neil@neilben.com
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Get people to love your business #1

Yes, it’s finally happened. I’ve found (wonders of wonders) someone who wants to spend time with me as much as I want to spend time with them. Yes, I’m in a lovely relationship, with a very special lady. And now I’m “in it” I can’t understand why I found it so difficult in the past to find someone…

But in truth it was a struggle to find someone, extremely frustrating … and a long time coming.

And all through the journey I’ve had people giving me advice, making suggestions as to how I can find the perfect partner, how I can get to know them and allow them to get to know me, and ultimately, how to get them to want to be with me.

And then I got thinking… Could that advice be related to business?

Well, yes…

How do you get people to fall in love with you and your business…

Before they’ve even met you?

I often been heard saying…

I help potential clients fall in love with your and our business before they've even met you.

But how…?

Well let’s look at the relationship advice I was given, and see if it can be related to finding new clients and to growing your business.

Step 1 - Be the kind of person you want to be with

I sat down about 10 months ago and wrote a list of attributes I wanted my perfect partner to have; she would be fun, creative, independent, a little bit naughty 😉 reliable, my best friend, smart, similar height to me, female, musical and willing to work on herself and with me to make our relationship great.

To follow the advice, I needed to be that kind of person; fun, creative, reliable... in fact, everything I wanted my lady to be other than female, of course.

And it worked… My lady is all that I was giving out and much much more...

So how would this work in business…?

You need to be the kind of business you would hire

Make a list of attributes that draw you to other businesses:

Then look at what’s important to you in another business?

Would you hire your business the way it was operating right now? If “no” what can you do about it?

Look at the list you have created and then be that kind of business.

Be honest... Does your website, email marketing, flyers and marketing material speak to you and make you want to work with that business? Does the way you speak about your business inspire? Do you offer the results your clients want?

Be the kind of business you would want to work with.

In Step #2 we see that Actions speak louder than words.

Isn't love a wonderful thing. It makes everything look so much better. It throws light on darkness, makes you a better person and interactions, not only with your beloved, but with everyone feels so much sweeter. So....

How do you get people to fall in love with you and your business...

Before they’ve even met you?

Being told "I love you" is wonderful, but feeling that love is even better.

When people feel loved they love in return

So how does that relate to business?

Step 2 - Actions speak louder than words

Telling people what you do will not connect as well as them getting a feel for the difference you will make for them.

In business show people you care about them, that they are important to you and show them the difference you can make for their business. It is perfectly fine to tell people what you do, but there is way more power in showing.

Here are some suggestions between saying and showing

SAYING SHOWING
We are reliableDo what you say you will do, on time and on budget – go the extra mile
We offer great serviceDo what you say you will do, on time and on budget, or better still, deliver more than you said you would, before you said you would
We offer great valueOver deliver. Don’t do the same for less, do more for the same – start at the extra mile
30 years of experienceDo what you say you will do, on time and on budget – and do this without any fuss and with a smile on your face
We are professionalDo what you say you will do, on time and on budget – and don’t do it in your pyjamas

Notice there's a little bit of a pattern forming... It's so much about getting on with what you say you will do, with a smile on your face, love in your heart and (in my case), a cheeky twinkle in the eye.

Show people what you do, rather than tell them

Let them feel your love and passion in what you do and that will give them a feel for what it's like working with you.

In Step #3 in Getting people to fall in love with you and your business (before they've even met you) we look at why Your client is more important than you are.

Dog Portrait artist Claire Thorogood invited onto Channel 4's Crufts

I recently finished editing a promo video for Claire Thorogood, who is an amazing Dog Portrait Artist based in North London.

Claire started her painting business in late spring 2016, and she wanted a video on her website that demonstrated the painting process so new clients could see what she did.

We are both very proud of the finished video, which tells The Story of the Painting of Herbie, a 13 year old toy poodle.

What's incredible about this promo video is that Claire and her assistant Janet shot most of the footage themselves on their iPhone.

They did get training on how to shoot with their phone from me, and I created a storyboard of shots for them to collect, but they did all the hard filming work.

Since we made this video, Claire has opened her own studio in Hampstead and was invited to attend Crufts, painting no other than Iwan Thomas's dog.

What an amazing transformation in a business started just ten months ago.

Now I'm not saying this self shot promo video was the sole reason Claire got the TV offer, but the broadcasters were able to watch it, see what she did, and decide whether what she did would work for the programme.

