huge mistake.

The huge mistake that creatives make

She thought that her work was enough.

Wrong. Wrong. If it’s just the work, I have SO much choice. So many good creatives out there.

She needed to stand out in a different way. To show me why SHE was the one I wanted to work with – with all her uniqueness, thinking and personality.

Why you need Attention Activators

To get any kind of work, you have to engage with the other person. Whether it’s a magazine editor looking at your portfolio, a publisher considering your book, an art fair buyer looking at a painting, the thing that will make the difference is whether you can connect directly with them. It’s true in person, on your website or on social media.

I’m going to show you exactly how to do that, using the three Attention Activators that will transform what you say and write about your work.

Why your work needs YOU

People will generally start off being in a state of passive watching or listening. Your job is to change that, so that they’re in a state of being:

  • curious
  • excited
  • puzzled
  • entertained

Because without that… well…

Yep. Boring. Sorry.

And that means the sale, the commission or the job doesn’t have your name on it.

How to stand out from every other creative

But Joanna, you say, my work does that. Maybe. But if you rely on that, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build the personal connection that makes me choose not just a piece of art, but you.

So what do you do?

You could train up a troupe of dancing leopards to announce your entry. You could pose, purple-painted and naked, on a street corner, or show me selfies of you jamming with Bob Dylan.

OR you could steal this super-easy way of introducing your work in a way that:

COMPELS people to listen

DEMANDS them to ask questions

CONVINCES them what you stand for and why you’re the must-have person to commission or work with.

Now the brilliant thing is that this works in any situation.

This works online. This works in person. This is brilliant for social media posts.

And, crucially, this differentiates you from EVERYONE else, because only you can do it.

The Three Attention Activators and how to use them

Activator 1. A story

Stories are the most fundamental way we relate to each other. They’ve the most primitive and effective way to conveying information, creating emotion and be memorable.

Activator 2. Sensory detail

When you add specific detail to your story, the picture in my mind becomes richer and richer. Rather than just being A happened, then B, I have pictures that become more and more compelling. Use visual details, sound, texture or taste. The right words are hugely powerful here.

Activator 3. An emotion

Sharing an emotion makes you relatable and much more likeable, and it also brings the other person into that same emotion. If you’re excited, so I am. If you tell me you’re feeling terrible, I start to feel down too. Use that knowledge to show yourself in the way you want to be seen.

What the average (boring) creative says

Let’s be honest, these are all pretty typical of things you probably see on your Facebook feed or hear from friends All The Time.

“Here’s a book cover I made for a client last year.”

“Here are some new earrings I’ve added to my range.”

“Here’s my latest track”

How to Active Attention for everyone

We’re going to add some magic: story, detail and emotion.

Old version:
“Here’s a book cover I made for a client last year.”
New version:

“Here’s a cover for a thriller I did last year that I was really proud of. She’s a new author, so they wanted a distinct feel that they could make her own. Her style is very dark chick-lit, so I gave it some bright, candy-type colours, but made it much edgier and more threatening with the typefaces.”


Hey, that’s so much better, no?

You’ve just shown me you can think intelligently and interestingly about a creative brief and explain in a non technical way why and how it works. You’ve demonstrated that you really engage with your work and take pride in it. YAY. The job’s almost yours already.

Old version:

“Here are some new earrings I’ve added to my range.”

New version:

“The idea for these earrings grew out of a range I’ve been doing for the past few years, but I started experimenting with different types of recycled materials, as that’s really important to me. I found a kind of stone used in Victorian costume jewellery works particularly well – it’s so vivid, and and the slightly matt silver texture brings out the colours better than anything else I’ve found.”

GEN-I-US. In a few words, you’ve told me about your values and that you’re about more than just appearance – I want to get to know you more! You sound interesting and persistent, and I’m intrigued by your journey to end up with the Victorian stones – where do you find them? Do you cut them? It makes me look closely at how the two textures work together, and yes, now you point it out, I can see how vibrant the colours are. In fact, they’d probably go perfectly with that top I bought last week….

Old version:

“Here’s my latest track”

New version:

“Here’s a track I created from from background music for a documentary by two filmmakers about education in inner-city Australia. There’s a scene where the kids are playing bullroarers – it’s an Aboriginal instrument that I found amazing, so I decided to use it in the music, and that’s what you can hear as a kind of low whirr going on. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I was so pleased that I turned it into a standalone track. My son can’t stop himself dancing to it!”

Smart. I can’t wait to listen. I’m really curious to know what it sounds like, and what you did with it, and I’m intrigued that it started off as film music. I can almost feel my feet beginning to move already, and you sound enthusiastic and open-minded. H’m, I reckon you might be perfect a project I’ve got in mind. Can I tell you about it?

Your next step?

Go over NOW to your website or social media page, and share something with STORY, DETAIL and EMOTION in it. Share the link in the comments!

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