Nina G, stand up comedian, author, Disability advocate and professional speaker is happy to announce her new collaboration with the National Stuttering Association (NSA), an organization that empowers people who stutter and builds community.
Every six months Nina chooses a new organization to donate a portion of her professional speaking fees to worthy nonprofit organizations. The organizations Nina chooses will also be featured on her social media outlets to increase their visibility . The first organization selected was YO! Disabled and proud. Yo! connects, organizes and educates youth with disabilities ages 16-28 throughout California. Nina raised hundreds of dollars for the organization in the six months collaborated with YO! She now turns her attention to the NSA.
The NSA, founded in 1977, is the largest support group organization in the world for people who stutter. It provides peer-facilitated chapter meetings that provide self-help, support, and education for those who stutter–as well as for those interested in stuttering. Nina’s relationship started with the NSA, when it was the National Stuttering Project, when she was in high school. One late night, while watching TV, she saw an advertisement for an organization of people who stuttered. Nina contacted the organization and began to volunteer. She discovered that it was ok to stutter. Her way of speaking was validated by others who were like her and successful adults. After taking a 15 year break from the NSA, Nina attended the 2008 conference in Arizona where she again discovered how much her stuttering was impacting her life. It wasn’t because of the speech itself but because of her own issues about how she saw herself. The conference was a catalyst for making changes in her life. Within six months after the conference, she began doing stand up comedy, a childhood dream that she never thought she would achieve because of her speech.
Nina adds “at the NSA conference in 2008 I saw myself reflected in the people who attended. Beautiful, smart, and amazing people. I knew then that I was holding myself back. I wasn’t talking as much as I wanted to because I was trying to make others comfortable with my speech. I thought, “why am I holding myself back in social situations when I would not want this for others? That is when I started to think about doing stand up and have been doing it steadily for the past six years”
From December to July, Nina will be donating a portion of the proceeds from her speaking engagements to the NSA for the scholarship program that sponsors people who stutter and families to come to the the annual conference (2016 is in Atlanta).
Follow Nina for more information:
Facebook Fan Page: Facebook.com/ninagcomedian
Twitter: @ninagcomedian (occasional adult content)
Youtube: NinaGcomic (some adult content)
Nina G will be presenting a guide for producing Disability related events at the session titled “Going Beyond Inspirations and Simulations” on October 5, 2015 at the California Postsecondary Education and Disability Conference. This post is an adjunct to the presentation (so no need to take comprehensive notes because much of it is here!).
Planning an event but not sure where to start or what to do? Take a look at this guide intended for colleges wanting to educate their communities on disability issues. Even if you are not at a college or you are producing non-Disability related events, this information can still be useful.
As a stand up comedian who stutters, people make a lot of assumptions about me. Fluent people think I am brave for public speaking. After doing a presentation at a library (before my days as a comedian), a woman came up to me and said, “you are such an inspiration. If I talked like you, I wouldn’t talk at all.” With experiences like this, how do you not turn to comedy?!
People who stutter assume something else about me. They assume that I am totally free of stuttering fear, shame, frustration and whatever else we feel when we talk. It is as if I am immune because I tell dick jokes in a dive bar at midnight (which is much of what you do as a stand up). For those who think I stutter through life without the stutter bug (the feelings we attach to stuttering) catching me, I am writing this for you.
Let me start the story backwards (dyslexic style). This was the night that I won the Killer Laughs Comedy Competition against all odds. It wasn’t against all odds because I stutter. It was against all odds because I was the very first comedian of the line up and the first comedian the line up in a competition NEVER wins. With this in mind, I decided to do something different. My parents were suppose to be in the audience to support me and event more importantly, VOTE for me. Of course, they were late as they often times are.
Since I figured I wasn’t going to win I decided to get back at my parents for something they did to me when I was eleven years old. When I was a kid I won a joke telling contest on the radio that was judged by San Francisco comedy legend Will Durst. The prize was seeing him at The Other Cafe, a legendary comedy club that closed in the early 1990s. I was a really big comedy nerd so I was way excited about going to my first comedy club, especially based off of my own joke. I won’t mention that the joke was one I stole from Pee Wee Herman from his appearance on Letterman (“I don’t know his name, but his face rings a bell”). We lived in San Leandro about 45 minutes away from the Haight Ashbury where the club was located. Of course, we were late. We drove by the club and saw through the corner window that the show was already underway. My parents decided not to go to the show because they were afraid the comedians would make fun of them for being late. I started crying and we ended up going to see the movie Innerspace. Martin Short would have to be my Will Durst substitute.
