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Episode 11 – Practice What You Preach

In business, you are ultimately selling yourself (and maybe selling products too). AV pros can and should be held to a higher standard when it comes to presenting remotely with – you guessed it – AV technology. In this episode we’ll pull back the curtain a bit to show how we deliver SDVoE LIVE! and SDVoE Academy. We’ll chat with Tim Albright about what makes a presentation engaging, and offer some tips and techniques that are easy for anyone to use for making their interactions more effective in a socially-distant world.

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Tim Albright

Episode guest

Tim Albright
CMO, Conference Technologies

Tim Albright is the founder of AVNation and is the driving force behind the AVNation network. His career has taken him from broadcasting to designing and programming AV. Albright has spent his life continually learning and helping others.

Episode transcript

Justin Kennington (00:34):

Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome once again to SDVoE LIVE!. I’m your host Justin Kennington and this is TV for pro AV. We have a very special, very interesting show for you today. The founder of Tim Albright is here with us. Tim has been podcasting about AV for over a decade. He’s an important personality in the pro AV media. And today, he’s going to share with you some of his tips and tricks to make your communications more interesting, more engaging, and more impactful in a world where face-to-face communication is not as commonplace as it used to be.

Justin Kennington (01:12):

But before we get to that, we have other exciting things to talk about. We have, as usual, our aftershow. I bring this up at the beginning because, as you watch Tim, as you watch myself, as you watched my co-host Matt talking through all this, you might have questions, and we want to answer those questions. So use the chat, type your questions in, and in the aftershow, we’re going to address those. If you’re with us live, the aftershow is super easy to find, stay right where you are. If you’re watching this later on demand, maybe on the SDVoE YouTube channel, just find the link below in the episode description to SDVoE Academy, and the aftershow is available on demand there.

Justin Kennington (01:54):

You can also interact with us on Twitter using hashtag #sdvoelive, so don’t forget to do that. Again. If you’ve got questions, if you’ve got feedback, we want to see them during the show because we’re always interested in what’s on your mind. What should we talk about next?

Matt Dodd (03:55):

We’ve got a great guest on this afternoon. Who’s this chap?

Justin Kennington (04:12):

This is Tim Albright. I’m going to guess that everyone watching knows who he is. He’s a podcaster, a media personality, and an AV voice of the gods extraordinaire.

Tim, tell us a little about yourself. So I know there’s been some big news on the AVNation front lately. Tell us sort of the last few years of your life in 30 seconds or less.

Tim Albright (05:06):

Thirty seconds. Okay. Yeah. We’ve grown and evolved, and we’re now a part of an integration company, helping them with their content, but really AVNation still strives to bring agnostic news and information and education to the industry, through interviewing people like you guys, other professionals who can give context to the end users, the manufacturers, and the integrators.

Justin Kennington (05:39):

Yeah. Well, just to be clear, I’m interviewing you today. So don’t ask me any questions. I don’t have to answer a thing.

This episode today is about how do we remain impactful in a world where we’re not face-to-face? And I wonder, has the pandemic had any effect on AVNation’s business? As far as I can see, your business was always distance communication. So did anything change for you, or were you in a good spot?

Tim Albright (06:17):

We’re in a good spot. What it changed for us was it made us reevaluate our own infrastructure. We’ve used Zoom for a number of years, and when everyone was using Zoom, Zoom’s quality had a tendency to go down at times. Nothing against Zoom, but they went from something like 30 million connections a day to 300 million connections a day, and so their infrastructure was not quite ready for that. It caused us to reevaluate how we do things, and we’ve adjusted some things somewhat, and we can get to that in some other time. But that is the only really main difference in what we do because you’re right, we’ve connected folks distantly for 10 years.

Justin Kennington (07:03):

Right. Interesting. So what are your thoughts for the rest of the world, the folks who have relied on face-to-face communications? How can they improve the way that they interact with their customers or colleagues? What’s an outline for how to do better in a socially distant world?

