[quote style=”boxed”]Focus on your audience. The story (product, service, etc) exists to serve the audience, not the other way around.[/quote]
Monica McCarthy is the founder of Show & Tell, an online home with the purpose of inspiring people to find and share their own story. A former Broadway, television, and film actress, Monica is also an on-stage and on-camera public speaking coach, specializing in helping bloggers and entrepreneurs in creating engaging video content and stellar keynote speeches. Based in New York City, Monica has led a series of successful Get Unstuck workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and artists.
Monica McCarthy is currently writing the chapters of her own story by traveling (next stop: a one-way ticket to Thailand), writing, running, and meeting incredible people along the way.
What are you working on right now?
Eek! Well in addition to packing for a quasi last minute trip to Southeast Asia, I just re-launched monicamccarthy.net under the title of Show & Tell so I’m getting the word out about that. I’m continuing to expand my public speaking consulting business for people looking to ramp up their skills on camera and on stage.
I’m also currently putting together an online course for people looking to find and share their stories in whatever way they choose to express them. My bigger projects include curating a product that includes interviews with inspiring people who have found their voice and sharing their message with the world and creating an online class for people in the process of doing so.
Where did the idea for Show & Tell come from?
Show & Tell is the result of numerous iterations of my own journey into searching for purpose, expression, and inspiration. I love that technology has made it possible to share our stories with the masses. But I also noticed a sense of chaos and people scrambling to find their unique place in the process. Some people know how they want to express themselves but aren’t exactly sure of their message, and others know what they want to say but aren’t sure how they want to express it.
What does your typical day look like?
It doesn’t! Working from home or coffee shops, I admittedly don’t have much of a routine. But I do find I work best when I wake up around 7am, do a quick check in online followed by taking the dog out for a walk to get both of us some fresh air. Then the rest of the morning is prime writing time. If the weather is decent, I’ll break for a run in the park followed by lunch and then work on a project or have Skype calls with clients or brainstorming sessions over coffee. I’m a rather social person and I get antsy if I go too long without seeing friends, so happy hour time is generally a good “work break” for me. Then it’s back home for dinner I go and if I’m feeling it, I really enjoy getting in another writing session in the evening.
Although, then again, when I’m traveling or on set (I sometimes moonlight as a double for actresses on film/TV sets), that schedule goes completely out the window!
How do you bring ideas to life?
My head is in a constant state of chaos. I studied Theater, Religion, and Philosophy in college and I’m a big dreamer in general, so I’m one of those head-in-the-clouds people. The first step for me is generally putting those thoughts onto paper.
Then next step usually involves some light research (otherwise known as Googling) to see if the idea is being incorporated elsewhere, and if so, I brainstorm to see what I can contribute to the conversation.
Once I have a few pages of thoughts in one place I often ask a few trusted friends what they think of the idea since many of my ideas should really never see the light of day!
And then, if I feel like the connection is strong enough, I wing it. Failure doesn’t scare me nearly as much as regret, so I tend to throw myself into the mix and then fine tune and worry about the “hows” later.
The truth is, I’m very bad at doing the nitty gritty/nuts and bolts stuff so I have to really really feel connected to an idea to take it to the next level.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Um, I’m pretty horrible at knowing something is a trend until it’s already past. That’s why I’m shocked at myself for jumping onboard the trend of using more visuals online. With Instagram everyone can take compelling videos. iPhones shoot video in HD and editing systems like iMovie and the new Final Cut mean everyone can become a filmmaker. But even if you don’t want to create visual content, Pinterest (and it’s rise in popularity) means anyone can curate the work of others in a way that connects with to them.
I suppose I should also say “Location Independence” although I’ve always believed that’s a basic human right, rather than a “what’s hot now” thing.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Well, let’s start with the fact that I’ve worked in over 20 bars and restaurants in my lifetime. Plus, I’ve done more than my share of cater-waitering, hair shows, shoe shows, temping, and even a little retail.
In other words, I was an actor.
But it’s hard for me to pick a worst, because if I worked somewhere and really hated it, I’d leave. The life of a freelancer means not being tied to jobs in long-term contracts.
I’d say one of the hardest jobs I had was being an understudy for two leading roles in a Broadway play. As an understudy you never know when you’re going to go on, you have very little rehearsal time, and you know the audience would prefer to see the headliner instead of you. But it was also a terrific lesson in humility, patience, and paying close attention to details.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
How much time you got? I really had no plan when I started. Show & Tell has had almost as many iterations as I’ve had “day jobs” over the years. But overall, I’d say if I could start over again, I’d really focus on the content first, creating a community second, creating products third, and the design and other details last. I’m very visual and I tend to think in broad themes so I focused for far too long on the look of the site, taglines, etc.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The short answer to this question is that I constantly ask myself WHY I’m creating something, followed by asking myself WHOM am I helping? That’s why my site and focus has undergone so many changes. If I can’t come up with answers that make me excited to get out of bed in the morning, I know it’s time to revamp.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Focus on your audience. The story (product, service, etc) exists to serve the audience, not the other way around.
Tell us a secret.
Ooh I love secrets! Hmmmm Well, I’ve had a few people tell me I’m “fearless” and “not afraid” to put myself out there and try new things (which is a really nice way of saying they’re impressed I get back up again after continuously falling flat on my face). But I’m not brave at all! I can’t even watch scary movies. But I keep going along with the fear because I don’t like to lose. And if I let fear stop me from pursuing something I want, it’s defeated me already. And that makes me want to hit something. Just kidding. Sort of.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
I admit, I’m perhaps the least technologically gifted person you could ever encounter, so this is what I’ve got for you:
1. Pinterest. As a “visual” person I love that you can curate online “boards” ranging from your favorite books, to recipes you want to try, to places you want to add to your travel bucket list. Brilliant.
2. Hootsuite. I keep it simple and hootsuite is good for that. I don’t have numerous “lists” but having one or two helps me to make sure I’m not missing anything from my favorite peeps. Generally speaking, I try not to schedule my tweets (I love real time interaction) but when I need to, it’s a handy tool to have.
3. Instagram. What can I say? Instagram is the sole reason I’m upgrading my iPhone G3 to the iPhone 4Gs. The quality of the photos is top notch and the filters are stunning. I find this particularly useful since I prefer to travel with as little “stuff” as possible and bulking cameras weigh me down.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
This is a tough one. I do really really love the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, but I have a hunch most of your readers have already read it. So I’m going to go with End Malaria from Seth Godin’s Domino Project. The proceeds from the book go to a good cause and the manageable sound bites from 62 top writers and entrepreneurs prove inspiring and helpful themselves. I’m a fan of tasting menus and End Malaria offers a similar affect.
What’s on your playlist?
This is tricky, as it completely depends on my mood/activity.
For writing and daydreaming: Adele, Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Sarah Bareilles, or… wait for it… Celtic Women.
For drinking a glass of wine: Frank Sinatra, Manu Chau, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and on occasion, Bob Dylan
For dancing around my living room: anything and everything 80s
For everything else, musical theater, my first love.
If you weren’t working on Show & Tell what would you be doing?
I’m sure everyone you interview says this, but I love what I do! Writing, creating, developing, and helping people share their story is pretty great.
But I also love performing and I wouldn’t mind taking dance, singing, and acting classes again. In fact, I love classes in general, so we should throw painting, art history, foreign languages, and classical studies into the mix while we’re at it.
Oh, and I want to get my pilot’s license.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. @legalnomads Jodi is the smartest person I know. I don’t watch CNN anymore, I just follow her tweets.
2. @brainpicker I don’t know how Maria does it, but she finds articles that are so damn interesting. I particularly enjoy the humanities/arts related finds, but everyone can find something to be inspired by.
3.@Sarahkpeck Reading her tweets is like reading a nicer, smarter version of myself. (Check out Sarah Peck’s IdeaMensch interview)
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Laughing is usually a daily if not hourly occurrence for me. I even got kicked out of class one for “laughing too much.” (Note: I have an exceptionally annoying yet somehow infectious laugh… it’s a cross between Woody Wood Pecker and Snow White.). But the last time I laughed out loud was last night when my 40-pound dog, Kenya, in her usual manner, thought she was a cat and tried to curl up above my head on my pillow. She’s the best.
Who is your hero?
Wow such a great question. My hero isn’t a person as much as it is a type of person. I look up to anyone who takes risks in the face of adversity in the hopes of making the world a better place for having been part of it.
Oh, and friends who come to my rescue when I have questions about technology
What’s your greatest hope for Show & Tell?
I’m a bit of an inspiration junkie so my greatest hope is that I can help inspire other people to live their best life possible, to find their voice, and to share their story. Everyday I’m reminded that everyone has a story worth telling, even if they don’t know it yet!
What is your greatest fear?
In one word? Mediocrity. All of us only have one chance on this earth (at least that we are aware of) so why are so many people afraid to make tough choices, to want more, and to take risks? Since when did failing stop anyone from accomplishing anything great? I don’t understand where this desire for people to accept a ho-hum existence came from, but it makes want to weep for humanity. This fear of the mediocre forces me to continuously question myself, whether that means quitting acting, calling off my wedding, or heading off to Southeast Asia with no itinerary except discovery.