Claire on Channel 4's Crufts

You can watch Claire talking about working with me here and of course check out my "Film Yourself Service" which she went through in order to create this video.

Why this may be of interest to you?... Well... The training and editing to help Claire make this video cost about 75% of what it would have 25% if I had come in and produced this video for her, shooting everything myself... Also, this is just the first of many "Story of the painting" videos which Claire is planning to do, so all future story videos we produce together are going to cost her a quarter of the original fee, as she will only have to pay for the editing.

Visit Claire's website to see more of her amazing work.

Only 14% of people keep their New Year resolutions for a year

45% give up in the first month

66% within the second month

80% have quit within 3 months

How do you stick with the promises you've made?

This is a bit of a "closing the stable door after the horses have bolted" kind of statement, but part of the problem (as I see it), is that people make up BIG resolutions that they'd like to do, but deep inside they know they're not going to... They just feel the making of the resolution will create the motivation they need to succeed.

Sadly just making up your mind isn't strong enough in many cases.

According to Statistic Brains the top 5 resolutions made this year are:

  1. Lose Weight / Healthier Eating - 21.4%
  2. Life / Self Improvements - 12.3%
  3. Better Financial Decisions - 8.5%
  4. Quit Smoking - 7.1%
  5. Do more exciting things - 6.3%

They also say that people in their twenties are more than twice as likely to keep their resolutions than those over 50! Surely us oldies should have learnt by now!

Get support

I'm no longer in my twenties so statistically it's harder for me to keep my resolutions, and for years I have been saying "I'll lose weight and eat healthier" with little success.

I get very enthusiastic, I might even buy a diet or nutrition book. I'll shop for healthier food and avoid chocolate and crisps... for a while... And then I have a stressful day, or maybe a long day filming and I'll crave chocolate... So I'll give myself a little "treat" to make me feel a little better... And then I'll have a bit more, and then 3 or 4 days have gone by and I've forgotten my health kick.

I know I can't do it by myself. On my own I give up too easily, I'm weak and lazy and go for the "easiest" option which isn't necessarily the "best" or "healthiest" option, or the goal I really, really, really wanted to succeed in.

This time I'm doing it differently, I AM going to eat more healthier. And to guarantee I succeed I'm getting the support of a nutritionist. She's going to be checking my food diary and will be tough with me if I slip up. So that way, if have some chocolate I have to write it down and justify why I had that sugary "treat" in our weekly calls, which between you and me are not that comfortable. So when that urge hits me I have that added thought "do I want to have a difficult conversation... is it really worth it?" Sometimes it is worth it, often it is not. That means I am eating less unhealthy food and am more likely to succeed in my goal.

It's the same with making video

I meet lots of people who are keen and enthusiastic about growing a YouTube channel with lots of videos. They come on one of my workshops, or sign up for my online course, or even have 1-2-1 coaching and they learn how to shoot video blogs, or info videos, or video testimonials. They tell me about their amazing plans to shoot 20 videos, grow their YouTube channel and get a mass of traffic flowing to their website.

Do they do that? Well some do, sadly most don't. That's why I have coaching programmes that support you in your video production. When you decide how many videos you want to make you get me on your back supporting (nagging) you to finish them, and helping you when you get stuck. After all, your success is my success.

Business jargon, what's the point?

I only ever watch one episode of each series of The Apprentice... The one when the contestants have the interviews and get ripped to shreds because most of them are full of BS.

Yes, I'm calling them contestants as it's a game show in my opinion and not a serious business programme

All this business lingo just drives me crazy, why can't they just talk properly. I can just imagine what a business meeting would look like with one of the apprentices. Possibly a bit like this?

Thank you joining me for this pow-wow, as you’ve all been on my radar for a while.

I just wanted to touch base and run something up the flagpole. We’ve been flogging a dead horse and need to think outside the box because as a team we’ve not been singing from the same hymn sheet.

I’m not suggesting reinventing the wheel but with some blue sky thinking we can get that low hanging fruit.

Now I appreciate we can’t boil the ocean, but a quick look under the bonnet and I’m sure we can find an idea with legs.

At the end of the day we need to hit the ground running because this is a game changer.

OK... so I’ve moved the goalposts but I am giving you the heads up that we need some joined up thinking.

When push comes to shove it’s important to get all our ducks in a row, peel back the layers of the onion and square the circle.

It’s not rocket science, so I’m reaching out to you to pick it up and run with it.

Comprendey? Great.