Tim Albright (07:23):

Make it more personal. And what I mean by that is the old joke that this meeting should have been an email, right? This Zoom meeting could have been an email or this video conference could have been a telephone call. I’ve found a new intimacy, and I use that word correctly here, a new intimacy with a phone call, right? And there are times when that’s appropriate and sometimes more appropriate than a video chat. Not everything has to be a video. I don’t have to see you every single day to build a connection or to build rapport. And yes, certainly there are times when those are necessary. So what I would say is assess the tools that you’re using and why you’re using them. If I need to talk with my marketing coordinator about something that takes five minutes, that doesn’t need to be a video call. I can text her or call her on the phone and say, “Hey, here’s badda-boom, badda-bing,” and we get the thing done.

Justin Kennington (08:23):

That makes sense. Then there are the times when you want to talk to a broader audience, and what we’ve tried to do with SDVoE LIVE! here is to be able to address that broad audience with video content, but to try and do it in a more engaging way. And I wonder if you’ve seen any special success in some of your media properties with engaging that broad audience. That doesn’t have to be a COVID-related question, but just in general, what is it about a big broadcast to a large audience that grabs attention?

Tim Albright (08:58):

Some of it is the interactivity. It’s something that we learned at AVNation early on. We did a session, and a number of other media partners of ours did them as well, education early on in COVID. The thing that the I was struck by was the engagement of the audience. You’ve been on panels before. Matt’s been on them. I’ve been on them, right? I’ve hosted a number of them. The one thing that I took out of this was folks in the audience are hungry to share their insights and start a conversation.

Tim Albright (09:34):

So it’s something we couldn’t do in real life, right? When we get back in real person and we’re doing a panel at InfoComm or ISE, somebody has to figure out a way to get that knowledge and that insight from the audience. Virtually, it’s been fantastic for me personally, as a host and as someone who moderates these panels to say, “Oh, Susie Johnson over here has got a great insight on something that this person said. Let’s take this left turn for a second and go down that road,” and it’s become more engaging. I would argue that the audience has gotten more out of it.

Justin Kennington (10:10):

So speaking of left turns, how about you come and join Matt and I in the studio? And let’s show people a little bit about how this kind of engagement works, and then we’ll take some left turns on the aftershow today, no doubt.

Matt Dodd (10:22):

So right now, we’re going to give you a little bit of behind the scenes. You’ll see that Tim is leaving camera one. And with the miracle of science and modern technology we’re going to bring Tim in right next to me. How cool is that, JK? This is the first time we’ve done this on SDVoE LIVE!, so let’s just see what happens. But for now, let’s introduce Tim back into our stage. Hello, Tim, are you there?

Tim Albright (10:59):

I believe so.

Matt Dodd (11:00):

Wow. How cool is that?

Matt Dodd (11:11):

Thanks for coming in, Tim. What we’re going to do now is show you behind the scenes to see how it’s made possible. Okay? I’ll go first and show the viewers a little bit about my setup here. There’s me and this is the room that I’m in at the moment. You can see what we’ve done here is the green element is important. We key the green out. So anything that’s green we can remove. So we’ve painted half of this room green in our studio, and you can see it up here. We’ve got the camera with the prompter kit.

Matt Dodd (11:49):

If we take another angle here, this is my production team during the show. So there’s Paul, and there’s George, and there’s all the software and all the desks and everything behind them.

Matt Dodd (12:17):

There’s my view from my studio. I’ve got the green screen element, and then we’ve got the lighting there, lots and lots of lighting, extremely important. You’ll see from some of the resource videos in SDVoE Academy how to position all this stuff correctly. There’s just a very quick a run through of what I have here at the studio. Justin, let me hand it to you and you can tell people what you have.

Justin Kennington (12:45):

In this photo, you can see my magic cooler. But look, my studio is here to show you that you don’t need a professional-level, content-creation studio like Matt has, or the media production area that Tim has. This is a hole in a corner of my basement. This behind me is pieces of green cloth hanging from the ceiling. You can see there are cans of paint and things on the far side of that picture over there. I’ve got less than a thousand dollars in new equipment here. That’s a cheap camcorder, that’s a microphone, and that’s these lights and a piece of fabric to get this done in a really professional way. So don’t be discouraged. Tim, show us what you’ve got.

