Author Archives: Brett

Breaking news breaks fast so break into a run

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We know you are not a media outlet and we know that you’re understaffed but when BIG news relevant to your organisation breaks you need to tell your supporters ASAP.

Last week saw some big news that was unexpected and – for lizards and those who love them – positive: the delay of the Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

First in, best dressed.

First in, best dressed.

It was with interest that we compared the response time of two leading environment groups – ACF and Greenpeace. (Left)

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Dr Sinclair we presume.

News quickly gets old. Readers will always appreciate you keeping them informed – especially if you tell them first. On this occasion ACF Paul Sinclair (left) wins by the best part of an afternoon over Greenpeace. Kudos Dr Sinclair.





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Learning by (making) video

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First up: if anybody doubts the power of sound and movement (aka video) to make a dramatic emotional impact with viewers watch this and get back to us.

That’s why this year, we have spent a lot of time and energy shooting short videos destined for the websites of clients such as Merri Community Health and ourselves. Our videos were not as tear-inducing as the example above but we are convinced that they offer a way to communicate that is hard to resist. Here’s what we learnt from making 30 or so videos:


public speakers with disabilities in Australia

Meet the Marriott School Ambassadors.

Introduce your people via video

So much of your business success hinges on whether people think your individual people are great at what they do.

You need to convince people of their skills, authenticity, and passion. You could do this with words and a headshot or you could do this with video. Which do you think will be more effective?


Marriott Support Services did this beautifully with a series of videos showcasing their public speakers all of whom are young people with an intellectual disability. We are proud to have made them.

More is more It’s better to make a series of shorter videos that break down a topic into bite-size pieces then make one longer video encompassing many perspectives on the one subject.


video production melbourne

Time is of the essence.

Less is more.

People claim to know that attention spans are short and getting shorter. Then of course the very same people make a video and find that they have much to say in such interesting ways that the viewer should be happy to block off five minutes. This is deluded. Sixty seconds is a long time online so anything more than two minutes duration is likely to outstay its welcome. Looking back at some of the videos we shot for ourselves in January – some of which are 90 seconds long – we realised that we could have shaved some excess time but didn’t. Bugger.


video production tips

Short captions. Fleeting theme tune.

Opening credits An opening credit or graphic adds professionalism to your videos and explains what people should expect. Be sure to keep them very brief as people’s patience can wear thin, particularly if they’ve already seen two or three of your videos in the preceding minutes.

We ensured that our credits were short with an exceptionally brief piece of audio which is both cute and allows people to check the volume level on their devices.


Picture quality Whether you’re a corporate entity or a nonprofit you need to have videos that look like they belong on the world wide web. Shooting your videos in high definition is not a budgetary consideration anymore; so go HD. Ensure that your videos are well lit and have excellent audio quality. The latter will usually require a lapel microphone. Too many videos suffer from hollow sound quality which immediately brands your videos as amateur.

And no – being a voluntary outfit does not allow you to create content that is amateur in appearance. Hire the best people you can hire which in most cases does not mean someone is tech-savvy nephew.


Music / Audio A lot of online videos have a bed of music underneath. This can be very distracting if it is not balanced well with the sound of the narrator. We recommend not using a continuous soundtrack or score under your video. You may wish to use some carefully selected sound effects at various times throughout your videos to add emphasis or humour but be minimalist with this won’t you? Similarly you may wish to insert some graphics to highlight key words, concepts or extra information.


More overlay please Overlay is the term given to the visuals you see as you hear the spokesperson talking in the background. For instance you may start a video featuring the interviewee on camera talking. Then, at an appropriate juncture, the vision of that person is replaced with overlay that somehow relates to what they’re talking about as per this short film we shot recently for Merri Community Health:

Without overlay you have a long, boring and amateurish video. You need to shoot more overlay than you ever thought you needed and an editor willing and able to browse that overlay and edit it with a deft touch.


It’s all about editing Hollywood directors are fond of saying that a movie can be made or broken in the edit suite. How true this is. Sharp editing with savvy use of graphics, music and various angles makes all the difference. A one-shot, set-and-forget approach will not work. You need close-ups, wide shots, overlay, graphics all working in concert to keep people’s attention. Editors make the most of your content.


tips for online videosHave a script Most people prefer to work with a script. We intuitively don’t like scripts as they turn normal people into actors, causing them to be more concerned with remembering their lines instead of saying what they actually mean in an authentic way.