Action that!

You don't get anything done speaking like that

When I was directing multi-camera studios, there would often be 30 or more people waiting for my instructions before they would do anything, so my instructions had to be clear, to the point and understandable.

If I started the day saying "Good morning studio, lets hit the ground running" I'd get laughed at and ignored for the rest of the day. However, if I started the day (as I did) saying "Good morning studio, I'd like to start by rehearsing scene 3 from shot 49... Geoff (the floor manager), please get artists in and ready... Cameras you get in position and we can block through the shots while lighting finish their adjustments."

I'm giving clear instructions that everyone understands and we have hit the ground running though I never needed to say so.

Speaking in front of camera can be normal too

Most people think they need to do something special when they appear in front of camera... Talk in a particular way... Use more "polite" language, or slow down (or speed up). Well that's not necessary.

I find the most engaging business videos are when the person in front of camera is talking just how they do every day of the year, naturally and normally.

So if you think you need to do something special to make a video then you are wrong... You are already special, just be yourself and your videos will be great.

Talk like I have written above, using business lingo and I will add the Benny Hill theme or similar comedy music track to your video... You have been warned.

In the mid 90s I left the BBC and became a freelance director. Over the next 15 or so years I was fortunate enough to direct many different programmes, for many different television broadcasters, including:

Every programme I worked on developed me as a director, taught me new things and helped me hone my craft.

It was what I learnt directing Teletubbies that has helped me the most when directing business videos

No, do not worry... If you hire me to make videos for you, I'm not going to expect you to dress up in a brightly coloured suit and dance over a grassy field covered with flowers and bunny rabbits going "eh-oh"!

But it was what I learnt from Anne Wood, creator of Teletubbies, that I still use when I direct today.

In early 2001, I was a location director on the show. I used to direct the little films that popped out of the Teletubbies tummys, the ones featuring little children doing fun and interesting things.

As a location director I had to come up with the ideas for the sequences, find the locations, cast the children, direct the sequences, record the voice-over and supervise the edit. But before I could start I had to be fully briefed on the Ragdoll Productions way of directing.

The wisdom Anne Wood shared in the training has stayed with me ever since:

It is not possible to direct the young children who appear in these films so don't try. Just create a safe space for them to play in and then capture the magic

OK. I don't get to work with many child business owners, that said, I'm not going to try and direct you. Unless, that is, you have be trained as a presenter or performer.

What I am going to do is...

Create a safe space..

How many business owners are confident being in front of camera? Not many.

Having a camera stuck in your face, a microphone dangled over your head and having "action" shouted at you can be most nerve wracking. Video production is unfamiliar and scary for many people, so my first job as a director is to make you feel safe, because when you feel safe you are more likely to come across naturally on camera.

How do I do that? The truth is, I don't really know, I just do... I guess I have a knack of making filming feel kind of everyday and nothing special. Having directed for over 30 years there's very little that phases me, so when I arrive at a new location, I walk in with confidence, which helps put my contributor at ease.

for them to play in...

OK, you're not going to be getting the Scalextric or your My Little Ponies out during filming... Actually, if having a toy car race before a shoot, or plaitting a pony's rainbow-coloured hair makes you feel calm and helps you in front of camera then yes, have them in your office.

For me playing means having fun in the shoot and getting you to do what you are most comfortable doing. So if you are confident delivering a 1-minute elevator pitch, I'll make the filming feel like an elevator pitch. If you are comfortable answering client's questions, I'll pretend to be a client and ask you questions... I'll just stand behind the camera so it captures the answers you are giving me.

The idea is to make the process as fun and normal as possible.

then capture the magic

Filming the video needs to be the easiest and least intrusive part of the process.

There is no point in having beautifully crafted shots if the person talking on camera is sweating profusely and stuttering their lines. Many production companies spend way too much time setting up the lights, creating the perfect framing, getting the location to look beautiful, but forget that all this preparation can add to the tension and affect the performance of the business owner.

For me, all the technical stuff needs to be kept as simple as possible, or better still, handled well before the business owner appears. That way all the focus can be put on the performance.

This is why I often film on my smartphone. If you know how, the quality can be as good as using bigger, more "professional" kit, but it doesn't feel such a big thing. This helps make the whole filming process less threatening and much easier.

Oh, and I don't worry about scripts or autocue either, because unless you have been trained to deliver a script or use autoecue, you will not come across as naturally as you can.

