Thoughts from an Unrelated Conference

I recently cited a Herman Wouk quotation that states that “a rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.” It has been a while since I’ve written new content, and the last time I worked on my current work-in-progress was Saturday, in which I spent time polishing a short section for reading at the Community Writers of Santa Cruz gathering.  A great deal has happened in the interim, but little of it is writing related.  My employers hosted a two-day conference, in which we had speakers from all over the high-tech landscape come and speak to other professionals.

One of the first speakers of the conference was a celebrity who crosses many fields.  Guy Kawasaki, a one-time colleague of Steve Jobs’, has spoken at conferences around the world, and on topics such as marketing to technical audiences, general marketing, and community management.  The general overview of his talk on Monday was evangelism, an activity he does for Canva, a company that provides free graphic design tools.  He generally speaks about the software development field, but many of the topics for discussion were general enough that they don’t need context.  It is very likely that I will mine these for content for future blogs, but also look to these to address my future endeavors as a writer.

I’ve mentioned another writer, Janice Mock, in my blog before.  Janice is a memoirist, whose debut memoir, Not All Bad Comes to Harm You, is currently available.  She has also harped upon Kawasaki’s book, Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (APE): How to Publish a Book.  I haven’t read the book myself, but I have heard good things about it.  I have also seen a caveat, which is something that appeared in various forms after his talk at the conference.  It’s easy to get published when you’re Michelle Obama, Dwayne the Rock Johnson, or Guy Kawasaki.  During his talk, Kawasaki claimed that he’s getting 1,200 new Twitter followers per day.  It takes me a few weeks just to get that many Twitter impressions.  While there are probably a great deal of factoids that are useful in APE, it is important to understand that Kawasaki has a résumé that makes things happen on its own.

Not to take anything away from the man.  His presentation was great!  I also learned something very important through his presentation.  Along with Susie Wee, one of the CTOs for Cisco, Mr. Kawasaki introduced me to a concept that I hadn’t seriously considered before, using live video as a way of communicating with my audience.  Kawasaki and Wee used Facebook Live to live-cast their talks. In the time since their Monday talks, Kawasaki has had 7,700+ views.  Wee has just 39 views, but I have to think that she’s providing this somewhere else; Cisco is a major player in the tech world, and her presentation was simply outstanding.  I make a guest appearance in Wee’s video as a mortician who has ingested embalming fluid, so maybe that’s scaring people away.  My cousin’s husband, Steve, had already used the Facebook Live function to share his thoughts on life, but I didn’t think that such a medium would be particularly effective.  After all, it takes a second or two to get the gist of most Facebook wall posts, but a Facebook Live event might take five minutes or more for someone to extract all of its gems.  However, Steve got a lot of views.  As I sat in on Kawasaki’s and Wee’s respective presentations, I realized that what Steve had done could work for me, too.

On Tuesday, after I got home from the conference, I recorded my first Facebook Live session.  It had its moments, but was plagued with all of the problems with doing something live without any real testing.  After three attempts in which I actually went live, and numerous prior struggles with audio and video, I finally was frustrated enough to just go through with it.  There were small issues, as I was trying to flip through three pages of 8-1/2 by 11” document while reading from what I’d presented at Saturday’s Community Writers meeting.  I finally placed the three pages on a clipboard next to my camera.  It was my attempt to approximate eye contact with the camera – in essence, a kludge teleprompter without the “tele.”  This worked a bit better, as I was able to read through my work with just two brief transitions.  If you’ve seen the Facebook Live run, either live or recorded on my Facebook page, your teeth are likely grinding at the very thought of those transitions.  Surely, there is an alternative, but I will have to work this alternative out as I continue experimenting with this medium.

Tools for Live Recording

The Internet is the great equalizer when it comes to producing recorded content.  There are tools that make it easy enough to do.  Speaking as someone who came into it with no prior experience, I know that tools such as Windows Movie Maker and Camtasia can allow you to pre-record webinars with little more than a vision and a little intuition.  They are not necessarily professional quality, and will not be confused for something put out by teams that are dedicated to such tasks, but the bare bones are indeed possible, if not easy.  If you’re going for something that’s raw and grassroots, Facebook Live can instantly get you from ideation to a live broadcast. One of the major takeaways from Guy’s talk was the growing set of third-party tools that are already there to support you in your FB Live broadcasts.  There were three resources that he identified:

Telestream WireCast – This is a production studio toolkit.  It allows you to use multiple cameras and mics for Facebook Live, to capture live content, and to provide modern editing and layering to Facebook Live broadcasts. Telestream offers limited time trial versions, but the software itself runs around $500 for the base level.

