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Voiceovers

Brewing Up Same Day Training Success

I was recently invited by one of my former students to visit her company, a major coffee and coffee products corporation.  Laura brought me in to teach the same full-day course she took with me back at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2010 conference: How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro.  In addition, she engaged me for a day of one-on-one Presentation Skills coaching for others at her company.

I love teaching and coaching, and I had terrific students both days.  The results were fantastic.  Working with people so enthusiastic about learning and trying new things, and seeing major improvement in their work by the end of the session, is always incredibly gratifying.  I was genuinely impressed with the talent on display at this company.

For the full-day voiceovers program, I had almost 20 eager participants, with varying degrees of comfort in front of a microphone.  The audience for this particular program is Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who need to create their own eLearning for their team or department, including crafting the voiceover script, recording the voiceover, and editing it to make it ready for use in an eLearning module.  I introduce the key concepts, then let my students play hands-on, and provide guidance and feedback along the way.  Throughout the day, participants share their results in a supportive environment.  Nothing beats learning by doing, and my students used every minute of the day to experiment and improve.  I encouraged them to explore scenarios “outside the box” in creating their scripts, and to consider the use of humor when appropriate.  The creativity each person displayed encouraged even more creativity in the others, and everyone had a great time while learning a lot and producing some truly memorable learning moments.  When the students presented their final projects at the end of the 8-hour day, every single one showed major improvement, and everyone in the room heard the indisputable proof.  There’s going to be some great eLearning coming from these folks.  One of the students wrote to me afterwards:

Thank you for the informative and inspiring class you taught last Thursday! I’m very excited to begin implementing all the new things I’ve learned.

Thanks, Lori!  I also had a great experience with each of my Presentation Skills clients.  At the end of each one-hour session, the client was able to deliver their content with far greater assurance and impact.  Each was excellent at taking in and working with my comments and suggestions.  It was great to see each person grow in skills and confidence so markedly in such a short space of time.  Laura sent around a satisfaction survey afterward, and told me the feedback was terrific.  Here is what one of my Presentation Skills clients wrote:

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.  

Thanks, Tom!  I really appreciate the feedback.  And my thanks again to Laura for inviting me to work with the talented folks at her company.  These students strongly reinforced my longstanding belief that coaching and gardening (one of my other loves) have a lot in common.  If you provide good people with the right conditions and an encouraging environment, great and even remarkable things will grow out of it.  Or, to embrace a coffee metaphor, if you put quality ingredients in the cup, and stir it up, you’re going to create something everyone wants.  I look forward to my next visit!

2012 eLearning Tools Landscape: The Rise of HTML5

TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIO VERSION, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN.  NOTE THAT  REFERENCES TO FLASH REFER TO FLASH AS AN OUTPUT FORMAT (.SWF) FOR eLEARNING PURPOSES.

APPLE.  IN THE LIBRARY.  WITH A LEAD PIPE.  If life was like the classic board game “Clue,” that might well have been the headline in all our eLearning journals at the end of 2011.  In place of the unfortunate Mr. Boddy, the crime scene photograph would have shown a white chalk outline in the shape of Adobe Flash.  There’s a semi-happy ending to this news report, though: to paraphrase a certain Monty Python plague victim, Flash isn’t dead yet.

But by the same token, the late Steve Jobs and his Apple team dealt Adobe a crippling blow when it refused to support Flash Player on their iPhone and iPad devices, citing heavy resource requirements and potential security vulnerabilities.  (And for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that even without playing Flash on it, I need to recharge my iPhone 4 once or twice a day!)  So, is Flash dead, or dying?  Not in the immediate future.  Think of all the legacy content out there.  But last November, when Adobe finally raised the white flag and announced that it was abandoning its development of the Flash Mobile platform, it became clear to everyone in eLearning that the development tool landscape is beginning a tectonic shift due to the growing importance of mobile learning, or mLearning.

If Flash is the Giant, then the young Giantkiller with the slingshot and the great aim is HTML5.  And there’s a certain irony here: it’s not even a clearly codified, formalized markup language yet.  In fact, bearing in mind the reality that “change is the only constant,” HTML5 may well end up being a freeform, organically expanding entity for a number of years to come, as new codes and capabilities are added.  We may need to start calling it something catchy like “HTML Universe” (in a techie nod to the Stargate franchise) or “HTML Utopia,” or some other name that will represent an ever-evolving entity.  Because let’s face it: do we really want to find ourselves talking about HTML16 or 156 anytime soon?  I know I don’t.  It’s true that right now, HTML5 still can’t do all the things that Flash can.  But it can do a lot of them.  Flash’s sun is setting, and HTML5 is the new sun rising on our eLearning horizon.  At least for this rotation.

