Proposals with Panache: Powerpoint Your Words

Copywriters: Trying dressing up a presentation. Show a client how visual words can be done.

I have a new venue for sending bids: Powerpoint. The inspiration came from the client, a social event and web development company whose owner has twenty years in print production and design. I had finished the main points of my proposal, when the thought occurred to me that just text in an email wasn’t going to cut it. With virtually no experience in Powerpoint (aside from an afternoon of noodling and some simple editing of a presentation) I opened the software, picked a template, and watched the copy scatter rather nicely into five “slides,” including a title page and summary with an enticing closer.

Knowing my client, who’s more of a generalist and not one to review anything with a magnifying glass, I spent time on the slide titles which were, effectively, the main actions. On the bid slide I inserted a text box – again, easy as pie – which was an effective notification that the client was getting a special rate for this two-page white paper.

So it went a little something like this:
Slide 1: Cover Page
Slide 2: Project summary, the Challenge, what needs doing. For this project, I called it “The Travels of Company X,” since I was proposing a company profile
Slide 3: The Breakdown, or costs involved (text box here)
Slide 4: The Game Plan, including payment arrangements, allowable edits and other conditions of service
Slide 5: Summary

I got the job, by the way, and was hired shortly thereafter to develop copy my client’s RFP presentation. We worked in Power Point. Coincidence? Perhaps. Fun? Indeed.

Writers are often seen as introverted and lacking a visual eye. Now, that just might be true – you can discuss on some LinkedIn thread, if you’d really like to depress yourself – but with just a touch of flash here and there, I could prove my respect for content placement and design.

My advice? Start with a simple template and the ‘ole cut and paste. Changing the backdrop might just inspire your words and make connections you didn’t know were there.

 

The Functional Nervous Breakdown Defined

You know you’re experiencing a Functional Nervous Breakdown when:

  • Your barber makes you nervous
  • You guffaw in public
  • You know what guffaw means
  • You only read Facebook 15 minutes a day. More or Less. You timed it.
  • You can define and classify each of the bodily humors
  • You have no tattoos, but about 8 designs picked out
  • Your resume links work, but your address is incorrect
  • You lost your Social Security Number
  • You don’t have a web site, but you own a URL with your name in it
  • You feed your pet before you cook yourself a meal
  • You think a lot about cities like Portland, San Diego, Sedona, Austin, Greensboro, & Madison
  • You have to schedule time for practiced laughing
  • Your spreadsheets are penny-perfect
  • You emoticon on every email, especially for business
  • Your wardrobe is turtleneck-driven

Welcome to the world of unanswered prayers, but good credit and steady friends. A Functional Nervous Breakdown is about as deep as emoti-pain can get. We have good credit, updated resumes, and broad smiles. We vote progressively, take time for petition signature collectors and smile at kids on the street. Yet a chasm of inexplicable, shameful horror is just – look for it – just behind our shoulder, the shoulder of our writing hand, hovering and waiting to manifest a stagnant, apocryphal world.

In other words, those suffering from a Functional Nervous Breakdown possess a tremendous imagination, but have no job or hobby to put it in.

Perhaps a Depression-Era, government-supported works program is the solution.

Or maybe just a good night’s sleep.

How I Make my Pay: a Tax Day Celebration

I am so unlike Slam, the title character of a play I’m writing and blogging about this month, June. Here’s proof: a piece describing how I do battle in order to bring in copywriting work. It was posted in an online copywriting magazine not too long ago. 

Title?  LOVE THE DREAD

Being a career-changer and relatively new to freelance writing, one of my first lessons was to love the dread. Writing work is getting regular, but it doesn’t appear by itself, so along with network breakfasts and emails, I’ve got to get visible over the phone. That means every morning I face my personal psychobabble in the form of an immense stone wall, covered with slimy moss, with no hand- or footholds. It veritably looms at me, laughing, (laughing?) threatening to morph, any second, into a prehistoric monster. Call a prospect? Approach the wall? I may be swallowed whole! Worse, far worse: I could be laughed at. Or get slimed. As we say in Acronym nowadays: OMG.

So what’s the trick to pole vaulting said dread? Quantitative action and a partner to share it with. In these days of unlimited text messages and friends who freelance or work from home, I’m equipped to approach the wall, turn my back to all distractions and punch a text declaring twenty calls by 10am. The wall seems to shudder, but no matter; I’m locked in. And what do you know? Looking down, I see I’m wearing crampons, protective gloves, and a stunning fur jacket, with a list of prospective web designers waiting for my call! Connect with ‘droid, square off, leg up, GO.