Some spokespeople prefer to work without a script. This is more fun but causes two problems: 1. it makes editing harder as there’s no script for reference. You may have to transcribe the whole bloody thing! 2 you wrap-up the shoot, only to realise the next day that there were 17 things you should have said on camera but didn’t.

Scripts or dot point outlines help avoid these problems. For each of the videos we made we had an outline of what needed to be said. Knowing that we were able to add overlay, graphics and still images in the edit suite allowed spokespeople to deliver a chunk or two at a time. Don’t burden your spokespeople with the need to deliver all of the talking in one fell swoop – this is madness and a shortcut to a very boring video.


video marketing

This guy knows stuff. And hangs out on balconies.

The production is just the beginning

So you’ve created your video masterpieces – now the hard work begins. If your intention is to rack up millions of hits you will have to do your darndest to promote them.

YouTube is a very big place and it’s unlikely that your videos will be found by strangers. Just as you should optimise your website so that it is found via Google you need to optimise your YouTube videos so that they are found by people searching YouTube. Babyfaced James Wedmore teaches a lot about this and all things video related.


making videos for youtube

A trio of thumbnail images.

Thumbnails YouTube only offers you a few selections for your thumbnail image. Pick the most vibrant, lively, attention-grabbing option. Generally speaking a picture of a person is more compelling than other imagery. If you can combine an image of a person with some text explaining the video, you are probably on a winner.

Make-up! You aren’t making a Hollywood romcom but viewers would like you to look pretty damn presentable. Make-up really helps – especially under the heat of the spotlight. Brett could have looked like Nicole Kidman if we’d got a make-up artist on board. Opportunity missed!


conference marketing

Maureen is best experienced on video.

Got a conference? Want bookings? Shoot video.  Every event organiser wants more people at next year’s event than they got this year. Testimonials help. They are five times more powerful if delivered via video. Set up a camera and encourage people (with chocolate) to proclaim the magnificence of your event. This will make promoting next year’s conference much easier.


To video or not to video Like everything associated with the online world, videos promise much but may not necessarily deliver. For every YouTube sensation there are many, many videos with very, very few views. That said, any website aiming to impress viewers and build credibility needs videos. Use them to add colour and movement both literally and figuratively.


hootville youtube thumbnails - 12Want to watch some?

Go here and watch.

Want to make some? Call Brett 0414 713 802.

NEW: Present Savvy public speaking workshop

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Tips for public speakers

Who knows where your presentation skills will take you.

Hootville has launched a new public speaking training workshop: Present Savvy.

Unlike our media-centric media training workshop Speak Savvy, Present Savvy is for people who present as part of their job.

If you present to prospective clients, students, funders or partners you need Speak Savvy.

As always, it’s practical, fun, challenging and backed-up with 12 months of unlimited follow-up training.

Rightly or wrongly audiences judge you and your organisation on how well you present which is why you should find out more.


Straight to video: put thyself in the story

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Time to premiere (unleash?) another video. This cinematic masterpiece is aimed at public speakers and media spokespeople.

It’s all about the value of putting yourself in the story. World Vision CEO Tim Costello does this unfailingly. You should too. Watch and learn what we mean.

So much depends on your spokespeople’s ability to present persuasively. On their public speaking skills hinge your donations, members, staff and policy decisions. So…when was the last time you developed your messages and presentation skills?

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A book for our time.

If you want you and your team to be better presenters book a Speak Savvy workshop today. Call Brett 0414 713 802. And download our Speak Savvy the free eBook.



Lessons from seeing Al Gore speak.

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al gore talks in melbourne

The top-secretish venue.

Brett was rewarded for his contribution to the 2014 Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training Corps with a seat at a below-the-radar gig by the former US Vice President last Sunday afternoon.

Along with 150 or so rain-streaked true believers Brett sat and listened to a man who is no stranger to the stage.

The world’s leading climate change campaigner was upbeat when asked to assess the status quo ahead of the big shindig in Paris. Mr Gore brought to the presentation a sense of optimism which he said was based on political momentum he is witnessing and as he explained because he’s just plain decided to be positive because it’s easier that way. Content aside, here are Brett’s takeaways for public speakers as inspired by Al Gore

Notes – it is extremely impressive when a speaker speaks without them.

