Go with Your Gut

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In storytelling, video production, marketing…heck LIFE…there are times you reach a crossroads. times when you need to make a decision. Times when you need to choose a direction. I would take just a moment to offer a little advice. Go with your gut.

That little voice deep inside you telling you what to do, which direction to choose or what option is best. For some reason most of us have a tendency to ignore that voice. We sit and worry and wonder and generally stress out rather than trust ourselves. It just happened to me – I was so worried about what was right and how to do it that I kept out-thinking myself. In the end, I trusted my gut (which told me to trust my experience and training) and things worked out really well.

There are times when you know what’s right. You can feel it. Trust that feeling. It really applies to everything…whether it’s you should go back and re-edit a video or which tagline to use or picking a place to live or whether you should keep dating the person you’re seeing. Your gut, your instinct will rarely steer you wrong.

Step Away from the Keyboard

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I’ve talked about it a little bit before, but I wanted to bring it up again. Sometimes you have to step away from the computer, the smart phones and those handy-dandy tablets get engrossed in real life. I know, I know…I’m taking a real leap here, but let me tell you why.

As awesome as social media is, and fulfilling it is as to have followers and friends and people in circles hanging on your every word, there are real live people that we can see and touch and love waiting for us in the real world. People you have legal and moral obligations to see, often living in the same building and desperate for your attention.

Some of them are people that like to remind you that they married you for better or worse, not Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes they are very small people that want to snuggle against you and tell you stories about what happened as school even though you have no idea what they’re talking about after about 30 seconds. Some of them are not in fact people, but small furry creatures that always look happy to see you when you look up from your screen. All of them very real and much more important than your Klout score.

So over the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the US I unplugged and spent time with my people. Alright I didn’t completely unplug – I had to check email and do a little Christmas ordering – but I did stay off of social media. Why? Because the people I needed to socialize with most the last few days live just down the hall, not around the world.

Electronic communication is a wonderful thing. It’s changed the way we live our lives. We just need to remember to go out and live those lives. Go fight the crowds at the mall at least once this holiday season. Take a walk with someone special. Help little hands hang ornaments or light a candle. Step away from your keyboard and reconnect with the flesh-and-blood people around you. You’ll be glad you did.

Who Are You Telling Your Story To?

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Stanford Smith makes some great points this post about “preaching to the choir” if you will. And he’s right. It’s great to have the support of like-minded people, but if the right people aren’t getting your message the right way, you’re getting nowhere. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to know your audience. And, whether your marketing a university, developing adult learning content, or producing a killer video, you need to make sure the audience you’re creating your story for is the audience that gets it. It happens all the time. We write a marketing piece in a way that appeals to our executive, but is it written in a way  that will appeal (and sell to) your audience? Will your learners love the content as much as the other instructional designers do, or will the be confused and turned-off by it? Those special-effects and artistic edits are awesome, but are you doing it to show off your favorite skills or to reach wedding and corporate clients? It’s so easy to study your audience and develop something for them but do it in a way that appeals not to the audience, but to ourselves or our peers. I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time. I’ll be the first to admit that I have. I’ve done promos and videos that I thought were great but missed the mark with the audience because they just didn’t get it. But, I’ve also done videos that I didn’t really connect with that were exactly what the client and the audience needed to see. I challenge you to go back and take an honest look at the stories you’re telling. I have and I’m going to be doing a few rewrites on a project I’m working on where the target audience is very different from the people involved. I did a pretty good job in the beginning, but I can see now that I lost that edge a bit. Now that I’m aware I can make it right. If you’re in the same boat I’m in, here are a few suggestions to help you stay on track:

  • Get out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to the interests and environment of your audience. Remind yourself where they’re coming from. Don’t assume you know.
  • Do a focus group or have an informal chat with folks from your target audience. What story do they want to hear from you or your client?
  • Look for outside experts. Don’t just listen to the usual people get opinions from, find someone from outside your circle to give an objective opinion.
  • I’ve been known to put up signs up around my desk to remind me about the audience I’m trying to reach.
Take a minute. Think about the stories you’re telling now. Are you telling your story in a way that will move, excite or affect your audience? Is your story being told in a way that’s too “inside” your environment to reach that target audience out there?  Are you telling the right story, the right way, to the right audience?
The answer to those questions are the difference between telling your story and selling your story.