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Resources for eLearning Voiceover Students

Since the course materials for my certificate program on eLearning Voiceovers were only available in hard copy, I promised my students that I’d post the resource links from the Appendix to my presentation.  So here they are in clickable PDF format.  These are just some basic links based on things we talked about in class–comparing USB microphones, setting up a portable “booth,” and other related items of interest.  If you have other links you want to contribute to this list, let me know, and I’ll add them as appropriate.  Thanks!  And if you have other questions, or things you’d like to share or compare, let me know.  I figure the more we all share, the more we all grow.  LS2011-P9-eLearning Voiceovers-Links & Resources

My Presentation Skills Classes at Learning Solutions Were a Hit

I’ve just returned from attending the Adobe Learning Summit 2011, and from being both presenter and attendee at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference.  I had a fantastic time.  Both conferences had excellent keynote speakers:  Steven Berlin Johnson on the collaborative nature of innovation, John Medina on applying “brain rules” to learning, Nancy Duarte on visual impact, and Michael Wesch with a moving final talk on the implicit social responsibility behind social media.  There were also some very good peer-led sessions as well at both conferences.  Plus, it’s always exciting to see the new eLearning products from the vendors at the Expo.   Articulate’s upcoming “Storylines” and Michael Allen’s long-awaited “Zebra” are both coming to market this year, and you should keep an eye on both of those software applications; they have enormous potential. 

At the Adobe Summitt, I was delighted to meet Shameer, Akshay, RJ, Allen, and a lot more of the brilliant folks behind Adobe’s wonderful Captivate software.  They were great to talk to, and extremely responsive to everyone’s suggestions for future enhancements.  I’m sending them a list! 

It was fantastic to have the two conferences co-located in the same week; I hope that becomes an annual plan.  The perfect Orlando weather didn’t hurt, either. 

In addition to my full-day pre-conference certificate program on voiceovers (see my next post for a write-up!) as part of the Learning Solutions conference, I also led a one-hour Presentation Skills 101 class each of the three days of that conference, helping e-Learning professionals overcome the classic roadblocks to delivering an engaging and inspiring presentation, regardless of the topic or medium.  The attendees participated actively, contributing great examples from their own experiences, and gave me great reviews afterward.  I like to think that there are a lot more e-Learning professionals out there now who can get up in front of any audience with confidence and really make a difference.  I was very pleased that Nancy Duarte’s conceptual talk about the importance of “resonating” with an audience was a perfect companion talk to my own sessions, which provided hands-on ways to do it!

I also met a lot of great people from all over the place, and hope a lot of us can stay in touch here, on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, now that the conferences are over.  My only regret: I couldn’t fit the gorgeous Orlando weather into my suitcase to bring home with me!  😀

NOTE: If you attended one of my Presentation Skills 101 sessions, I’d love to hear from you about how you’re implementing the tips & tricks I shared.  I’m always happy to bounce around new ideas, or offer suggestions, if I can be of further help.  If you didn’t attend, but this sounds like coaching you need, please see my Coaching tab.

My thanks again to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to present these sessions, and to Juli Balding, Ina Brasher, and the rest of the gang at the eLearning Guild for the fantastic support throughout.  Well done, all!

Learning Solutions 2011 Is Next Week!

The eLearning Guild’s  Learning Solutions 2011 is almost here.  Next Tuesday, I’ll be presenting my full-day certificate program on voiceovers for eLearning.  And on Wed-Fri mornings, as part of the Morning Buzz agenda, I’ll be presenting my 1-hour discussion and coaching session on Presentation Skills.

If you want to sign up for my voiceovers hands-on workshop, you should contact the eLearning Guild immediately to see if any spaces remain.  My Presentation Skills sessions will be open to all.  Click the logo on this post to visit the Learning Solutions 2011 web site.

If you’re registered for my voiceovers workshop and have any questions that need answering before the event, now is the time  to post here on my site and I’ll reply as promptly as possible.  The e-mail I sent via Juli Balding, and my other posts on this site, should answer most questions.

I’m also attending the Adobe Learning Summit on Monday, so it’s going to be a busy, learning-filled week!  I hope to see you there.  😀

Presentation Skills Morning Buzz at Learning Solutions 2011

In addition to the full-day eLearning voiceovers program I’m teaching as part of the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference in Orlando, I’m also going to be leading discussion/coaching sessions as part of the Morning Buzz breakfast chat programs from 7:15-8:15AM  on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 3/23-25.  I’ll be in the Crystal Room on the ground floor of the Disney Hilton for these three Morning Buzz sessions.

When Heidi Fisk and I discussed making session this available, my goal was two-fold: First, I want to help eLearning professionals improve their speaking and presentation skills so that they can “sell” their important ideas to stakeholders and advocate for eLearning more compellingly.  Second, I’ve noticed that at any conference, there is always a mix of people who can really stand up and command the room, and others who may have interesting ideas but simply don’t know how to “connect” with the audience.  Bottom line:  If you can’t communicate effectively, your great ideas may not reach the people who need to hear them.  If you’re focused on your laptop, never making eye contact, never “engaging” the room, your ideas may languish unappreciated.  I can help.

