So You Think You Can Talk?

singing birdNearly thirty years ago, the great avant-garde art rock composer Brian Eno told a small group of college students: “Hundreds of people send me tapes of their compositions. One thing nearly everyone does is apologize for the poor production values of the recordings. Often the poor production values are the only thing that make the recordings at all interesting.”

Nowadays, fairly sophisticated recording equipment is available at the consumer level. If you are producing an online tutorial or demo, you might be tempted to simply record your own voice. After all, we hear podcasts, webinars, and audio from Flipcams online every day. Here are a few reasons why you should think twice before taking a D.I.Y. approach to voiceovers and consider hiring a professional voice-over artist.

  1. Talent. They call it “voiceover talent” for a reason. I once recorded a scratch track for a Flash demo I was working on so I could get the timing of the actions right. I thought it sounded pretty good. When I heard the final recordings by voiceover artist Jill Goldman of Goldivox, I was stunned. Her warm, earthy tones made the material — a tutorial about how to use a nonprofit research organization’s website — come alive. Her tracks sounded so much better than my speaking voice that she will always be my first call if I need to record voiceovers again.
  2. Convenience. You might think it won’t take you all that long to record a quick voiceover, but you might be surprised at how long it takes you to set up equipment, arrange the time to do the work, and perform the voice tracks many times until you get it right. When you consider the costs of your time to do this kind of work, it usually makes sense to outsource it.
  3. Quality. A voiceover artist usually has several choices of places to record, whether it’s a basic decent home sound recording setup or a professional recording studio. Don’t be like the young lady who had to include a credit for “Dad on lawnmower” on her first recording.
  4. Experience. Whether you need help with audio formats or finding background music, a professional voiceover artist has dealt with a lot of the issues around adding voice tracks to projects before. This expert advice comes with the territory when you’re working with a pro.
  5. The Leaky Pipe Rule. As my plumber once told me while repairing a catastrophic situation that I had caused, “Do what you do best, and pay for the rest.” Why not do things right the first time?

Five Things I Wish They’d Invent

loyalty cardsHere’s what I would invent if I were an engineer, product designer, and entrepreneur, instead of whatever it is I am.

  1. Loyalty Everywhere. How many “loyalty cards” do you have cluttering up your wallet or purse and getting in your way when you’re reaching for your ATM card or drivers’ license? Replace all these loyalty cards with ONE card. To sign up for a merchant’s loyalty program, just swipe your one card into their reader. You can opt in or out of sharing your personal information with that merchant, and the merchants can participate in marketing initiatives at different levels. This card would have a huge environmental benefit because it would save tons of plastic and associated manufacturing and shipping costs. And it would give merchants more ways to market to their customers without going overboard. 
  2. Instant Bike Lane. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a laser light mounted on the front and rear of your bicycle that projects bike lane lines and symbols down onto the road? This device goes beyond alerting drivers to your presence on the road and reminds them that you’re entitled to your space. It wouldn’t work so well during the day, but at night it would be indispensable.
  3. Touch Me And Sign In. Instead of having to remember 563 different passwords, your computer keyboard has a little fingerprint reader on it. Touching your index finger (or really, whichever digit you choose) to the reader signs you in to all of the websites you regularly access.
  4. Pen Compress. The doctor tells you to apply a hot cloth to an area of your body for 15 minutes at a time, and let’s face it, some of those areas are pretty small. What about a little pen-sized appliance with a quarter-sized cloth on the end? The appliance circulates warm water through the cloth and you hold it on your zit or whatever the doctor’s told you to treat. No more running back and forth to the sink, having water run down your arms, etc.
  5. Kiosk for the Rest Of Us. This is less an invention than a business concept. Don’t you think that urban areas would benefit from having little canopied areas with a couple of public phones, a bike rack, and a coffee stand all in one place? The kiosk would make money by selling coffee (and Instant Bike Lanes) and you could always get change for the phone, and there would be someone keeping an eye on the bike rack to make sure your bike doesn’t get vandalized.

This post was inspired by Rachel Sprung, who wrote about an assignment to invent a product that doesn’t exist. This list was going to be ten things I wish they’d invent, but I stopped at five to let my vast audience weigh in. What do YOU wish they’d invent?

Where’s the Turkey?

Overheard in a coffee shop today: “I took the turkey sandwich back to my desk, opened it up, and there was no turkey.”

You may have a similar story, but we hope it’s not about putting up a wind turbine in your community and not having wind. We have heard people say “This turbine will stand as a symbol of… ” or “Imagine visitors pulling into our community and the first thing they see is…”

We have even heard the phrase “boutique wind turbine” used as a compliment. We humbly submit that the purpose of wind turbines is to reduce our carbon footprint by generating electricity through wind. We have even heard stories that some people do not like the way turbines look. We think they’re beautiful, but we want them to be productive.

A responsible wind study is the only way to ensure that the turbine your community wants to put up will actually produce power, and not stand as an eyesore on the horizon. The phrase “Measure twice, cut once” is just as true when you’re erecting a $1 million wind turbine as it is when you’ve spent $12 on a few boards and nails for a home improvement project. Sophisticated wind measurement technology and meteorological expertise are now available even to smaller wind developers and community organizations.

So, next time you hear a community leader advocating for a wind turbine in your community, remember that you need turkey to make a turkey sandwich and you need wind to power a wind turbine. It ain’t a win if the blades don’t spin.