As shows I usually stick to my scripted jokes, but I decided not to that night at the competition. Instead, knowing that my parents were in the parking lot and on their way in during my set, I explained to the audience how they robbed me of my first comedy club experience. That was when I asked a room full of people to turn around when I said “hi mom and dad” and then turn around to stare and boo my parents. I made sure to tell the audience that I knew I wasn’t going to win anyways because I was up first.
At the end of the competition I came in first place. I then went for 4 or 5 more rounds, beating out 120 comedians and ended up winning the whole damn thing (and I didn’t even bring an audience). To all the comedians reading this who are saying to themselves, “your not that funny and competitions don’t mean anything,” you can go F’ yourselves. I still won.
So that explains the end of the night. Now let me tell you about the beginning of the night.
I carpooled to the competition with a car full of my good comedy friends who I would be competing against. Apparently my car was clean that night because five of us were able to fit into my jeep. Feeling the need for caffeine to get myself through the show, I decided to stop by the McDonalds on the way to the competition. Before ordering my “large diet coke” I asked everyone in the car if they wanted anything. They all denied my offer to order for them and I followed up with, “are you sure?” They assured me that I was the only one ordering. After I ordered my “large diet coke” my friends started barking out orders, “order me a Fillet-o-fish.” “Get me a Big Mac with cheese and a Sprit.” I literally froze. I couldn’t do it! I signaled for my friend in the front row to order and rolled down the backseat windows to yell out their order. Afterwards my friends were pretty astonished that I couldn’t place the order, making the observation that I could talk in front of hundreds of people but could not place an order to a fast food worker. And I was like, “I stutter, we don’t always do drive-thrus.”
What happened was I felt a lack of control when orders were being barked out at me. When I am on stage, I have the mic and usually I am the one in control. I say what I want. My friends had no idea that requesting a Fillet-O-Fish would make me throw in the towel at a drive in. So many times we, as people who stutter, blame ourselves for not living up to perceived expectations. I think we internalize the expectations that we need to be fixed and talk like everyone else. Even if we stutter openly, many of us put pressure on ourselves that we need to be self-accepting and courageous at all times no matter what. People perceive my ability to talk in front of hundreds of people as a evidence that I stutter confidently and without stigma 24/7. How would this be possible when we are socialized in the world we are socialized in? We aren’t always going to be able live up to others or ourselves and we need to be kind to ourselves. Sometimes asking our significant other to order the pepperoni pizza after a long day at work isn’t a stuttering sin and a sign of our lack of pride or self-acceptance. If you stutter, awesome and if you want to sit one out, it doesn’t mean you’re lesser than anyone else. Stutter with as much pride as you can but on your terms and no else’s. And if you are ever in a car with me, know that I will throw my Diet Coke at you if make me order a F’n Fillet-O-Fish.
This post is the third in a series to help guide you in planning your next college or community event. I will reference Disability awareness because that is where I have most of my experience, but the tips can work for any event. Please feel free to share your own marketing tips by commenting at the end of this post.
1. Make the event “A Thing”
Sometimes community events are held in the basement of a church or library at a time when no one will want to come, It is your responsibility as the promotor of an event to make the event cool. Include music, wine, food or whatever is needed to build an ambiance. Be sure to include a photographer to take photos so that they can be included on your website post event. People will share them on Facebook and that is when people will say, “I wish I knew about this event :(.” Building a brand that your event is for “cool people doing cool things” will help to build an audience. In all your marketing materials advertise that refreshments and music will play before the entertainment or speaker begins.
2. Make your event accessible and advertise that it will be accessible to everyone
When I say accessible I don’t mean a couple spaces in the back row in case a wheelchair user happens to come by. I mean really consider access for everyone including interpreters for the Deaf, captioning, integrated seating, and other basic Disability accommodations. For Disability Awareness events this is essential because they should be held to a higher standard and model what accessibility looks like for an event. Once you have these things in place, advertise this to communities who might be interested. It is nice to not have to think about an interpreter because you already know the event will be accessible. Remember, if you build it they will come.
Video from San Francisco’s Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park.
3. Invite Big Shots
Something I learned from corporate events is to invite big shots. At corporate events, CEOs and vice presidents because people want to be seen by people in authority and perhaps rub elbows with those who might promote them. Colleges and community based organizations should learn from this. Inviting the president of the college to introduce your school event will ensure that some people come, especially if you advertise their participation it in your marketing. I did my one person show for an independent living center and the president of the local community college was invited to introduce me. It was amazing to me that he would show such support to the Disability community! It made the school look supportive of students plus it brought in people from the school to the event. Inviting mayors, community leaders, etc… can help to increase interest and legitimize your event. Plus it can be an awesome opportunity to get the media involved if the person is high profile.
