Monday, March 26, 2012

Against All Odds

The auditions have been pretty slow lately. So slow that it's not even remarkable to have no auditions in a week. In fact, I went more than two weeks during one bad stretch recently.

So it was a relief to have four auditions last week -- one of them a callback. And when the callback came it was one of those where I had to look up the paperwork from the original audition to recall the details.

That's how it's supposed to be. The only way you're going to catch something is with lots of lines in the water. Hopefully it will keep up.

Of the three jobs, I don't think I'll get the one I was called back for. I was the last guy they saw and it looked like they'd made up their mind. Another was for a food client and I never, ever get those. Ever. They seem to always look for model types and very wholesome people. Maybe also people who look like they eat a good bit of food.

The third one I'd really like to get. It's a spokesman role, pays pretty well and I did a really, really good job with it. I mean, I freaking nailed the copy.

But again, one of out of three isn't very likely odds. Even one of out of seven (total auditions this month so far) isn't that great.

So more, please.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Had a great time today presenting to Georgetown University's alumni association. It was my basic stump speech, though with audience interaction/participation removed, since it was a webinar.

I've really got this thing down and am having a ball performing it. It's like midway through the run of a play where you've got the content mastered and are comfortable enough to start playing with it and coming up with new stuff.

The initial feedback seemed pretty positive, too, and I got lots of very good questions. Total audience was 273, which is my biggest so far.

Of course, for the past week, even though I'm doing the two biggest presentations of my burgeoning speaking career so far, my big concern has been, "What's next?" Well the big thing that's next is getting the Denver speech video edited and packaged and sent off to potential speaker's bureaus.

But in the meantime I'd be happier with more engagements on the calendar. Nine speeches in the first five months isn't bad, but more would be better. As it happens, just this morning I heard back from another organization where I have a proposal out and they want to book me, though it won't be until late in the year.

More, more, more. Every organization on the planet needs to book me as a speaker. This is great stuff, damnit.

(Naturally, I wish they'd pick a better thumbnail for the video ... nothing is ever quite, quite right.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

These Pipes Are Clean

It's a little bittersweet getting rid of so much stuff.

I sold the last 85 CDs on Craiglist this weekend.

I remember many nights sprawled on the carpet in front of the stereo, listening along and reading the lyrics and liner notes, deciphering meanings and theorizing. Of course, all of that info can be found now on Google and wikipedia and Songfacts.

And I took the ol' hi-fi to the used stereo shoppe on Sunday.

I remember the various stereos I've had. The cheapo "all-in-one" from childhood, with the dials and switches instead of knobs. But I bought it myself with my paper route money. And the hand-me-down components from my brother, with the little needles twitching back and forth along with the songs.

Then finally my own quality stereo that I bought in 1995. Right about the time that compact stereos and mini-speakers became popular. So I had this gargantuan $1,000 mess on my hands.

And today I met with a friend who went through my baseball and football cards. We made a deal where he's going to price them out based on what he knows and sell the valuable ones individually and in lots and we'll split the profits. Which may or may not pay the cost of a decent lunch.

I was never a real collector. Over a few years starting when I was 7 or 8 I amassed a bunch of cards but never really curated or traded them. And, obviously, I just kept them in a succession of shoeboxes, so they're far from mint condition.

But some old cards for Gayle Sayers and Hank Aaaron and Reggie Jackson and OJ Simpson and Thurman Munson and Gaylord Perry and Willie Mays and others may be worth a little something. I think the only real attachment I have to them is that I've had them for so long. It's amazing my Mom never threw them out.

Next comes clothes. I used to be pretty good at getting rid of worn out or out-of-date clothes. Then I started doing theater and I thought, maybe I'll need this giant tweed blazer with the big shoulder pads for a role. Or these wingtips. Or these pleated pants. And some of them I have actually used. But no more. At least half my clothes are going out the door.

Then books. Then the many specialty glasses, steins and stemware that are so superfluous that I have to actually wash them before giving them away.

After that? My own personal indoor squash court.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

In the past four days I went from literal to figurative highs and a few things in between.

It started with two days of skiing at Keystone and Copper Mountain, Colorado. It was the first time I'd been in nine years, which is hard to believe. On one hand, I did pretty well. Went straight from greens to blues to a few pretty steep and tough blues. All in icy spring conditions.

Still, my technique was not terrific. I was making some of the mistakes in form that I'd had coached out of me years ago but forgot. I'm probably more controlled and less reckless than I was a decade ago. (I wasn't feeling quite ready for the blacks this time around.) But as I got tired toward the end of the day I'd let a leg slide out from under me and I took a few spills, including one pretty spectacular one.