The dread wave recedes with every call. My muscles build, I develop my footwork. I can laugh at the ooze and smell. The trick? Being able to OMG to a pal, but also meet my quota. And if you’re wearing crampons and furs, it’s hard to take yourself seriously. Let them laugh! I’m dressed for it!

And victory, too: after roughly 200 “cold” calls, I landed a $1,500 web copywriting gig. This cub scout is thrilled and laying the ground for her next merit badge.

Ever Iowa

Hello dear readers! I’m blogging for every day in June about Slam, a play set near Dubuque, Iowa, about a woman in her early thirties who still believes her plans might work out, with the right adjustments. Here’s the reflections for today.

Why is this play so Iowa?

Better question: why is this play my Iowa?

I’ll be honest with you: I never spent any appreciable time on a farm. My great Aunt Katie had a few acres with not much more than a garden and a small chicken coop. At one point we went to her house and got a little tour. That’s the sum total of my agricultural experience, aside from one summer de-tasseling corn, which is a hugely commercial enterprise and out of context here.

Most of my adulthood has been spent in New York City, living in Brooklyn and frowning on the subway.

So, really? You’re right: I’m off base here, I have no connection.
But, as Slam would say:

SLAM
Were you ever fucking listening?

The connection is the the clipped, complete, accusatory sentences that issue from the Lamb family. The connection is the quiet observations made by Jonah, a young man firmly rooted to who he is. The connection is Spoon’s broad smile and grand schemes, all just this side of saving the day as well as his pocket book.

The connection is Slam’s vitriol: her arms crossed, her body gone to seed. Slam has hurled away the mantel of what she’s aspired to, but there’s nothing to replace it except failure and, alas, an unwanted pregnancy.

All this against highways established during the Eisenhower years, later perfected and then connected by huge box malls. Today’s Iowa is what I know about myself: quick to adopt a self-mythology that presupposes what others think in order to buffer all prejudices, disappointments, and fears.

My Iowa is about a smile and laugh, followed closely by a biting quip.

Herein a defensive collage, answering a question no one’s asked me. That too is very Midwest: submit your own conclusions before anyone can identify what’s wrong and get you.

June Perfection and Bad Looks

I’ve been blogging every day in June (thus far) on my play Slam. Slam is in her early thirties and spends too much time situating her life in a way to keep her hidden. It’s like she’s preparing a bunker, but the war’s over, construction’s expensive, and she already lives in a nice home. But goodness, I’ve wandered far afield (although I like the bunker part and might use it.) Let’s get to the entry, shall we?

This is not a day to be writing. This is a day to wander aimlessly in Brooklyn, which, by and large, is what I did. I did see Sontag: Reborn at New York Theatre Workshop, so about an hour and a half was inside a theatre. But when I could, I walked out and about, took my time with it, and pretty much stayed off my cell phone.

Walking clears the mind, it’s good for the soul, it’s one of the top five reasons I stay in New York. And in so walking, I made a connection regarding the play, only now I can’t remember it. I’m going to take a pause. See if I can recall. I know it had to do – ah-HA! Yes.

Slam’s hygiene.

Aren’t you glad you kept reading?

I’m not going to describe the hygiene connect, except to say that sometimes, with some individuals, fury turns inward and rebellion takes all sorts of forms. I’ll jot a few words about a scene between Slam and Verna, her former boss. Verna owns Graebel’s, a family-style restaurant, and the grocery store where Spoon still works. Slam got Spoon his job. She used to be Verna’s head cashier. Times change, however, and Slam doesn’t want to be part of anyone’s family, blood or otherwise.

It’s nearly impossible to win with isolation as your trump card. Humans can’t isolate long without falling apart. Hence the hygiene issue and Verna’s comments, which are redolent of her business manner: trustworthy, but gruff.

Say a prayer I get this scene written, that I don’t become too drunk on perfect weather, that if I do get my bike fixed tomorrow, I take just a short ride…

 

Soon It Will be Father’s Day

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, and she is, she thinks, taking charge of her life. Talk about ironic. We make plans and God laughs his big belly ass off. How does it go? Read on….

