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GAME ON: ‘IMAGINING FABIO’ WILL HELP YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR NEXT PRESENTATION
July 21, 2016
©Jessica London Klemz, 2016
Who was it that said if you are nervous before a presentation you should imagine your audience in their underwear? No one knows for sure. I teach public speaking and I can tell you, that’s not a helpful hint. But Fabio – well, he’s a different story.
Yes, I said Fabio- the man who needs no further introduction. The one not mired down in trivial details like last names.
That chiseled bod beset with attentively photo-shopped fake sweat-dew. The sheer perfection of form I presume would inspire a Roman sculptor to tears. His river of hair- wind whipped, sunburnt, and blowing in a perpetual breeze away from his sturdy face…astonishingly, this man has no ‘bad side’.
The camera loved him straightaway, and the affair was mutual. He arrived in our world as if he’d just floated in on one of Michelangelo’s ethereal clouds, adorning our television screens in that ‘not butter’ commercial. Fabio was dropped square into our collective consciousness, hijacking our fantasies-the epitome, and a caricature, of all things manly.
His mere materialization understandably provoked ridicule, especially from those who just didn’t get it- ‘it’ being the fascination with him.
Fabio has enjoyed a long run of what some might wryly call ‘over’ exposure; boldly dawning the covers of romance novels and appearing steadily in commercials and cameos over the years. In case you need a portable form of Fabio, he’s even a paper doll, complete with ruffled pirate shirt-and winterized loincloth-of course.
Fabio doesn’t shy away from parody, often poking fun at himself. Sure he’s been lampooned. But make no mistake; Fabio is on top of his game. And with a quick study, you, too, can see why imagining Fabio can help you with your next public speaking event.
So, no- I am not going to ask you to picture him in his underwear [insert disappointed sigh here].
Instead, I offer the following (below not above):
BE THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Sure he’s handsome- and I argue- he’s not just another pretty face. Think about it for a moment. It takes incredible grounding to prepare oneself for the energetic bevy of women approaching in waves when he’s out in public.
Take a page from Fabio’s playbook before you are tasked with any public speaking event that has the potential to make you nervous. Root yourself, both physically and emotionally.
Do what needs to be done to get ready for your big event, including that which falls to the wayside- planning for adequate food, rest and hydration. Do what the stars do. I realize you don’t have ‘people’ just yet to do your bidding – so personally check out the speaking venue yourself. This will increase your confidence, and help you mitigate issues with lights, sounds and the technology you depend on to make your presentation successful.
Is the space large or intimate? Will you need a microphone or can you keep it real by projecting your voice? Does the venue have everything you need to hook up your presentation (hello, adaptors)? Don’t take that last point for granted. To prepare, use your mind’s eye to run through the event- see yourself standing tall, ready for the storm– whether it’s rapid fire Q & A, or an awkward convo with a fan of your work. Be ready for whatever comes your way.
FOCUS ON YOUR AUDIENCE
Have you ever wondered why some stars have a reputation for charming the intractable? Here is the secret: they make you feel like you are the only person in the room. You can do this, too. At the moment of engagement, you can’t be thinking about the way your zipper is catching the hair at the nape of your neck, or that if you knew Daniel Craig was coming you would have definitely gone with the kitten heels. The audience needs to feel they are the ones who matter.
This is where the rubber meets the road. The Practice Makes Perfect. On these occasions, enjoy the limelight, and don’t forget what really makes a presentation memorable.
A good public speaker makes the connection with the audience by knowing her subject matter, knowing her time limits and having rehearsed the presentation over and over again, she anticipates every action she will take in advance.
The extraordinary speaker leaves a great impression because she conveys the material emotionally to the audience by forging relationships around the room with her eyes. She is not reading off slides or staring down at notes. Like a favorite movie- the one with the deliciously ambiguous ending – the audience is left both satisfied while privily yearning for more.
As for the social aspect of the presentation- the oft dreaded ‘meet and greet’- learning how to make small talk is key when greeting large groups. Is your body language approachable? Are you listening well? Are you making meaningful eye contact? Don’t forget an important star quality is learning how exit a conversation gracefully. After all, your (other) fans await you!