Video: I hosted the 25th Anniversary of the ADA for the City and County of San Francisco where I introduced the mayor. Every time the mayor speaks it is filmed and posted online so the celebration lives on.
4. Collaborate across departments or community agencies
Sometimes including too many partners in an event can be difficult to navigate. Taking in everyone’s opinion and preferences can be time consuming, but there are benefits. Having different entities cosponsor events can cut costs or add benefits. Asking a local winery if they would donate wine or offer it at cost can a swanky element to your event. Plusnaming them as a sponsor in marketing materials is great advertising for the winery. Community agencies can partner with you by assisting in outreach. The value of an email list of people who are the exact demographic you are looking for is worth more than free wine! In colleges, it is important to have events co-sponsored by different departments because you need as many people as possible to be invested. If your Disability awareness event is sponsored by the Disabled Student Programs and Services office as well as student life, student government and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, then you have three times the audience to pool from and promote to. Plus, regarding Disability events, I think it is important for the event not to be ghettoized. Students with disabilities are EVERYONE’S students and represent multiple ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. Every department should see themselves as having a stake in all students, not just one office.
5. Do a good job on your flyer
This seems obvious but it is vital in outreach! If you work at a college, use your schools graphic artist to create an effective flyer. If you work at a community agency, see who in your agency might be able to assist in the creation of marketing materials. Some entertainers may have a flyer that can be used or modified for your event. For my one person show, Going Beyond Inspirational, I hired a graphic artist who did an awesome flyer with a professional photograph. If the speaker or entertainer you are hiring for your event already has a flyer, then use their materials and be sure to ask them if they have these kinds of resources for you to build on.
6. Using press releases to promote your event
Press releases help to promote your event and depending on what kind you write, you will use them in different ways. Some press releases are basic who, what, where and when kind of information. Some of your organizations will prefer this style. Some press releases, and the ones I have had the most success with, are the ones that read like a web-based article. They can be easily adapted to news websites to produce content. If you work at an institution that has a marketing component, it is important for you to work with them and attempt to have your press release posted on the school or organizations website as well as news wires.
I have personally worked with Valerie Branch for my press releases, especially for the opening of my one person show. She helped me to develop my ideas and then she emailed it to websites who list events or who might be interested in featuring a story about me. Additionally, we were able to get the press release on to California Newswire which then multiplied like a wet gremlin. It was soon adapted to over 10 websites and was even featured on CBS’s San Francisco site under the title Meet ‘America’s Only Female Stuttering Stand Up Comedian’.
You can get a lot of mileage out of a well written and promoted press release. Know what you will want to convey to your audience and the uniqueness of your event.
7. Promote here, there and everywhere!
Social media is a free and SOMETIMES effective way to promote your events. Here is a list of ways you might use social media:
Establish a Facebook invite and invite your friends and encourage others to do the same.
Give updates on your invite page and your organizations Facebook site. These can include selfies taken at committee meetings, posting flyers, and whatever else might be a fun and engaging way to involve people in the event.
Posting or tweeting out the press release or other articles where the event is featured.
Consider a #hashtag to help promote the event. This might include a challenge to the community you are trying to appeal to. What about the “disability awareness challenge” where students commit to ways to educate their college community and increase access? Hashtagging will help to raise awareness to your event through additional marketing you might do.
Create videos about your event. These might be interviews or movie trailer style videos which can then be shared on social media.
Remember that it just isn’t you who should be posting! What other departments or partners could be assisting in this process?
There are plenty of ways to promote online and usually the best way to do it is to ask the advice of someone 25 years old or younger (so remember to engage all communities who might be a resource for your event).
8. Use invite sites to track the number of attendees and email them updates
Websites like event bright can help to track who is planning to attend. Eventbrite is free if your event is free. If your event is free it is still important to get your audience to commit to attending. Plus it will give you an idea of how many attendees to plan for. You can then email attendees to remind them of the event or to give them updates. It will help build anticipation and you will have an email marketing list for future events.
9. What are local opportunities for promotion?
If you have a compelling event that is open to the public, then why not let the local news affiliates know about it? Getting a spot on the morning news show or drive time radio can elevate visibility to the general population. Plus it is great public outreach for your organization or event! If you would like your entertainer or speaker to do this kind of promotion, you should discuss this upfront. Some may request additional funds for their time, others will be happy for a radio or TV appearance. For college campuses, the school newspaper and radio station can be a great way to promote.