Be.Live – This is more of a community for live creators, rather than a tool or integration itself.  This community is full of information.  One such post explains how you can download your live streams from Facebook.  This also sells “.live” domains for live content creators.  I’m not sure where the integration occurs here.

BlueJeans – teleconferencing technology that has integrated with Facebook Live.  From the website, it appears that most of this is done for enterprise teleconferencing, but I’m sure that you can stretch it to include live Q&A sessions with your fans, if you have the imagination.  There is a free trial of BlueJeans, but the full package is a subscription service.  With some exceptions, such as a 50% deal in March, the price is about $20 per month for up to 50 attendees at once.

Content is King

Later in the day, I watched my colleague, David I, illustrate examples of a developer portal that really doesn’t work.  He had some great points that make a lot of sense to all of us in the blogosphere.

The key point that resonated the most with me is that you may be trying to sell something, but the key reason why you should be producing content on your blog or site is to give something to your audience.  It doesn’t matter if that something is advice, information, or just you telling your story.  If you’re hocking something right off of the bat, you’re going to turn people away.

Another key point that I’d like to bring up is the volume of content, and the completeness of vision for your site.  If you’re reading this, you know that I have a blog.  I also have a Facebook author page that hasn’t gone live yet.  A large part of the reason why it hasn’t gone live is that it is still devoid of content and visual appeal.  With my blog, I have been focusing on delivering content, and do so because my only experience with blogs has been experience with text.  I have been exploring ways of expanding this to a full site.  For the time being, this is a blog, and the written content is king.  One of these days, when somebody picks up my blog, they will have a backlog of my thoughts, and will hopefully be able to trace my evolution as a blogger and as an author.  Right now, my Facebook author page has none of that.  For this and other reasons, I have not gone live with that page, and I may need to wait for some time before you, my friends, will see it.

If you haven’t heard about David I., then you’re missing out.  The man is a great presenter, and great storyteller.  He shares from his backlog of more than 45 years in the software development field, and his experience picking up an array of programming languages.  However, his reminiscing of days of compilers past is not what makes him so engaging as a presenter.  He has adopted numerous philosophies of presentation skills from presenter Jerry Weissman, and one of them is particularly helpful for those of us who want to use video as a medium for blogging and sharing content: ERA, earned run average.  Oops, nope. ERA…

Eye Contact – keep your eye on your audience, whether that is a camera or a live event.  If a live event, maintain eye contact with numerous people in succession.  A presentation is just a conversation with many people.

Reach Out – be welcoming, draw people in.  If you physically reach out (think with open arms), it’s like shaking hands.  There’s a visceral response to shaking hands, and it harkens back to centuries past, where you knew that if you were shaking hands, you weren’t carrying a weapon in that hand.  As most people are right handed, you’re proving that you’re at least vulnerable enough to not have anything in your dominant hand.

Animate – don’t just stand there, you corpse!  Lurch, the butler on the Addams Family, would stand there looking like the scenery, but most people are animated when they engage with others.  Use your hands.  Walk the stage.  If you’re only a close-up on a screen, laugh and smile, or gesticulate in some manner.

Closing Thoughts

After all that has happened this week, and my relative level of exhaustion, I didn’t think that this blog post would be as long as it is.  I’ll leave you with a few things:

  • If you’re trying to draw interest to your cause, try Facebook Live. It couldn’t hurt.  In fact, as of this posting, I have 165 views, and drew nine unique visitors to my blog in just under 40 minutes.  That’s not too bad.
  • Consider low cost or free production tools. Fiddle around with free tooling, and see what works for you. Some are fairly intuitive; even if they aren’t, you might learn something!
  • If you want to feel natural on the camera, you might not necessarily be able to animate, but try keeping eye contact with the camera as much as possible, and establish an open posture. If you look uncomfortable on the camera, then it won’t be any fun for your viewers.

Photo Credit: Cozendo on Pixabay.  CCO License.

If any of the above interested you, please check out the following:

Janice Mock
Guy Kawasaki
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
Susie Wee
David I

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