Business video production with me will feel safe, fun and I'll capture a performance you never thought was possible

It's Friday, it's five to five and it's Crackerjack!

When I was 11 my parents got audience tickets to go and see Crackerjack being recorded at the BBC. This was the first time I had sat in a television studio and I loved it.

Not only Slade, my favourite group, was on the programme, I just loved watching the lights, the cameras, the floor managers... in fact everything that was going on both in front and behind the camera. That was the day I decided I was going to work in telly.

So how do you get a job in television?

1 - Make a clear decision about what you want to do

So the next day I wrote to the BBC and told them I wanted to work for them, and was invited to join a school tour of the studios.

A couple of weeks later my mum and I arrived at the BBC studios but the school party didn't, so we got a private tour, just me and my mum. It was amazing... I went into the Top of the Pops studio during rehearsals and saw Christopher Cross singing Side Show, I saw Daleks in the props store, we got to experience BBC-Tea in the canteen... It was amazing... Yes, the BBC was where I was going to work.

When I went to school the following day I told my teachers that I was going to work for the BBC and make TV programmes for children. Their response was pretty much unanimous:

"Don't do that, you'll never get into the BBC, television is a difficult career, you're way too smart to work in the entertainment industry, do maths, do physics, do computer science... They'll be more job opportunities that way."

Being a well behaved, compliant little boy, I did what I was told, but I wasn't happy.

2 - Never give up on your dreams...

11 years later I graduated with a Computer Science Degree from Brunel University and I'm working in the IT industry designing information systems for the Royal Navy. Oh, and I still wanted to work in telly.

3 - Do whatever you can to gain experience

To satisfy my creative needs, I did Children's Theatre and volunteered at Great Ormond Street hospital radio, Radio GOSH, producing and presenting radio shows, oh, and I became a Children's magician!

4 - Be ready for when the luck arrives

One of the other volunteers at Radio GOSH worked at the BBC for the World Service, and every week she'd bring in Ariel for me (BBC's internal magazine), so I could look at the job pages in the back. One week there was a job in their computer department that I was perfectly qualified for, so I applied for the job and got an interview.

I did a great interview, they agreed I'd be good in the role, but then came the question "Why do you want to work for the BBC?"

My answer was simple "Because I want to make TV programmes" and I told them my story from when I was 11.

They offered me the job, and in August 1987 I started working for the BBC... OK, it wasn't in TV, but my chances of making TV programmes went for "no chance in hell matey" to "it's not going to be easy".

5 - Work twice as hard as everyone else

For the next 2 1/2 years I did two jobs. The one I was being paid for in the IT department, and the job of learning everything I could about directing. So I answered the telephones on the Saturday morning kid's show Live and Kicking so I could  be in the studios as much as possible, and helped out with Children in Need. I also sat in viewing galleries, got audience seats when I could, watched so much television output and came up with new ideas and formats for TV programmes.

The BBC had a scheme called the Attachment Program. The idea being you can be "loaned" from the department you worked in to another department, in order to grow your experience. Once a year Trainee Assistant Producer Attachments were available both in BBC Children's and BBC Schools Television - 6 for Children's and 3 for Schools. That's 9 opportunities a year. OK, several hundred people applied for the attachments each year, but still it was a chance.

So each year I'd apply for the attachments, and each year I'd be one of the 100 or so people invited for interview (all the hard work meant I came up with great programme ideas for the application), and every year I got through the first round of interviews, because the producers who grilled me loved my enthusiasm and ideas.

And every year I'd do a great second interview but got told the same thing... "Sorry, we've never had an engineer make TV programmes before". Yes, they thought IT was engineering back then!

6 - Be stubborn

Being the person I am, I always asked for feedback, so I called Lewis Bronze, the then editor of Blue Peter to talk about how I'd done in my interview with him, to which he was very positive and slightly disappointed that I hadn't been given a chance as he thought I'd be a great asset to the department. I asked if I could spend a week trailing one of his producers on the programme so I could get a bit more experience and he was more than happy to help. So I took a week of my holiday entitlement and in October 1989 I spent 5 amazing days following a lovely Blue Peter Producer called Richard Simpkin.

I sat in edits, watched studio planning meetings, sat in the gallery during the live programmes and watched a voice-over session. I even managed to write the opening of the Thursday Halloween Show.

It was an amazing week and I learnt so much, and at the end of the week I asked Richard if I could write that year's Blue Peter Christmas Panto. Richard said "sadly no, we already have a script, but I think you would have done a great job, what with all your kid's theatre background".

