PREPARATION FOR LIVE PERFORMANCES

The closer to a performance date, the more a performer begins to wonder if reading a book or watching a movie or even speaking to another person might inadvertently knock some vital mnemonic brick out of place, send the whole edifice of memorized exactitude cascading into the abyss.

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PREPARATION

Preparation is all about learning how to listen to our senses to figure out what we want to do, and then asking them to step aside for a while so that we can think clearly. Preparation is the difference between practice and improvisation. Preparation is the invisible shield held by pros.

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RELENTLESS

Everyone has stuff to do, but if you’re the kind of person who regards his or her daily efforts as creative expressions rather than simply lists of tasks, there’s something different about the endless punch list you need to complete.  Those tasks aren’t just annoying or distracting. They’re relentless. 

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ZEBRAS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY

Horses look similar, right?
Horses look similar, right?

There's an expression from the world of medicine when a doctor is trying to diagnose a beguiling or unexplainable ailment. "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." It's pretty clever. If a patient comes in with a runny nose, the odds are he or she has a cold rather than some sort of respiratory infection from an exotic tropical bug.

Are there respiratory infections from exotic tropical bugs?  Absolutely. That's why you want medical professionals  with a deep knowledge  of what's possible and the tenacity to stay with a problem until they resolve a cause. But just as importantly, it's vital to go to a doctor who won't over-prescribe treatments, especially for problems beyond the scope of what he or she is dealing with.

In almost every case, creative enterprises  can benefit from a similar philosophy. Are there opportunities where sophisticated special-effects must come into play, or gyro-stabilized cameras need to be mounted on high-performance helicopters? (And if you're thinking of a project  that absolutely has to use one of those, PLEASE feel free to get in touch with us immediately!) Of course there are. But most of the time it's possible to deliver beautiful, arresting work at a reasonable budget because anything more complex wouldn't make sense for the assignment. Most of the time horses will do nicely.

Do we like stretching out with sophisticated, wildly complex flights of fancy? Yeah baby: believe it, we do. Are we capable of running with zebras? Yep: check our reel if you want to know more. But most of the time the goal is simpler than the entire range of deployable options. Elegant solutions rarely present themselves dressed in great complexity. The fact is, it's often easier to imagine wildly complex  solutions  then sleek and simple ones. Those complex solutions come with huge risks, big costs, and lots of sleeplessness. Are those reasons to avoid the power moves? Not a chance; when you need a zebra, you need a zebra. But I find this decision process is something that gets better with practice. As long as a creative person remains open to the possibility that a project might need big muscle,  he or she will likely feel more at ease making confident moves without all the exotic frippery. When your movie calls for a herd of zebras, have the guts to bring them in. But when the big cinematic scene concerns a tense conversation at an office water cooler, have the good sense to leave zebras out of the shot. You may worry that clients won't ever get to know how much power you can muster if you never show it off, but I've come to believe the opposite is true. Great power comes from the ability to deploy it when necessary, without the pressures of nervous egos to prompt decisions motivated by the wrong reasons.

--Michael Starobin

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SPEAKING AT THE FRONT OF THE ROOM

Say something!

Say something!

Public speaking can focus the mind in a singularly powerful way. In preparing for a public talk, a speaker must not only organize his or her thoughts, but must do so in a way that makes them crystal clear to an audience who hasn't heard them before. If the speaker prepares properly, that process will reveal flaws in logical arguments, examples that may not convey proper authority or power, and dramatic beats that do not make audience pulses quicken on cue. Preparation and rehearsal are vital to the enterprise because the goal, of course, is to move your audience.

Public speaking can play with your head, too. A great talk given once can convince you that you're the keeper of something profound, a seer, a visionary. A great talk given repeatedly can gradually inure you the hard work it takes to keep presenting it afresh each and every time you present it. Remember, the next audience has not yet heard what the last audience heard. The job of a speaker is to make it fresh and new each and every time.

I'm reminded that so much public speaking relies on electronic media these days. It's probably an unavoidable phenomenon. In a visually structured world, the power of images to amplify a message cannot be ignored. But to cede all of a message's power to smart pictures usually dilutes the message itself and disrespects the process of designing those images. If you're going to use pictures, develop them in concert with your talk, lest you bolt them on as an afterthought and start to believe that "giving your audience something to look at" is a good idea. Once your audience thinks that your pictures at least give them something to do while you drone on, you can safely count yourself among the walking dead at the front of the room.

Which leads to the most obvious thing that so many, many speakers miss. Say something that matters. It's not enough to be an expert in a subject. Whatever you do be sure to think hard about what you're going to say and how you're going to say it. If you're message is ordinary, boring, irrelevant, or otherwise not very engaging, it will mean even less to your audience. That's why, to bring this blog back to the beginning, rehearsal matters so much. In rehearsal you uncover the merits of what you want to communicate and the way you plan to do so. When you practice it like you're doing the real thing, you can't hide the sour notes, and you can savor the parts that sing out.

--MS

HEY: ONE MORE THING! Our new movie WATER FALLS opens on October 10th. Check out all the latest on the movie at the website http://gpm.nasa.gov/waterfalls

Or follow the movie on Twitter at #waterfalls

Or, y'know, follow me on Twitter @michaelstarobin

Or, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/1auglobalmedia

PPS -- Does this make you smile? Make you think? Make you wish next Monday were one sunrise away from arrival? If so, you may be ready to become one of our loyal outreach team! How do you assume that lofty role? Tell your friends! Tell your colleagues. Share our link on your Twitter and Facebook page, and let people know where you turn every Monday morning for a blog of a different color. You were expecting horses?

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