Tim Albright (13:28):

Absolutely. So we’ve got that angle here, my view looking at the cameras and the monitor there. It was off when we took the picture, but this is how I’m able to see you guys, how we’re able to interact. This particular setup is for today. Now, normally I am sitting at a desk when I’m doing our podcast, so that’s a little bit closer than what we normally do. On the walls there, you will see some soundproofing. When we moved into this space, actually an old conference room in our office building, it was rather reverberant, rather live, so we’ve got soundproofing strategically placed all around here. One of my buddies is the president of Auralex Acoustics. You take the dimensions and put the panels up.

Tim Albright (14:20):

This is what I’m standing on now. Typically, I don’t do a whole lot of full body as we have here. Most of the time, it’s the waist up, but this is our full-screen green-screen. One thing that Matt mentioned here is the green element. And I’ll tell a funny story. Last week when we were testing this, I happened to have a tie-dye shirt on. I didn’t think much of it, except for the fact there was green in it so I was giving George and the folks at Matt’s place a little bit of trouble because of my choice of clothing. Be careful of that.

Matt Dodd (14:57):

You’re looking pretty good today, though, Tim, I have say.

Tim Albright (14:59):

Thanks. It’s the purple.

Matt Dodd (15:00):

I might have to straighten the tie a little bit there, yeah?  So this is a bit of behind the scenes. Thanks for that, Tim. It just shows you that you don’t need to spend vast amounts of money. And the great thing is now that we’re showing you this at SDVoE LIVE!, and we’re doing this live by the way, it just takes a bit of thought. You’ve got to think it through properly. It might look like Justin and I just jump onto the screen, and we just hang out, and we mess around a bit, but that’s good. That’s how we want it to look. And I’m sure Tim, with your experience at AVNation, people think, oh, you make it look so easy.

Matt Dodd (15:36):

That’s actually probably the best compliment that we as a studio can get if people think you make it look so easy, because there’s a huge amount of work that goes into the background. You’re watching timers, and you’re watching charts, and you’re looking at your notes, and you’re looking at monitors to see your position. It’s timing, and it’s practice, and practice, of course, makes perfect. Justin, anything more to add? You’ve got lots of new experiences with this.

Justin Kennington (16:14):

It’s true. I do. I guess the challenges aren’t where I thought they might be. They’re in a little bit different places. We did spend a good amount of time making sure that the lighting was right in here, and I learned how much a key that is. Matt highlighted it. But there’s a lot to learn about lighting that I didn’t know. Meanwhile, I think the big lesson and, Matt, you can tell me if I’m telling tales out of school here, but the big lesson is just get some lighting. Just get some lighting and point at you, and don’t point it at the camera. You’re going to be a hundred times better off than everybody else who’s back-lit by their front living room window and has their camera pointed at the sun.

Justin Kennington (16:56):

Just the other day, I was on a Zoom call with my children. They were with me, and we were doing a class. One of the other children in class was sitting in front of a brightly lit window with the camera pointed out the window and this just shadowy figure of a child. And my four-year-old says, “What’s wrong with their camera? Why can’t I see this kid?” “Well, I’ll take you down to the basement later and explain.”

Matt Dodd (17:19):

You’re absolutely right. Lighting is key, and audio as well. You’ll see in the spotlight videos that we’ve got there for you guys to watch that everyone’s got a fantastic smartphone in their pocket, and Tim, you make reference to this in the news piece which we’ll talk about shortly, but everyone’s got a fantastic smartphone. The video quality is amazing, but the audio quality is really not amazing in any way, shape, or form. It’s such a shame to let high quality video get let down by audio when such a cheap lavalier mic…

Matt Dodd (17:51):

It can be a wired one. Please don’t go wireless. The wireless pro studio mics are $600 to $700 up. Whereas you can have a wired microphone with extensions, and that’s going to cost you less than $150.  Plug it into your phone, and you’ve got fantastic audio quality. There’s little things like that. You’ll get all of these tips and hints in the resources section of SDVoE Academy. So check those out. Tim, anything else to add to the little hints and tips list?

Tim Albright (18:28):

Yeah. I would say a couple of things. Number one, off of what you just said about the audio, and then also, I guess the best way to put this is some sort of stand or some sort of stability, especially if you’re using a mobile device. If you’re not, obviously, your camera stand typically is on your monitor, but there are several that start at as little as $20 or $30 on up to several hundred. These are devices that you can put on a gimbal and create a world of difference between you just holding your microphone, your camera right there, and putting it on a tripod.