What a shame.

7 - Grab every opportunity

A couple of weeks later I was in the BBC canteen and I bumped into Richard, the producer I had worked with on Blue Peter. "How's the Panto going?" I asked, "The script is shit" was his response. "Don't worry, I'll have a great script on your desk tomorrow morning."

I stayed up all night, writing a pantomime script for Blue Peter, and true to my word it was on Richard's desk the next morning and he loved it and they went with it.

8 - Change people's perception of you

I was no longer the engineer who wanted to work in telly, I was the guy that wrote the Blue Peter Panto.

Timing was perfect as a week later I was having a meeting with the Head of BBC Schools Television, again trying to find out why he kept saying I'd be a great asset to his department, but why he never offered me a chance. His answer was that I had no experience working in television.

9 - Believe in yourself

I got angry "How the hell can I get experience working in television and show you how good I'll be unless you give me a chance."

With that little outburst, and him seeing the work I had done over the years, as well as knowing Blue Peter had taken a chance on my script, he repented and offered me a six-month attachment as a Production Trainee.

10 - Never give up until you succeed

That was December 1989... Since then I have had a very long and successful career in television and video production. I have worked with some wonderful craft people and talented performers, won awards and had a thoroughly enjoyable time doing what I knew I really wanted to do.

And I have so many stories from my time in telly.... But those will have to wait for future blogs.

When is an excuse valid and when is it a cop out?

This is something I've been asking myself all day, when I've struggled to finish writing this blog. Are my excuses good reasons to leave it for today, or are they an easy way to give up?

As George Washington Carve said:

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses."

Now I'm not willing to be a failure, but I have loads of thoughts running round my head such as:

Then I get bored with all these excuses

But what can I do? I'm a single dad, I'm raising two kids on my own whilst building a business from scratch... It is hard being mum, dad, cook, cleaner, managing director, content creator, bookkeeper, marketing manager, networker, oh, and doing the job that actually earns me the money to pay the bills which is producing directing, script writing, coaching, training and editing.

So, it's ok for me to say I'm tired... Isn't it?

Yes it is...

But it's not ok for me to use it as an excuse to avoid doing the thing I said I'm going to do.

I've had a busy day achieving lots including:

Surely I can have a break and leave finishing this blog til tomorrow, even though I said I'd write it today?

Well I could leave it, but then...

It's 10 pm. Back from our second rehearsal, a great read through of Acorn Antiques the musical, which we'll be putting on at the Radlett Theatre in May. Now I'm finishing off this blog for publishing tomorrow and printing out a 114-page script, only 93 more pages to go.

And although I've had excuses flying round my head all day, with lots of reasons for not finishing this blog, I've stuck with it... Why?

Because keeping my word is important

So I listened to my excuses and said "thank you for sharing" to them and finished this blog... Well it will be finished in it two more short minutes.

What do you think?

Do you have conversations with yourself?  Do you give up when things get tough? Is keeping your word important to you?

Please leave a comment below, as I'm interested in what you think and whether the struggle I had to go through to finish this blog was worth it.

Improv can improve your business

Not only that, it can make your life so much more rewarding.

DISCLAIMER: As they say at the start of every improv show. "Nothing that follows is scripted, everything you see and hear (watch and read in terms of this blog) will be invented on the spot, for one night only, never to be repeated."

I've been doing improv (improvised comedy) for many years. I did my first workshop over 30 years ago, but really started to get serious when I attended a residential workshop at Osho Leela in 2010, hosted by The Maydays, an amazing improv troupe based in Brighton.

The following year, not only did I participate in the workshop, I was asked to film the event, and you can see the promo I produced up top.

Why improv is good for you and your business

The main thrust of improv (as I see it) is to make your on-stage colleagues look great while they are trying to make you look great... When everyone does that the results are amazing. So when someone says "makes an offer" (says a line or does some action) you build on it. To do that (and be really great at improv) you need to, as the Maydays taught me:

Listen

When you're on stage you have no idea what your fellow performers are going to do, after all it's unscripted, that means you really have to LISTEN to them. If not you'll have no idea what's happening.

In business too, listening is very important.

If you don't listen to what your customers or clients are saying, how do you know they like (or hate) what you do? How will you be able to improve the service you offer them? Many times I have been at a network meeting and I get talked at by someone who's not interested in listening...

