midemblog: You first spoke at midem in January 2012. How did you get selected?
Bas Grasmayer: In the years leading up to midem 2012 I had been researching the music business for my thesis as part of my bachelor degree. What the advice to artists and labels in my thesis boils down to is to make use of what’s easily made abundant, to organise an ecosystem of enthusiastic fans around you and let them amplify you. After that, you can find opportunities monetise based on your connectedness with fans (read more here).
I think the potential of those findings is incredible, so I practice what I preach. I shared all of my findings freely, even though I knew my thesis could be turned into some paid download or whatever. With the attention I got through Twitter, but also by blogging in various places, I grew my reach and follower count and noticed one day that midem’s conference manager was following and retweeting me. 3 or 4 months later I was speaking at midem. I wrote about what happened to me, by applying the lessons from my thesis, here on the midem blog.
> How long did you spend preparing? What would you say was the most important part of your preparation?
I knew in October that I would be speaking there, so I spent a lot of time thinking how to condense 1.5 years of research into a 10 minute talk. I soon found out you can say a lot less in 10 minutes than you’d expect. The way I prepare is mostly in the mind… In university I’d keep projects in the back of my mind for a long time and then when the deadline was approaching, I’d just type out what my mind had already written. This doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t consider this a tip 😉
In the end, I hadn’t completed the presentation I was going to hold until the day before my talk. However I had a lot of meetings in the preceding days and in every meeting I’d discuss things surrounding the topic of my speech. Just through natural conversations, I found better ways to phrase certain things… When it was time to speak, I could just link all those fragments from all of those conversations together. It’s the ultimate preparation, because if you blackout or get stuck, you’ll know how to push through it.
> Are slides absolutely essential? If so, what key guidelines would you give?
It depends on your speaking experience. I hope to be a great orator and go on stage without notes or slides, but I’m a perfectionist and until I reach a level that satisfies me, I’ll use something visual as an aid. The key is not to let it distract from what you’re saying: keep text down to a minimum! If you’re not good at design: keep it simple. Do not lean on your slides. Respect your audience and know your story. Slides are just decoration.
> Were you nervous before going onstage? Any nerve-calming tips?
When I started my thesis I thought: if I pull this off well, then I’ll be able to find my way into the music biz, become a thought leader over time, and speak at midem a few years after finishing my thesis. I saw speaking at midem as a crown of recognition. But everything moved much faster. Suddenly I was there. I was super nervous. I was standing behind Paul Van Dyk at the registration desk queue. They moved my speech to a different timeslot which meant that Mark Ronson was now my ‘warm-up act’. Yikes.
I don’t have any nerve-calming tips. Nerves are normal, they keep you sharp. The only thing that will make them go away is to keep pushing yourself, but I don’t need to tell you that even the most experienced performers suffer from the occasional stage-fright. Most important: be passionate about what you do, know your shit, and know how to express it.
One warning: the adrenaline boost I got when going on stage completely blanked my mind. You go into performance mode, especially for the first minutes. Don’t expect to be able to think on your feet, so be prepared! If you’re inexperienced, speaking in front of a dark theatre room, while being blinded by the hot lights aimed at you is very different from speaking to a room where you can look everyone in the eyes.
> What has been the most surprising/pleasant consequence of your speaking at midem?
I can’t think of anything significant. I was actually surprised about people telling me that I didn’t look nervous while on stage. I’m happy to have touched a few great minds. Attention spikes are nice, but in the end you have to grow your personal brand and influence slowly and steadily.
It’s not about splashes, it’s about making dents that last.
Bas Grasmayer is a frequent contributor to midemblog. Read all his posts here.
Would you like to speak at midem? Are you under 30 and with an artistic, tech, music, marketing or research background? Our brand new “Speak at midem” competition is for you! Submit here before November 30, and you could find yourself speaking at Visionary Monday 2013. Good luck!