Video from Good Day Sacramento:
10. Explore nontraditional ways to promote your event
What if the library featured books and films on your topic as a partnership to promote your event? Maybe the Lyon’s club would like to hear about your event? It is important to see who your resources are and utilize them. Make the most out of your contacts and see how you can plug in your event. Perhaps it is with a local museum, high school or rotary club. Explore all your options and keep an open mind. Involve the local or college library to feature disability related displays (books, videos, equipment etc) in the weeks leading up to your event.
After years of friendship and informal collaboration, I am happy to announce the official partnership between myself and Michelle Hernandez, PhD.. Dr. Hernandez and I have worked on projects and done presentations together in the past, but this is official! We will hit the road for joint presentations where we will candidly address apparent and nonapparent disability issues, the intersection of ethnicity, race and disability as well as practical advice on how to be an ally. To book myself and Dr. Hernandez contact me at http://www.NinaGcomedian.com.
About Dr. Hernandez
Michelle Hernandez, PhD., received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in 2011. As a Latina with a physical disability and a first generation college graduate, Michelle brings a witty and charming style to discussing real life topics such as culture, prejudice, and overcoming adversity in a discriminating society. Her presence and open mindedness brings a genuine liveliness to her speaking engagements.
Dr. Hernandez’ areas of specialty include physical disability, PTSD, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. She trains doctoral level students regarding the various aspects of disability, is passionate about disability advocacy, and is an inspirational public speaker. She is an Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation, and is currently the vice-chair of the Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities in Oakland, California.
College shows and lectures are super exciting! Having an artist, speaker, or comedian come to your campus can bring a new and oftentimes underrepresented perspective. Invited guests can bring new and vibrant ideas and help faculty and students alike to extend and apply ideas discussed in the classroom. There are some important things to consider when setting up a speaker or entertainer for your college. Whether you are a student, faculty or administrator there are always issues that will occur (systemic, political, etc….) and hopefully this blog post will help you avoid some of the speed bumps your might encounter.
As a comedian, keynote speaker on Disability and trainer I have presented to students, faculty and staff. I also have years of experiencing working in a college environment planning events and bringing in speakers. Needless to say I know challenges from the perspective of the speaker as well as the college representative. You will always have last minute problems come up, but it is best to have as many of these as possible taken care of as early as possible. Hopefully these tips will assist you in this process and help you to think through possible speed bumps to a successful presentation.
1. Plan ahead! I recommend that you plan your event at least 3 months in advance. You should consider the following in the initial stages:
-It sometimes seems that colleges are caught off guard by awareness months and celebrations. October may be approaching and someone asks, “why isn’t anything being planned for Disability Awareness month?” and you feel on the spot and may scurry to throw together an event. Take a look at your master calendar and plan out what events might be good to do and when. Personally I feel that every month should be Disability awareness month, as every month should be African American and women’s history month. Why should celebrating these communities be relegated to one week or month? Nonetheless, awareness months are great opportunities to introduce topics and celebrate communities that are not regularly reflected in the traditional academic curriculum.
-What is the objective of your event and what speaker will fit your needs?
-What speakers are a good match and what are their rates? Where do they live and what will travel costs be? You might want to see if there are events in your area that are bringing in a particular speaker. If you are on a limited budget, you might be able to pull a speaker or artist from a nearby event. You may have to compromise on the day that the speaker comes to your school but you might save on airfare.
-Make sure you have a contract once the speaker is confirmed. Check with your institution to see if they need a seperate contract or if the speaker’s/entertainer contract is sufficient.
-Remember to include lodging, in addition to transportation, into your budget. You should plan for the person to stay for two nights.
-Where will you have the event? Will it be in the theater arts building? Maybe in your largest lecture hall? Or your student union hall? Consider how many people are coming, because you don’t want the venue to be too big. If you get 50 people at your event, that is awesome, but it will look unsuccessful if there are 300 seats and everyone is spread out. So plan your space carefully!
-All students have a right to attend all functions. When school sponsored events are not accessible to all students, it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities. Make sure that your event planning addresses physical and communication access (interpreters for the Deaf). You should contact your office of accessibility for more information. Also plan on inclusive seating where the wheelchair accessible spaces are scattered throughout the audience.
2. Collaboration is the to getting different departments and people invested in the event.. The more groups you involve, then the more people will take notice that your event is happening. One warning! Too many cooks really can spoil the broth. You might want to pretty much have everything planned out and then ask people if they want to be involved. This can limit input. Also be clear about what partnering means for the other entities. Will they pay for the lodging of the speaker? Is it simply in name to get butts in the seats? Have an idea as venturing into the discussion. You might also want to invite the big shots to your event and even have them introduce your speaker. Sometimes people, for political reasons, want to be “seen” so why not be seen at your event!