Slam’s father is going to be in the play not as a ghost, but as if he could teleport back to the house, from the hospital where he’s being treated. That’s precisely what’s shaping this play, ie that Slam rarely leaves her house, but she schemes and talks a lot about taking action. Here’s one of the scenes with her dad.

SQUIRE
Why don’t you visit me?

SLAM
I’ll get there. In a minute.

SQUIRE
I’m wondering. You know, I’m laying up in my stinking hospital bed and wondering.

SLAM
Your bed stinks?

SQUIRE
Like piss from 1952.

SLAM
Tell the nurse.

SQUIRE
You think I haven’t done that? A man needs help sometimes. If you were there, I’d get another bed.

SLAM
I got you in that place. I made the calls and filled out the paperwork. Thank God you’re a veteran.

SQUIRE
Yeah. Thank God I’ve helped everybody out. Your mother said the same damn thing.

SLAM
Mom thanked God you kept the farm.

SQUIRE
And it’s the farm that killed her.

SLAM
Bullshit.

SQUIRE
WE reconciled. The farm killed her.

SLAM
I’ll have to muse on that one.

SQUIRE
Bobby visited.

SLAM
Yeah, ’cause I sent him.

SQUIRE
What’s that boy on?

SLAM
Glue. Meth. Everclear. Both.

SQUIRE
Not hairspray?

SLAM
They said quit drinking, Dad. They said stop your work. They said –

SQUIRE
Who’s THEY?!

SLAM
You burned two beds.

SQUIRE
I’ll quit smoking. I think I did already.

SLAM
You can’t come back.

SQUIRE
In my day, the real bad ones drank Sterno. Hairspray.

SLAM
You think Bobby’s like that?

SQUIRE
No. But he loves it to hang out with them that does, the ones that are risky and fun.

Father

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, and she’s an Iowan from an old farming family. The setting is 2003, the heirs are gone, the farmland’s sold, and what’s left is Slam, her teenage son, her ailing father, and not so helpful ghosts. Today’s subject? Read on….

Tonight I’ve been visited by Squire, Slam’s dad. This is a waiting scene, as in waiting for the ride to the hospital, the facility, the place that will clean up a nasty drinker and free his heirs.

The visual here? Squire’s hunched shoulders. And boy, does he ever want a cigarette.

                  (SQUIRE gestures with his jaw toward a large suitcase, which is by the dining room table.)

SQUIRE
I see there’s a suitcase there.

SLAM
You packed it.

SQUIRE
I think you did.

SLAM
I helped out.

SQUIRE
You got it from the barn?

SLAM
From the shed. It’s fine, just like you said.

                     (SQUIRE admires the qualities of the suitcase, its pristine state.)

SQUIRE
That was an excellent purchase. Sealed against the elements out there. Worth every penny. You’d think it had been in a closet. Your mother didn’t want me buying another storage shed, but I said it would come to good.

SLAM
Mom was always wrong.

SQUIRE
She wasn’t always right. Where’s my bottle?

SLAM
You asking me?

SQUIRE
I’m going to get rid of it.

SLAM
It’s in the shed. It’ll be waiting for you.

SQUIRE
Unless you get it first.

SLAM
I buy my own booze, old man.

SQUIRE
Who’s taking me? The “social worker?”

SLAM
Spoon will be here.

SQUIRE
Is there coffee?

SLAM
Yeah, but there’s none of your creamer.

SQUIRE
Where’s Bobby?

SLAM
WIth Megan. Or Jonah.

SQUIRE
Christ. I’ll take milk.

SLAM
Why now are you calm, sitting up straight, barely stinking, and making sense?

SQUIRE
Fucking terrified. You don’t know about it yet, Sammy, because you’re still too young to be that tough. And after tough? It ends. Flat. And after you get so tough you don’t feel a thing?

SLAM

– and start to stink – 

SQUIRE
– then there are no good options left except for some bottom line that the government invented and you have to take only so you don’t disgrace your grandkids.

SLAM
I love it. LIke you’re Ann Landers or Magic Johnson or something.

SQUIRE
I still got shirts, and one pair of shoes that don’t swallow my feet.Not everything is gone. Bobby don’t hate me. Does he?

SLAM
I’ll get your bottle if you need it.

SQUIRE
I don’t want it.

SLAM
I can get it.

SQUIRE
I said coffee, little girl. And clear off that counter. Christ, the social worker should take you, too.