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!
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!
Here’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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.