3. Funding is always an issue but there are some creative ways to think about how to pay for the speaker/entertainer, lodging, airfare and food. I previously addressed this on my bog in the post titled: Funding Disability Awareness Events on your College Campus. The blog entry also applies to programs that are not Disability centered.
4. Working with the speaker or their agent can offer some challenges. Communication is key to a productive relationship. Be clear on what your expectations are including what kind of presentation you are looking for, whether or not the presenter can sell their swag (books, t-shirts, etc…) after the show, if a student volunteer is available to help with the sales as well as any outreach you would like the presenter to assist with. If your event is open to the general public, will the entertainer be expected to do an appearance on a local talk show. If this kind of outreach and marketing is expected, that should be included in the contract.
If you are working with a comedian, have a frank discussion on what your expectations are for language and content. I have jokes that I will do at a nightclub and an entire one person show I do for colleges and benefits with minimal adult language that has an Disability awareness component. Be sure that you consider what you want the entertainer to convey and what not to say and be clear about these expectations. Some comedians may not want to be confined by topics and language, so finding this out early is helpful to not waster your or their time.
5. Marketing and outreach is important to your event. I will be doing a separate blog post addressing marketing efforts (which I will eventually link here). You should consider all aspects of marketing including social media, press releases, flyers (signs and postcards) as well as advertising outside of the college community. Also, knowing what your objective for the event is, helps to focus these efforts. For example, if you want to outreach to diverse communities as a college, then advertising outside of the school is crucial.
6. Figure out the money part early! If you are paying the presenter through the student government association, the process is different compared to your office of multicultural affairs. Early on in the process figure out how everything from the presenter, to travel and to food will be paid for. How will the airplane or train be paid for? Will the presenter need to cover that themselves and then get reimbursed? Will the entertainment need a deposit to cover initial expenses? Who’s credit card will be used to pay for the hotel room? What is the process for ordering up a check to pay the presenter? Is an invoice needed to process the check? Most presenters write in their contract that the check will be given the day they have completed their work. Will this even be possible according to the system you are working with? Keep in mind also that different college departments might pay at different times. Student government maybe able to cut the check immediately, but the check from student life may need to be approved by the assistant to the dean and the dean. Make sure you know what this process is and realistically communicate it to your presenter.
You might want to ask local businesses for donations and sponsorships. Why not hit up Safeway for snacks or the local hotel for lodging? Make sure you know if there are any processes for accepting donations for events. Higher education has a way of complicating these processes, so make sure you know what you are getting into and how and if it needs to be processed officially.
Pulling off an event is exciting, anxiety provoking and rewarding. With the right planning you will do an awesome job! If you have other recommendations, please feel free to leave them here!!
Nina G, America’s only female stuttering stand up comedian, author and professional speaker. is happy to announce her new collaboration with YO! Disabled and Proud, a project of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers.
Every six months Nina will be choosing a new organization to donate a portion of her professional speaking fees as well as CD and book online sales to worthy nonprofit organizations. The organizations Nina chooses will also be featured on her social media outlets to increase their visibility . The first organization selected is YO! Disabled and proud. Yo! connects, organizes and educates youth with disabilities ages 16-28 throughout California. It provides leadership opportunities, training for community organizing, peer networks, internships and resource referrals.
Nina’s relationship started with Yo! many years ago when she was the keynote speaker for their Anti-Bullying Summit. She was impressed with Yo!’s emphasis on fostering activism and giving youth with disabilities a voice and leadership skills. Since then she has continued to collaborate with Yo!.
When she was ayoung person with learning disabilities and who stuttered, Nina wishes she had an organization like Yo!. In her one-woman show, Going Beyond Inspiration, Nina reflects on the need to give youth a voice, a voice that she didn’t have when being discriminated by her eighth grade teacher (see video here, warning: some naughty words).
“When I was a kid I was angry and sad because of how I was treated by others, especially teachers. I wish I had an outlet to learn advocacy skills and become an activist. Back in my day, youth were not presented with this option so I acted out. I would have been much more empowered if I had an organization like Yo! to develop my voice,” states Nina.
From July to December, Nina will be donating a portion of the proceeds from her speaking engagements as well as online sales of her book, Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities, and comedy album,Disabled Comedy Only by the Comedians with Disabilities Act. Disabled Comedy Only, released in May 2015,is the first ever comedy compilation album to feature exclusively comedians with disabilities. Nina is also planning a benefit show where 100% of the proceeds will go to Yo!