So how are the eLearning development tools we use today evolving to meet our need for engaging, interactive eLearning content that can play on any website or any mobile device?  If you’re an eLearning Guild member you should download and read Nick Floro’s new tools report for 2012.  It’s an excellent snapshot of where we all were at the end of 2011.  (And if you’re not a member of the eLearning Guild by now, you really should be!)  I’m going to take a closer look at the HTML5-readiness question for 2012, based on some hands-on Beta testing that I’ve been doing with both Adobe and Articulate.

For some year now, many of us have been using Adobe Captivate for our eLearning projects.  The current build, Captivate 5.5, incorporates widgets and other programmer-friendly tools to expand the interactive capabilities of your eLearning course.  But Captivate now also sports a spartan new gray Photoshop-style interface that I find is challenging to many corporate Subject Matter Experts (or SMEs).  And it doesn’t publish to HTML5.  I’ve been participating in testing of Adobe’s standalone HTML5 Converter tool, which is extremely simple to operate.  With each new test version, more interactive features are being included.  But as of this writing, there are still many Captivate features that cannot be converted.  Adobe has also just started Alpha testing for Captivate 6.  What’s the bottom line?  By the time it hits the shelves, Captivate 6 will need to include seamless and comprehensive HTML5 publishing as one of its standard options.  Anything less at this point would would give the competition too much of an advantage.

I’ve also been taking a look at Adobe’s new animation tool, Edge, which is in a pre-Beta Preview.  Edge offers a clean (but again somewhat cryptic and SME-unfriendly) interface for creating animations using a combination of HTML, scripting, and cascading style sheets (CSS) instead of Flash.  I went to Adobe’s Edge Preview launch here in NY in the summer of 2011 and worked with version 1 briefly at that time, but it did not yet offer interactivity or the ability to include audio and video.  Preview version 4 was released on January 19th, and includes the first interactive features, so I look forward to checking that out.  But audio/video is still not part of the package, and Adobe is well aware that the tool will not be ready for the public until those features are included.   While Adobe seems to be positioning Edge as a standalone tool, for my money, it should also be included in the next releases of both their Creative Suite and the eLearning Suite.  To not do that when so many customers have partnered with Adobe to help make it happen would seem both ungrateful and unwise.  How Edge fares in the market will depend on the final list of features, its ease of use, how it’s packaged, and what tools the competition puts out in the meantime.

Adobe has undoubtedly felt heavy breathing on its neck over the past year from Articulate’s upcoming tool, Storyline.  I’m participating in the Beta of this tool as well, so I am not allowed to say much at this time.  It’s not divulging any secret, however, to say that per its name, Storyline includes a library of poseable characters, and is designed for the creation of story or scenario-based learning.  That’s a long-awaited feature right there.  I can also say that the tool is designed with the SME in mind, with an extremely user-friendly interface.  Articulate intends to make Storyline content publishable to your choice of Flash or HTML5 by the time it launches later this year.  Its screen capture feature can’t do everything that Captivate does at this point.  But Adobe should  be extremely concerned about the competition shaping up here, both in terms of product vision and functional design.  Again, all will depend on the final list of features, and the price point.  Articulate is saying that Storyline will be priced comparably to their other suite components, so we’ll see.  If they keep the price low enough, I foresee this tool being a genuine game-changer for the eLearning marketplace.

Of course, competition is great for everyone because it brings out the best and brightest from each company, and makes each tool better.  That’s good news for those of us who can’t afford to buy them all.  And I’m discussing only a handful of tools!  There are of course a lot more out there, including tools at higher and lower price points, and also cloud-based development suites offering HTML5 publishing. So let’s have a vision moment: what should be happening as we move forward?  Ultimately, the applications that come out on top will need to be affordable and offer the ability to enter your content once, then simply apply a desktop or mobile template with the click of a button. Whoever can design applications that publish to your choice of Flash or HTML5 and minimize the need for rework when publishing to different devices will carry the day.  At this point, products that publish only to Flash are basically writing their own obituaries, and will rapidly fade from the market as mobile learning becomes a more popular delivery method.

