Tag Archives: small business

Let Video Tell Your Story

fbytUsing video to promote your business, organization or cause is the in-thing. It seems like every day I get an email with even more stunning video statistics similar to:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

Then they tell us that Facebook is ready to overtake YouTube as the go-to place for online video.

The Implications
What does that mean for small businesses? Basically two things:

  1. You cannot ignore the use of video
  2. Because there are now so much video, your videos will have to be good to stand out in the crowd.

We can help
In the same way we have two solutions to offer:

  1. Let us help you learn video
  2. Let us make the video for you.

Our Training
Make no mistake, the learning curve for making promotional video is steep. At the same time it is a fun skill to have and that you will be able to use in other areas of your life.
With this in mind we have developed a whole series of online how-to courses on video for small business using the free Movie Maker. We are currently developing courses based on the more powerful Adobe Elements suite.  Find out more…

videoshootWe Do It
In spite of our obvious passion for video, we believe it is better for you to focus on your organization, and let us work with you to do the video work. We offer a full service from developing the script with you, to publishing it and putting it on your website.  Find out more…

Summary
Using video to promote your organization is where it is at. It is not a fad, it is the reality. We look forward to working with you no matter which of the two options you choose.

Is Surface 3 Right for You?

Surface 3
Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet

Microsoft has just announced their latest tablet, the Surface 3. It is the smaller sibling to their popular Surface Pro3. Is it the right product for you?

In this post we will consider the merits of this new tablet offering from Microsoft.

About the Surface 3
Basically the Surface 3 is a 10” tablet that can do double duty as a laptop just by snapping on the keyboard cover.

The promotional video below describes the features in more dramatic fashion:

Some of the main features I like is the larger screen size as compared to my older Surface 2 tablet. I also like that it can be charged using a standard smartphone charger.

Then key is that you can install regular Windows programs which you could not do with previous Surface models. So if you use a specific program in your work you can now use it on this tablet!

Should You?
Although billed as “more affordable” it is not cheap. So the first question to ask is do you really need a mobile computer? If you just do the odd checking of emails or websites, then your smartphone may be all you need.

If you do find you often need to do serious computer work while out and about, then the Surface 3 is certainly an option to consider and it is good value for money. Like previous Surface models, this is a quality product. And again, Office 365 and 1TB of cloud storage is included so you will be set for real business computing from the get go.

What are the limitations? Storage. You have a maximum of 4GB of memory and 128GB of hard drive space. That is more than enough for most business tasks, even large spreadsheets. But if you use large programs such as advanced graphics or video editing you will be better off spending the extra money and getting the Surface Pro.

If you have a Surface 2 , should you upgrade? The Surface 2 is still a great tablet and Microsoft said they will still support it for some time and an upgrade to the operating system is in the works. So if it served your mobile computing needs there is no need to upgrade. But if you like to have the latest gadgets and money is no object, you will certainly be able to pass your Surface 2 on to someone else who will be just delighted.

Adobe Elements for Small Business

Adobe Elements 13 LogosWe have shown in our many online courses that you can do a lot with MS Word and the graphic tools that are included with Windows.

However, if you have found that you often wished you had more graphic power in your projects, then you should consider the Adobe Elements suite.

What is Adobe Elements?
Adobe Elements Suite consists of Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements and the Organizer. The reference to “elements” reflects that these programs contain all the essential elements of the full Photoshop and Premiere—but at a greatly reduced price.

Advantages
The main advantage for small business, besides the price, is ease of use. Adobe has really succeeded in making everyday graphic tasks easy and fast. And in business, time is valuable.

Both programs have a Quick View where you can do many tasks with a single click.

For more complex projects there is the Guided view, where the program guides you step by step through the specific task—this is particularly handy for those tasks that you don’t do often.

The Expert view gives you access to the more advanced features when you need them.

What is eLive? This view gives you access to Adobe’s online resources Elements website where you can find many tips, inspiration and tutorials. Ideal for when you are hard at work, but feel you need a bit of a break.

If for example, you have a photo taken at the tradeshow, and you want to put it on your website, but it is not so nice. Click on Smart Fix in Photoshop Elements and chances are it can be rescued. Or you have a video of the mayor visiting your booth – but you used your smartphone and it is shaky. Premiere Elements can fix that too with one click.

These are powerful programs but Adobe has made it easier to master them. You don’t have to use all the advanced features all the time, and certainly not in the beginning. The more you use the programs though, your skills will grow progressively. You will still use the Quick and Guided views often, but you will be glad you also have the Expert view when you need it.

Finally
Once you start using Adobe Elements, you will certainly fall in love with the program, both for at work and at home.

If you are not sure if you should spend the money, we encourage you to take our free online course, Introduction to Adobe Elements.

In this course we show you have to do many common business tasks and it will give you a feel for both the ease of use and the power of Adobe Elements (see the completed course project below).

The course is fun and free – so what are you waiting for,  click here to go to the course home page…

The Society VA

the society vaWhen you are a small business, maybe with one or two employees, things can be quite hectic. As a result the office support services often get neglected. Using a virtual assistant can be the answer.

