neil@neilben.com
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Surviving troubling times

When everyone else is panicking

I'm sitting writing this blog on my balcony* overlooking the sea at Portimão in the Algarve. I fly back to the UK tomorrow morning to empty shelves, social distancing and self-isolation. It's all very worrying.

* I'm home safely now, but I did write this in Portugal

My biggest concern is...

Not about catching the virus, because if I do I will be fine... chicken soup is amazing stuff... I am more concerned about passing the virus on to more vulnerable individuals, but that's also not my biggest worry.

My biggest concern is what's going to happen to people's businesses, lively hoods and work:

The view from my 8th floor balcony as I write

Now I'm lucky... I've had 5 days in the sun, away from all the madness, the constant news updates, the panic buying and the speculation, so I've been able to spend some time thinking. And in times l like this there are some positives:

There are of course people who are profiteering from this event... Hand sanitisers that usually cost a pound and going for £6-£20 and the range (and cost) of surgical facemasks on eBay is unreal. That aside, I've been wondering...

Is there a way to survive, even prosper in a more loving, caring, supportive way...? And I believe YES it is possible - and not just for me...

But for you too

Especially if you are a person who earns their living:

As meetings and gatherings are being restricted, how can you continue to earn if face-to-face is what you do?

Move your business online

What to do if you are a coach, trainer or you run live workshops

You can create an online version of your workshops or training courses and get them live very fast on platforms such as Thinkific or Plugstreet... Now you, being the expert, know your content well, so it wouldn't take long to "translate" your live presentations into video, pdf and even quiz content.

Depending on the size of your workshop you could have an online version created in a under a week ready to market to all those bored and frustrated people at home.

Then complement your online course with 1-2-1 coaching via Zoom or Skype and create a FaceBook group to keep your learners motivated with challenges, feedback and Q&A sessions.

That's all there is to it

What to do if you sell a product or service that requires demonstrating

You create an explainer or video demonstration or a white board animation video that you then send to potential clients and then discuss details over Skype, Zoom or the phone.

Animation is particularly great for explaining services

What to do if you get most of your clients from live networking events

Now remember, people buy from people, so they need to see you in order to get to know, like and trust you. Consider Facebook live events / broadcasting and video conferencing, and create videos where people can get to learn about your services and get to love you and your business without even meeting you.

You may find you do better this way then you did when Networking

If this all sounds a bit daunting

Do not worry, I am here to help.

For the 30+ years I have been in TV and Video Production, I have specialised in making engaging and inspiring content that help people learn.

So rather than worry about empty workshops and the reduction in face-to-face coaching clients, let me help you translate your expertise into online workshops in which your clients can participate from the comfort of their own homes. Let me also support you in setting up Zoom conferencing and a Facebook group if that is necessary.

And allow me to help you get your workshop up on Thinkific or Plugtreet so you can start marketing and selling it.

If you have a product or service that needs explaining - let me help you create a demo or explainer video, or let my animators loose on your story.

And finally, for you serial networkers, let me help you create videos that will build "know, like and trust", attracting new clients you may never have met face to face.

So just pick up the phone and give me a call (number's in the footer below). And let's have a chat about how things may not be quite as bad as you think.

Images by Neil with his iPhone and Tumisu from Pixabay

They say "Laughter is the best medicine"... I agree with whoever the they are that says this... But I say more

Laughter is the best educator

I need to take you back 27 years when I first realised this. I was an Assistant Producer at the BBC working on Maths Programmes. The series was called Square One TV, which was a co-production between the BBC and the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), the makers of Sesame Street.

Now CTW are the worlds best at combing education and entertainment and Square One TV was a very successful series in the US which the BBC wanted to replicate for British kids. It was my job to write and direct it here in the UK.

We did game shows, animations and comedy sketches and before we started filming anything, a team of scriptwriters from CTW in New York flew over for a few days of meetings to go through all our scripts.

So there we are, sitting in a meeting room, with me describing a scene I had written all about recognising different sorts of graphs.

The story was about two gangsters in the early 1900s who ran the illegal licorice market, Al Malone and Bugsy Capone. Al was going through his figures with account Joe, but Joe was getting all flustered and couldn't make heads or tails of the figures.

Al grabbed Joe's collar, yanking him toward him and screamed into his face

"If you don't sort these figures I'm going to call da boys in on you!"

To which Joe whimpered "Yes, but who ya gonna call?"

"Graph busters!"

Then, three kids dressed with outrageous Ghostbuster type costumes run into the building and spray graphs all over the wall, which of course Al could understand.

graph busters

The guys from New York loved the sketch but they gave me one piece of very important advice. They said:

If you can make the punch line of the sketch coincide with the educational point, the kids will remember it

And for the past 27 years, I've have been practicing doing that, because people find it very difficult to remember facts but they will remember their emotional responses. So get people to laugh and the will remember.

This is why I love using comedy in the training videos I produce

Since leaving the BBC and building a business making training films, I focus on producing films that

Engage, Inspire, Educate and Inform

You have to Engage the viewers first, or they won't really watch the video (they may sit in front of the screen but the content will wash over them). You engage by making videos with great content and high production values

You Inspire the viewers in to wanting to learn by giving them a reason why they should learn. Inspiration and why's come through the emotional response.

