Another Year of Public Performance Presentation Skills Success

As you may know, I am on the faculty at Western Colorado University, in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. For the last four years I have coached grad student creative writers (poets, genre novelists, and now screenwriters) on Public Performance presentation skills during the department’s summer intensive in beautiful Gunnison, CO.

Each year I have been impressed with the quality of the writing across the genres, and also with the willingness of each student to open up to my coaching, which I’ve designed to help typically introverted writers to embrace public performance of their own works. After all, a good reading can help sell books! And it’s very important to all of us on the faculty that we are preparing our writers to succeed in the real world.

My group of students for 2019 was terrific–and more diverse than ever. In addition to coaching the third year MFA students extensively (all of whom must give a public reading of 15-20 minutes from their work), I also held a session with the second year genre fiction class, and conducted a number of sessions with the first year poetry group. The improvements in each case were palpable to all in the room. As is typical, some students took small but tangible steps toward comfort in public performance, and others seized the opportunity full on and ended up delivering truly exciting readings.

My congratulations to all my students. Well done! Here’s a picture of me with the 2019 MFA/MA graduating class. I can’t wait to hear more from all of you.  If you’re a writer looking to hone your skills, you should check out the excellent program we have at WCU and join us.  It’s a low-residency program with a great in-person summer residency each year.  I’d love to see you there!

Teaching Presentation Skills to Graduate Student Poets and Novelists

This was my second year as a member of the graduate creative writing faculty at Western State Colorado University, in Gunnison, Colorado. I was first hired in 2016 by my Harvard classmate David Rothman, head of the program and of the poetry concentration, to teach a summer intensive on presentation skills to second-year grad student poets. Once I got there and the genre novelists heard about the work I was doing, they asked me for some sessions, as well. This year, we baked that into my teaching schedule. So I had a handful of morning sessions with five delightful and talented genre fiction writers, all of whom were seeking coaching for their final pre-graduation presentations. And in the afternoons, I taught my 8-session summer intensive “Poetry in Performance,” coaching three extremely talented poets.

This photo is of me with the 2017 graduating genre fiction novelists after their final presentations: from left, Kaleb Erickson, their wonderful writing instructor for this year, Candace Nadon, and Carla Mercado on my left. In the back: Vincent Harper, Marissa Harwood, and Ketura Barchers.





And in this picture, talented composer Justus (Jay) Perrotta (L) joins me in congratulating my three poets Ellen Metrick, Brian Calvert, and Brian Palmer, after their final 25-minute presentations. Jay has interest in setting some of the poems he heard to music. All three poets knocked it out of the park, and brought tears to many audience members’ eyes–including mine.

Well done, all! You did me proud, and I look forward to seeing and hearing more of your work.

No-Budget Gamification Roundtable at ATD NYC Meeting on November 17th!


These days everybody is talking about Gamification, and how applying elements or principles of it can enhance your learning interactions.  And it’s true: used strategically, Gamification can make your learning both more fun, and more memorable.

But often people think they have to sign on with an expensive external provider that offers all the bells and whistles of a gamified environment to reap the benefits.  And since most people in learning and talent development teams don’t have the budget for it, the conversation about leveraging Gamification often stops there.  But it doesn’t have to.

This November 17th, I’m offering a session I call “No-Budget Gamification” and it’s going to be a roundtable hands-on discussion and work session among meeting attendees, rather than just sitting back and listening to a speaker.

So how will it work?  As we did with my earlier session on fixing common eLearning design mistakes (which was a huge hit), we’re taking a flipped classroom approach.  I’m providing a PowerPoint deck that includes a very simple template, a simple example, and some handy reminders of the basic principles of Gamification.

All you need to do is think about one of your own projects, and complete the simple 1-slide template with ideas for how you might use elements of Gamification to enliven your learning project.  That’s it!  Then on November 17th, we’ll get together (in person and virtually via webinar) to compare solutions and brainstorm even more great ideas.

This approach is simple, fun, and genuinely effective.  By the end of the meeting, you’ll have at least a handful of great ideas for how you can leverage the principles of Gamification to enhance your own learning projects–without spending a dime!

If you’re a member of ATD NYC, or if you’re thinking of joining (non-members can audit one session for free), make sure you register for the November 17th meeting ASAP so that we can save a place for you.  The event should be listed in the ATD NYC events calendar by Tuesday, 11/3.

And be sure to download the “homework” and free Gamification info deck well in advance so that you’ll be ready to play at our meeting: No-Budget Gamification Homework Assignment  In fact–why not download it now and get started.  Even if you can’t make the meeting, you’ll find a lot of great information on Gamification in my slides.

Have fun, and we’ll “see” you on November 17th!