So, I’m offering my Presentation Skills 101 session as part of the Morning Buzz each day in the hopes that some of my attendees will be speakers from the conference itself who need some quick, proven tips & tricks to really make their sessions memorable.  If you know anyone presenting at Learning Solutions 2011, by all means, suggest they stop in for one of my sessions before they give their own.  I’m betting that even someone who already feels comfortable in front of an audience will pick up a couple of tips.  I usually charge $125/person for a session like this, so for attendees this represents an hour well “spent!”

If you haven’t already signed up for Learning Solutions 2011, it promises to be an excellent conference and you really should consider attending.  Click the logo on this post to visit the site, read the agenda, and sign up.  They also have great iPhone/iPad/Android apps so you can carry your conference schedule with you everywhere.  I’ve already downloaded mine and have started setting up my schedule.  Neat!

Gay and Lesbian Characters in eLearning: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Wearing the Colors Copyright 2009 by Andrew Sellon


I was working with a new client recently on a suite of eLearning modules, and couldn’t help but note that the developer’s proposed stock images were virtually all Caucasian, and all young & good-looking model types.  I pointed out that of course this would not appropriately reflect the diversity of the audience, and the client readily agreed that some of the images in the suite needed to be changed out.  I also added another suggestion.  I’m gay, and as of this writing, I have yet to see a general-interest eLearning piece from any of my clients that includes gay and lesbian characters just as a matter of course.  I suggested that it would be a refreshing change to see a gay or lesbian character or couple incorporated in an upcoming module.             

One subject matter expert on the project wrote back to say she wasn’t sure how one could tell if a character was gay or lesbian just by looking at him or her.  Of course.  So I wrote back to clarify: If using only an image, the character could be shown with his or her same-sex partner, raising a family together, participating in social activities while wearing a rainbow t-shirt or jewelry, whatever.  If you’re depicting a couple of families in a module, for example, why not make one a male/female couple, and the other a same sex couple?                

Let me be clear: the point is not to make us stick out like sore thumbs with images that say “Wow, now that’s a gay person!  Aren’t we great for showing one?”  I am talking about using images that simply acknowledge our presence in the fabric of everyday life.  The fact that the character is gay or lesbian would not be the point of the elearning piece (unless perhaps it’s about diversity), but it’s just another color to show from the diversity rainbow.  And on a very practical level, it would be another welcome way to vary the characters in a series of eLearning pieces so that the characters don’t all just blend together and come across as cookie-cutter clones.  Now of course, a reference can be made in the script as well, as appropriate.  Good eLearning is always about the interplay of words and images.   It could be something as simple as “Anthony and Miguel were watching their son’s baseball game when Anthony looked at the old score board and got a great new product idea for his company….”   That’s all it would take to establish the relationship, even if it wasn’t referenced again in the entire module.  It would just be part of the fabric of the story.  

On a practical level, this means that those images have to exist in the stock photo libraries from which most companies purchase their courseware images (Getty, iStockphoto, BigStock, et al.).  From what I’ve seen, while there are some LGBT images out there that would not look out of place in your average eLearning course, there’s not nearly enough yet, especially in the business sector images.  But let’s put that tactical reality aside for a moment.    I’m confident that the image banks would provide the content if enough clients ask for it.            

I’d like to think that the time has come, and that corporations and their learning organizations are really ready to “walk the talk.”  It’s just that even with my larger corporate clients who have aggressive and sincere diversity strategies, I have not yet seen gay and lesbian characters included in the community of people depicted in day-to-day eLearning courseware.  But as eLearning professionals striving to hold a true mirror up to our audience, we have the power to introduce characters who happen to be gay or lesbian, and supplement that characterization with appropriate images.  Not just the power, really: the responsibility.  Again, the intent is simply to acknowledge that LGBT people and nontraditional couples and families have been there all along.  We should seize this opportunity to enrich the pool of characters with whom our audience might identify.  Isn’t it time?  Otherwise, aren’t we tacitly buying into the mindset of the sadly misguided (and thankfully now repealed) “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?     

My partner and I participate in the Gay Pride march in NYC as often as we can.  In 2009, while our group (Empire State Pride Agenda) was waiting to step off, I snapped the picture shown in this post: a candid shot of a young man draping a rainbow flag over his shoulders, “trying on his colors” in the reflection of a corporate building’s marble façade.  To me, it speaks volumes.   Shouldn’t he see himself in any eLearning he takes at your company?               

What about you?  Does your company include gay and lesbian characters in eLearning as a matter of course?  If yes, how has that been received?  If not, has it been discussed?  If not, will you bring it up?  Of course, I understand that if one’s client is a religious institution, there may be constraints.  But for organizations who state that they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, I think it’s time to make this a reality, and I think it’s up to those of us in the learning profession to lead the way.  Let me hear from you!

My eLearning Voiceovers Full Day Workshop at Learning Solutions 2011

As mentioned in a previous post, based on the success of the introductory eLearning voiceover sessions I offered at two eLearning Guild conferences in 2010, I’ve been asked to offer a full-day certificate program on the topic as part of the Learning Solutions 2011 conference.  I’ll be offering my workshop on Tuesday, March 22nd, from 8:30am-4:30pm at the Walt Disney World Hilton in Orlando, Florida.