It is then, and only then, that you can Educate or Inform you viewers.

If you are a training organisation who would like to include video as part of you training offerings, then check out some of the training video productions I have worked on.

And then book yourself a discovery session below and lets have a chat about how I can help you engage and inspire your learners.

Just So Darwin

BAFTA nominated series

In 2009, to celebrate the death of Sir Charles Darwin, I was asked to produce an animation series for the BBC. The brief was to get across the teachings of Darwin in an engaging and entertaining way.

 

The background to the commission

200 years ago Charles Darwin was born. In his 20s he became the naturalist on a British Science Expedition, traveling around the world in a ship called the HMS Beagle. His job was to keep a record of all the new wildlife, plants and animals he found during his journey. During his trip he visited the Galapagos Islands. He was a good storyteller and it's said there he would sit down in the evenings and tell the sailors about the animals and plants he had found and how he thought they had developed their special features, such as the giraffe’s long neck. These ideas he later developed into his theory of evolution, which he published in a book called ‘The Origin of Species’.

 

I was lucky, I was working alongside Lambros Atteshlis, an ex-BBC Producer, through his company Glasshead Productions. He helped me find a great team of educational advisors, script writers and animators. But we still had a problem, how do you get a difficult subject like evolution across to 8 year olds?

 

Engage the kids first - using high quality television production, animation and character voices
Inspire them - through great storytelling
Educate them - by weaving the learning points into the stories

 

The concept we came up with

What if the stories that Darwin told all those years ago had been overheard by a young tortoise who was hiding in the grasses? And what if that tortoise remembered those stories and many many years later (tortoises can live for hundreds of years you know) retold those stories to his grand child?

What would those stories sound like now?

After 9 months of production, we had created 13 episode, they were all Produced and Script Edited by Neil Ben and where a Glasshead Production for the BBC

 

Thanks to the efforts of everyone on the team we were nominated for a Children's BAFTA, sadly we did not win, but to be nominated was honour enough.

It's not just enough to Inform

With many years experience in video and television production, particularity in making educational and training films, I get asked a lot for feedback on people's training videos.

What I see is that people are great at getting the didactic stuff right, they get all the learning points on screen and are very clear and logical in presenting the information they need the learner to get.

Great job? Well it's a start

They are using video to replace the teacher or trainer, which is not the best use of this amazing medium. You need to engage and inspire your learner first before you teach them anything.

Engaging your Learners

Your first challenge is to make your video engaging. No matter how good the educational content is, I'm sorry, if it's boring people will either watch it reluctantly (as they are in an environment where they are being shown the video and can't escape) or not watch it at all. In a previous blog I wrote about How to make your videos engaging, and this is your first challenge.

How many things in this video use electricity?

How many did you get?

Thank you to the lovely Heather Urquhart and Jason Blackwater their amazing performance... What fun... And pretty engaging too right?

Now I could have made a video to where a voice over goes something like this:

"So many things in our life today rely on electricity to work, in fact, without electricity our lives would grind to a halt. The average house hold in the UK uses 4,000 KWh of electricity a year, and the more electronic devices you have on in your house the more you will use"

 Educationally correct, informative and useful information,  but not very engaging. The only benefit the teenagers are going to get from watching a video like I described about (and sadly see too often) are to learn more facts and figures which they can get from reading a pdf printout.

However, my video sets a challenge which means they have to concentrate on the video and it's content to take part. The learning happens after they've watched the video when their science teacher builds up a list of the devices that everyone has spotted and can extend that learning in so many different ways with questions like:

The video engaged them, the learning happened after in the classroom.

 

Inspiring your Learners

Great, you've made an engaging video by putting a lot of energy into it. You might have used comedy or drama, or presented your knowledge passionately. That's step one. You now need to inspire your learners to want to learn.

What exactly does that mean? Simply, you need to give your learners a reason why learning this stuff is important to them.


A few years ago I made a series of training videos to teach care-workers how to look after the elderly. In this video Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults we had to deal with the difficult subject of elder abuse and the law and regulations around that subject.

For research I watched many videos in this area before making this one and all of them just talked about the law, the care standards, the responsibilities of the care-worker. None of them gave the care-workers the why. Unless you give the learners a reason why they need to learn they are not going to be invested in their learning.

 

The why in this video is answered by saying, if you don't follow the guidelines then this could happen to one of the service users under your care. The opening shot was a massive jolt to a lot of care-workers who watched the video, their reaction "I don't want this to happen in my care home, I better pay attention"

 

Educating your Learners

That's the bit that you are an expert in, you know your subject and the learning points you need to get across, so I will leave that to you because if you have engaged and inspired your learners this bit is easy.

Having fun is just a personal thing. I believe that if you are having fun in what you do you are more likely to remember the experience and want to repeat it. So if you want your learners to come back to you again and again you need to make the whole process fun.

 

Tbafta logohe ultimate accolade for a Television professional is to be nominated for a BAFTA, which is what happened to me for a children's animation series I produced for the BBC a few years ago. The series was created to teach a young audience about Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It was an engaging, inspiring and educational series for the audience and that is why is got the nomination.

I will talk more about the series in my blog tomorrow and show you one of the episodes, so keep an eye out.

 

 

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