Yes, this inappropriate quote from Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady does have some relevance to today's thought.
As I was teaching a water aerobics class at the friendly, neighborhood YMCA last weekend, I was giving instructions as I always do: use a full extension under water; lift your knees high to create resistance; make sure you lean forward and tuck in your glutes to avoid straining your back; really pull and engage your abs; be sure to put your heels down on the pool bottom to avoid calf pain; etc.
Well, at one point towards the end of the class, a little Eliza crept into my careful and consciencious instructions to the class. This phrase slipped out: "Tuck in your ass..."
Gasp! Shock! Dismay! Giggles!
So I paused, shook my head, grinned, and continued, "Tuck in those glutes..." and finished the class.
I bring this up because of an idea I was sharing with a client earlier today. So many people fear presentations and public speaking because they're afraid they'll say the wrong thing and look foolish. OK, maybe. So what? Everyone makes a mistake now and then, and most audiences are much more forgiving that you think.
The idea is communication, not perfection.
I've seen "perfect" presentations that were dull as dirt and completely ineffective. I've also seen presentations in which the Internet connection didn't work; the TV went out; the presenter pulled a "move yer bloomin' arse!" or stumbled for words, but which were incredibly successful because the point was still communicated and NO ONE CARED about the small mixups.
The idea is communication, not perfection.
"Where does one go to upgrade the voices in one's head?"
This is my favorite quote from the one-act play performed at the Estonian House last night. Now that was a challenging piece of theater to watch. It broke so many rules that I just had to sit back and enjoy it. I mean, yeah, the plot was confusing and disjointed--because it was supposed to be, and I loved it! Stellar acting in a truly challenging piece--you'd really have to think like an insane person or maybe an idiot-savant to make it work. So... either the cast was insane or just under really talented direction. (The director being the lovely and talented Kate Mura, so maybe we'll lean towards that second option.) Or maybe a little of both. But this is just the kind of theater that makes me long for the black box again. It was innovate theater produced with the same defiance and whimsy with which it was written, a combination of Being John Malkovitch and A Beautiful Mind.
Actually, there were three one-acts in this Play Slam at Estonian House out in Buffalo Grove, the sometime home of the talented folks at Stage Two theater. The concept for the evening was simple: three new playwrights, three new one-acts, three new directors, and the audience gives feedback. And the plays couldn't have been more different: the first was a rather dull chatty piece about an elderly German showbiz couple; the second was a well-constructed piece about two viciously clashing students who find some common ground; and this last, my favorite--Sexual Side Effects by John Mills-Low--was about a man's relationship with the voices in his head.
Personally, I love any piece in which the voices in one's head are also the stagehands who call out sound and lighting cues and who have sex lives of their own. :-)
Not a bad way to spend an evening, in my book. Beats the heck outta American Idol, anyway!
So I saw A Mighty Wind last night, and I tell you that it was like watching my folk-music-drenched childhood spring back to life... only funnier. I was shocked and amazed at the brilliant song parodies in this movie! I mean, I grew up in this world--surrounded by folk music and pickin' and grinnin' and guitars and banjos and upright bass and Jimmy Crack Corn and Yellow Bird and the Kingston Trio and May the Circle Be Unbroken. And even I was listening carefully because I swear the songs in the movie were familiar to me! I mean, if you cut Christopher Guests' hair shorter and put him on that upright bass, he'd'a been a dead ringer for my dad in his day. Matter of fact, I think the movie is so incredibly spot-on with this parody that I don't think I can recommend it to my mom--I'm afraid she'd burst into tears at this perfect re-creation of the folk music world she grew up in. How's that for lefthanded praise?
"It's not so much that people are stupid. It's that they know so much that's untrue."
You know, I've stuggled in my own mind over the subject of just how much personal information and viewpoints to include in my blog. I thought early on that I should shy away from giving too much personal information and stick to the relevant aspects of the business of Heidi Miller Presentations.
But where's the fun in that?
And, since I'm also pretty sure that there are maybe two people reading this blog at this point, what the heck?
