About: Consulting

Along with doing graphic design and illustration work, I can also help you with outlining some of your marketing strategy and your brand, help you plan events, help you become a better public speaker, or help you work out your creative process.

Pricing:  All of these are custom quoted services and would begin with a phone or Skype interview to address your needs. Generally, consulting like this is $50 an hour for consultation work via phone or Skype. For extremely small not-for-profits, volunteer groups, or new authors, I’m willing to reduce that rate to $25 an hour on a limited basis. To bring me into your organization to teach workshops or facilitate group sessions we can negotiate travel fees and a day rate. I’m also available to teach workshops on any of these topics at a conference or networking event.

Public Speaking and Workshop Facilitation Consulting
Many people are afraid of public speaking, including a lot of authors. Plus, most authors don’t realize this, but sitting and reading a passage from their book at a book signing is one of the least engaging things they can do. We can talk about ways you can improve your public speaking abilities in a way that’s natural for you and that builds on your own natural charisma. Even if you don’t think you are charismatic, trust me–it’s there. We can also explore how to facilitate a workshop or presentation in a way that is more engaging than a reading from a book, and that takes some pressure off you as a speaker. It might seem paradoxical, but one of the secrets is to get your group talking by asking questions.

In addition, we can talk through some of the challenges that derail a lot of new facilitators. What do you do when an audience member keeps interrupting you? How do you manage a workshop or talk at a noisy bookstore? What do you do when you forget what to say?

Leadership, Communication, and Creativity Consulting
Maybe you run a small not-for-profit organization or an artist collective. Or maybe you’re responsible for a team of people at a large corporation and you’re expected to innovate. Eventually you’ll find that group dynamics start sucking away the creativity and effectiveness of the group. Communication begins to fail, people get disgruntled, and the work of your team suffers.

Sometimes it can help to have a fresh perspective looking at the dynamics from the outside that are causing communication problems, or that are leading to difficulties with your group’s ability to create and work. We can talk one-on-one via Skype or Hangout to explore the challenges you’re facing and I can help identify some of the core problems. Or, I can come in person to offer workshops on creativity or leadership, or I can offer a facilitated session to explore the underlying issues and work out the kinks in your team’s process.

I’m not your typical corporate consultant. My specialty is working with grassroots groups, especially volunteer groups, that face challenges getting things done. Volunteers, unlike employees, don’t need to be there–they aren’t getting paid, they are there on their own willingness. So we’ll explore techniques that work with how real humans behave, not what a stuffy management training book or class would teach. We can work with a number of different brainstorming and other techniques to explore group processes, problem solving, and innovation. We can also work with nontraditional ways to help your group including the science of sound, meditation techniques like breathwork, or visual brainstorming and artmaking.

It might sound ridiculous, but I’ve seen a group collage save a team!

Marketing and Branding
Before you start designing printed materials and web site banners, you need to understand your marketing goals and your brand. Or perhaps you’ve been publishing for a while and you’ve noticed that all of your design materials and covers are a little mismatched and there isn’t a cohesive vision. We can take a step back to uncover your strategic goals and work those into a marketing strategy that will help bring all of your designed materials into alignment.

I can also offer workshops on marketing, branding, and graphic design for your group or at your conference.

Usability and User Experience Design
If you’ve already got a web site, or if you have a web designer, I strongly encourage you to not just look at the visual design but also look at the usability. Usability is part of the interactive design of a website. It’s ensuring that people can easily figure things out and that they don’t get frustrated on your site. One challenge that many designers and programmers have when creating a site is they begin to forget that the user doesn’t intuitively understand how everything works just because they do. A quick usability review for a small web site can help determine a number of problems including poorly labeled navigation, copy that is too long, unfocused upsells, and more. Often simplifying a web site makes it not only easier for your users to figure out what to do, but also easier for you to maintain.

If you’re creating a more complicated web site, usability work is even more crucial, and might require techniques like usability testing to observe people using your web site to determine where the sticking points are.

Event Planning Assistance
If you are looking to do an event in Chicagoland or in the surrounding states, I may be able to help you book a venue or manage a full event for you on-site. If you write urban fantasy and you want to organize a costume masquerade ball as a book launch, or if you write nonfiction and you’d like to organize a small grassroots conference with other authors in your field, I can help you with that.

However, I can also simply help you to understand the event planning process so that your book launch, reading, workshop, or other speaking engagement goes more smoothly. Typically this would begin with a Skype or Google Hangout where we talk about what you’re looking to do, and then we can discuss any areas you need help with. That might be how to approach bookstores, how to book a venue, planning through the flow of an event, working with challenges in the rented space, or how do you even approach feeding snacks to a hundred people; Bob’s gluten-free, Sarah’s lactose intolerant, Fred’s allergic to peanuts, and Joan is diabetic.

We can also discuss how to prevent–and also deal with–disasters. Your guest speaker doesn’t show up, your catered lunch arrives late, or the fire alarm goes off…all of these are things that can happen at events but don’t need to spell the end of your event.

Art Installations and Themed Events
Sometimes you want something really unique at your event. You want something that will evoke something deeper inside of people, that will make them think, or offer them a memorable experience.Art installations, performance pieces, or themed events can be a great way to do this, and they do not have to break your budget. I have done some interesting installations that featured mythic stories, reproducing Star Wars scenery, and of course, working with fire. Installations can often include an interactive component in the form of performers, or in the form of participants engaging in tactile activities.

My specialty with installations and events is transformative art, meaning that the experience is transformative in some way. Or, if you want to use the word magic, I can create the sense of a magical, immersive environment.

Imagine we’re at a book launch party for a fantasy book. There are people wandering the room dressed as characters from the series and there’s themed food. Everyone is having a great time.

To one side is an ivy-draped Faerie bower. There is a large fountain pouring water and it’s glowing somehow from within. There’s a soft music playing, a droning along with a soft drum beat. Someone stands next to the fountain; she’s draped in a flowing silk garment but you can make out that she’s one of the characters from the story. “What is your magic?” she asks you. “Will you choose a single stone from this ancient well to claim your power?”

You notice that inside the glowing well there are smooth glass pebbles, and you choose one. In another corner of the room, there is another Faerie bower. This bower is draped in scarlet fabric, and within it there is a fire burning in a metal bowl. There is  music here too, but the drumming is faster, the sound more intense. Another silk-draped character stands by the fire. “What keeps you from your magic? What is the story you tell that must be burned? What fear must go into the fire?”

You recall the ritual from the author’s last book where the hero had to cast away their fear by burning something into the fire. The Faerie holds a small twist of paper above the flame and it lights and flashes, burning to powder in an instant. He hands you a twist of paper. “Will you become the hero you always knew you could be?” You hold the paper above the fire and, like his, it burns in a flash as you release it.

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