Upcoming 5/13 ATD NYC Webinar: Common eLearning Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

ATDNY LogoAs you may know, I’m co-chair of ATD NYC’s eLearning SIG (special interest group).  Every other month, co-chair Enid Crystal and I put together a program exploring the challenges and rewards of including eLearning in your company’s blended learning solutions.  Sometimes we invite speakers, and other times we host roundtable discussions on hot topics.

On Wednesday, May 13th, at 5:30pm, we’ll be hosting a roundtable about how you can avoid making some of the most common eLearning design mistakes.  To add to the fun and participation, we’re presenting this roundtable with a bit of a “flipped classroom” approach, meaning you can do a little homework prior to the meeting, and then we’ll all share our ideas and discuss them together at the meeting.

If you’re an ATD NY member, we hope you’ll join us.  And even if you’re not, you’re allowed to participate in one ATD NY session for free.  Since our focus is on eLearning, we hold our meetings both in person and virtually, to allow as many people as possible to participate.

So, how will this all work?  Simple!  I’ve created a PowerPoint file showing six common eLearning design mistakes.  You can download it right here:  Common eLearning Mistakes Sample Slides

Pick at least one of the slides in this sample deck, and create your suggested revision that makes all the same points, but in a way that will deliver the message more effectively.

Then, email your slide(s) to me at no later than Monday, May 11th at 12 noon Eastern Time.  

I’ll collate all the submissions so that we can review and discuss them together at Wednesday evening’s meeting.  And even if you don’t have time to revise a slide, feel free to join us for the discussion.  We all learn a lot from our peers every time we hold one of our roundtables.  And of course, after the event I’ll share the collated PowerPoint deck so that you can remind yourself of the great solutions you can apply to your next project.

We hope to “see” you there!

Your Input Needed for Upcoming Blog Post and Newsletter Topics

Tenniel Hatter SingingOkay, I need some input from you folks: I’m working on my next quarterly newsletter. I see from my MailChimp report that a decent number of you are opening my newsletters, which is great, as I do put a lot of work into each issue. Links don’t seem to be of much interest to my readers, however, which is surprising as I think I’m sharing some pretty cool free tools and info.

So let me hear from you: what topics are of most interest to you, for upcoming blog posts as well as newsletters? Some possible topics: Articulate Storyline, Presentation Skills, Gamification, Voiceovers, eLearning Script Writing, Needs Analysis, Making eLearning Content More Engaging, Scenario-based Training, Ideas for Mobile Learning, or…?

And let me know what you’ve thought of prior newsletters–more of something? Less of something? I genuinely appreciate all constructive feedback–my goal is to post content that will be genuinely helpful to you! Let me know your thoughts.


I Brought My Full-Day eLearning Voiceovers Bootcamp to the West Coast!

Coffee Cup SplashMy client Green Mountain Coffee Roasters recently flew me out to Seattle to teach another session of my full-day eLearning Voiceovers class for their Sumner, WA site.  This is the third site I’ve visited for GMCR so far, and once again it was a great bunch of students, all willing and eager to dive into the full-day exploration of what it takes to add genuinely engaging voiceovers to eLearning projects.

The great work the students did in class, and the great feedback I received afterwards, are proof that my holistic and personalized approach to eLearning voiceovers really pays off.  I don’t just teach and coach on voiceover delivery; I work hands-on with my students in creating quality scripts, preparing their vocal instruments (every voice is different, after all!), and learning the basics of Audacity sound software, as well.  As my GMCR students in Sumner proved in their classwork, quality voiceovers always begin with engaging, speakable scripts that “hook” and “hold” the ear of the learner, to ensure a learning payoff.

As in all previous sessions I’ve offered, the huge leap in quality for what my students produced by the end of the day was audible to everyone in the room.  Microphones don’t lie, and neither do ears.  I never tire of watching my students’ faces light up with pleasure when one of them delivers a genuinely fresh and engaging voiceover performance that makes every person in the room sit up and take notice.  Bingo.  And I love knowing that they leave my class fully equipped to recreate that success back at their own desks.  Well done, all!

eLearning Voiceovers Tips on Basic Audio Equipment

Andrew Sellon Voiceover DemosHere’s some basic advice about tools that I always share with my students in the eLearning voiceovers classes I teach:

For recording your eLearning voiceovers, don’t waste your time and money on a headset microphone.  It may seem more convenient, but you’re not going to get the quality of sound you need to keep people listening.  If you want great sound while keeping your tech simple and your costs low, go with a good quality USB microphone.  There are many excellent USB mikes out there from which to choose; some sell for under $100.  A few brands to consider: Blue, Audio-Technica, MXL, Alesis, and Samson.  The Blue line of microphones is very popular, notably the Snowball and Yeti models.  I have an entry-level Alesis, and also the higher-end MXL USB.009; both are excellent.

