I have seen some amazing Brainshark productions in my stints as a judge for the annual Brainshark Sharkie awards. Some are lovingly crafted with Flash animations, videos, music, professional voice overs, advanced animation techniques, and production work that obviously involved a team of production specialists working for weeks or even months.
I love watching these and I wish I had the time and resources to create such multimedia masterpieces. Unfortunately, I fall into a different category that I’ll bet you probably identify with… I have limited time, limited budget, and limited technical resources – Yet I still want to produce the best recordings I can within practical limitations.
In random order, I present some tips for crafting better quality Brainsharks that people will want to watch:
1) Shorter Is Better. I aim for five or six minutes per recording. If you are producing 30, 40, or 50 minute productions, you are scaring off potential viewers. People want to know they can get valuable information quickly and concisely.
2) Link Your Recordings. You can still cover your full 30 or 40 minutes’ worth of content… Just break it into individual topics and then use the branching mechanism to let each viewer decide what they want to watch next. Of course if your material absolutely must be presented in sequence, you can limit the choices to: Advance to the next topic, Exit the presentation. Or, add hyperlinks at the end.
3) Keep Your Slides Moving. One minute per slide. Maximum. Your audience is used to YouTube videos. They want visual change! And of course, don’t forget to use animations.
4) Use Your Best Speaker. It is tempting to sign up speakers based on their title or knowledge. But there is an art to sounding clear, enthusiastic, and compelling on an audio track. If you must put your mush-mouthed CEO in the recording, give him an introductory slide with a paragraph or two and have him play up the value of the content to follow. This trick also works with your subject experts, who can introduce a topic, giving it their implied authority.
5) Audio Quality Is Crucial. No cell phones… EVER! No speaker phones… EVER! If your presenter has a bad telephone connection or a low quality phone, cancel the session and do the recording later from a different line. You cannot make up for bad source audio. If at all possible, work with your speaker on-site with a good quality desk microphone and a pop filter (they are cheap and easy to find online).
6) Save Music For Intros/Outros. Brainshark gives you some lovely music tracks to choose from, with the ability to run them underneath your vocal track. Don’t fall for this temptation! Music under your vocals gets annoying, repetitive, and distracting after a very short time. Pick about 5-10 seconds of instrumental music that suits the tone of your material and use it on your opening and closing slide to welcome viewers and to signal that the content is over. In addition to royalty-free music in Brainshark, there are stock music sites available for you to select and purchase music clips very cheaply. Check the Audio category in www.istockphoto.com as one example.
7) Script Your Presentation. I will not record a presenter who doesn’t have a script. They will argue all day long that they know the material backwards and have given the speech 100 times. Then on the recording they will ummm and ahhh and fumble for the right words. If you are the “production engineer” and have their script in front of you during the recording session, you can highlight phrases where you hear little fumbles, or background noises, or volume changes. Then at the end of the session you just go back and re-record those bits so you can splice them into your recording with an outside audio tool. Or if you don’t do audio editing, you can have the speaker re-record the slide in question.
8) Re-Record The First Slide. Record the entire presentation, then go back and re-record the first slide. It will now sound more natural and more consistent with the rest of the slides. When a speaker starts out doing this unfamiliar recording process, they are always stiff and unnatural at the start. Just plan to throw away the opening and use the retake.
9) Learn To Use An Audio Editing Tool. If you do many recordings, it is worth the frustration and time necessary to learn how to work with digital audio editing software. Two of the most popular programs for PCs are Audacity and GoldWave. Audacity is free and easier to use. GoldWave costs a small amount and is much more complicated, but offers incredible power and flexibility. It took me quite a while to master GoldWave, but I can now filter recordings, splice in short retakes, match volumes, and generally clean up audio tracks to get the best possible sound for my recordings.
Wow. This turned into a bigger collection than I had planned! You don’t have to do all of these things at once, but each piece of advice you can incorporate will give you a small incremental improvement and make your Brainshark recordings more engaging and popular with your audiences. If you would like to see how I applied these guidelines in my own lead generation Brainsharks, you can start with the short presentation below and see how it allows the viewer to select an action path.