Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Churchill on brevity

In August 1940, in the midst of the Battle of Britain and just weeks before the start of the Blitz, Winston Churchill issued a memo to his War Cabinet stressing the need for brevity in "papers".

The memo is a good reminder that even in the midst of greatest adversity keeping track of the process matters -- perhaps that is when it matters most.
"To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points." - W.S.C.

Original source:

For leadership and history buffs the UK National Archives has an incredible site with the papers of the War Cabinet organized in timeline format and searchable by documents, people, places and organizations:

Updated 10 Dec 2012

Project Presence: Delivery feedback... and a revised version of "Your audience is here"

One of the seven key elements of my Project Presence model is feedback. In the case of leadership videos I'm focused on:
  • Feedback on the message of an individual video
  • Feedback on the underlying values conveyed
  • Feedback on the message delivery
  • Feedback on the value of the videos as a communications tool
In the case of my recent "Your audience is here" video I received a great example of feedback on my delivery. The essence of the feedback is that I'd once again buried the lede (buried the lead to my non-US readers). 

I shared the fact that I've made a poster that goes behind my camera to remind me to look at the lens. This was important enough to serve as my video intro shot but I didn't share the fact until 1:45 of a 2:00 video. 

In most circumstances the appropriate response to this type of delivery feedback is to incorporate it into your future efforts. In this case I decided to explore how the message would change if I moved the  "your audience is here" poster section to the beginning of the video. This section now starts at the 0:25 mark.

If you watch both you'll notice that some of the other supporting commentary changes. Overall the key takeaway, to look directly at the camera lens, remains.

Key takeaway: Look directly at the camera lens when recording leadership videos and consider a note or sign as a reminder.

Learn more about Project Presence: Project Presence overview

Video link:


Welcome leaders, Daren Lewis with Leading Visually. One of the lessons I've learned the hard way is the need to look directly into the camera lens when doing these leadership videos. People are very sensitive to where your eyes are when you are speaking to them or listening to them. That's how they know if you are paying attention. The same thing holds for doing these videos.

I use a very simple prompt to remind myself to continue to look at the lens. Right behind my camera I have a large poster, with an arrow on it, that says "your audience is here". It is a simple tool to remind me what I need to do -- which is to look at the camera lens.

It is very noticeable when you look away. Now I'm going to look at the screen alongside my camera. You'll see very quickly that the sightline goes away when we look back to the camera. This is particularly pronounced when you are using a laptop. Because the laptop is close to you -- your image will be below the camera since the camera is in the top bezel. It is very obvious to people that you are not looking at them.

[This issue] shows up in edit. You won't see it when you are recording the video but you'll notice it when you go back to edit or hand it over to an editor to prepare.

Now, I use a similar strategy on my cell phone camera which I use from time to time to record videos and I have the same kind of arrow that reminds me where to look when recording these videos.

So that's it. Look directly at the camera to start. You may choose to do something else in the future. For getting started please remember look directly into the camera.

I'd love to hear about your challenges and successes as you launch your Project Presence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Project Presence: Your audience is here

Key takeaway: Look directly at the camera lens when recording leadership videos and consider a note or sign as a reminder.

Learn more about Project Presence: Project Presence overview

Video link:


Welcome leaders, Daren Lewis with Leading Visually. Over the course of doing seventy, eighty or ninety of these leadership videos I've discovered that my most common error is failing to continue to look at the camera lens.

Now, there are a couple different schools of thought as to where you should look when doing a video. Common documentary style has you looking slightly off axis of the lens. We're using a more journalistic style here because we're trying to connect directly with our audience, those that we are leading. This is more like what you'll see newscasters doing where they are looking directly at the lens. It is very effective for creating that connection.

There are many distractions. Many of the devices we use have screens attached to them, be that your iPhone with the front facing camera or some other camera phone, or in this case the video camera that I'm using that has a screen right along side. It's very easy to get distracted by that screen and start looking at it. It only takes a few degrees of off axis view, which is what I'm doing now, to be very apparent to the audience. That's because  we are highly attuned to where people are looking when we are speaking to them or they are talking to us. It's one of the ways we can tell if people are paying attention.

I would encourage you, as you are starting out, to use a direct approach -- look directly into the camera. As I've said I've fallen into this trap multiple times. Unfortunately it's not something you'll see until you are in edit because you'll just miss it. What I've done, to remind myself, is I've actually got a poster directly behind my camera with a big arrow on it that points to my camera and says "your audience is here". There a couple other reminders on this poster but this is my single most important one.

So, again, look directly into the camera lens when speaking. You'll be much happier with the results.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Project Presence: The value of your (intro) and outro

Key takeaway: A strong standard outro (finish) for your videos reinforces your leadership intent/values while keeping you on message, providing an "out" after the core of that message has been delivered.