Running a society is also a business. In this post I will show why a virtual assistant is also a good solution for a society.

How Societies Work
A society consists of members and is typically governed by a board or committee. There usually are office bearers including a president, secretary, treasurer and so on. These are normally volunteer positions. The incumbents are often replaced on a two year cycle.

Depending on the nature of the society there are many activities including meetings, newsletters, conferences, websites, minutes, banking and more. Usually one or two people of the board end up “volunteering” to do most of the work—until they burn out, or they are replaced at the next election.

Every time there is a change in the executive team, there typically is a scramble to change the society’s mailing address, bank account and so on.

The Society VA
If you are a large society with many thousand members, then you would typically employ a formal secretariat with full time staff and a physical office. Smaller societies cannot justify a secretariat—but a virtual assistant could easily do all the office support services (mail, minutes, scheduling, website/social media, etc).

This has many advantages:

  • it provides continuity for the society in the face of the regular election cycle changes
  • provides a central location for society data and documents
  • frees up the president and the executive to focus on the conceptual matters of the society
  • it is cost-effective solution as you only pay for actual time used and the overheads are much lower.

Summary
An experienced virtual assistant can be a valuable asset for a small business. This is particularly true for many societies, who are effectively small businesses too. So if the above describes your society, consider using a virtual assistant.

Why OneNote Is Difficult

SearchWhen I first started looking at OneNote as a tool for small organizations, I found it difficult. Not that the program was difficult to learn, but deciding how to apply it was difficult.

Then, as I wrote in my previous post, I finally understood OneNote better–it still is difficult!

In this post I will discuss why OneNote is difficult and why really it isn’t.

The Filing Cabinet Woes
OneNote is a digital filing cabinet. And that is why it is difficult.

Anyone who has designed a physical filing system will know that it is difficult. No two people will design the filing system the same way. When I studied how people actually used OneNote I was struck by the many different approaches they use. That is to be expected.

Filing cabinets are notorious for swallowing documents. “I can’t find that document, I know I filed it somewhere!” is a common lament. Did you file it under Annual Reports, or under Strategic Planning? That then results in desperate riffling through file folders and much frustration.

The OneNote Solution
OneNote is difficult exactly because we always try and design the ideal filing system. But there is no ideal system. What works under one set of circumstances, will be less ideal in others.

With OneNote there is no need to worry about getting it exactly right. Unlike with a physical filing cabinet, it is easy to rearrange things in OneNote once you have had some experience with the system you have designed and know better what you really need.

And that missing document? No need to riffle through file folders, OneNote has a powerful search functionality that will find the document in no time at all, no matter where you have misfiled or how you misnamed it.

Summary
OneNote is a powerful filing system of your electronic information. Because it is so full featured, it can be difficult to set it up at first, just like with any filing system. The search tools minimize the pain to find the missing document if you did not quite file it correctly.

Of course, if you are not using OneNote, you are stuck with having to take your office apart to find the missing document…

In upcoming posts we will look at how small businesses and organizations can put OneNote to use.

Essential Videos for Your Organization

videos-your-small-business-must-have-660x369[1]My attention was drawn to a recent excellent article in Small Business Trends stating that there were three types of video each small businesses should have.

What caught my interest was not so much the valid points made but rather the very humorous image (shown on the right) that went with the article.

The Videos Needed
Basically the article stressed again the effectiveness of video for promoting a business or organization. Specifically they recommend the following three video types:

  • organization overview
  • product/service demo
  • customer testimonial

Potential Problem
Granted, the focus of the article is the need for the videos and not how to make them. However, in the introduction they state “You can use your smartphone to do a simple video…” and the photo shows several people shooting video, while holding the smartphone incorrectly with money falling from the sky.

Humorous perhaps, but it can leave the impression that making these videos with your smartphone is easy.

Yes, you can shoot these videos with a smartphone, but no, it is not easy. If not done well, the videos will detract from, rather than enhance your organization’s image.

Points to Consider
The following points should be kept in mind when making these videos:

  • importance of your brand/image
  • consistency
  • proper storyboard/structure
  • professional look is important

Finally
Yes, these three videos will help promote your organization or business. And yes, you could potentially do it yourself using a smartphone.

If you want to know more, we have several online courses on how to shoot video for small organizations on our training website hmdtraining.com.  In particular if you are considering using your smartphone, look at the course Shooting With Your Smartphone.

The Software for Small Business

adobe ps12MS Word is undoubtedly one of the most used software programs ever. And one can do a lot with it. However, these days one needs to be able to do more advanced graphics and video editing. That applies at all walks of life, whether you are a small business, or just a hobbyist.

Like Word, Photoshop is as well known. But it is expensive and complicated. I have found a powerful solution–it is a combination package Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements. These two programs have virtually all the power of their professional equivalents but at a tenth of the price!

Both programs have an Quick and an Expert view. For the everyday jobs, one uses the Quick view, but for more advanced work there is the Expert view.

What I find amazing is that the combination package is under $100.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 & Premiere Elements 11