THE FABIO EFFECT
Yes, I have had the pleasure of meeting Fabio. And I was instantly reduced to a pile of mush. This wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, my attitude has always been to just be cool about these sorts of things. When I was fourteen, I took a plane home from Florida without my parents.
On the plane was one of my favorite bands. The platinum hair, with the requisite braided side tail, was a dead give away for the angsty lead singer, despite the overly large sunglasses she hid behind. I didn’t flinch.
I barely cast an eye her way as the band slept in the back row. Into the flight, as I left the small plane bathroom, there it was- someone said ‘cool sneakers’ or somesuch as I walked by, and next thing I know I was invited to sit in the back row.
Before we touched down, the drummer asked if I wanted an autograph. “Yeah, ok. Sure.” I said, carefully playing it down like it was no big deal. Inside, of course, I was happy. This was, after all, a band I REALLY admired. The point is I managed to contain myself. Fabio was a different story. Fabio’s superpower is the gift of connection.
Zipping ahead, it’s thirty years later. Fabio is at a tradeshow hocking his wares (a supercharged protein shake mix). He drew me in for a conversation by the booth. He spoke passionately about his product line– the sourcing, the detailed care and consideration he put into the ingredient selection.
His authentic zeal for health was palpable. He made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the room. The cascade of women- I could feel them behind me. Was it envy I sensed? I felt hot and nervous, suddenly über self-conscious.
My forehead, now emitting small beads of sweat, let go of a long, pushed back bang that lapped my face, catching my eyelashes. I pushed it away, and it came back again.
What was happening to me? I didn’t want to appear like I had nervous tick. I had to play it cool. I couldn’t brush it back twice, no- that would be too revealing- he would see beyond my rogue bang, square into my starstruck eyes. Fabio would see I was a captive to his light.
The wall of women- I could feel them pressing in with exasperation, their folded arms tightening, their impatience mounting, wondering when it would be their turn. Undeterred by the surroundings, or the passing of time, Fabio spoke with conviction. Slowly. Deliberately. He wasn’t in a rush.
You see, if Fabio were a Graceling, his talent would be his mastery of presence. Like two old friends having a macchiato in a corner café, his soft voice drew me in and held me there. That’s the Fabio effect. Our chat was memorialized in a cellphone snap. I will always remember his droll, Mona Lisa smile with affection.
When times get tough, whether on stage or working the crowd, just slow down and visualize YOUR presence- how you show up with others. Imagine you are talking to an old friend. Create the space for a real connection.
Resist the urge to feel pressure, and don’t speed up your conversation or speech, in fact, practice slowing down. Be passionate. Be deliberate. Know your subject matter. Leave moments of silence for questions and feedback. The rest will take care of itself.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
You wrote it, abandoned it, and wrote it again. You pulled every outfit that posed as remotely passable out of the closet only to run to the Mall the night before to find a new dress ‘just in case’.
For weeks you had intermittent, fitful, clammy dreams about standing at the front of the room- wordless, and suffocating in a blanket of silence and anxiety of your own creation. You are not alone. We have all been there.
At the end of the day, the presentation you obsessed over will have come and gone and you’ll hardly remember why you worried about it in the first place.
Your fear WILL be replaced by joy at the first resounding clap from your enthusiastic audience. Visualizing in advance, you can see the entire evening play out positively.You are now challenged to keep it all in perspective – keep it light.
You’ve got this. If you’ve done your homework, it will all come together beautifully. Just imagine Fabio, world-class heartthrob. If he doesn’t take himself too seriously, neither should you.
Jessica London Klemz holds an M.A. in Communication and Creative Arts from Purdue University Calumet. As a scholar, writer, and public speaker, she’s found her passion in studying the cultural impact of knitting through ethnography and autoethnography.
She is the founder of (www.dishyknits.com), where she shares her love knitting while exploring knit traditions from around the world. Klemz is a founder of Close-Knit Guild For Fiber Arts Enthusiasts (www.closeknitguild.com) located in Northwest Indiana.
She works in Marketing at Home Mountain Printing (www.homemountain.com), and as an Adjunct Lecturer at Purdue University Northwest.