Learn more about Project Presence: Project Presence overview

Associated post on intros

Wikipedia definition of outro

Video link:


Welcome leaders, Daren Lewis with Leading Visually. Like we talked about having a strong intro to your video that wraps your key single message for that video it is important to have a strong outro. This is something that goes beyond that message of the day to speak to your values or leadership intent if not both.

In my Coast Guard duties this has been relatively simple. My [outro] messages are two-fold. One is to say "Thank you for your service", which speaks to our values. The second is "Be safe out there and look to the safety of your shipmates", which speaks to our operational and other duty safety. This is a core portion of my leadership intent. I use this each time.

Beyond conveying that intent and conveying the values message around thankfulness for my member's service this also serves as a very important tool as I do the videos. It gives me an easy out, it is an exit. Often I find I'll have a strong core central message. That one message will be strong but I'll tend to get to the end of it, to the natural break point or the time to take the next step and I'll start to ramble. I'll think of other things, I'll lose the strength of that message because I'll pile on. If you have a strong outro that you've developed and that your are confident about using, using that outro at that stage gives you the out. The video is over. You've kept the video short, you've stayed on message, and you've wrapped it with the intro and the outro. You are done, you can go on to your other leadership tasks for the day.

Thank you. I'd love to hear about the challenges and successes of your Project Presence.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Project Presence: The value of your intro (and outro)

Key takeaway: A strong standard intro helps set the stage for your message.

Learn more about Project Presence: Project Presence overview

Video link:

My current intro & outro:


Welcome leaders, Daren Lewis with Leading Visually. One of the things I find really helps when doing these videos is to have a strong, and common, intro and outro -- the things I say at beginning of my video and the things I say at the end. While I focus on having a single message, having strong intro and outro, that are common to every one of my talks, helps frame the talk and frame that single message as well as get me started and give me a strong finish.

Let's talk a little about the intro. In the case of my Coast Guard videos this is relatively easy. I say "Hello Shipmates" or something that uses the term "shipmates". This is the term we use for each other. It is very strong and has great resonance in our organization. It harkens back to our core values so it is a great way to start every one of my videos.

Your organization may have a term you use for each other, or you may have to create one, or perhaps come up with another introduction.

In the case of these videos I've chosen, for the moment (and this can certainly change and evolve over time), "Welcome leaders". Again, it sets the stage for who I believe my audience is. It helps me get started strong. It helps launch into whatever that one message is with confidence, with energy and with enthusiasm. It reminds me of my audience each time and what my deeper objectives for that audience are.

Thank you. I'd be very interested to hear about your challenges and your successes as you launch your Project Presence.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Project Presence: Simply Start

Key takeaway: Don't announce your leadership video project, simply start.

Learn more about Project Presence: Project Presence overview

Video link:


Welcome leaders, Daren Lewis with Leading Visually. It can be very tempting, as you kick off your leadership videos series, to start with a video talking about why you are using video, how often you plan to do videos (or your cadence), and to promise certain topics or cover certain issues.

I strongly recommend you don't do this. Simply Start. Choose a topic or issue you'd like to cover, do a video, and put it out through your existing channels -- sending it as a link in an email, putting on your blog or posting it to your company intranet. You've got to give your project some room to breathe. You've got to establish the cadence by finding what works. You've got to pick the issues by finding what works -- and you have to prove if this has value for you and for your team by giving it a try.

If you commit yourself to a cadence or a set of topics you will find you are essentially just putting yourself in handcuffs. Rather than do that simply start.

Thank you. I'd love to hear about your challenges and success as you pursue your project presence.

Thursday, November 1, 2012



I'm a great believer in the value of thankfulness as a leadership tool and as a personal leadership value. For me this manifests itself in the way I communicate with people, the way I end my email messages, the way I begin and end any speech, and in personal interactions with members of my team and those I work with and for.

Now, I find great value in having some prompts in these situations -- and a number of years ago I came across a fairly simple exercise in the practice of thankfulness. I don't recall exactly where this came from. I've done a number of Google searches and haven't been able to find it but it is a fairly simple principle and it is based around ten pennies. The idea here is that you put ten pennies in a pocket and every time you have an opportunity to say thank you, after doing so you take one of those pennies and move it to the other pocket. The entire exercise is moving those pennies from one pocket to the other and back. It acts as a way to keep score.

Very quickly you find you don't need the pennies anymore. This becomes part of your practice. I still use this [technique] as a prompt from time to time. You don't have to use pennies, you can use any currency. In the U.S., if you want something a little weightier, dollar coins do a great job as well. You really feel that you have them in your pocket, they are a good weight there. Also, as opposed to pennies, the dollar coins let you buy a cup of coffee or two for people along the way... so they have a little bit more tangible value if you find you need them.

I'd encourage you to give the ten pennies exercise a try. It goes beyond simply thanking the members of your team and thanking others; it also encourages a spirt of thankfulness in yourself. I find tt makes me more effective throughout my work and professional life... having that thankfulness focus.

In that spirit thank you for spending a bit of time exploring this leadership tool with me. I'd be thankful for any feedback. You can comment on the video or send me an email: