The other night I was at a fancy party feeling out of place.

For the first few moments I lurked on the sidelines hoping someone would deem me interesting enough to approach.

After waiting in vain, I struck up a conversation with a woman standing nearby. She quickly revealed an impressive personal and professional background.

“What about you?” she asked. “What do you do?”

This question was easy to answer. A lay-up. But a mix of energy from the party and fear of inadequacy made me blurt out instead.

“I’m a writer and I have a project I’m working on called Metalabel,” I gasped.

“What’s Metalabel?” she asked.

“A new space to release and collective creative work,” I answered too fast.

“Oh, okay,” the woman said, unsure. She kept looking at me, waiting for me to say more.

I felt overwhelmed by an impulse to get away from the conversation. “Well it’s nice to meet you,” I said, waving and wandering off, every atom of awkwardness clinging to my skin. I could feel how poorly that had gone.

Across the room I saw a famous woman who I’ve met a few times before. I walked over and said hello. She greeted me warmly, which made me feel less anxious. She responded to my questions about what she’s been up to, then asked me the same.

“What about you?” she said. “What are you doing these days?”

“I’m working on a project called Metalabel. It’s a new space for releasing and collecting creative work.”

Her eyes lifted in interest. I felt encouraged to continue.

“It’s a curated space where you can release work on your own or with other people. So far people are using it to sell zines, art, music — I even released an essay as a limited edition zip file. On every release you can automatically split the earnings between collaborators too.”

She responded that this sounded cool and like something she would use. We agreed to talk again.

Two conversations two minutes apart with night and day different outcomes. Largely based on context. The context of feeling more at-ease in one conversation versus the other, and the difference in context I provided when answering their questions.

In the first conversation I blurted out basic information without suggesting why it should matter. I provided facts but no feelings or bigger picture. The second conversation went differently because I shared context for why she should care.

I realized later that I provided this context in a structure that’s repeatable too. Let’s rewind the tape:

“Metalabel is a new space for releasing and collective creative work.”

First I offered an establishing statement. This first statement creates a frame of reference — ”new space,” “releasing,” “creative work” all place us in a certain zone. Like an establishing shot in a movie that sets the scene.

“We’ve made a curated space where you can release work on your own or with other people. So far people are using it to sell zines, art, and music.”

Next I shared specific details that gave a more practical shape to the first statement. The picture becomes more clear.

“I even released an essay as a limited edition zip file. On every release you can automatically split earnings between collaborators too.”

This closed with me sharing what’s new or unusual about it. I left a final impression of how this project is different or new from what they might know or expect.

When you bring these pieces together, you offer the right amount of context. The right amount of context is important. Too little and people won’t pay attention. Too much and people tune us out and walk away. 

Establishing Statement + Specific Details + What’s Novel = Your Context

Here’s a few examples of how this model might work for someone wanting to introduce themselves at a party:

  • "I’m a documentary filmmaker. I tell people’s stories using footage I find and a visual storytelling style I developed. My most recent movie played at the Toronto Film Festival.”
  • “I’m a painter. I make abstract oils on enormous canvases. The last painting I made was 30 feet across.”
  • “I’m a designer. I make websites that are kind of like art, but also have early internet vibes. I just finished a project where I collaborated with thirty other people to build something.”

Behind each of these hypothetical people is a bigger, richer story waiting to be discovered in conversation. Simple but intriguing introductions like these can create the space to find them. 

If you try using this model to describe a current or previous project, how does it feel? Does it roll more easily off the tongue? We’re down to be your sounding board. Respond to this message with your project expressed in this format. We’d love to hear more about it.