This quote (attributed to Mark Twain, but I couldn't confirm that anywhere) came up in a coffee shop discussion yesterday about the media campaign surrounding the war, terrorism and 9-11. And it couldn't be more true than it is now. The media is so selective about the facts it chooses to publish and the spin it chooses to put on information that I don't think anyone can make a truly informed opinion these days. We know so much that is untrue. A class example: in the complete absence of any proof at all linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks of 9-11, a frighteningly large percentage of Americans somehow are firmly convinced that he was responsible. Now, I'm not saying the guy is due a Nobel Peace Prize or anything, but just because he's a cruel dictator--and NOT the only one running a country these days, I might add--doesn't mean that he perpetrated those attacks.
So let's take a little responsibility for our knowledge. Let's not just go with the "everyone knows it" defense. Let's put those critical thinking skills to work and see if we can't figure out what's true and what isn't. And if not that, at least what's backed up by facts and what isn't.
So as I was sitting down to coffee with my fellow presenter/narrator, Patti, she was telling me how, after viewing a tape of a mentor-presenter, she decided to shamelessly steal phrases, quotes, gestures, and other ideas and keep them for her very own.
And this called to mind something that Constantine, my Argentinian tango instructor, said to me this weekend. I was having difficulty converting my competitive-ballroom frame into the more casual and intimate Argentinian tango embrace. As he drew me in to the proper (and rather intimate) embrace, he put his lips to my ear and whispered in a sultry Russian accent, "You see that woman over there in black? Steal her move. Steal it like a cookie."
Sexy Russian dance instructors notwithstanding, the advice is good. No need to reinvent the wheel, as my dad always said. If you see someone doing something you like, just steal it like a cookie. I mean, here's just a partial tabulation of the ideas I've stolen over the last year:
Blog from Gray and Heather; proposal, contract forms, and demo video format from Danny Orleans; diction tips from Michelle; email newsletter idea and postcard design from Bob Burg; folder idea from Tim Sheridan; success journal from Chip Eichelberger; flier design from Melissa; and tax organization file from Frank.
Plenty of tasty cookies out there, my friends. Let's save a little time and steal them, shall we?
The phrase "be careful what you wish for" came to mind today, as I went rushing from one task to another. I do remember a day last year as I was still building this business and terribly frustrated, saying, "I just wanna be BUSY!"
Be careful what you wish for, my friends.
I spent a good half of the day today re-designing my CD-ROM labels to incorporate my new email address (since ATTBI is changing yet AGAIN--grrr!) and my spiffy new website as well. Then I burned 50 new CD-ROMs, printed 50 new updated resumes, and put together 25 new Heidi Miller Presentations folders so I'd have them at the ready. One thing I've learned over the last year is that it's best to build up a prepared stock of materials in the down periods--they're never quite as long as you fear they'll be. :-)
Then I ran around doing a follow-up mailing, laundry, ironing, and purchasing a variety of new clothes for the shoot in Janesville tomorrow--I insist on bringing the client a variety of colors and styles so he/she can pick exactly the look wanted for the shoot. And, after doing a quick backtracking timetable in my head, I made a quick call to some of my Madison buddies and asked if I could drive up tonight so I could make the 7:00 a.m. shoot time (6:40 for me; I always gotta be early!) without arriving too terribly bleary-eyed.
... which has left me all of ten minutes to spare. And these, of course, I've chosen to spend blogging. Ah, the life of the self-employed!
So an associate emailed me this weekend, musing that I was probably in some sun-soaked region such as Miami or California or the like.
As it turns out, I just got confirmation for my next booking in... are you ready for this?... exciting downtown Janesville, Wisconsin! Sooo exotic! :-) Yes, I'll be shooting a corporate video for a trucking company, focusing primarily on verbal communication and customer service skills.
Well, as many of you know, teaching those types of skills is one of my favorite things to do, so you know I'll have a blast, anyway. And I might sneak a trip to my favorite liberal-hippie-college town, Madison, in there as well. :-)
They say it never rains, but it pours. And this reminds me of something quoted by an associate I had lunch with yesterday: "The harder I work, the luckier I get." It made me smile.
