May 27, 2014


A still from a video
We live in a visual world. Video makes a big impression. You can make nice recordings with your smartphone or a basic camcorder but are they good enough for business today? Let’s look at how you can create your own quality videos in full high definition (1080p).

The Equipment

For the best results, get the right equipment and learn how to use it. I did lots of research and also talked to video expert Nikola Danaylov of the terrific Singularity Weblog.

A DSLR camera works well most are optimized for photography. They have annoying limitations. For example, with the Nikon D5300
“Recording times are relatively limited, unfortunately, with only a 10 minute maximum recording time for High movie quality at 1080/60p (this increases to 20 minutes at Normal quality setting). ” — Imaging Resource
Consider a Panasonic GH3, a mirrorless camera optimized for video (review). You get
  • a separate record button for video
  • unlimited recording times (subject to the space on your memory card)
  • full HD (1080/60p) at hard-to-match bit rates as high as 72 Mbps
The GH3 is easy enough for a beginner and capable enough for a professional. Since the GH4 with 4K resolution is now available, the GH3 is an even better bargain. You might be able to find a used one. Use the savings on other equipment.
The lens is very important. You may change cameras but can keep using the same lens (unless you change systems).

The Panasonic HX025 Leica DG Summilux lens, 25mm/F1.4 ASPH is an excellent choice. The lens is a 50mm equivalent (review). That’s roughly what the human eye sees. There are two potential drawbacks
  • no optical image stabilization: not an issue since you’ll be using a tripod
  • no zooming: not an issue since you’ll move the camera closer, which also helps with sound quality
Comparing aperture sizes (click for article on Wikipedia)The lens aperture is f1.4, which allows lots of light gets in. That lets you get great results in situations with lower lighting. You also get a shallow depth of field: the background is out of focus, which puts attention on the foreground. You’ll see this used in movies and commercial photography.
You’ll need a tripod designed for video. When you’re working in a controlled environment like an office, you needn’t spend extra for a lightweight tripod or even the latest model. I picked up a discontinued tripod from a camera clearance outlet.

As you gain experience, you may want to get an external microphone. A shotgun mic is a good choice (e.g., the Rode VideoMic Pro). Another option is a wireless clip-on lavalier mic (e.g., the Sennheiser EW 112P G3). To get more sophisticated, get a second camera and more lens!

The Editing

Editing is easier if you have good video, good audio and few mistakes. There are many editing tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere Elements but don’t find it intuitive enough. I switched to Cyberlink PowerDirector. You’ll find good choices at TopTenReviews. Using the trial version will help you decide.

The Publishing

YouTube is an ideal place (e.g., my channel). Your video editor may even do the upload automatically.

The Result

Here’s a short video recorded in my office in a single take. The frame rate is a cinematic 24 frames per second and the light is from a window. The script took several days to finalize and memorize. This is not the first take.

What do you think?


PS The GH3 also takes great photos.

May 21, 2014


In a successful small business, you don't have the expensive "checks and balances" (translation: redundancies) possible in larger organizations. Using the right tools helps assure quality while saving time.

When you're working with more than one other person on a project, communicating becomes a challenge. Email adds noise and wastes time. How do you manage your projects?

Many Options

You've got lots of choices for project management but no perfect solution. Your personal preferences matter. I seek solutions which are inviting and well-equipped for free users.
Asana stands out. It’s free for unlimited projects, each with a team of up to 15 people. The pricing for additional features and larger teams looks reasonable.

Why Asana?

Over the years, Asana has become more powerful and flexible but stayed simple. Your shared project can have sub-projects (called "Sections"). Your tasks can have subtasks. You can add descriptions and notes. Your tasks appear in an inbox.

Isn’t that enough to make quick progress?


This screenshot shows two of my important priorities: Taxevity (the insurance advisory where I work) and Money 50/50 (a financial education initiative). The projects are underneath. The example under Networking shows the task of creating a permanent nametag to wear to events (no pins or adhesives to damage clothing!). Click to enlarge.
real-life example (click to enlarge)

Other uses

Asana fits work-related projects well. For context-based tasks (e.g., remembering the bread), a smartphone app is more useful. You may find other uses as you become more familiar.
For client-related tasks, you might want to use a CRM like Contactually for tracking.

Since Asana is free, why not try?


PS If you’d like more choices, Lifehacker compares five (including Asana)

May 15, 2014


work-in-progress on a new slide deck (replacing bullets with visuals)
Creating a presentation is easier if you’re familiar with the topic. What if you aren’t? What if you’re creating an all-new presentation? That’s the situation I’ve been in when preparing my talk for The Global Change Initiative on how to profit from doing what’s right.

This five-step process helps. It also works if you’re familiar with a topic.

1. Create An Outline

You may already have many ideas. A mind map helps you capture and organize them. I especially like iThoughts HD for the iPad. I haven’t found a comparable choice for Android.
When your mind map is with you, you can capture fresh thoughts as they strike you (provided you’re not driving!).

With your mind map, you can brainstorm.

As with a speech, a presentation has a beginning (hook), middle (details) and ending (call to action). As your ideas gel, you can arrange your points in a suitable structure with branches and sub-branches. Your presentation is now taking shape.

You may have too much content. That’s fine since you don’t need to use it all.

2. Collect Information

Once you’ve got your outline (and perhaps while you’re creating it), look for information. You can add links to your mind map. That’s what I used to do. Now I’ve started using Evernote to capture web pages. There’s an excellent plugin for your Chrome web browser. Evernote lets you categorize the information, which is very useful. The free plan is a great way to start.

You’ll likely have too much information. That’s fine because it’s organized and might prove to be useful as your presentation evolves.

3. Draft A PowerPoint Presentation With Bullets

Yeah, we know about death by bullet points but they are helpful in drafting a presentation. They’ll be removed later. Bullets are quick to create. The slides are easy to move around to create a good flow.

4. Replace Bullets With Visuals

Bullet points are boring. You won’t win an audience that’s snoring. Now’s the time to add images and move the bullet points to your speaker notes.

Finding the right visuals takes time but isn’t your audience worth the investment? I generally get free photos at and often use screenshots taken with Snagit. I also use Snagit to resize the images (e.g., to 960x540).

5. Refine

This part can be the most time-consuming. You’ll see what works and make adjustments. This is the phase where you work on your speaker notes and how you’ll transition between slides (visually and with your words).

It’s tough to remove a visual or segment you like. I’ll put them at the end of the slide deck in a section called Outtakes. That lessens the pain and preserves the content in case you find a need (perhaps for another presentation).

Do record yourself to check the timing. Listening to the playback helps you remember your content.


We can’t be objective about our own presentations. Practice in front of a test audience, if possible. A Toastmasters club is ideal since the members know how to give feedback. If that’s not possible, ask for feedback on segments from people whose input you value. 


PS How about recording your presentation and posting it on YouTube? That’s a nice memento for your digital tapestry.