UMACHA AAP Video Volunteer Project

I am a big fan of portfolio projects that have a purpose…do good things for others.  I created this video in a collaborative volunteer project with  It was a problem I have solved often in my recent work, creating a visual short educational video to replace an aged lengthy webinar.

The Training Director and I worked closely as I interpreted their two-year old webinar. Together, we validated my outline, script, new theme, and visuals were on track with her current goals for the AAP program. For visuals, I worked with the Marketing team to shop on Big Stock for graphics that fit the Midwest audience and theme using their current subscription. I used my own home sound recording studio for narration.  I used Camtasia and PowerPoint plus kept the design very simple so I could turn the source files over to the Training Director at the end of the project for their own use. Files were shared via Google Drive and YouTube.

Frequent checkpoints with key stakeholders pay off. When the video reached the final stage of being reviewed by the Board, it passed with applause and no changes requested. It now sits on their website for their members, and it has served them well this year!

Engaging Your Audience

Team Meeting

Team Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Engaging your audience is critical for designing effective documentation, videos or online training.  With needs analysis, you can build the right tools at the right time, saving hundreds of hours of rework or waste.

Here is a recent example. Not long ago, I was told by a leader in product development to build an internal training video on a new software feature in our software-as-a-service or SaaS offering. We had added the feature to stay competitive, and we were charging clients an extra fee for it.

I know video projects can easily take 50 to 75 hours. So, I set out to engage and meet the end users of the video. I found the product owner plus team leads in implementation, sales and support teams. I asked “Are you interested in a video on this topic?”

I found out there was only one client purchasing the new feature, a pilot client. A handful of people were engaged with the pilot client, including the product owner who already knew a great deal about the new feature. Within the largest teams, the implementation and support teams, the team leads told me this feature was simply too new to learn because it was not being used by the majority of clients.

I also knew from my own experience working in software companies that a new feature is subject to change, just like the first model of a car rolling off the factory line. Based on the pilot client’s feedback, the feature itself could be very different in a few months, both in workflow and appearance. Building a video too early might mean hours of redoing and adding content later.

In this case, instead of making a video, we simply made sure all product documentation was in place for our teams. The marketing team assembled a short slide deck to help our sales team explain and sell the new feature.

Then we waited for client adoption. I always keep proposal backlogs, and I kept checking back every month to gauge client interest on this feature. Once the pilot client had successfully implemented the feature plus a number of clients were starting to buy it, it was time to start making the video. I engaged the pilot team plus the product owner, and we made sure the original release documentation was updated based on what we learned in the pilot. I then produced, released, and advertised the new feature video with many successful views, because it was the right tool at the right time.

Building a piece of documentation, a video, or an online training course is often done without a direct connection to the audience. This may seem like an easy way to do the job. We just go build it, and keep our fingers crossed that someone uses it. I have seen this pattern over and over in different jobs, similar situations.

However, there is a great deal of risk in this method, and often many hours wasted. What if we spend 50-100 hours to build something too soon, and then we have to rebuild it again in a few months? What if the new feature cannot be sold for a year or is sold to only a few, reducing the value of the product documentation, video or course?

Engaging your audience and asking a few more questions before you start a large project is the smart and efficient way to go.


Advertising Your Portfolio

Social Media Ads: Twice About Others; Once About You

Once you have created your portfolio pieces, the next step is to advertise it. It is in the advertising that you may encourage discussion or feedback as a short-term event.

Reciprocal behavior is the nature of most social media communities. The techniques I learned for Twitter seem to work well on most social media platforms.

When I follow someone on Twitter, I am saying I’m interested in what they have to say, either what they share or their skills or their line of business. My behavior of following someone on Twitter often causes them to follow me back.

In Twitter, it is considered poor form to constantly be tweeting about yourself. Celebrities might use their Twitter handle this way; it doesn’t translate well to the rest of us.

The recommended practice is to share and thank twice as much as you tweet about yourself. This means you might tweet about your new blog or piece, but then you should follow that tweet with two other tweets either sharing resources you found or responding to another person’s contribution.

This pattern of sharing other’s work and thanking others for their contributions establishes trust and community with your followers.

You don’t have to do this every hour. If you only lightly use a platform, it is okay to spread the tweets, posts or updates out over a few days. Just remember when you say something about yourself, then it is time to appreciate and share other’s accomplishments.

The nice thing about advertising a blog or piece on social media is you can catch people’s eye in a controlled manner. If your followers like it, they may share it with their followers, or they may privately message you with feedback. I like sharing in LinkedIn with 300 like-minded people; they do give me feedback. Sharing in Twitter is fun too, but with a wider less connected audience, the feedback decreases.

This type of sharing means most of the feedback will be in social media, as an event, away from your publishing platform. Since the life of a Tweet or post is often a few hours or days, the sharing and feedback isn’t permanent, but it is often helpful. You may hear some good advice to help you change your piece.

Happy New 2017!

I’m back to blogging and creating tools to help others!

I left to work on my new job. I am using technical writing and instructional design skills to create short animated training videos for a software company. I love working with my fellow nerds, and doing it all from beginning to end. I am the program lead plus a script writer, graphic artist, voice talent, editor, and video producer. I do a lot of needs analysis, planning, publicity, and reporting as the lead. Now I’ve spent a couple of years building the program, I’m ready to come back here on the evenings and weekends.

My volunteer work still involves helping and mentoring women in technology. I have added new volunteer projects for yoga, wellness and the Oregon Food Bank.  I still advocate the responsible use of social media.

My theme remains Change through Communication. More to come soon!