Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for June 2011

A scene from Mahabharata.

Pandavas and Kauravas are getting ready for a war, trying to get support from as many kings as possible. Yudhisthira (Leader of Pandavas) is counting on the support of his uncle Shalya, king of Madra.

As expected, Shalya comes to meet Yudhisthira. But he says he won’t be fighting in Pandavas’ side during the upcoming war. Because, he has already promised Duryodhana that he will be joining the Kauravas’ army, fighting against Pandavas.

Yudhisthira is disappointed, but he decides use this unexpected twist in his favor and requests Shalya for a vow. ‘Uncle, you are a master charioteer. During the war, you will be asked to be the charioteer of Karna, arch-rival of my brother Arjuna. Sooner or later, Karna and Arjuna will meet in face to face battle, at that time, I want you to praise Arjuna’s skills and dampen Karna’s spirits.’

‘Sure. But what good will it do?’

‘I am confident that no one in Kauravas’ army can beat Arjuna, except Karna. If Karna comes to the battlefield with full enthusiasm, he may go ahead and push for a win. On the other hand, if his charioteer repeatedly talks great things about Arjuna, he will get into a self-doubt and approach the battle with some disadvantage, Arjuna will use that and kill Karna.’

Dirty trick? May be, But then, “All is fair in love and war” – Shalya did what Yushisthira wanted and that ultimately helped Arjuna to finish Karna and take an edge in the Kurukshetra war.

This story may be coming from a very ancient epic. But we can see the same cunning strategy being applied today against many achievers. Sometimes, our friends or relatives or well(?)wishers tell us we won’t be able to reach our goals, many times, we ourselves push us into a corner in self-doubt, because we listen to our inner-mind saying great things about our enemy (or the target we want to reach).

So, it is better not to listen to your charioteer!

(069)

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N. Chokkan …

21 06 2011

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Last few days, we (a small team in our office) were working on recording few product demonstration videos. We had zero skills in recording any kind of video (for that matter, I don’t even click still pictures in my mobile camera!). But due to some other restrictions, we had to do it on our own, with very limited support. We struggled, made lot of mistakes and finally completed our task. I thought of sharing some learnings, which may be helpful to someone trying this for the first time:

  • Have a script ready – review / rewrite it at least twice
  • After the script is perfected, do a live demo (not recording), this way more items will get added to the script, to improve the conversation style
  • When you are entering test records, don’t use names like “Test account” etc., use proper names – preferably generic names which can be understood across the globe, instead of localized names
  • When doing this dry run, make sure there is a ‘story’ – If the connection is missing, no one is going to watch a series of moving pictures for 10 minutes
  • If your script contains lot of text as bulleted items, consider moving them to a slide inside your video. You don’t have to read it out, just show it for few seconds, interested people will pause the video and read the contents themselves
  • Make sure the script starts with a good introduction (With your company name / logo as the video background) and a summary (With your contact details as the video background)
  • During recording, keep a print out of this script and read from there – Believe me, this works much accurate / error-free than when you are talking from memory or making-up statements on the fly
  • Before recording, Make sure the room is closed, All mobiles inside switched off / in silent mode, all land line phones disconnected, A/C turned off
  • Similarly, Make sure that the PC in which you are recording has no Chat / Email applications running – they may pop open a message at a wrong time and spoil your whole recording. If possible, disconnect internet for the duration of recording (unless and until your demo needs internet connectivity)
  • If you are doing a demo from a browser, hide unnecessary toolbars so that you get maximum space for the demo and avoid any distractions – In most browsers, you can hide everything including menu bar!
  • Check your recording with a sample video, replay it, make sure everything is perfect (including audio) before moving on with your first recording
  • Don’t record the whole computer screen (unless and until it is absolutely required) – Resize your demo window to 70% of your screen and only record this portion
  • Record your video with the maximum quality possible – Don’t worry about file size, later you can always downsize it losing quality, but the reverse is not possible. A video may be played in a computer, a mobile, Youtube.com, a TV Screen or projected to a very large screen – Your final video should be ready for all these, that’s why the ‘best possible quality’ recording makes sense
  • During your recording, make sure there are no unnecessary pauses – you can achieve this by making your script as a multi-part document – You can record one part at a time and later stitch these videos together (This is also beneficial if you make a mistake in between, No need to restart the recording from the beginning – Just redo this part and you are safe!)
  • Use a USB Headphone / mike for recording – They provide the best audio experience
  • During recording, make sure there are no unnecessary mouse movements, or worst, keeping mouse in top left corner when you are explaining the bottom right corner – Mouse should always point to the area you are talking about
  • It is better to have (at least) two people recording a video – One demonstrating the product and the other talking about it
  • For each part, have some cue in the recording for start / stop (like the clap board used in film shootings) – You may just say “Start” (in the beginning) and “Stop” (in the end), which is an indication for the person editing the video to cut after / before these statements so that the video in between is captured properly. Otherwise, they may cut some important portion from your video, causing disconnect in the flow
  • When recording a new part, make sure there is continuity from the previous part, Means – what was the last screen you had when the previous part recording ended? It should be the first screen in this part – Else the final video will be jumping from here to there and confuse the viewers
  • You switched Off the A/C, Right? The room gets heated-up fast and can get very uncomfortable – Take a 5 minutes break for every 30 minutes of recording and switch on the A/C, After the break, switch it off and continue recording
  • On an average, recording a 5 minutes demonstration video takes around 2 hours of recording (and re-recording), Followed by another 2 hours of editing / stitching etc., (for amateurs like us)
  • After all the recordings are over, replay each part (before editing) and decide if any part needs to be recorded again
  • During editing, make sure the new files are saved in the best possible quality (Called “High Definition Video”), If you export them to a low quality format by mistake, you may have to re-edit them again, in case you need a higher quality video later
  • After editing stitch the videos together (in “High Definition Video” quality) play back and make sure there are no disconnects
  • When uploading your video to websites like Youtube, Upload the best possible quality – the website will automatically resize it as per the device
  • Use proper tags / description when uploading to Youtube. They help a lot when people are searching for your video / similar videos
  • Most important tip, Once you finish a recording session, re-recording a video is very difficult. Even if you have the time and energy, getting that mindset back is near impossible, Hence, do it right the first time, record again and again in case you find mistakes, but don’t leave things for a later day – it will never happen and potentially can spoil your video output or worst, you may drop the whole video because of a silly mistake in between
  • In a nutshell, rules for making an amateur product demo video are similar to making a decent movie – solid script, quality time spent in recording the parts, crisp editing and release in good theatres for best reach 🙂

