Friday, March 27, 2009

What about the audience?

Figure 1 We start young enjoying images and expressing ourselves this way.

Back in June 2006 I wrote about Effective Multimedia piece (link)

As professional communicators we usually determined who our audience is, but have we considered how the how they learn?

Today 69% of Americans are visual learners. That only leaves 31% who learn from press releases, articles and other words-alone means of communication. Here is some research on the subject: (link to article)

Successful visual communication is measured not only by aesthetic, but also by the audience’s comprehension. Visual communicators know how to use images to create a sense of tranquility or a feeling of foreboding and tension and everything in between.

Figure 2 My typical gear for a multimedia piece is quite simple. I have other lenses and microphones, but this is the core equipment needed.

Combining the visual and audio compounds and improves the learning process. Picture a photograph of a landscape (pun intended). Photos taken as the light plays over it through the day, the evening and into the night awaken different emotional feelings in the viewer.

Just as changing light impacts a scene so do changes in audio will affect words. The same sentence read by several people using different emphasis and voice inflections can totally change the meaning of the sentence.

Combine these two powerful forms of communication and the outcome is magnified as compared to either one alone.

Many times the still image is more powerful than the moving image simply because it IS still… it “captures the moment.” But there are times when the movement is most powerful.

It takes more time to produce video images than still images. Therefore video images are more expensive. Gathering audio without video is much easier and cheaper. Recording in really close with an inexpensive microphone and recorder only requires one person. To obtain the same quality in a video requires a special microphone and usually two people – more money.

A BIG advantage of multimedia is one person can make the photos and then the same person can do an interview and combine it with the images for the final presentation.

The time and costs are much less than for a video production. As a rule it costs about three to five times more to produce a two to ten minute piece in video than audio/still photo (multimedia) project.

Forget costs for a moment. The New York Times, The Washington Post and even National Public Radio have discovered—the multimedia piece is effective.

Since the web has become the central nervous system for many organizations using the printed word alone is not the most effective medium to communicate with today’s audience.

Figure 3 Photo Tip: Take photos right around dusk and dawn of lighted signs and buildings for a more dramatic look.

Here are a few other reasons for using multimedia (still images and audio) instead of video. A two-minute package for the web for a multimedia package might be about five to seven meg file. The same length of video is thirty to fifty meg file. If you have space issues or the bandwidth of your audience is small video may just be impractical.

The multimedia package file is smaller than video, but the image size isn’t. Usually, the video screen isn't large enough and the frame rate isn't high enough on the Web to capture the nuances of emotion that make some talking-head interviews on television compelling. The composition needs to be is shot tight and show faces mainly.

However, the still image can be larger and still capture the nuances of emotion. Video over the web is supplying at least fifteen frames a second or 1800 images for a two minute video verses a two minute multimedia package will have thirty to sixty frames total on average.

If: (1) 69% of the audience learns visually.

(2) More people can view a multimedia package than video.

(3) More audience is reached regularly with a multimedia package.

(4) While video is effective, it isn’t as effective on the web as on TV if the audience doesn’t have a really high-speed connection.

(5) While text is easier to deliver over the web—whose reading it?

Conclusion: Choose multimedia not because it cost less, but because it is often more effective.

Here is an example I did recently for Chick-fil-A

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Artist Thomas Swanston

The past two days I was in what I would call Spring Training. The corporate communications staff at Chick-fil-A got together for a retreat at Serenbe. Serenbe is a planned community that is a community of people living in a community of trees.

So we had a retreat there to go over what we call our play book. How we engage with our clients so we become partners with them in their communication. The end result is because we come along side of them we help them find a stronger voice for their passions and stories. We also discovered sometimes we help them discover the diamonds in the rough of their fields.

We divided into teams and talked to some of the businesses in town for our workshop where we were able to practice our play. My group worked with the artist Thomas Swanston of

We realized his work was outstanding, but thought we could help him tell the story of why he creates his art. This is our first attempt with the artist where he tells us in his own words why he paints as he does.

Daddy Daughter Event In Kansas

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Celebrations & Concerns

One of the really cool things my Sunday School class does each Sunday is to start the class off with Celebrations and Concerns. We take as much time as we need on this. Usually anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes where everyone is invited to give us some celebration or concern.

What I like most about this is knowing the real reason we come together is for a relationship with each other and ultimately to God. So by sharing with each other we take the time to build our relationships. We end each Celebration and Concern time with prayer. We take all these we write on our board each week and pray for them.

Also, each week someone writes all this down and sends an email blast out to our class. If you were there or missed the class you get a friendly reminder about out prayer list. I figure for most of our class we take a moment and pray again for those on the list.

For me this is worship and one of the biggest reasons I am involved in a faith community. Having a personal relationship with people and time with God.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Teaching is a great way to learn

After Tiger Woods won the Master’s the first time he felt he could still improve his game. Tiger went back to the fundamentals of the game; he worked on his swing.

Tiger is not the only professional athlete practicing the fundamentals of his game. Each year major-league baseball teams begin spring training where they discipline themselves in the fundamentals of baseball. They’re doing pretty much what those kids in little league are doing – practicing the basics.

How often do professionals, other than athletes, revisit the fundamentals of their profession? Teachers are taught how students learn. This enables them to pass on the essentials of a subject in a way that their students understand them. To do this a teacher must know their subject extremely well. I stumbled upon the genuine benefits of being plunged back into the nuts and bolts of photography when I started teaching what I do to college students.

In the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure teaching others the basics of lighting and business practices for photography. At the Art Institute of Atlanta I worked with those pursuing photography as a profession. Later, teaching in Kona, Hawaii at the University of Nations Photography Program, I taught students from all over the world who were learning to communicate visually. In Fort Worth, at The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, I spoke to a group of my peers about business practices in photography. I was the one who learned the most in these places. Teaching your profession requires a lot of thought about how you do what you do. In every profession there are those who know enough to “get by” and in their jobs. Some of these folks probably don’t know why certain things work - just know they do. Odds are they’ve never tried to teach anyone what they do (and let’s hope they don’t).

I received my masters in communications from a school where program was in the education department. We communications majors were required to take classes in teaching. We studied how people learn at different ages. They helped us learn how to package information so that it communicated to a particular audience. In 1985, while working with a missionary organization, I was assigned to teach missionaries how to take better pictures and put together interesting slide shows. I have taught in colleges, to camera clubs and other groups ever since those early days. Over the years I have had to find effective ways to present the fundamentals and help people improve their skills with their cameras.

I believe teaching is one of the best ways to improve in this, and probably any other, profession. It’s up-close and personal. If you spot a puzzled expression in the class you know you didn’t get some point across to that person.

If, as a professional communicator, you see that puzzled expression in meetings with clients or in committee meetings and you think you might be seeing it too often, maybe it’s time to teach.

Learning how to teach the basics of communication can’t help but improve your professional skills and it just might help you get that important point across to your client or that significant committee.

(Photo credit top Dennis Fahringer, middle Morris Abernathy, bottom Dennis Fahringer)