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Lessons in making a vote for me video

Lessons in making a vote for me video
A not bad vote for me video

    Ever do a truly crappy job at something you cared about? That was me a month ago when I put together my first YouTube video. I did it – God forgive me for my sins – because the organizer of the Business of Software Conference in a fit of Pure Evil decided the only way for speakers to get on was to do a vote for me video.

    For an awful lot of people out there in videoland pointing a camera at yourself seems to come as naturally as snorting apple pie from your nose: I am not by nature that kind of guy. I’d rather visit my dentist, and he hates me.

    Terrible, awful, horrible did not describe it. By comparison, I made Al Gore look like Madonna. My horror compounded as I realized that soon, other Evil conference organizers would undoubtedly follow suit and I faced a dismal bleak future of more of these damn video tryouts. From evil conference organizers the virus would spread to publishers, clients, prospective bosses and more and more people caught the YouTube bug.

    After a month of sleepless nights and depressed days agonizing over what to do in this Brave New Video World, a strange golden light surrounded me early yesterday morning and an amazing calm filled me. A godlike voice said in my head, “This is television dummy! There’s always a take 2!”

    I woke realizing I’d fallen asleep watching the movie Network, but the godlike voice (GLV to his friends) was right – video is here to stay, and this old dog better learn some new video tricks right quick if he wanted to be up on that speaking stage.

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    So here’s the tricks I learned creating my second video vote for me, just in case you find yourself in the same video or die situation:

    Do not perform unnatural acts on Television. And the most unnatural act of all in TVLand is to talk into one fixed camera position for grinding minute after minute. Television jumps. Right. Left. Close up. Pan back. Television changes its visual point of view anywhere from every 6 seconds for commercials and game shows to maybe as long as 20 seconds for talking heads and major disasters. We are all conditioned to see television that way – and bucking the flow is not going to work. So you need to chop up your video and film it from different angles.

    Do what good Directors do. Steal. Okay, not actually steal – more like buy for incredibly few dollars. In the same way a good stock photo from iStockPhoto is worth the dollar it will cost you, iStockPhoto.com has about 45,000 video clips you can by for $10 a pop. You at the beginning, 5 stock videos with you voiceovering, you at the end in case they forgot what you’re trying to sell them and your done.

    You call this a script? On my first attempt, I wrote up some notes, and winged it. Winging it unless you are dressed in a chicken suit does not work on television. Having a script right in front of you that you’ve read 23 times until you’re sick of it and can mumble it in your sleep does. Write a script. Learn the script. This is television.

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    Good video means use small words. I’ve been railing at TV news for years because instead of soberly discussing the parameters of a given political/economic/socialogical nexus of import they talk in short little words that a sixth grade boy or girl would be fine with. Guess what? I was wrong.

    When we are in television receiving mode and 90% of our brain is busy following the action from film jump cut here to over there, it’s too damn hard to process complicated audio. It don’t work. So if you are going to make your video visually interesting by using a variety of shots and subjects you’d better dumb down your presentation from observing Lepidopterans to see the pretty butterfly otherwise you’re audience will tune out and turn off.

    Words reinforce images reinforce words. I went back and forth between writing the script and riffling iStockPhoto’s video library – back and forth. Looking for the right images to make each main point and then rewrite your script to use language and metaphor that fits the videos. You want to tie the words to the images and the images to the words.

    The Right Tool is the Right Tool. For me, Apple iMovie ’08 is incredible. It made all the pain of putting together my second video go away – whoosh! Doing the voiceover, doing title, adjusting the clips and transitioning between shots was dirt easy. Awesome product.

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    The smaller the screen, the faster you’d better speak. As I watch my video again I realized my speaking speed is still way too slow: what moved right along when I was working with the video covering most of my screen seems way too slow when looking at a YouTube postage stamp sized screen.

    This just in from my friend corporate video producer Tom The Director who’s forgotten more about making videos than I’ll ever learn:

    “Suggestion…SMILE!!!! :-) I remember our conversation on the phone and your smile is missing from this video.

    I dealt with a CEO today of a major corporation who refused to smile. If you say nothing but only smile, you’ll change the world. Words are really extra stuff. Smile, then words. That’s my mantra :-)”

    That’s my list of video tips for now. By the way, Neil Davidson, the Evil Conference Organizer was nice enough to let me put my second video up (I think removing the pins from my Neil Davidson Voodoo Doll helped). And last Sunday, I got the word I’d made the final cut.

    Who says you can’t teach an old analog dog new digital tricks?

    Bob Walsh by day helps microISVs (software startups) succeed at 47hats.com, by night sells MasterList Professional, flogs his second book, Clear Blogging, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle. Is it surprising he hears voices in his head?

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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