Welcome to the Sellon Solutions blog! I’ll be posting items of interest for discussion as I find them, and I hope you will contribute to the ongoing conversation. I only post when I have something to say, and I look forward to reading your input!
If you’d like to win a FREE copy of this audiobook, just make a comment on this post including your real name before 11:59pm on May 30th, 2016. I will compile all the names, pick one at random, and announce the one lucky winner the first week of June.
Of course, if you don’t want to wait and you’d like to show your support now (not to mention hear a rippingly good tale), this audiobook is now available on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and on iTunes. If you make this audiobook your first purchase (not freebie) on the Audible website, that helps me even more!
Black Sails White Rabbits is the extraordinary autobiography of sailing athlete Kevin A. Hall, whose dreams of competing in the Olympics and raising a family were put on hold at the age of nineteen when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Then bipolar disorder. Then testicular cancer again. And Kevin’s bipolar disorder takes the form of what is now called “Truman Show Delusion”–when an episode hits, he thinks he’s the star of a global TV program. How Kevin has weathered his illnesses, faced his demons, and achieved his goals makes for one heck of a tale–at turns darkly funny, frightening, surprising, sweet, and moving. Kevin is a super-bright man, and he doesn’t pull any punches; you’re right there with him as it happens–and that’s especially true of the audiobook version. He’s not only a great sailor–he’s a terrific storyteller.
I’m honored that Kevin selected me to narrate his book. He had his choice of some extraordinary talent, but when he attended the Alice150 international convention with our mutual artist friend Wendy Ice in October 2015 in NYC, he saw me perform my new one-man show Through the Looking-Glass Darkly, and decided I was the man for the job. I’m thrilled Kevin is so happy with the resulting audiobook.
If you want to enter my May 2016 raffle, remember to make a comment on this post before June 1st. If you want to buy the book now, you can use the links included in this post.
If you enjoy the audiobook, and know others who would, please do share this information with them.
Thank you for your support, and good luck!!
My schedule these days is busy enough that I’m not always able to take part in the weekly eLearning Challenge over on the Articulate Forums. But there have been a couple recently I couldn’t resist as a voiceover artist.
For one challenge, the task was to create a simple example of a soundboard; in other words, a single slide that offers various soundbytes when you click on objects. The other challenge was to create a voiceover portfolio. I decided combining the two challenges would be a perfect way to create a little reminder of the variety of voiceover styles I offer.
Creating the Soundboard:
I sourced some fun graphics from the various free icon sites, gave them all the same kind of shadow in Powerpoint, and then used Articulate Storyline 2 to put together my simple soundboard. In Storyline, it took me all of two minutes to select all my arranged icons and convert them to a button set–meaning only one button can be clicked at a time. Storyline automatically created my “Selected” and “Visited” states for each button. To the viewer/listener, everything happens on a single slide. On the back end, I’m actually housing each audio clip on its own sublayer. That way the audio will automatically stop when the visitor clicks a different icon to explore a different audio clip.
I also decided to forego the traditional “player” frame, designing this sample to appear frameless instead by making the player elements transparent. The result is simple and clean.
Think of all the creative ways you could present a lot of information on a single slide this way in your next eLearning project–for example, a series of motivational clips from your company’s senior executives. It’s interactive, it’s fun, and if you have good audio clips, it can also be memorable. And isn’t that what you want your eLearning to be?
About my VO Work:
When I’m asked about the “quality” of my voice, I generally respond: it depends on the project! For typical eLearning narration, my voice is warm, confident, and encouraging. For other projects, I can provide a much more quirky, character-driven voice. I always suit my VO to the project. I love recording in studios with an engineer running the booth. But for a lot of my projects these days, I work out of my home office/studio. I keep things simple: I start with a high-quality MXL USB.009 mike, which has a headphone jack on it. That way I can listen via headphones as I record without dealing with the half-second audio playback delay that USB causes. I use a foam soundproofing box, a pop filter (to minimize “popping” from plosives like “b” and “p”), and Audacity or a similar audio recording software. When it comes to finalizing my VO clips, I always use a noise removal filter to take out any subtle room sounds, and of course I cut out any background clicks or other noises I might have made while recording. I take out some breaths, and leave others in–I find that removing all the breaths make the recording sound less human and immediate. I also normalize all the tracks for consistent final sound levels. I believe strongly that the better performance you give, the less editing you need to do–and that translates into better-sounding VO!
