The Sunday night session with the master negotiator Linda Potgieter was just what Chris Jones, who also interviewed her, promised it to be. A fast-paced, highly charged awesome session that – at least for me – pulled together nuggets of wisdom I’ve been picking up from other speakers as well. It was not, however, without some controversy, mostly involving red lipstick.
Linda, a South African image consultant, spoke to Chris (and us) about presenting our best selves in a time when a lot of our communication is moving online and our travel opportunities continue to be limited.
Chris decided to lead in with a set of questions and have Linda respond to them. Her responses showed how truly intertwined the topic is.
How do we present ourselves and how do we build confidence in this new paradigm where our communication might be limited to a video call – and how to take the opportunities this presents? How do we navigate the digital world in which geography is no longer an obstacle, but our reluctance to adapt to the new reality might be? Are we selling our script or our ability to meet the other party’s need? And how can we convey all that via a tiny window on someone’s computer? (Clean your lens, says Chris.)
To me, the take-away was:
- Every day is ‘choose’ day. As always, we live in interesting times. We can choose to see the situations we’re in as challenges or opportunities: the “opportunities people”, Linda feels, are fewer, so this could be a moment to shine. As she says: be the bold bright light on the hill.
- Courage is not confidence. Courage is an instinctive response we all have – just think of all those “I didn’t know I had it in me” moments – and there is always a call to us to be courageous. To build confidence, we must have courage to make mistakes. Many mistakes. Many of us – Linda included – have boldness when we first start out, but little confidence. Boldness, I suspect, wears off (mine certainly did!), and the trick might just be to keep the balance between courage and confidence until confidence – like excellence – becomes a habit.
- The opposite of fear is not courage, it is action. Creatives fear a lot: failure, success, criticism, not living up to our last project… The best way to tackle fear is by taking action. Action builds confidence.
- Self-esteem and self-confidence. Who are you, what are your values and beliefs? The old adage “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” remains as true as ever. To know your value, you must know what your non-negotiables are. These will help you value yourself and your work through career glitches, bad notes, a string of rejections. Self-esteem will help you find the right people for your project, and negotiate with them well: the best negotiators are those who listen a lot and ask a lot of questions. Knowing who you are and what you bring to the table will allow you to relax and really listen. This, in turn, will increase your self-confidence.
- Red lipstick and humility. Oh, the comments section during this part! Humility was quickly deciphered: approach every negotiation knowing how the project you have can best serve others. Be interested in how you can help people, not just how they can help you. Red lipstick, though, really got the comments going. There were those who agreed that red lipstick makes them feel empowered, those who would never wear it to meetings because it’s so sexualised, those who wear it without even thinking about it, those who never wear makeup. But through the presentation, and even more so during the Zoom Chat that followed immediately after, the essence of this suggestion became clear: find the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd – and the mosaic of faces on a Zoom call.
In addition to an awesome script, of course. That’s a non-negotiable.
Barbara Skubic is a screenwriter, playwright, dramaturg and translator who lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She was well on the way to get her first TV series into development – until the corona pandemic killed one of her storylines. She is currently working on fixing that. She’s interested in everything adventure, feminist, funny, Mediterranean and noir.