Matt Dodd (19:09):

Absolutely. And this little device at the top here, Amazon, $5. It’s so cheap. But again we’ve got the kit list for you in the resources section.

While we’re all here, shall we talk through a little bit of news?

Justin Kennington (19:29):

I’ve always wanted to do the news with Tim on this side.

Matt Dodd (19:36):

Tim, this is something that is close to your heart because, well, you wrote it. Or actually you didn’t write it, but you may as well have done. You are credited for it. So I love this piece. Well-chosen, JK. Biggest misconception. I think we’ve actually covered quite a lot of them already, but yeah, for me, when you start reading it, the first paragraph just makes you smile. I love the comparison that was made to 8-bit when you get that dreadful image and audio quality, and it was a doctor talking to a patient, I believe, and how can you not have good quality audio and video when you’re talking to one of your patients? Justin, what was your takeaway from this?

Justin Kennington (20:21):

I think we covered a lot of the tips and techniques mentioned in the article here. I thought there was an interesting point, and you kind of touched on it, Matt, about wired versus wireless. They said the myth is that wireless is always better and then what they talk about in the article is, especially when it comes to microphones, wireless can be a big challenge. I’ll admit, in my little studio here, one place I splurged is on a wireless microphone, but that’s because I’m doing this more than twice, three times a month. And I was sick of just having a cord, even though it worked perfectly, but I splurged on, as Matt said, a $600 or $700 wireless microphone, but I had a $30 wired microphone that worked beautifully. I just wanted to be a snot about it and go wireless. But that was one of the things I took away.

Matt Dodd (21:11):

You could spend an awful lot of money. That’s the danger. Don’t have a few too many vodkas and then think, hey, I’m going to buy myself better camera equipment because you’ll be $20,000 to $30,000 down in no time. Tim, do you want to tell us a bit more about this article? Because it’s a great article.

Tim Albright (21:27):

One of the things about video conferencing, in general, is with bad audio, the video is worthless. We’ve all been on video conferencing calls where, to save bandwidth, they will say, “Oh, hey, why don’t you just kill the video?” The reason for that is you can still communicate with audio so that, I would argue, that is tantamount. That is the paramount necessity when it comes to video conferencing. We also talked about the lighting. That’s also in the article.

Tim Albright (22:05):

The other thing is the compatibility of the software. There are a number of video codecs, soft codecs.  What was the last count? There were 260 different versions of them that you can choose. Make sure that it works not only for you and your organization, but for the people outside of the organization. You don’t want to get in a situation where you’re trying to connect with a client, and oh, their organization or their company doesn’t allow Teams. They don’t allow Zoom. They don’t allow Cisco, whatever. Make sure that the soft codec system that you use is going to be available and accessible to everyone.

Matt Dodd (22:42):

Hmm. It’s planning, right? Perfect planning prevents poor performance. And it’s very, very important. Make it look easy by setting everything up and planning and knowing your tech. Really, really important. Tim, may we have you back for the aftershow? I’ve no doubt we’ve got heaps and heaps of questions from our viewing audience.

Justin Kennington (25:16):

You’ll find all the links to the resources that we’ve mentioned in SDVoE Academy which include several items for folks to download, not just the news articles today, but there’s a shopping list for things you might need to put on a simple presentation like this. Clavia Group has put together something they call the Spotlight program that allows you to build your own communications in this simple way, and have a team behind you to turn those into videos that are for you to use to go out and interact with your clients and push content out there. That’s more interesting than just your blog, right? People love to consume video content. And I think high quality presentation content like this is very important.

Matt Dodd (27:37):

I love this sort of stuff. I’m in my zone.

Justin Kennington (28:13):

You’re right on. I think the key is mixing a quality, engaging production with that direct engagement with the audience.

Matt Dodd (28:47):

Absolutely. Justin, 20 seconds, tell us what we’re doing next time.

Justin Kennington (28:53):

Episode 12 – “So You Think You Know USB?”. Our friend Tavis Sparrow from Icron is going to join us and we’re going to focus on the difference between USB 2 and USB 3? What does it mean to pro AV? Where are the real applications for it?

Matt Dodd (29:04):

Thanks for being at this show. We’ll see you shortly. Bye-bye.


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