What will we be saying about 2012 a year from now?  Perhaps not even Professor Plum or Miss Scarlet can figure that out.  By then, HTML5 may have met its match.  But when we eLearning professionals look back on this year, chances are we’re going to remember it as the year we discovered a body in the library.  And the game changed again.

Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment!

 

A Great New Recommendation For My Work!

As you may know, I taught a full-day pre-conference certificate program on Voiceovers for eLearning Subject Matter Experts at the eLearning Guild’s 2011 Learning Solutions conference.  One of my students was Laura Fried, Sales Learning Manager for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.  I was delighted to hear from Laura this week that she’ll be at LS2012 conducting a concurrent session on video-based training.  If you’re attending the conference this year, I encourage you to check out her session.  I was also thrilled that Laura posted a recommendation for me on LinkedIn.  I’d like to share it with you:

“I had the opportunity to attend Andrew’s pre-conference certificate program, How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro (eLearning Guild Learning Solutions 2011). This class had a BIG impact on my work – and a year later I can still remember the many components of the work we did. Andrew’s material included a variety of hands-on exercises that made the class not only flow well, but kept all engaged. He also facilitated and managed the time well so that all the participants had the opportunity to create sample voiceovers and present them to the class for constructive feedback. Voila, instant reinforcement to cement the learning. Andrew’s background – as a skilled, accomplished actor – brought a high level of trust and authenticity to the class. I highly recommend his teaching and his work!”

In addition, my former student James Glenos and his wife came to see me performing in The 39 Steps down in Jupiter, Florida this past fall.  James came into my voiceover class already possessing a very high level of skill, but he, too, told me in November that my class taught him a number of useful tips he still uses today.

Thanks, Laura and James–your feedback means a lot!  I love coaching and working with people.  I love hearing what my students are doing, and sharing what I’m doing.  And to know that my teaching has had a lasting impact on my students is really what it’s all about.

Words, Words, Words! (and How to Use Them in eLearning)

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LORD POLONIUS  What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET  Words, words, words.
LORD POLONIUS  What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET  Between who?
LORD POLONIUS  I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
HAMLET  Slanders, sir….

This odd exchange between the king’s advisor Polonius and the supposedly mad prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s famous tragedy came to mind as I read a thought-provoking blog post by my friend Angel Green, a wonderful instructional strategist.  In her article, my friend half-seriously states that she hates words in eLearning, dubbing them a “necessary evil.”

But of course, we all know that blaming words is like blaming the messenger.  Words can engender great good or great harm–ask any advertising executive, playwright, or politician.  It’s all in how we use them.  Or, to my friend’s point, misuse them.  Think of all those Twitter and Facebook posts you really don’t need to see.  All those eLearning screens that are simply walls of words, not keys to knowledge, understanding, and change.

Let me put it in a more Shakepearean metaphor: words are seeds.  They need the right exposure and room to grow.  If you plant too many of them too closely together, they’ll vie with each other for the sunlight (i.e., the audience’s attention), and the end result will be a scraggly bed of weeds that people avoid, not the well-manicured garden an audience will enjoy exploring.  But the carefully-planted, memorable phrasing is money in the bank.  The right words presented in the right way at the right time will take root in our audience’s minds–and grow.

Once you’ve whittled down your course’s words to the meaningful ones, in many cases you can greatly enhance their delivery by selecting the right voiceover talent to convincingly share the story and “sell” the script you’ve written (and of course, remember to include a Closed-Captioning option).  Take the time to find a voice that matches your story’s character(s), and that sounds like someone talking naturally to the learner. Even a neutral narrator can have some personality, and should subtly communicate an eagerness to share the information for the learner’s benefit.  Using quality voiceover talent pays for itself: suddenly your words take on a whole new life in your learner’s ear.  Your course can now reach the auditory learners as well as the visual ones.  Add some nifty, meaningful interactions for the kinesthetically-inclined, and you’ve got a course that will make a lasting impression on everyone!

When it comes to including particularly dry text, sometimes editing isn’t a choice; the language may be a regulatory requirement or even part of a court settlement.  But in most cases, I’ve had success convincing legal teams that it’s best to put legalese into a pop-up window or take-away item behind a clickable shiny medallion, charming character or other appealing graphic.  Use that icon consistently throughout the course to alert the audience to such material.  Make the legalese a resource, not part of the main flow, and give its presentation some class.  That way the information has been treated with respect–without bogging down the learner, who mostly just wants to get on with the course.