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N. Chokkan …

17 06 2011

Below text is from an old advertisement for Nike, in the words of the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. It is titled ‘Failure’ and is one of the most watched videos and most quoted words in the history of television / internet:

I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career.

I have lost almost 300 games.

Twenty-six times I have been trusted to take the game-winning short… and missed.

I have failed over and over and over again in my life.

And, that is why I succeed.

(068)

***

N. Chokkan …

10 06 2011

Jill Barad, an ex-CEO of Mattel (Makers of the famous “Barbie” Doll) used to wear a piece of jewelry on her always: A shining golden bee pin.

People wear all sorts of jewels on them, But why a Bee? When asked for the reason, this is what Jill Barad told:

When I started working, my mother gave me a bumblebee pin. She said “Aerodynamically, bees shouldn’t be able to fly. But they do. Remember that.”

The bee is an oddity in nature. It shouldn’t be able to fly, but it does. Every time I see that bee out of the corner of my eye, I am reminded to keep pushing for the impossible.

(067)

***

N. Chokkan …

03 06 2011

Images Courtesy:

  1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/uhuru1701/2248426467/

Couple of weeks back, we were asked to calculate the total ‘Person Years’ of CRM Experience we have (as a company). We started digging into the employee database, joining dates etc., and finally arrived at a number: 225 Person Years!

Very impressive number. Given the fact that human life expectancy is much less than this, we couldn’t even imagine or visualize 225 years of CRM Experience. But it was a good feeling to know the number (and guess what, it keeps changing every day, if you are a large organization!)

Few days after this exercise, I went to a small hospital for some treatment. I was attended by two doctors – But they both were very young, looked more like college students, obviously lacking any experience. I was a bit worried about this and asked them if I can meet a senior physician.

Fortunately, they didn’t get offended. They told me that they will only do the initial check-up and the actual treatment will be done by their senior.

After the check-up, we were waiting for this senior to arrive. So we started chatting. I learnt that these two doctors studied together, graduated couple of years back, and working here to gain experience. They may setup their own clinic after few years, if everything goes well.

Few minutes later, the senior doctor arrived. She quickly glanced at the test results, spoke to her colleagues for couple of minutes and started the treatment.

While she was busy with the treatment, I couldn’t stop wondering at the way the two junior doctors behaved. One of them (a girl) was very active and helping her senior in whatever way she could. Whenever some additional medicines were required, she literally ran around the room to fetch them and carefully watched the whole treatment procedure. It was obvious she was trying to learn as much as possible from this treatment process.

But her colleague / ex-classmate (a boy) was in a totally different world. He was waiting for instructions from his senior and only when he was asked to see / observe the treatment procedure, he came near us. Otherwise, he maintained a safe distance and simply stood there, waiting for further instructions to come.

Few years down the line, both these junior doctors would have exactly the same ‘Person Years’ of experience and may start their own clinics. But I can clearly see who is going to be a better Doctor.

May be, we should start looking at the concept of ‘Experience’ differently; it’s not just the time period, but the way we are learning / being proactive / applying the knowledge which makes us better, especially when we are on the bottom of learning curve. Someone who is doing exactly the same kind of work for 10 years, may have ’10 years of experience’ in theory, But in reality, it is only 10 times ‘1 year of experience’, or worst, 120 times ‘1 month of experience’.

Repeating the same task multiple times, with amazing perfection and quality… Isn’t it a machine feature? Human factor comes in only when you grow and constantly improve!

(066)

***

N. Chokkan …

01 06 2011


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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