This as we were discussing a stategic partnership that would, if it comes to fruition, involve my becoming heavily involved in giving trade-show-oriented presentation training. Truth to tell, his company is so reputable and such a custom-fit for my own experience that I feel like giving the disclaimer, "It's an honor just to be nominated." :-)
And, really, in this economy, when my friends are losing their jobs left and right, it is nice to know that there are still partnerships being made, companies being expanded, and opportunities being pursued.
Where's that umbrella? I feel a storm coming on!
To anyone out there considering doing an email newsletter, I say, "Do it!" Listen to this...
One of my Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau buddies replied to my last newsletter, asking if I could do my article on Making the Most of Your Two Minutes as a seminar. I was at the BuilConn show in Dallas at the time, so I just sent a quick email saying, "Yes, certainly; I'll call you when I get back." So I gave him a buzz when I was off the floor of the Canon Digital Solutions show today, and when I hung up, I just shook my head and smiled.
See, one of my original goals (if you dig up my marketing plan from 2000!) was to begin creating and delivering professional development seminars. I've always enjoyed training, and have been keeping a topic journal for nearly two years now. I mean, what's not to love? It has all the rewards of teaching, a profession I dearly loved, with NONE OF THE GRADING!! And, of course, ya just can't keep me off a stage or outta the classroom. And this is a service that is so desperately needed these days, with everyone out to get the most bang from their trade show buck!
So here I sit, happily creating an outline and a proposal for what promises to be a really fun and informative seminar, and I can't help thinking what a lucky gal I am because I get to do what I love and love what I do. Grins and smiles. Can't beat that with a stick, no siree!
A Texas buddy of mine replied to my last email newsletter with this: "You did it again! Once more, you've blown me away with your glamorous lifestyle!"
So I thought I'd take advantage of the blog format to record a few moments that would not normally make it into the glossy business newsletter. This morning I got up at 5:00 a.m. to head out to McCormick Place to work the Canon Digital Solutions show. While the show is a mega-budget one with production values that made me drool, I myself arrived at the skybridge at 7:45 a.m. to meet with the nine other models who were working the event. We were promptly given pistachio-colored button-downs with bright red polyester ties to change into. SHARP, yeah! ;-)
See, my search for narration clients at the FMI and other concurrent shows turned up zilch, so today I was acting as an usher. Yup. Canon had created a huge, 180-seat theater in which they staged a 20-minute promotional event. The video was clever; the lighting was perfect; the narrators were energetic and perfectly polished. At the end, the four layered projection scrims pulled back to let the audience spill out directly onto the expo floor, an absolutely brilliant touch!
... Meanwhile, in the midst of this very glamorous high-tech production, Heidi, in her cherry-red polyester tie, had the very important job of making sure that no one left gum under the chairs.
OK, I'm playing down a bit. An event this large did need folks like us to help organize and control the crowds. But it was a long day, a long drive, and we're doing it all over again tomorrow.
Hmmm. Damn good thing I love what I do, huh?
One of the nice things about what I do is the ability (and, in fact, need) to mix business and pleasure. So it was with this trip to Texas, which not only gave me the chance to work the conference for solid client, but also to hop in a car and visit my dear friend Tom (Tom the Blond, for my college friends). We chatted, went to many dinners, saw a truly horrible production of "Dream Boy," and, of course, enjoyed the tail-end of the bluebonnets.
All this brings to mind the joys of Texas that I so often forget, living in Chicago as I do. Things like...
120 miles outside of Dallas, the radion station still came in loud and clear
truckers honk at EVERYTHING
the Dixie Chicks' statement is a huge controversy
country music, country music, country music
being called "Ma'am," and it's not a bad thing... mostly because it preceded the statement, "Come back and see us now!" Seriously.
Ya gotta love this state!
And on another note... Heidi the Geek is being reborn! Yes, thanks to the ever-fabulous web connoisseur extraordinaire, Gray, I've just made corrections to and my very own website and uploaded them my very own self. And do you notice the lovely embedded pictures and nicely bulleted list in this entry? My ability to code those is thanks to an on-line tutorial IM session with The Best Web Designer Ever.
Yes, folks, I actually just used "code" as a verb in a sentence. I'm officially a programming geek.