Telling a story

Using iMovie to Tell a Story

Using iMovie to Tell a Story

One of the things organizations are often tasked with is getting the word out. Company’s get the word out about products, a government agency’s about programs and charitable organization’s reach out to their constituencies. Today that can seem easier than ever with so many tools available. Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools have taken their place in our quiver of capabilities for reaching out. Getting noticed though still requires telling a story.

I did our Spring 2014 ExAM4Government.com and ExAM4Enterprise.com campaigns using iMovie. Please let me know which you like better in the comments below and vote for Mission Attainable (the first one) or Finish Line (Second) in the comments below. The winner will be used in our Spring 2014 campaign.

ExAM & Salesforce1: Mission Attainable

or

ExAM & Salesforce1 – Spring 2014

Ok, I admit it I used a few other tools I’ll talk about down the road (Adobe Premier, Fireworks, SimCap, and IOS Simulator), but I want to focus on iMovie because it is probably the most accessible.

One of the things I like most about iMovie is the trailers. They provide you with a few different pre-made templates that allow you to tell your own story using a very high quality professional template.

iMovie1 Template Choices

iMovie1 Template Choices

The most important word in that last sentence was story. I’ve made lots of clips over the years and I’ve learned that you can overcome having lower end equipment and software, but you can’t skimp on the story. Scripting your words, shots and video is critical to making people care. I love the iMovie templates because they make it so easy to pull together the planning part of story telling with the work of actually creating it.

Unfortunately the templates that come with iMovie are all that you get and there is no ability to build your own in the app. However you can get almost the same value by simply grabbing a large (I use 11×17) sheet of paper and drawing boxes where you label your pictures and video clips along with narrative text. A little work up front will help you tell a much better story.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Big Presentation, Little Prep Time: What to do?

Presentation Blog

One of the most difficult things to do well is to give presentations and speeches on short notice.   There’s an expectation that goes along with a presentation that there will be a certain amount of preparation that goes into it and the audience is going to be receiving a fairly well knit together show.  There’s a couple things that you can do if you’re put into a situation where you have very little prep time.  Maybe you are coming into to speak for somebody that is sick or maybe you were just presented with an opportunity to speak and have a very short time to get ready. Either way I think that a there are a couple things that you can do that will help put you at ease and help that presentation be well received despite inadequate prep time.

  1. I think a good way to start off is to, in some way, acknowledge the fact that you haven’t had an enormous amount of preparation time.  If it’s something where it’s public knowledge that the person you were subbing in for is sick, it’s really easy. You can use it as an opportunity to inject a little humor. Anything along the lines of, “So and so is ill so you get the b team,” or  something like that is a little bit funny but it also sets it in the audience’s mind that they should take in to account that you may stumble a little bit. You may get some slack out of it and a little bit of humor can work in your favor.

Oftentimes with very polished presentations the audience doesn’t feel as engaged as they sometimes do, particularly if it’s a smaller group, with a less polished presentation.  When you’re working your way through something you’ve given a lot of times, you lose some of the natural beaks and a lot of the conversational tone that really engages audiences when you’re speaking to them.  So I think sometimes the shorter the time between preparation and presentation can actually be a blessing in disguise. You end up with a better product from both sides because there is more of a willingness to experiment and take direction on the fly.

  1. The second thing is to try to eliminate highly specific sides and builds across slides.  One thing I do when I’m presented with a situation like this where I’m having to work from a deck or something like that is I will pull out any slides that have builds across two slides.  The tendency is to talk to what’s on the slides because that’s what’s providing you the guideposts to your talk, which is especially helpful when you are short on prep time. If you have something that builds across two slides, inevitably you’ll make one of two mistakes. Either you run across the second slide during the first slide or in anticipation of needing the material that is on the second slide and not remembering that it is there, you’ll use another example or you’ll have cover that material in some other way. It really just creates a kind of fumbling appearance to the presentation. I would much rather go in in advance and have more generic slides. That gives me a lot more free range than to have a polished slide deck and an unpolished presentation.  That will just serve to highlight the lack of preparation.  So make sure to remove complexity from your presentation materials and give yourself the broadest amount of free range possible.
  2. Finally the last thing I want to talk about is building that connection to the audience. I find it worthwhile to make sure I find something to link directly to my audience and their target interests. Say for instance that you are going to speak to a group interested in education, I’ll try to find some facts and figures that, while maybe not 100% directly relevant to my topic whether it’s strategic planning or investment portfolios, can be used as stage setting but also are just generally interesting that relate to their field. If you can find a few of these things to sprinkle into the beginning of the talk you’re giving that day, you can garner that little bit of engagement and trust you want from your audience. If you’re able to get people to buy into the fact that you’re going to be interesting, maybe not be topical, but at least interesting; the audience will give you a chance.

