Everyone has a story (or twenty) to share. VAMP (Visual/Audio Monologue Performance) is a monthly contest, held here in San Diego, where dozens of writers submit true stories that have happened in their lives, based on a theme-of-the-month. A panel of seasoned participants read all the stories, submitted anonymously, and rate them for the producing team. The top seven (or sometimes eight) are selected to be feature for a live reading at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park, where typically 70-125 people come to hear the readings.
The seven writers get together and critique each other’s writing to help each author improve the work. THEN a writing coach meets with the author to boost it further. THEN a performance coach works with each writer to help make it sound good aloud. Finally, each writer submits a series of photos to go with the writing to enhance the visual experience of the audience. The result is monthly magic in storytelling!
Each episode become part of the “VAMP Storytelling Podcast” which I listen to every time I have to miss a live VAMP, but it’s not quite the same; missing the visuals takes away a lot and there’s the energy in the room. But at least I get to hear those stories and re-listen to great ones from the past few years.
Now that you know what VAMP (produced by SoSayWeAll) is, I’m proud to say that over the last five years, I’ve had my stories selected FOUR times (I won’t say how many didn’t get in). Below you’ll find those four performances as filmed. Some are quite personal and even a bit graphic, so be forewarned if you don’t want to learn TOO much about me.
Oct 2017: Teeth (rated PG)
June 2017: Living in Sin (rated PG-13)
May 2022: My Second One-Night-Stand (rated R)
Sept 2019: Jew Orleans (rated R)
Second: For about a year, I had a column in a local paper on public speaking skills.
Here’s one of those columns, featuring a discussion of the pros and cons of PowerPoint.
To PowerPoint or Not To PowerPoint!
Q: My admin took me aside and confided that my PowerPoint usage is worse than having no PowerPoint at all because all I’m doing is reading to people. I realized that she is right. Should I just skip PowerPoint then? – R.G., San Diego
This is a common problem. As the speaker, you feel that the written words back up your speaking and provide support if an audience member’s mind wanders. You may feel engaged, but you are probably boring them because they can read faster than you can talk and after they’ve read, your voice becomes superfluous.
The answer to your question isn’t a simple Yes or No. I like to say that there are three choices with PowerPoint: You can (1) not use it, (2) use it well, or (3) use it poorly. This issue is that so many people choose option 3 that people think that they hate PowerPoint! But PowerPoint done well is generally better than no PowerPoint at all. Engage visual learners (estimated at 60%!) so that they stay with you during the time you speak between the changes in visual stimulus.
Think in terms of bullet points and images and let your PowerPoint be your guide through the program instead of an exact reflection of it. For example: let’s say you are first going to be speaking about the quarterly imports from China. With that opening, you display a map of China when you get to that topic. If your three bullet points are going to be the importing of (1) candles, (2) Popsicles, and (3) telephones, that’s three more screens. The first has a smaller picture of China on the left (to remind us that we’re still discussing their imports) along with a picture involving candles on the right. It could be anything from a company image of the candles you import to a child blowing out a birthday cake. But that’s ALL you get to put on that screen. If you have less than about three minutes of information about the Chinese candles, you just talk…and they will listen. Nothing else goes up there until the birthday cake is replaced by the second bullet’s picture: a child eating a Popsicle. What’s the final screen? China plus a photo of an old telephone.
If you had too much to say about candles to go that long without more slides, then the left side is a picture of candles (instead of China) and the right side becomes photos of the subtopics.
Notice how none of this fills your screen with words. Instead, it introduces a topic in an appealing way so that your audience wants to hear what you have to say about it.
Is this time consuming to produce? Yes. So you have to decide how important this presentation is to you. But yes, if you’re going to use it poorly, then you’re better off with no PowerPoint at all. At least then, they aren’t reading ahead of you and bored.
A final tip on not showing PowerPoint: You can still use it for yourself…live or on Zoom. No one forces you to project it on the screen…so long as it’s bullet points and key phrases as reminders to yourself, so that you’re not just reading slides to them!
Θ Milo Shapiro, motivational speaker and speaking coach/trainer, is the author of
“Public Speaking: Get A’s, Not Zzzzzz’s!” Contact Milo or get more information on coaching, training, consulting, keynotes, and books via www.PublicDynamics.com.
Third: My book “The Worst Days Make The BEST Stories!” is twenty-nine fun, true stories with a life lesson, all of which happened either to me or someone that I know (30 stories, actually, if you count the prologue). But there was one story I really liked that I got talked out of because someone I gave too much credence to said that a story that involved the word maxi-pad was inappropriate.
If you feel that way, you needn’t read on. If you can stomach that dreaded word though, and I think most readers can, read on for a fun story that didn’t make it into the book.
“Guys and Dolls…Where There Should Just Be Guys”
Life Lesson: Think Things Through!
There are plenty of times in life when the clever, inexpensive solution will suffice, saving us time and money. For instance, a stack of old vinyl albums looked harmless enough in my entertainment center for years. In truth, they were holding up the shelf above them. I wanted a place to save them anyway and it saved me the effort of dealing with buying another shelving unit.
Sometimes, however, the clever “MacGyvered” solution isn’t the permanent solution for a good reason. Here’s a flashback a few decades ago in my life when a quick-and-easy could have turned into a slow-and-painful result. It will also put to end a long standing mystery from the Class of 1982 that I am finally copping to!