Impressive as they can be these days, interactive elements shouldn’t be the only “good stuff” in an eLearning course.  Even when it’s a course your audience is required to take, they’ll respond to real engagement in any form.  The right words are good stuff.  They promote mental interaction.  Used with theatrical flair, they can be great on their own.  Ask Shakespeare.  Or, they can play their part brilliantly right alongside the interactive techno-bells and whistles available to us today.  More people are finally catching on to scenario-based courses as the most natural approach to memorable learning: Good stories stay with us.  Put your learners in a situation they’ll recognize, one that will prompt an emotional connection.  Maybe start them “in medias res”–in the middle of the story–so they have to hit the ground running, and think on their feet.  Then give them a few tools, just enough information and guidance, and encourage them to put it all together themselves as they go through your eLearning course.  Don’t do it all for them.  Use words to tease, surprise, amuse.  Regardless of the type of content: involve them, and make it entertaining!  If no one on your team is a wordsmith–hire one.  It’s worth it.

It would be nice if our clients and corporate lawyers better understood how words need to be used in eLearning–but in truth it’s not their job.  Even though they share your goal of getting the course’s message across, words mean something different to them.  A contract is not a meeting memo–and neither of them is eLearning.  Lawyers use words to define and regulate; business clients use words to communicate and record.  We–meaning instructional designers, strategists, and performance consultants–use words to inspire and enable change.  And of course we use images in the same way.  We’re the ad agency of the eLearning team.  We’re the storytellers.  We help translate and simplify, until only the essential words remain.  The ones that learners will remember.

Words, images, and interactive elements need to exist in an organic, symbiotic balance within your eLearning courseware.  Logorrhea is not a disease your eLearning course can afford to catch.  But to return to Hamlet, Polonius, and the messenger metaphor: if your eLearning course materials aren’t written in an engaging way right now, don’t stab the old man behind the curtain.  Go back and have a serious talk about words with the king.  He started it!

If you have a great example of use or misuse of words in eLearning, I hope you’ll share it in the Comments.

Change of Plans for March 2012

Well, this is one of those good news/bad news posts.  The bad news is that it turns out I will not be available to teach my full-day eLearning voiceovers class at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2012 conference in Orlando this March.  My sincere apologies to anyone who had already signed up; I hope to be able to offer the session again at a future conference, or you or your organization can contact me directly from this site to arrange a training at your site.  If you were already signed up for the session in March 2012, I’ll give you a discount if you schedule your own session at your company.

So, why am I not going to be at LS2012 this year, much as I was looking forward to it?  Because I’ve just been cast in a fantastic role in the first New York City revival of Richard Greenberg’s play The Violet Hour! It’s a funny and thought-provoking play, and let’s just say that my role represents a real opportunity to be seen at my best in NYC theatre.  My character is a well-educated man on the edge, hilariously (and sometimes shockingly) outspoken, who is confronted with a printing machine that prints potentially life-changing information.  Rehearsals start February 13th, and I can’t wait.

Again, my apologies that I won’t be at LS2012 this year.  I was so eager to teach, attend lectures, and check out the annual Expo of new software and other goodies.  But I understand why my agent submitted me for this show–it’s an incredible role, and an opportunity too good for me to miss.

The play is being produced by The Active Theater in NYC, and will run from March 9-25.  If you’re going to be in town, I hope you’ll plan to see the show and say hello afterwards.  I will post more information once I know it.  Or you can click the logo on this post to visit the theatre’s web site.

I look forward to hearing about LS2012 from those of you attending, and I hope I’ll see at least some of you at the theater, too!

Sign Up Now for My Full-Day Certificate Program on eLearning Voiceovers!

Well, here we are at the end of 2011!  And suddenly the eLearning Guild’s March Learning Solutions 2012 conference doesn’t seem so far away.  If you’re the person assigned to create voiceovers for your company, and you want to step up your game to make your work truly memorable, then my full-day certificate program on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012, is all about you.  But if you plan to join me, you need to sign up asap–I’m only accepting a limited number of students so that I can give one-on-one feedback to each participant.

Visit my Courses page to read feedback from my 2011 participants, as well as a description of the course.  I’m very proud of each and every one of my 2011 students–the improvement in their work after just the one day of training was nothing less than remarkable.  And they each have a certificate from the eLearning Guild to attest to their accomplishment.