Microphones are designed to be either cardioid (unidirectional–it’s designed to pick up sound from the front of the mike) or omnidirectional (good for recording an interview, musicians, etc., where sound may be coming from a number of directions).  And then of course, there’s the question of mono vs. stereo.  For typical voiceover work, cardioid is all you need; you only have one voice, after all–and you speak in mono.  But if you’re going to be using your mike for a variety of purposes, then you may want to find one that can switch between cardioid and omnidirectional modes, and between mono and stereo.

Another reason to go with a standalone mike: you need to use a pop filter as well.  A pop filter is inexpensive (some available for less than $15) and you place it between yourself and your microphone.  Pop filters are a circle typically made of either sheer foam, or metal with tiny holes.  You need a pop filter to help minimize the “popping” sound your plosive consonants (like “P” and “B”) can make when speaking into a mike.  After all, mikes, like cameras, pick up everything.  A pop filter can save you a lot of time by helping you avoid extra editing or re-recording.  If you’ve ever watched a “making of” video with singers on television, and noticed that odd thin foam disc between the singer and the mike–that’s a pop filter!

Headphones: If you want to listen to your work without distractions as you record, you may want to invest in a decent set of headphones.  They don’t need to be audiophile; just solid quality.  But if you’re using a USB mike, keep this in mind: you will need to buy a mike that has a headphone jack right on the mike, so that you are getting the sound before it goes to the computer.  Because of the way computers process sound from a USB port, there is a 1-2 second lag that would make it maddening to try listening to your input on headphones that were hooked up to the headphone jack of the computer.  If you only plan to wear your headphones when listening to playback, then this is a non-issue.  But if you want to listen on headphones as you record, buy a USB mike that offers a headphone jack on it.

More tips to come!  If you’d like tips on a certain topic, add a comment or email me and let me know.

Great Class Photo From My Latest eLearning Voiceovers Course

IMG_1273 - 600x400Here’s a great shot taken at the end of my full-day eLearning Voiceovers class, which I led once again for the great folks of GMCR, this time down in Knoxville, TN.  A number of the students couldn’t stay for the photo as they had flights to catch, but we had 18 in all.

It was a great bunch, with a great attitude.  Lots of fun, lots of learning, and lots of creativity on display in their projects.

My thanks again to GMCR for the opportunity to work with a team of people who are really into their jobs.  Given the differences I heard between the beginning and the end of the day, I’m confident that these talented folks now know how to better leverage their voiceover skills to add genuine engagement and impact to their eLearning modules.

Well done, all!

Also not pictured: the folks I coached one-on-one the next day on Presentation Skills.  Great growth and progress all around!


More Praise for My Presentation Skills Coaching

Andrew Sellon Voiceover DemosLast fall, I provided one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching sessions for a number of executives at one of my clients’ locations.  The feedback I received through my client contact afterward was terrific, and I was thrilled that my input had such a positive impact.  One of my attendees sent my contact the following praise, and later kindly gave me permission to share it with you:

“I gained an appreciation for the importance of bringing conviction and passion into presentations, including those that seem mundane (e.g. regular updates). Most times as a presenter, you know more about that particular topic than anyone in the room. Over the course of 60 minutes, Andrew reminded me of this point and helped me experience the impact of speaking from the heart with focus and energy. Despite the same slides and message, my presentation of the material at the end of the session was much more powerful (and literally felt better) than my handling of the same content at the start.”

I also coached this same executive again a few weeks ago.  Since our session in the Fall, he has been promoted to a leadership role, and he needed to prepare his presentation for the company’s upcoming Annual Sales Meeting, which the company’s new CEO would be attending.  This time we worked virtually for two hours.  As I typically do in these sessions, I gave tips and suggestions for improving the PowerPoint presentation materials themselves, as well as for how to deliver the presentation with maximum impact.  I dropped the executive a note the week after the sales meeting to ask how it went.  He reported that he had hit a true home run, and that the praise he had been receiving from both his peers and his superiors has been almost embarrassing in its enthusiasm.  I’m not at all surprised; this fellow takes input to heart, and puts it into action immediately.  And clearly, the results showed!  My congrats to him on his success.

Today, I’ve just completed a couple of one-on-one coaching sessions at another of the company’s locations, and again great work from both people.  It’s always a pleasure when people walk in, eager to communicate!

Teaching and Coaching in Knoxville, TN

Coffee Cup SplashI’m brewing up some more teaching and coaching:

One of my clients is flying me down to their Knoxville, TN office this week, where I will provide some one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching to executives, and also lead my full-day “How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro” course for a group of 15-20 students.  It will be a busy few days, and should be a lot of fun!