So what I do is listen, which makes the "talky" person feel good. I may also ask them the odd question or two which makes them feel even better, and then when they have finished I have so much information about what they do and what is and isn't working in their business. I can then tailor a razor-sharp offering to them by coming up with a solution to their problems. My brief response to their elongated soliloquy is focused, to the point and often surprises them as they have no idea why I know so much about their difficulties!

Say "YES"

"Hi Charlie, how's the new job?" she said winking at me.

If I say "I'm not Charlie, I'm Derek and I'm too young to have a job" the scene has just died. Whatever you are offered in improv you need to say "YES" to, that way the scene builds in a way that no one expected or planned and the audience loves it.

"It's OK, I suppose Britney, but the snake-skin leotard really chaffs. " Charlie replied, scratching his bum.

Now the scene is going somewhere interesting... I said "YES" to the proposition and now Britney can build on that...

This is the same in business. If I am offered feedback on a job I have done (good or bad), I can ignore it (wrong), or I can listen and quietly say "YES" to myself  and build my business offerings with this new information.

And Commit

COMMITMENT comes down to how much energy you put into delivering your line. "It's OK I suppose" is a bit of a downer, so in improv terms you deliver it as a BIG downer, you COMMIT to the feeling of the line, so that when Britney responds she has your energy to bounce off.

BRITNEY: "It's terrible that the boss insists you wear it inside out, when I worked for him I had a sequined one!"

CHARLIE: "I feel your pain honey I really do."

In business nothing happens without action, so once you've LISTENED and said "YES", you now need to COMMIT to doing something about it. Commitment for me is like passion... If you are passionate in your business (you are committed to doing whatever is required), you will stand out from all your competitors.

So go on, find an improv group local to you and go and do a workshop. It's a lot of fun and you might learn something that will help you in business.

What else have I learnt about improv performers?

That they make great performers in training videos, and they are a real joy to direct. So I hope to be making many more improvised training videos in the future... Ones like the clip below:

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

Is working for FREE bad for business?

I do not know the answer to this question so I value your comments. But I have been thinking a lot about it.

Two things happened to me earlier this week which made me question whether giving my best advice, sharing my expertise and working for free, was good for my business:

  1. I was asked to present a webinar on how to shoot videos with your smartphone
  2. I offered my support to a videographer who was new to the business and wanted to know how to edit a promo

The webinar is going to be part of a series about digital marketing and sales funnels. My role is to present a cost effective way to create video content using your smartphone or tablet, which if you know me you'll know is a core part of my business.

The chat with the videographer started off as a possible sales call and ended up being a pretty one sided conversation lasting well over an hour. In the call I talked the videographer through editing a promo video.

That's several hours work with no fee

Part of me is more than happy to share my expertise, after all, many people have helped me get to where I am today by sharing their expertise with me. I also believe everything is about energy... the more energy you put out there the more you get back.

But then I'm not sure...

If it fits into my marketing then that's good to do, after all the webinar is going to give me great exposure and people who've never heard of me before are going to be introduced to me and what I do.

But then, I have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed and keep clothed (and they grow so fast), and free don't pay the bills.

I was told there are only two reasons for working for free

  1. Because you've just started in business and need to get some testimonials and recommendations
  2. Because you're so minted you can afford to do pro bono work

For a few years I stuck to this argument, but now I'm neither a new business, or rolling in money, so neither option applies.

So I share my expertise for free because it just feels right to do sometimes.

But is that a good argument?

Two years ago I made 5 videos for FREE

The videos were for a charity called Demand, who make bespoke equipment for people with disabilities. The five videos were shown at a Gala event at Watford Football club and helped to raise £24,000.

And do you know what, when I was originally asked if I would be willing to make one of the five videos I said, without hesitation "No, I'm not going to make one video for you, I'll make all five".

Here's one of the videos shown at the Gala

Five videos like this would usually cost around £5,000 to produce, but I was happy working for free as it was a real pleasure to know my skills were being used to help a very valuable cause.

The thing is, it's a real pleasure to know my skills are being used to help someone's business grow, or help someone learn AND get paid for it!

I would really value your opinion here

Is offering your services for free good or bad for business practice?

Are there times when you should or should not work for free?

Please leave a comment below.

 

"I don't want to be on video!"

... is the biggest excuse I hear from people who avoid using video as part of their business marketing.

The first thing is to look at the real reasons why people avoid video. These are the most common excuses I hear:

 - I don't like the way I look or sound on video
- I'm not going to be good enough

Lets deal with the first one first.