You can click the image on this post to read a description and the eLearning Guild’s web site, and there’s a handy registration button right there as well.  See you there!

Learning Solutions 2012 Encore for My eLearning Voiceover Certificate Program

I’m delighted to announce that Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild has invited me to present an encore of my full-day certificate program in eLearning voiceovers as part of Learning Solutions 2012.  I taught this pre-conference course for Learning Solutions 2011 and the feedback from participants was unanimously tremendous.  Heidi does not typically repeat learning offerings from one year to another, but because I accept only a limited number of participants in my course, she has made a wise exception.  So, if you wanted to attend last year but weren’t able to, now is your chance!

My session will be on Tuesday, March 20th from 8:30am-4:30pm.  Learning Solutions 2012 will again be at the Hilton Hotel near Downtown Disney.

PLEASE NOTE: There must be a minimum of 10 enrollments in order for the Guild to hold the session, and for me to make the trip.  They will be checking enrollments by January 20th.  If you intend to enroll, please do so by January 20th if at all possible, so that the Guild has an accurate headcount.  In addition, I am only allowing 15 participant maximum, so that I have sufficient one-on-one time with each participant in the course of the session.

This is an extremely hands-on session.  I think if you were to ask any of last year’s participants, they’d say it was a lot of fun, and a lot of practical learning in an easygoing, supportive environment.  Think of it as the most fun you’re ever likely to have at a boot camp!  I wish I could convey to you the sense of satisfaction last year’s participants expressed at the end of the day, when each and every one of them audibly demonstrated how much they had learned in the course of just one day.  If you look on my Coaching page, you’ll see some quotes from last year’s group.  You’ll also see how much this course normally costs!  I deliver this course for the eLearning Guild primarily as my way of giving back for all I’ve learned along the way in my own career.  So I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity: you won’t find better training on this topic for a better price, and it may not be repeated.

If you’re charged with creating the voiceovers for your in-house eLearning and communication projects, and you want to improve your script, your performance, and your recordings, then this session is for you!  Click the image on this post to read a full description of the program.  You can also register from that link.  Browse through older posts on my web site to see more information about the course from last year.  And feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando on March 20th!

Great Video Recap of Learning Solutions 2011

I had a great time at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2010 conference, as teacher (voiceover skills, and presentation skills) and as attendee.  And I remember being interviewed at the time about my impressions of the conference.  So I was pleased to come across this video clip that gives a recap of the highlights, and features some of my comments.  It really was an excellent conference.  Click the image on this post to view the brief video on Vimeo.  And start making plans to attend Learning Solutions 2012!

 

New Courses Available for eLearning Voiceovers and Presentation Skills

View Available CoursesFor the past two years, the eLearning Guild has asked me to present courses at their Learning Solutions conferences, and each course has met with resounding approval from attendees.  Based on that positive feedback, I’m now delighted to offer you and your company those same in-depth learning experiences at extremely affordable rates.  Please visit the Courses page or click the image on this post to read all about the three courses now available, as well as about a free sample.  And don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.  These courses are all proven winners, and each can make a considerable contribution to your eLearning team’s success.

Listen to My New Voiceover Demos!

Andrew Sellon Voiceover DemosI’m delighted to announce that I now offer  voiceover samples on my Voiceovers page.  I’ve always had a commercial v/o demo, but now I’ve added a host of others in a variety of categories, including eLearning, Documentary, Animation, World Dialects, and more.  A number of the samples are tongue-in-cheek, so I hope you have as much fun listening to them as I did writing and recording them.  In addition, the new samples have music by my old friend Elliot Sokolov, a fantastic composer and a great collaborator who has created music for film, television, and theatre.

To hear my new demos, click the Voiceovers link on this site, or click the microphone image on this post to visit that page.   If you want to hear more, you can follow this link to my acting web site where you can launch each of 10 clips individually from the links provided on the Voiceovers page there.  Some of the clips contain more than one sample.  On both my sites, I’m using SoundCloud and HTML5 to present the voiceover samples, so they should play on any device that supports HTML5.

A note about the music: If you want to know more about Elliot, or if you’d like to take advantage of his services as composer or sound engineer, I encourage you to visit his site by clicking here.  He’s a great guy to work with, and can compose just about any kind of music imaginable!