They’ll give you a chance to engage them throughout the rest of your presentation and I think that is really critical within the first few minutes. You need to be able to build that interest within your audience where they say, “Hey this is somebody that I want to listen to talk.”  You don’t always have to do that by being directly relevant to the speech that you’re gong to give the rest of your way through.  It could just be something that just builds a bond with the audience and generates enough interest so they listen to the rest of what you’re going to say.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Trying to make a point? Tell a story

Storyteling

I’ve talked a couple times about different tools that I use including Powtoon. Last night I was pulling together a Powtoon trying to capture the story of why I think there should be a premium put on decision making, particularly within the federal space as we go into these more austere budget times. Every little decision counts. It’s important to be able to evaluate everything that you have, identify areas where you can save a little bit here so you can give a little bit back there, and make better use of your resources to support the mission.

So this is a problem I’ve briefed for years at a high level using traditional mechanisms like PowerPoint decks, but it’s really something that I think lends itself to telling a story. In general, one of the things that makes Powtoon so great is it forces you to tell a story almost by the very nature of the tool set.  The tool is centered on the idea that you’re making a cartoon.

I think one of the big failings of PowerPoint decks is they let you be very conceptual. I’ll find myself starting to put the elements together of something and so I’ll begin to talk conceptually about whatever problem I’m trying to address at the moment. It takes a lot of effort to tell that story across a PowerPoint because you have to go back later to the notes so you can remember what your thought track was supposed to be. What I like about Powtoon is that it allows you to do all of that at one time, roll it together, and have something that you can show in a repeatable fashion.

I’ve found that if I focus in on something, you can cut down a lot of the abstractions that might go into a PowerPoint deck. It enables you to focus on the story elements. You may not get in all the nitty gritty details in there the way you would have in your busy PowerPoint deck, but you get the heart of it in there. What I found is that it resonates more with people even though you get a quarter of the data that would be in a PowerPoint presentation. The fact that you pulled it into a story means that people retain it better as well. I’ve had people watch a two minute video and tell me that “You know I watched that and I finally really got what you were talking!” Now I take that as a compliment on the one hand. On the other hand, if it’s somebody that I’ve spent an hour with presenting out of a deck and I found out all I really needed to do was show them a two minute video; I’m not quite sure how to take that. I don’t know what that says about my presentation skills but I do think that there’s something to be said for that tool, specifically meaning Powtoon.

I think there’s a bigger lesson that is you really have to focus on telling stories when you give presentations. It’s what drives the response that you want to get out of your audience. It’s what drives audience engagement and it makes people remember things. It’s very hard when you’re just hammered with facts and data to pull it all together yourself and remember all the pieces that were important. If you put in a story, people will remember the same way that they remember the stories that come out of the books they read and the movies they watch. It just makes it much more digestive.  So the next time you’re trying to make a point; tell a story.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Everybody’s selling something: Perfecting your pitch

Satellites_For_Sale_-_GPN-2000-001036

I had a really interesting meeting with a marketing manager at Troux Technologies the other day and I’d like to share a bit from it. It really highlighted how much marketing and sales has evolved over even just the past few years. If you read some of the books that are out there like, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, which I’ve talked about before, there’s a lot of crossover techniques from what would traditionally be considered sales and marketing approaches. These are now being currently applied to everyday business writing, meetings, and tactical approaches.

One of the themes of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others is the idea that most people, in their day to day lives, are working on sales on some level. By that I mean that you’re constantly trying to convince people to take your position on something, to do certain things, or to engage on projects. To ignore that is to set yourself up for failure. If you just present people with raw information without any attempt to help them see the message, then you’re doing yourself and your project a disservice. You’re likely to fall short just on the basis of not having presented your ideas well enough.

One of the things that was brought up during our conversation was a discussion on how important it is, especially with really complex messages, to correctly identify the thought train that is going through the person’s mind. You need to be aware of what pieces of information will they need at what time so they can grasp the whole idea. I guess on some level you’re always doing that when you create an executive summary, a long paper, or you are working through a slide deck for a meeting; you’re always working through that process and I’d never heard anyone explicitly put it like that before. I thought it was a really good way to think about it, particularly when you’re trying to communicate complex things. By putting it out in bite sized chunks, you make it easier to enable people to grasp the big picture at the end of it.

He brought up another idea that I think is good practice to bring into your day to day marketing of your ideas and projects. It’s the idea that you should always be focusing on your stakeholder community’s big values. I think on some level that should be pretty obvious but it’s still worth mentioning and reinforcing. I know that I’ve found myself many times writing something and what comes through on the page are the things that are really important to me and not necessarily to my audience. So I’ll have to go back through, reorder things, and rephrase them to make sure that I’m capturing what is important to the person that I’m writing it for and not just for me.

I really believe that is a worthwhile exercise anytime you write something or pull together communications pieces. By making sure that you take a step back you can really see whether you’ve captured what’s important for your intended audience and not just what are the things that you believe are important about it. So I realize some of what I said is fairly obvious but I know, at least for me, the conversation was a great reminder of:

  • How important it is to think about what the customer or consumer of your information is going to need
  • What order do they need that information in in order to understand it
  • To constantly focus on the areas that are going to be of interest to them as you communicate your big idea.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Kindergarten wisdom for all ages

Kindergarten

I saw a post on Facebook this morning that I really liked. Somebody put up a little note saying that as your kids go back to school, to have a talk with them. Tell them that if they see somebody who is shy, or not fitting in, or kind of on the outside, to take a minute and go over and introduce yourself. Say hi and just to be kind.  I thought it was a really cool thing that if we did more of, would make the world a better place for a long time to come. I also thought that they had some interesting carry over into our work a day lives.