Structure – a simple structure always helps. Mr Gore used three rhetorical questions which he proceeded to answer.

Humour – especially of the self-deprecating kind works a treat. The bigger the deal you are the more this works. FYI – Al Gore is very funny.

al gore speaking style

Sisyphus had an awful gig.

Broad references impress an audience and connect with different people within that audience. Mr Gore was educated at Harvard. Perhaps that’s why he made comfortable reference to Sisyphus, the old Testament, philosophers, political pundits, his own books, recent articles on the Guardian’s website and his own interactions with people around the globe. He quoted philosophers, scientists, local heroes and people who have been dead a very long time.

Shout outs. Mr Gore referred to several people within the room that he knew. This not only makes those people feel good, it makes him look comfortable and ‘present’.

Displays of humanity work a treat. References to his own waistline, his thwarted political aspirations and his own state of mind made him very human and relatable – for a former US VP who sits on the board of Apple, is the son of US Senator, visits Antarctica with Richard Branson and elicits a quasi-religious fervour among his followers.

Stories shift the focus from you to the subject of your story. They illuminate, adding colour and movement. Mr Gore used swag of stories long and short to bring home his points.

Constantly assess your performance. When one of his answers to a question run a little long Mr Gore acknowledged this to the room in real time. Audiences appreciate this and it shows that while he was genuinely considering his answer, he was also aware that he is performing.

al gore in melbourne

Leave the lectern behind and be sure to be seen.

Be visible. Though he stood behind the lectern this was only due to a handheld microphone not working(!) He clearly would have preferred to have stood less formally centre stage for this small-scale, intimate and informal occasion. If you want to connect to your audiences don’t hide yourself like a bank teller.

Thoughtfulness. Though Mr Gore has no doubt presented to similar groups hundreds of times in dozens of countries he seemed to genuinely be pondering his thoughts for us on the night.

Conclusion: Of course everything Mr Gore does everything gets a warm reception less lights would not. That said, he would not be in the position he’s in today if he could not bring authenticity, passion and knowledge to every audience.

book for public speaking

For anyone who speaks to other people as part of their work.

Here are some other ways to be a better speaker.

Books for marketers: a quick review of Freakonomics

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Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner & Stephen D. Levitt

Recommended? Oh yes.

books for marketers

Read it. Think it.

Brett believes that Freakonomics should be mandatory reading for marketers. Sadly 98% of marketers, communicators, promoters and persuaders have failed to crack open a copy of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics or the latest in the series: Think Like A Freak.

Many haven’t even heard of the series which has sold in the millions, inspired a global community and placed authors New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner and University of Chicago professor of economics Steven D. Levitt as the popularisers of behavioural economics which studies why we really make the decisions we make. It deals with the meta factors behind the way we behave, spend, eat and use our time.

This isn’t a marketing book but there is much to be gained by marketers in learning how to see the world from an economic perspective. It’s rational and results-driven. The first two books in particular are full of case studies looking at social phenomenon with a data-driven economic lens:

  • can we improve under-performing students by paying them for good grades?
  • do politicians get more votes by spending more on campaigns?
  • how do we really turn around crime-ridden neighbourhoods?
  • do cops-on-the-beat reduce crime?
  • how can teen mums break the cycle of poverty?
freakonomics review

Steven and Stephen.

Levitt and Dubner crunch data in an allegedly value-free exploration of these and other challenging scenarios.  This is pop economics. Who else would analyse hundreds of sumo wrestling bouts to uncover endemic corruption? The writing is distinctly funny and free-flowing, without pretension or jargon. Bonus: this book will make you smarter.

Often the data crunched seems to be obscure or disconnected. Most controversial is the claim that the significant drop in inner-city crime in some American cities was not the result of more police on the beat or crime-tracking software but the impact of legal abortions decades earlier.

The books’ references are broad – everything from the Bible and David Lee Roth to stomach ulcers and Churchill. Competitive hot dog eating features prominently.

marketing books

Cashing in? Who cares? Great cover.

Gripe: the third book in the series: Think Like a Freak reads like a bit of a moneymaker but is still worth a look if you enjoy Freakonomics parts one and two. For the truly devoted there is also a podcast.