I don't like the way I look or sound on video

When you watch yourself on camera for the first time, you're experiencing yourself like you've never experienced yourself before - exactly how you look and sound!

Eh? Let me explain... Unless you are prone to out of body experiences, the only way to see yourself moving around is in a reflection... Looking in a mirror, in a puddle, in the reflection of a shop window, so the image of you you're most comfortable with is your reflection.

That means, when you see yourself in video for the first time (not as a reflection), the immediate response is "that's not me". But it is you and it is exactly how everyone else who knows (and loves) you, sees you.

What about how you sound on video? We all hear when our ear drum vibrates, but there are two ways to get it vibrating.

  1. when sound waves enter our ear hole then hits the drum
  2. when sounds vibrate through the bones of your skull and vibrates your drum

You hear your voice through your skull, and as the sound travels through your bones they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. When you hear your voice on video, it sounds higher and unfamiliar to you.

See what the BBC says about why we hate hearing our own voice

So when you first watch yourself on video you are seeing and hearing yourself as everyone else sees and hears you, but not how you have ever experienced yourself before. This "new" you is going to take a little time to get used to. But this is no excuse to avoid making videos.

I'm not going to be good enough

When I was nine I started learning the clarinet. It was difficult to begin with and the noise coming out the end of it didn't sound a bit like the sound my cousin was able to get out of her clarinet. "I just wasn't good enough..."

Or maybe, I just hadn't had enough time to learn how to play it properly and practice.

This is true of every new thing we try... It is unlikely that we will be great at it at our first attempt. But this is no excuse to avoid making videos.

You need to practice, get a great teacher, coach, mentor, trainer, director and let me help you though those early uncomfortable moments and support you in becoming confident in front of camera.

And just to let you know, in the nearly 30 years I've been working in television and video production, there's not been a single person who I haven't managed to get over their initial fear and helped them look great.

I had to overcome my fears too

Yes... When I first saw myself on video I didn't like the way I looked or sounded. I also had to get over seeing my disability which was tough... But do you know what got me through?

My passion

When you talk with passion and enthusiasm the camera loves you, and all those doubts and worries about how you look and sound disappear. Which I talk about in this video below.

So come on... No more excuses, no more avoiding doing what I know you want to do. Just give it a go, get yourself started, practice and get a mentor / director to help you in your journey.

 

The 30 day blogging challenge

With added video, just to make it a real challenge

So I'm sitting in the kitchen with my business mentor in early August and she says to me...

"I think you should do Sarah Arrow's 30-day blogging challenge, here's her webpage... just put your name and email address in there."

Now I'm a good boy (most of the time) and follow the advice I'm given, so I did what I was told, entered my name and email address (being careful to spell my name right as I've done it wrong before and got emails sent to Meal) and the challenge begun. No um-ing or ah-ing, no hesitation, just went for it.

No, I REALLY went for it

I'm not a man for taking the easy route, and because my thing is video I decided to make this a video blog challenge, so all (except one) of my blogs contained at least one video, some had 2 and one even had 4.

And it's been fun and it's been easy.

30-days of video blogging... Easy?

Ok, there were challenges, but do you want to know what the hardest thing was? You do? Then watch the video below to find out...

To blog or not to blog - That is the question

I apologise for Rudolf muffling my mic at one point, he does like a cuddle!

So guys and gals, do have a go at Sarah's 30-day challenge, and if you find that too easy and really want a challenge, guess what, I have a 7 day video challenge From selfie-shots to self-shooter in seven days, which will be growing into a 30-day video challenge, so watch this space.

 

Thank you for your question

I didn't get to where I am today without people helping me out, so when I post a video, or a blog and get questions I am more than happy to share my experience. It's kind of like a "pass it on" thing... I've been helped along the way, so I am happy to help others along too. So ask away.

I am, after all, an expert in what I do

As a multi-award winning Producer, Director with over 26 years working in television and video production, I know a fair few things about the industry I am in, including; video creating, directing, presenting, television broadcasting, story telling, writing scripts, working with actors and presenters, editing, sound mixing, animation, documentary filming, multi-camera studios, audio dubbing, folio, working with professional puppeteers, directing A-list celebrities, working at the BBC, Chanel 5, Discovery, Nickelodeon, Sky, video marketing, YouTube, training... and probably a few other things to do with creating television and video content.