The stuff that is great and nice to do in kindergarten is still great and nice to do when you get older. I think we still have those opportunities to be inclusive, to help somebody out, and to help someone who is on the outside to come in and be a part of the group and gain a lot of benefit along the way.  One of the things that the Facebook post made me think about was how many people I know that maybe aren’t the most outgoing, who aren’t the first person to offer up their opinions but whose input, opinions and knowledge I really value. If I hadn’t gotten to know them as well as I do, I probably would have missed out on a lot.

As you are working your way through life and you have opportunities to speak with those people, it’s worth taking the time to make that effort. One of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s the quiet ones who seem to do the most listening. Sometimes that means that the things they say might be that much more valuable. I know not always but definitely sometimes.  So I’m curious what other people’s opinions are and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

You talk too much…and you never shut up!

gift of gab

I admit I love to talk.  Some people like talk about the “gift of gab.” Now I’m not sure if I have it but I do know that I definitely enjoy listening to myself talk.  However, as I’ve gotten a little bit older I’ve slowly but surely come to the realization that there are other people that are involved in a conversation.  If others aren’t involved in the conversation it is a monologue and people look at you funny, so this post is for all of you talkers out there.

If you find yourself in the midst of what should be a conversation and you realize that the other person hasn’t said a word in five minutes take a breath and see if maybe, just maybe they have something to add.  One thing that I try to make a concerted effort to do every time is listen first. If you get engaged in a casual conversation make it a point to really listen to what the other person has to say and let them get engaged in a story.  I find that if I work on listening first not only is my part of the conversation better because I know a little bit more about the other person but when people notice that you’re actively listening, a lot of times it prompts them to really open up. I think there’s almost a cue when you are actively listening to somebody that lets them know, “Hey this person is not going to interrupt me and they’re going to let me finish,” and because of that you get a better response on their part.

Finally I think that for every talker out there it’s really important to think about the conversations that you’ve had after you’ve had them. I think this is especially true and relevant in the business context.  Think about how you went through it and where you might have been better served to do some listening rather than speaking. It’s from my client calls or workshops with clients where I think I’ve really learned that the key to success is listening more talking less. I always try to take a minute and just think about the conversation I had and not just from the context of what was actually said, what I need to do about it, what are the action items, and other basic housekeeping details. I like to reflect on some growing points as well such as:

  • How could I have made the call better
  • How could I have listened more
  • Where could I have put in prompts to the cue the other person to speak
  • Where could I have elicited more information

As I said at the beginning, one of the keys to success is ensuring that you do at least as much listening as talking in any conversation because it’s what enables you to better meet the expectation of the other person. Many times, what helps you get your ideas across and enables you to convince the other person of the benefits of a particular idea or objective isn’t what you say so much, it’s how well you listen to them and how well you react to their cues.  I’m curious what other people have to say on the topic. It’s an area where I know I could still learn quite a little bit about.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Short and sweet: The value of brevity

short and sweet

In today’s modern world much has changed in the way of how we get and internalize our information.  With so much new technology constantly coming out that makes it easier and faster to get information, we are oversaturated. We are constantly hit with a barrage of information about absolutely anything and everything.  It has changed many things around us as well as how we go about getting and ingesting our information. Twitter has become the monument to our shortened attention spans created by this information overload.  Its platform that makes you get your message down to 140 characters can teach you some valuable lessons about elevator pitches and messaging in this social media era.

  1. There is so much content available now that if you can’t get your message across in the first sentence or even the first 140 characters people may not read further.
  2. The act of focusing down your message into 140 characters forces you to filter out all the extraneous information and focus on what’s really important
  3. Most of us learned the wrong message in college.  That lesson being, if you said enough stuff the teacher would take it and think you put enough work into it and give you the grade.  That’s not how the modern world works. People want their information quickly, easily, and most importantly, concisely.
  4. Twitter itself has made 140 character messaging a must for most organizations. Most organizations need to be able to communicate on that platform and others like Vine, Tumblr, and blogs etc. that reward those that are able to be both concise and informative to be successful.
  5. People don’t have time to read the whole novel.  Give them the Cliffs notes.  They’ll appreciate and love you for it
  6. You get 90 seconds in an elevator pitch and most peoples decisions are made on that basis.  In the new social media world a lot of research has shown that most people never make it past the first 7 seconds of a YouTube video.  This just illustrates that the quicker you entice the better.
  7. Who reads your next email may very well be dependent on how good your subject line is.  Great subject lines need to capture an audience and intrigue in just a few words.
  8. If it’s a really good idea, you ought to be able to get it across in a few seconds. If you can’t, you’re going to have trouble getting the eyes, ears, and attention of today’s overexposed, information overloaded, and harried content consumers.

These are just a few reasons I believe brevity is a virtue that is becoming more and more valuable in today’s world.  As always I’m curious what other people think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.