The authors are smart but happily not politically correct. In a society where so many social problems stubbornly persist despite the billions of dollars thrown at them we should cast aside political correctness and progressive orthodoxies to discover what really works. We need to “think like freaks”. After all, the bad guys already do.

Freakonomics website Freakonomics podcast


public speaking trainer melbourne

The foul-mouthed bear? Ted Turner? Big Ted?

Check out our review of Talk Like TED.


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Media training tip #218 is all about examples

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Hootville Communications media trains hundreds of media spokespeople, public speakers and people who need to sell for a living.

We are yet to meet one person who cannot be improved by heeding this simple advice. Are you ready?

Provide examples. 

That’s it.

About 60% of media and public spokespeople offer no examples. Of the remaining 40%, half provide lame examples and the other half deliver their example too late.

Examples demonstrate your authority and authenticity. They add colour and movement and are harder to argue against than your generic comments. Not all examples are created equal. To be effective your example must be:

  • understandable to the audience but not too obvious;
  • relevant to the audience – mention geographies, companies, products or politicians;
  • specific – talk about the rise in academic performance in one school;
  • authentic – from your own experience;
  • sympathetic;
  • well rehearsed.

Check out this video:

media training australia

Who needs ‘Go set a watchman.’?

If you want to be a better speaker download our free eBook Speak Savvy.

It’s full of practical tips to make you more effective in front of people or journalists.

PowerPoint advice. 90 seconds to happier audiences

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Everybody complains about PowerPoint but nobody ever does anything about it. That’s why Hootville created this 90-second training video. It aims to reduce the hours of suffering audiences endure due to thoughtless presenters who should know better.

Every single person in your office who uses PowerPoint can spare the time to watch this so please share it.

public speaking advice

It all starts with knowledge.

And if you really want to be a knockout public speaker read this blog post where you can also download our free eBook: Speak Savvy.


Free media training. Conditions apply.

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media trainer melbourne

We’ll set it all up – no pressure, no pressure.

Brett is looking for two lucky souls to each receive an hour – exactly one hour – of free training.

We are seeking one PR / media relations person and one media spokesperson. The catch? The lucky souls will be part of two experiments. We want to see how radically we can improve people’s performance in 60 minutes.

1. We’ll run the media spokesperson through four or five predictable media questions before, and then after, Brett’s training. The training will be identical to the Speak Savvy workshops enjoyed by our clients.

2. We’ll work with the PR person to package a strong story idea and refine the all important media pitch and media release. The training will be identical to the Media Savvy workshops enjoyed by our clients. Again we’ll be recording a before and after with Brett’s training in the middle.

The two one-hour sessions will be conducted separately.

Here’s the catch: the sessions will be caught on camera for us to create a short video encapsulating the experiment. We’ll also be asking the participants for their comments. The video will be used on our website and in various formats.

We’re after someone who is:

  • (for the media spokesperson experiment) a CEO or similarly senior individual with some media experience or intentions to be a media spokesperson with specific ideas about their next media foray;
  • (for the PR experiment) a PR person with less than five years experience with a specific upcoming media campaign.

Fear not – everybody’s dignity will be kept in tact. Whoever they are they will need to be:

  • happy to be recorded throughout the process;
  • willing to accommodate a rather regimented format (we want the experiment to be rigorous);
  • able to provide their thoughts about the experience on camera;
  • available to shoot in late July or first week of August in Prahran, Melbourne;
  • comfortable with our editorial judgement in regards to the final cut;
  • a good sport;
  • enthusiastic to be a part of the experiment.

So if you or your powers-that-be want to be a part of this email us. We need a brief description of the candidate, their upcoming media campaigns and of course tell us if they are after the PR or spokesperson training. Please understand that we will have to refuse all but two interested parties. Don’t delay!

eMarketers! Bribe your way to success.

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We believe that eMarketing is the best friend you take for granted. Of everything you currently do to communicate, email is probably your best option. Build your list! We think that bribes are the best idea you’re not using so we made a video about it.

eMarketing training

Build your database. Build your future.

More to the point (and far less fun) we wrote a little eBook about growing your database called Grow Up! which is full of ideas to dramatically grow your database. Download it now for free.

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