The inspirational pinboard #4 – Taking risk

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

Not sending that email, not making that speech, not creating that product or not having an opinion makes life much less risky.

Peering over the edge is scary. There will be detractors, competitors and trolls fighting against you, wherever you make yourself heard.

Life however, is short. Don’t squander it.

Click here to download the A4 pinboard poster.

Original photograph and words by Mark Copeman

10 tips for awesome screen capture videos

A great way to get your message (and personality) across

Screen cams / screencaptures / screenflows are all around us. People are all too keen on YouTube to show us the latest and greatest software, however in far too many cases, where people just aren’t familiar with producing videos, they’re more likely to default to text or badly labelled PowerPoint slides, which is a pity. So often a quickly put together screencam could speed up your communications to many or in a 1:1 situation.

Having been a runner up in the 2011 TechSmith Screenchamp awards, I thought I’d offer some thoughts…

1.) Get it right on paper!

It’s so obvious, but I’m compelled to start with it – GET IT RIGHT ON PAPER. Work out what on earth you want to say first of all. Don’t just start waffling – have yourself a mindmap / cigarette packet / napkin / piece of beautifully labelled A3 – whatever your choice. If you plan it out in advance, it will take you minutes to produce a work of art as opposed to an hour to produce a mess. I have to say – one of my favourite tools is a piece of A3 paper.

2.) Keep it short

Make it as short as it can be. People hate waffle. Which brings me back to #1. Reduce the umms and arrrs by being clear in your thought process. Rehearse your ‘voiceover’ if you have to and don’t be afraid to re-record it if it just doesn’t flow. You’ll often find, recording it second time round it sounds and flows better.

3.) It’s all about the sound

Ensure you have a great microphone. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. People can handle average video – poor quality sound is a massive turn off. Whether you’re PC or Mac – I use this USB mic attached to this boom which works a treat. Crystal clear sound, plus I get to relive the olden days and feel like I’m a radio presenter all over again 😉

4.) Maybe there’s a better way?

Think about the format you’re going to create a screencapture in. Recently, I’ve come up with an interesting method for describing concepts, which involves turning a webcam upside down, a decent light, a piece of A3 paper and a big marker pen. With 6,000 views in a month – it seems to be resonating. Maybe, recording a screen isn’t the right answer? Maybe recording you standing in front of a whiteboard, talking is a better idea. Consider the best way to get your message across.

5.) Idea first, software second

If you are going to do a screen capture – you need the right software. Screenflow on a Mac is great. Camtasia (cheaper on Amazon than going direct!) on a PC is pretty good too. You can also check out the free services Jing and Screenr. Accept that if you’ve not used a piece of software before, there’s going to be a learning curve. Don’t shout at it – it may not be the software’s fault – it could be ‘user error’. Like everything in life, the more you do, the easier it becomes.

6.) Tell a story

If you’re going to show how a piece of software works, put things into context – show a workflow… tell a story… paint a picture. Telling your audience that SHIFT-CONTROL-F10 enables the syntax error debugging code window in full screen mode helps no one – especially if they’re a novice, which leads me on to

7.) Consider your audience

Is your audience my dad? Or is your audience an 18 year old college kid who spends 21 hours a day in front of a screen? There’s a big difference in how you tell your story – make sure you speak to your audience

8.) Prepare your assets

When you’re putting your story together – you’ll almost certainly need external files – to upload an image / create a document etc – have them to hand so you don’t spend half of your screencam searching directories. While I’m on it – for goodness sake don’t show the world all your private, personal stuff – hide your browser bookmarks, ensure you don’t navigate personal folders… it will save you having to mask it all out further down the production

9.) File formats

Ensure you export your video file in a decent format. WMVs and FLVs are so 1980’s – the file type of choice for best streaming would be a .MP4 / .M4V – these are universally accessible, are converted by YouTube nicely and are the best quality vs filesize balance of all the file types.

10.) Showcase and promote your work

There’s not much point in producing beautiful work if no one sees it. Enter it into competitions, embed it on your blog – get people to talk about what you’re doing and if you get really good at it – why not build a few, and turn them into a course. Don’t forget to give a couple of modules away for free though…

If you’ve found any great screencammers out there – add them into the comments below.

 

Alternatives to PowerPoint

Before I start, I’ve nothing against the software, nor the producer of it. The issue I have is how it’s used, and how it’s taken over our lives.

I’ve spent the last 10 years helping people deliver their messages to internal and external audiences – so I guess you could say I’ve seen and experienced a lot of seminars and presentations. I’ve helped CEO’s of FTSE 100 companies deliver their messages and I’ve worked with dozens of salesforces, consultants and marketing departments create and deliver messages to persuade, ‘cajole’ (good word) and win business.

Ban PowerPoint for a day

In short, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to presenting.

Despite the length of time I’ve been doing this. I’m now more fascinated in the subject than ever. Why?

I’m surrounded by friends and colleagues in the corporate space and I’m hearing more than ever the phrases:

“I need to work late to finish my slides”
“They need the slides 24 hours before the meeting”
“Can you help me with my slides”
“I need to get my slides out”

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH

Everywhere I look there are slides being produced and emailed to hundreds of people. Slides which have hours put into them. Slides which have to win over an argument, persuade, educate and rarely do.

Why?

Because 90% of the time, sending a set of slides is not the answer.

  • Slides are something to hide behind when presenting an argument
  • Slides are typically part of a ‘read along with me’ session
  • Slides should more often than not be a report or document
  • Slides do not contain your personality
  • Slides alone do not persuade, sell or cajole
  • Slides don’t get read or understood, they get flicked through
  • Slides rarely add to your argument
  • Slides make you work late and rarely give you a return on your time
  • Slides come second. You story comes first. Most people work the other way round.

Believe it or not, last year in Switzerland, Mattias Poehm founded a political party dedicated to the eradication of Powerpoint. Awesome. I might just join.

You probably don’t need to be quite so radical, but what’s my answer?

Here are 10 alternatives for getting your message across.

  1. Still need to get visual? Master Prezi. It will make your audiences sit up and listen
  2. Read Pitch Anything! By Oren Claff to understand how to construct your story.
  3. Use Camtasia (great price here) / Screenflow for MAC to produce a narrated demo to bring your story alive
  4. Read Resonate to understand how to construct the visuals for your story. (I’m reading it now and it’s brilliant)
  5. Refuse a projector. Be brave, stand up and just talk. Use notes and make sure you’ve prepared your story.
  6. Don’t use a single bullet point. Use images only. Images are memorable. Spend a few dollars on some images – what return might you get?
  7. Do something different. If you’re given an hour, figure out how to take 10 mins to deliver the same message. Give you audience the gift of time. Hook them in enough to want more and create conversations afterwards.
  8. Use a whiteboard or a flipchar, learn to draw, develop a story. Make it personal.
  9. When someone asks for ‘slides’ ask why. Ask them whether a narrated screencam might be better. Narrate 10 mins over some slides and send them the video. This way you don’t need to have the presentation after all. I do this a LOT and have had tremendous results. Then, when you then actually get to meet someone, they know what the message is you’re looking to deliver, because they’ve heard and seen it in advance. You can then use the time together constructively.
  10. If there’s nothing on screen, you are the focus. Your words get listened to. Choose your technique based on your message and your audience.

Try something. If you work as part of a large team, join me in banning PowerPoint in your business for a day and see what happens.