Click the image on this post to have a listen–and if you need my voice in your next project, you know where to find me!
Admit it. Sometimes nice, bland characters aren’t all that interesting or engaging. I’ve been an actor for more than 30 years, and I’m a character actor, which means I don’t play those handsome, kind-hearted “leading man” roles. I play the offbeat people, which suits me perfectly. Ask any actor you know whether he or she would rather play the hero or the villain. I’ll bet you at least 75% will answer: “The villain, of course!” That’s because the villains tend to be a lot quirkier and more interesting, and therefore more memorable to the audience. And we all want to be remembered, right?
Yet when it comes to creating memorable narrator/host characters for eLearning, most corporations are afraid of presenting a character who is anything other than clean-cut, polite, and endlessly reassuring. After all, companies assume the narrator should always act as a direct representative of the company, and model only the best of corporate behaviors. But think about it: a lot of the workforce today has grown up glued to shows like The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy. Audiences have always loved characters with a few rough edges, and I think that’s truer now than ever.
Over on the Articulate Forums, last week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge from guru David Anderson was to create a sample teaching a few elements of good grammar. I’ll freely admit that I’m one of those people who silently corrects other people’s grammar in my head all the time, so even though I was busy, I had to accept that challenge. And for some reason, thinking about teaching grammar made me think about Lewis Carroll’s famous poem Jabberwocky–a poem that can’t be criticized for any grammar issues, because it’s made up of nonsense words! Go figure. But the Jabberwock creature of the poem seemed like a good model for someone who is monstrous about insisting on good grammar.
So I decided to create a grammar teacher who is anything but sweet and supportive. He’s an obnoxious, unapologetic grammar nerd. Or, as I coin the term in my new interactive eLearning sample, a Grammarwonk. And I decided to write a “riff” on the famous poem while I was at it.
Click the image on this post, or go to my eLearning Samples page, and see if your own grammar skills can tame the Grammarwonk. And then think about the world of possibilities that opens up for your eLearning when you consider using more colorful–and sometimes, even less pleasant!–characters for your next project. Of course, sometimes you need to walk the straight and narrow corporate line. But then again–maybe that’s exactly when you shouldn’t. Remember: learning is best when it also works as entertainment. That’s a simple fact of human nature. Get in touch with me, and I’ll help you leverage that fact for your next project!
PS: Make sure you click on the little “i” info button on the last slide for some cool “easter egg” information.
Okay, 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.
My 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!
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.
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!
Professor Kevin Werbach’s excellent Coursera offering on Gamification concluded last week, and I have just received my Verified Certificate of completion. I wrote a blog post about my experience with the course, and since that post, I participated in the final Video Office Hours with Professor Werbach, which was both fun and interesting. I also received my peer ratings for my final project (a perfect score from all!), and I really appreciate the terrific things my peer reviewers said about my work.
Here’s the Video Office Hours session, which focused on a discussion of Ethics and Compliance in Gamification:
On Tuesday, May 14th, I gave my talk Giving Voice to Your eLearning at a Manhattan meeting of ASTDNY’s eLearning Special Interest Group, for a fun and appreciative audience. My thanks to SIG co-chairs Enid Crystal and John Galto for inviting me, and to attendees for their participation and enthusiasm.
For those of you who attended, as promised, I am posting the Appendix slides for a limited time here as they include a number of helpful links on the topic. If you enjoyed the session and find these slides useful, please leave a comment on this post to let me know!
For those who missed my talk, I give an overview of how quality voiceovers, used appropriately, can significantly enhance the quality of self-paced eLearning modules. I provide my “Three Golden Rules” for success, along with specific tips and tricks for getting the most out of both amateur and professional voiceover talent. I also share some basic tech guidance to help first-timers get up and running.
If you know of an organization that would benefit from my talk, please contact me. You can see a description of that talk and my other offerings on my Courses page.
I’m delighted to announce that I’ve added an eLearning Samples page to this site. On this new page, you will be able to launch and view any brief eLearning courseware samples that I make available from time to time. Currently, I have two samples available: an eLearning Process Overview, and just completed: a New Hire Onboarding introductory module. You can view these on your PC, or read the job aid I provide on that page to learn how you can also launch them on your iPad with the free Articulate Mobile Player app. I’ve even made them available for download to your iPad, so you can play with them even when you’re not connected to the internet, which is pretty cool. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!