 

There is not much I don't know about the TV industry, and if I don't know it I know people I can ask.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is "where's your neck?". Now obviously that has everything to do with making awesome videos and as you have been kind enough to interact with me, the least I can do is answer you. Here goes:

My neck is between my shoulders and my head... It's the bit that connects my head to my body, without it my head would be rolling on the floor. In fact, I guess If I didn't have a neck I'd be dead as they'd be nowhere for my spinal chord to go, and without the signals from my brain going to vital organs like the heart and lungs I wouldn't last very long.

Ask people who've had their heads cut off if you don't believe me... On no, you can't 'cause they'll be dead too.

Actually, I think you asked me the wrong question. What you should have asked me is "why is your neck so short?", that's a far better question. I mean, it's like me asking you "where's your brain?"

That would be stupid question to ask, because if you didn't have a brain you wouldn't have been able to view my video, let alone type a question in comment box. A better question for me to ask you would be "Why are you interested in my body when I'm a video expert? Do you fancy me?" something like that.

Sorry, got side tracked... Lets get back to the original question "where's your neck?" I'm going to take it that what you meant to ask is "why is your neck so short?"

So here is my answer, I hope it satisfies you

I was born with a condition called Kilippel-Feil syndrome. If you are really interested, there is a good read about the condition at the US National Library of Medicine in their Guide to Understanding Genetic Conditions

But if you are feeling lazy, I've copied the following overview for you

Klippel-Feil syndrome is a bone disorder characterized by the abnormal joining (fusion) of two or more spinal bones in the neck (cervical vertebrae). The vertebral fusion is present from birth. Three major features result from this vertebral fusion: a short neck, the resulting appearance of a low hairline at the back of the head, and a limited range of motion in the neck. Most affected people have one or two of these characteristic features. Less than half of all individuals with Klippel-Feil syndrome have all three classic features of this condition.

I have all three of the classic features (lucky me) and to make things even better, one of the vertebrae is missing. I think it's C3 or C4 for those of you that know what that means.

What the US National Library of Medicine in their Guide to Understanding Genetic Conditions don't say is how a person with this condition will direct television programmes, or what people will learn from them when they go on their filming workshops. They do say "Some people with this condition have hearing difficulties, eye abnormalities, an opening in the roof of the mouth", but fortunately I do not have those difficulties.

I do have other difficulties, like being in pain if I stand for too long, dealing with ignorant individuals who think physical differences means they are incapable of doing anything of value in their lives or finding a chair that is comfortable to sit on.

Do I let these difficulties hold me back... Hell no!

When I was little... Ok I'm still little, just 5 foot 1 inch (that's another result of the syndrome). When I was about 6 or 7 and being constantly prodded and poked by doctors and nurses, I was told I wouldn't be able to do much. Teaches would say "Neil, you can't do that", my friends would say "that'll be too hard", doctors would say "he'll never be able to..."

And I would say "What the fuck do you know?". Never to their faces though, I was only 7 after all and I probably didn't know the word fuck yet, but I would think "They have no idea. I live in this body, of course I can" and that turned me into a very determined little boy.

Whenever I was told "no you can't", my reaction was "of course I can" and I set out to prove everybody wrong.

And then, when I was 11, something amazing happened. For my birthday my parents got me tickets to see Crackerjack being recorded at the BBC. For those who don't know Crackerjack, it was a kids TV entertainment show. It was on that day that I sat in the studios, I decided I was going to work at the BBC making television programmes. I loved the atmosphere, looking at the lights, the cameras, the floor manager, the whole vibe of the show. But my teachers told me "no Neil, you can't do that, it's a far too risky career to go for... You're clever, do maths, do physics, do computer science". Like a good boy I did what I was told and ended up with a 2:1 Hons degree in Computer Science from Brunel University. I still wanted to make television programmes.

It only took me 11 years from the day I decided I wanted to work in TV for me to get into the BBC in their IT department (I helped computerize the Radio Times don't you know), and another 3 years being an absolute pain sitting in studios, trailing producers and writing the Blue Peter Pantomime one Christmas, before I finally got offered a trainee assistant produce role in School Television (making maths programmes). I never went back to computing.

You see, when I make up my mind to do something I do it. Is that a side effect of the condition? Maybe, I don't know, I'm not a medical expert.

I'm lucky, I really love my work and maybe I'd never be doing the job I do now if I had had a neck.

To seriously answer you're question "where's your neck" I'd have to say "I gave it away before I was born in order to have the life I wanted"

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