I am sixteen years old and halfway through my senior year of high school. Every June, our school does a big classic musical and the selection has just been announced: “Guys and Dolls”. Though I craved the main role, they picked Kevin Murphy to play Skye Masterson! Okay, he’s got the looks and the charm and the voice, but still…
Well, it’ll still be fun to be one of the “guys”. We have a lot of rehearsals and most of these guys can’t dance at all. I have a feeling we’ll be going over the dance moves again and again and again, especially the routine where we’re gambling at the craps game being held down in a sewer.
Rehearsals have been going okay, but the dance routine involves us dropping onto our right knees over and over. The stage is hard wood and the only way to keep up with the routine is to do it really quickly, which means I’m repeatedly banging my knee into the ground. Yesterday, it got to the point where I wasn’t dropping all the way to the ground anymore because it hurt, but Mrs. Esslinger told me to pick up the pace. I didn’t want to complain about the drop because the other guys might call me a wuss.
I wish I owned a pair of knee pads but I’ve never played any sport that required them. Okay, I’ve never played any sport at all. Regardless, I’m not going to use my allowance to buy them for a month of rehearsals.
I mentioned the problem to Mom the other night and she had a clever idea. She showed me something called a maxi pad. I’d never actually seen one before, except the outside of the box at the supermarket. I know what they’re for, but I never gave any thought to how they work. On one side, they’re just soft and sort of cottony. On the other, there’s a plastic strip that says “Kotex”. You pull it off and it’s sticky underneath. We put the sticky side against the inside of my pant leg, right where my right knee would be. Sure enough, when I put my pants back on, I was able to drop down on that knee a few times and it didn’t hurt at all; it was just enough cushion.
Rehearsals have gone way better since then and no one knows it’s there but me. I just have to get myself and my backpack into the boy’s bathroom stall before each rehearsal and put it in the jeans leg again. Easy and I didn’t have to buy the kneepads for nothing!
Yesterday, I was at rehearsal and things were going poorly as usual. It seems like we almost get that dance right each day and then the same guys forget it all overnight. Luckily, the dancing is kinda fun so I don’t mind repeating it.
About halfway into the rehearsal, Mrs. Esslinger said, “That section was pretty good so I want to take it from the top to see it in sequence. Places, everyone!”
We ran it almost all the way through and it was actually going pretty good, if not perfect. But then, there was only one section that got really jumbled.
“Stop! Stop!” she yelled from the front of the stage. “No no no! Listen to me! You’ve got to…”
She stopped suddenly and looked down at the exact center of the stage.
“Which one of you guys…lost a maxi pad???” she queried cautiously.
Simultaneously, sixteen teenaged dudes looked down at the object, laying there like a bright white and blue island, floating on a huge sea of golden wood. The sight was surreal. No one made a sound.
Immediately, the ramifications of using the same pad, day after day, occurred to me. There are, of course, scientific limitations on repeated use of an adhesive strip that I should have foreseen! Why hadn’t it ever occurred to me to ask Mom for a new one every now and then? In the midst of all the action, it had apparently let go of my pant leg, scampered unfelt down my shin, whisked past my sock, and fled to the floor where it had been danced around for several minutes by post-adolescent boys.
The silence was thick. We had been there for at least an hour. There was no way it had been there when we started. There was only one possible explanation: One of the sixteen guys had it on his body and dropped it in the middle of that routine. Each young man was equally suspect as we’d been all over the stage and it sat, accusingly, at dead center.
“Is…anyone going to explain that?” she tried again.
Oh, sure. Let me just walk over and pick that up and explain that it’s mine. That’ll be no problem at all. While I’m at it, let me dance around in the parking lot in a feathered tutu and do bird calls because either way, I could never walk through the halls of this school again! I can hear it now: ‘Oh, Kotex booooooy…’ No thanks!
The greatest job of my teenage acting career lay ahead as I tried my best to make the same confused looking faces as everyone else without overdoing it. Fortunately, though everyone started looking around, I didn’t feel like anyone was looking at me in particular. It made so little sense that any one of us had that on him that no one was more likely than another. I could only pray that my face wasn’t blushing bright red, revealing my guilt.
Eventually, Mrs. E came up onto the stage, crouched down, and stared at it — as though it might make more sense up close. It didn’t, apparently. She looked at us all from there. Oddly enough, all sixteen of us looked somehow guilty because we were all so baffled. She carefully scooped it up with the edge of a script, looked at us again. She stood, started for the stage stairs, and sighed the kind of sigh that you only hear teachers make.
“Go home,” she said, as she kept walking without looking back again and left the auditorium. We all looked at each other again, left the stage, and went home. I can only imagine the conversation the next morning in the teachers’ lounge.
It looks like I got away with it, but it was interesting to hear the word go around at school about it …and be amazingly grateful that my name wasn’t associated with the mystery!
The Moral: Even though there are times you can find a creative solution and avoid the time and cost of the perfect solution, remember that that’s what you’re doing and think things through first.
To enjoy more from what DID make it into the book, link to www.MiloShapiro.com/books .
Lastly: Milo doesn’t share this will all his clients, but…
in 2000 he developed a passion for Photoshop editing. At first, he just made people look better in photos, but that grew into:
- photo restoration (stained, scraped, torn, faded…)
- photo alteration (adding or removing people, making someone smile who didn’t, changing clothes or backgrounds
- colorization (making those black-and-white shots come to life again.
Enjoy this little video below that shows what can be done to make the photos you love look the way you want.
To see more recent work or inquire about working on a photo of yours (or creating an amazing gift for someone),
Copyright 2022, Milo Shapiro.