Authentic Stories vs. Canned Stories

December, 16 2013

People reading out loud is a turn off for me.

Don’t get me wrong– James Earl Jones can read me anything (the phone book, blender instructions, my credit card bill) — I’d be thrilled. My sweetie pie reading Robert Frost to me aside a warm, crackling fire would be nice. Okay, I’m sure there are some other exceptions, too.

But I’m talking about human to human communication here. If people want to communicate with me, I’d rather they not read a prepared statement. If they really want to capture my attention, hold my attention, and maybe even make me lean in– they need to speak to me from the heart.

Some great actors can make the written word jump off the page. Some great orators can make the teleprompter disappear. But most folks — it’s not so easy. Our attempts to make the written word engaging so often fall flat. The results sound stiff, limp, or canned.

So here’s the challenge: how can you stay on message AND speak from the heart?

My trick of the trade draws on my theatre background, and goes back to 16th century Italy. Actors in the Commedia dell’arte travelled from town to town presenting theatre. But the plays were not set, not written down. Rather, they were improvised from outlines.


The performers had a good sense of what was going to happen and what they were going to say and do, but they had to adjust their performances to the reality of the moment. Each day was different, each town square was different, each rowdy audience was different, and their fellow masked actors were doing things differently. They were forced to pay attention and forced to modulate their performances and spoken words to what was really going on.

An outline is like a road map. You’ll get to your destination, but the exact route will vary. Tree fallen on the road? Take a different street. Feeling like the scenic route today? Go for it.

An outline allows you to modulate your message according to the actuality of the moment. When used correctly, speaking from an outline produces a more natural delivery, and the words are more apt to come from the heart.

If all else fails… just channel James Earl Jones.

- Keith

How to Make a Video – In 5 Easy Steps

December, 16 2013

Anyone with an iPhone can make a video these days. But will it be the video you really want? If you understand the fashion philosophy of dressing for success… don’t you want your video to make the same great first impression? Here are five steps in the video production process.

    Sometimes you are “too close” to your own story to see it objectively. It helps to work with a producer who can see you and your story objectively, and help you communicate your story to your target audience. Should your video’s tone be serious? hip? introspective? humorous? Your producer can help you decide.

    This producer could be an individual or a large production company, or someone in between– it depends on the scope of your project and your budget. In general: The more complex a project, the higher the personnel count and… higher the sticker price. But, as with most things, you get what you pay for.

    This stage is the creative/brainstorming/planning/logistic phase. Each producer has their own way of working, but, generally, this is when you and your producer will discuss goals, ideas, and strategies for your video. Your producer should be using both hemisphere’s of the brain– thinking artistically, anticipating technical issues, and creative problem solving to meet your goals.

    Every video production tells a story, even if it’s a non-linear, collage-like mishmash. What story will your video tell?

    Lights, camera… action! Whether it’s a half-day shoot or a multiple-day shoot, this is production time. This involves shooting scenes, interviews, quick snapshots, and/or whatever is needed to fulfill the creative vision. Other elements may need to be acquired, as well: stills, music, sound, graphics. Quality planning during Pre-production helps make for quality days of production.

    You may be integral to the production day or be sitting on the sidelines. It all depends on the c

    On to the editing room…. All the footage shot, “B roll”, music, and other elements are distilled and combined. Depending on the production, this may be the longest part of the process. At a certain point, your producer will pull you into the process to get your feedback. Is the video shaping up how you imagined? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

    Depending on your arrangement with the producer, there will be one revision or several. Until… the video is finished!

  5. ENJOY!
    You will have discussed with your producer how you want to use the video: television broadcast? online only? Put it on your website, Facebook, YouTube, other social media? Whatever the case, your producer should help you deliver your video to the proper media. Now… load it up and press play.

- Keith

Telling Stories

December, 16 2013

In the beginning… we sat around the campfire (gnawing on dinosaur meat) telling each other stories. Ahhh… the good ol’ days.

Fast forward a few years (or so) to the printing press– the prototype for text messaging*. We were able to tell stories with words. What a handy tool!

In the video below, Chris Anderson (of TED talk fame) discusses another interesting point in history… NOW. Now that the masses have easy access to video and even video production, the video “tool” is something like the printing press was in its time.

In a way, we’re returning to the good ol’ days of sitting around the campfire– telling stories with voice, gesture, sound, images, and other bells & whistles. Because non-verbals are so integral to communication, one could argue that communicating with video be much more accurate, effective, & efficient than the written word.

In any case, I’m excited to be playing & working around our new virtual campfire. Now “show & tell” can be a lot more showy and lot more telly– without the danger of that dinosaur’s brother ruining the party.

* Some historical details may have been conveniently ignored in the writing of this post.

- Keith

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