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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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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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