It was fun, though. It is so beautiful up there. And quiet, when you're floating along on the lift with just the breeze whooshing in your ears. And peaceful as you look down and try to identify the animal tracks below.

From there we went back down to 5,000 feet for a presentation I did on Tuesday to a bunch of PR pros.

It was around 150 people, which is the biggest sized crowd I've spoken before. Hell, it's about the biggest I've performed for in any capacity.

So I was a little nervous. Part of it was the crowd and part of it was that I was having it videotaped, so I needed it to go smoothly from a technical and delivery standpoint.

And it seemed to go very, very well. Great chemistry with the crowd, lots of laughs, lots of enthusiastic feedback and new twitter followers. Best of all, the organizers bought a giant case of 48 books in advance, so I didn't even have to sweat the sales.

And soon I should have a nice professional video I can use to market myself and to pitch speaker's bureaus.

Bringing it all together, I was even able to use the skiing as material for my intro. Maybe I can deduct the lift tickets as research expenses? Hmmmm ...

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Let's Get Digital

I am in the final phases of digitizing my life.

Now that all my music is not only on my computer but in the cloud, I've been unloading my CDs. I sold half of them to used records shops but still have nearly a hundred to get rid of. Next up, Craig's List. And if I must ... I'll even give them away. Check out the list if you want some!

I've gone through my videos, thrown out some and took the rest to be converted to DVD. (To be followed by conversion to mpeg and storage on the computer.)

I went through 6 albums worth of photos, plus a big box of negatives and other photos that didn't "make the cut" for albumizing, winnowed them down to 1,406 and took them in for scanning. (The conversion people were naturally wowed by my organizational skills -- photos separated and banded into distinct albums and all documented in a spread sheet.)

And I'm taking my old stereo components -- receiver, CD changer, turntable, tower speakers -- and selling them for a cool 10% of what I paid for them lo those many decades ago. VCR, DVD player and three tube TVs will be next -- though only the city recycling center takes those now.

Oddly, though, I'm keeping my albums. Even without a turntable. They make a nice conversation piece.

Now if I could just convert all my books to digital (in some way other than repurchasing them, of course), I'll be able to fit my non-furniture possessions into the back seat of a Honda.

You know, just in case ...

Friday, March 02, 2012

Help: Giving and Getting

A funny thing has been happening lately. All kinds of requests and inquiries from people are coming seemingly from out of the woodwork.

I say seemingly because it's not like I'm suddenly putting myself out there more. I'm doing speeches and interviews and articles and blog posts and all the other things on about the same pace I've been doing them for a while now. And I'm not seeing any major surge in likes, comments, follows, page views or tweets.

But suddenly I seem to be on everyone's list:
  • A grad student doing research on the use of performance skills in professional training came across my work and wants to interview me.
  • A woman from New York in the final stages of interviewing at a big Wall Street firm wrote asking if I did coaching on how she could better present herself and negotiate her compensation package.
  • A young woman having what she called a "quarter-life crisis" wrote to me asking for career advice.
I tried to help all of them:
  • The grad student was actually surprised I wrote back (and so quickly). We're talking Monday.
  • The Wall Street woman was a tough one. I told her I'm not really scaled right now for the kind of coaching she's looking for, but we talked for about 20 minutes and I shared a few tips and anecdotes from my own experience. I even offered to look over any kind of talking points or messages she came up with.
  • And I talked the quarter-life crisis woman through some options and ways of thinking about next steps.
My feeling is, I want to try to help as many people as possible. I spend every day reaching out to people asking them for things -- can I be on your radio or TV show, would you consider me as a speaker, are you interested in a guest post/article, etc. So it's nice to be in a position to help others.

And maybe some good karma will come back to me. Indirectly or directly. Maybe the Wall Streeter will get the job and hire me to come into the company to speak or consult. You never know.

Of course I reserve the right to start saying no more often if it become overwhelming. But honestly this is what everybody should be doing -- helping others. Especially these days.

And I do have my limits. Here's an email I received this morning:

Hi, Rob -- My name is Melanie and I am a marketing associate at [redacted]. We recently came across and would love to work with you. Your book is such an impressive and entertaining resource for business people. We loved the blog post you shared about the law firm not looking outside their industry for creative ideas.

Please email me at [redacted] if you are interested in learning more. I look forward to hearing from you.
I actually had to read it a few times to understand what was going on. Are they asking for my services? Do they want to partner up on something? I determined it's just a fairly subtle (or very bad) sales pitch. Really odd. If you're going to pitch me, pitch me. Tell me what you offer and how I can benefit. Don't expect me to write back to "learn more." This is even worse than a hard sell, as it tries to be sneaky and insults my intelligence at the same time.

I've got a feeling this is just the beginning.