Pro Business Spotlight: Sarah Stewart on Video Presentations



We caught up with Sarah Stewart of the Educational Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic to get a digital pro’s advice on innovative digital presentation tools like Animoto.

Working in the Educational Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand, Sarah Stewart has jumped on the social media wave and is making a splash on the eLearning scene. Relying primarily on internet-based services for distribution, Sarah has a great deal of experience sharing information with, and presenting to, people across the world – especially those who aren’t very tech-savvy.

Earlier this month she began her fourth annual “Facilitating Online” course that shares tips such as how to dynamically present information to others and how to set-up and effectively manage a blog. She took a moment to share her expertise on using digital and social media platforms as presentation tools.

Sarah, you have lived in New Zealand 16 years, have you found sharing information with others more difficult because of that?

Yes. At times New Zealand feels like the end of the world. And because we are a small country, both geographically and in population, we are easily ignored compared to our neighbors. Australia. What the Internet does is give us access to the wider international business and education community that we cannot physically access. New Zealand is developing an online name for being very creative and innovative, and for punching well above its weight.

Why do you think Animoto is a good presentation tool? Have you ever converted a PowerPoint directly into an Animoto video?

I know I sound like a saleswoman for Animoto, but I ADORE it as a presentation tool. It takes minimal effort to publish a very professional-looking product. A couple of weeks ago I spent well over five hours trying to make a video using another movie tool. Eventually I gave up, turned to Animoto and had a video up and running in 15 minutes. The only reason it took as long as it did was because I had to hunt around for some appropriate images and think about how I was going to construct my video. Even if you only have access to the free 30 second version, you can put together a very effective video that you can use as an ice breaker, advertise or to share information. I also really appreciate Animoto making its professional format free to educators, non-profits and humanitarian causes.

The most use I get from Animoto is using it to improve digital literacy, as a way of introducing people to the creative use of computers and the Internet. I do use PowerPoint to convert concepts into images if I do not have an image readily available. If I am using a lot of images from the Internet, I use PowerPoint to make an image that acknowledges the source of my material so I do not contravene license regulations.

Many are familiar with presentations and the basics of public speaking, but can you speak to new ways of integrating technology in the classroom, boardroom or conference hall, as well as ways to take a presentation online?

I am sure we’ve all been to talks and presentations when the presenter has used hundreds of text slides and bored us all to tears. We know that the way to engage people is by using lots of images and reducing text right down to the bare minimum. People like variety to keep their interest. The same principles apply with online presentations. However, I do need to caution people to think about the format and size of their online multi-media files so that presentations can be accessed by people with poor Internet connections. Once I have given a presentation, whether it is face-to-face or online, I put a Creative Commons license on it and share it on websites like Slideshare. I put my videos that are under 10 minutes on YouTube – so when I make an Animoto video, I also publish it on YouTube. Using a Creative Commons license allows people to freely access my presentations, re-mash and share widely. This in turn gives maximum coverage and leverage to me and the information I wish to pass on.

You use web conferencing platforms a lot, what are some you recommend and how has that helped you reach a larger group and share information more effectively?

It does depend what you want to do and how many people are involved. I use Elluminate a lot because that is the platform that is provided by my employer and it performs well. However, it is expensive and many small businesses and organizations may be unable to afford it. Having said that, Elluminate does provide a free vRoom that you can use for up to three people. I am a great believer in using free stuff so for one-to-one and small group work, I do not think you can beat Skype.

If you want a free platform for larger groups I don’t think you can go wrong with WiziQ or DimDim which have extensive functions like file share. But it does take a little time to become skilled at using these tools. If all you need is a web cam and a chat function, then I would have a look at TinyChat. In order to effectively share information using web conferencing tools, you must think about the Internet connection and the digital skills of the participants.

In terms of reaching a large audience and effectively sharing information, I follow the principle of free, open online access. In other words, when I wish to hold an online seminar, I open it up to anyone who wants to attend. It has taken me a couple of years of work to build an audience using social media that creates networks and communities that feed into these seminars. What has been very exciting is that these platforms have supported me in providing a service to people all over the world, including developing countries. This has been very rewarding for me as an educator and midwife (which is the other hat I wear).

What are other tools/services you use for presentation purposes? Where does Animoto fit in?

There are many other presentation tools and services on the Internet. One new presentation tool that is making a big splash is Prezi. It makes a pleasant change from PowerPoint but it cannot be used off-line unless you pay for that service. I should add that that there is a cost to having an Animoto Pro account which allows you to download your videos as MP4 files and use off-line. Whilst that goes a little against the grain because I love free stuff, it is a small cost that I feel is worth paying for the product.

Recently, we presented users with a “Social Media Marketing 101” guide – any additional tips on using Facebook? Twitter? YouTube?

My biggest tip to people using social media, especially to businesses and non-profits, is to remember that social media is SOCIAL! Don’t expect to become famous overnight, or reel in hundreds of extra customers simply by opening a new Twitter account or Facebook page. You have to put in the time and effort to interact and network with people. This will not happen overnight, so you have to be patient. Make sure that whoever is behind your social media understands this. My other tip for businesses is to forget about using social media to advertise your product. Focus on building an online community, and the advertising follows on naturally as a result of your networking and community-building.

On your blog and throughout your Facilitating Online course, you mention the “1% Rule”? Can you explain to readers what that is and how you think it fits into sharing information on the platforms you discuss?

The 1% Rule talks about the number of people you have to interact with online before you get useful engagement. So for every 100 people who follows your Facebook fan page, you’ll have one useful discussion. The rest of the people will either lurk or never visit your page again. So to attract people to your online conferences or seminars or Facebook fan page, you have to make the content interesting, relevant, social and engaging.

To learn more, check out more examples on video marketing for your business.