My hands-on workshop will offer participants practice in:

  • Preparing Your Script for Speaking 
    • Editing the text for impact
  • Preparing Your Voice
    • Diction exercises from the Pros
  • Preparing to Record
    • Setting up your “studio”
    • Noise filtering
  • Recording Your Voiceovers
    • Practice with different content types: orientation, compliance, sales
  • Editing and Enhancing
    • Removing silences & sounds
    • Adjusting levels
    • Altering pitch & timing
    • Normalizing
    • Saving the final file
  • Working with the Pros

To learn more and to register, click the logo on this page.  Because I want to have all participants actively involved and working throughout the day, and so that I can give each participant personalized feedback, I’ve told the eLearning Guild that I am only accepting a maximum of 15 students.  I encourage you to register ASAP to reserve your place in this workshop.  If you have been given the responsibility of recording voiceovers for your company’s internal eLearning projects, I can give you the confidence and skills to take the quality of your work to a whole new level.  I’ll be posting more information on this blog between now and the workshop, and I will also be communicating directly with all those who register.  If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to post a comment on this site, or e-mail me directly.  Sign up today and join me on March 22nd.  And if you know someone else who should be taking this certificate program, spread the word!  Reservations will be first-come, first-served.

Learning Solutions 2011

Well, it’s official!  Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild has asked me back for the 2011 Learning Solutions conference in Orlando, Florida.  This time, I’ll be offering Breakfast Bytes coaching and discussion sessions on basic Presentation Skills each day, as well as a pre-conference full day hands-on workshop focusing on creating quality voiceovers for eLearning.  Stay tuned to future blog posts for more details about both!

In Loving Memory

Apologies that I haven’t been posting much over the last couple of months.  My beloved dad passed away in early November at the age of 88 after a brief illness.  I’ve been taking time this fall to handle some family matters, and to size up what the world looks like when both of one’s parents are gone.  My recollections have only served to reinforce how very, very lucky I was in both my parents, who were always supportive but entirely clear-eyed at the same time.  I don’t think it would be possible for me to be who I am today if they hadn’t both paved the way.  My mother passed away over 30 years ago, and my father just last month, but they both loved teaching, and learning.  And me.  And for all those things, I will be grateful until my own dying day.

If you’d like to read an anecdote about my parents, and see a couple of vintage pictures, check out this post on my acting web site:

I’m back on my blogs again now, just in time for 2011, so stay tuned for some exciting developments!

Adding Diversity to eLearning Projects with Characters

I’m enjoying consulting on a variety of eLearning projects for Hess Corporation; very nice people, and interesting challenges.  I’m always impressed at how strongly large corporations like Hess and MetLife are committed to an ongoing policy of re-examining their processes and enhancing their eLearning to better engage and empower the target audience.  And the fact that they seek an “outside eye” like mine is another sign that they’re not looking to repeat themselves or rest on their laurels, which is great news for their employees.

One easy way to make your eLearning “speak” to your audience: add character.  Make sure your images, and your voiceover talent, reflect the breadth of your company’s talent pool–not just male/female, but also different cultures and different generations.  If your course has two narrators, why make them two men of roughly the same age, basically indistinguishable from each other?  When you differentiate them, you create more unique and interesting characters, and you also reflect more of your employee base.  If one narrator is a young Caucasian man from New York, perhaps the other is a middle-aged or older woman from India.  Perhaps one is the mentor and one the “newbie” at the company; and don’t assume the young person is always the new kid!  Of course, the personalities you choose will differ depending on the course material being presented, and on your target audience for a given project.  But it’s a double win when you embrace the many different kinds of diversity and give your course narrators and images some real, and relevant, character.

My eLearning Guild Online Forum Appearance Was a Blast

My thanks to all the folks who tuned into my seminar Giving Voice to Your eLearning at the eLearning Guild’s Online Forum.  The participants were great about sharing personal successes, challenges, questions, and ideas.  And I was thrilled to receive great reviews from the online survey responses at the end of the session.  I really appreciate all the feedback I received, and I’m very glad attendees felt their time with me was well spent.  My goal was to focus on demystifying the process of including voiceovers in eLearning, and to provide attendees with simple, actionable tips and tricks to apply whether creating voiceovers in-house, or hiring professionals.  Based on the responses, people left the seminar with a lot of ideas they’ll use back on the job.

If you attended the session, I hope you’ll drop a line here on my web site and keep me posted on how you’re doing with adding voiceovers to your own eLearning projects.  I’m always happy to share experiences, trade ideas, and provide any guidance I can based on my own experience both as the person preparing the course content, and as the person recording the voiceovers.  If you attended the October Online Forum but missed my session, a recorded version is available on the Event Resources page, along with a downloadable version of the supporting presentation, with links and sample templates.

My thanks again to Tammy Olson for facilitating my session, as well as for three excellent preparatory meetings.  And a big thank you to Heidi Fisk as well, for inviting me to present this encore of my seminar.  It was a great experience, and I look forward to more in the future!