Book: No Office » Part 1 - You are using your office wrong! » Chapter 9 - Learn to vlog | vlog.md

Chapter 9 - Learn to vlog

Replace all-hands meetings or team-wide announcements with vlogging!

All-hands meetings are a waste of everyone’s time!

In many companies, especially high-tech startups, the leadership team often organizes an “all-hands meeting,” also known as “town hall.” They simply gather everyone on the team in one place and a director makes announcements and takes questions from the team.

The idea behind such gatherings is to promote transparency in the company, build team culture and get everyone updated.

I get it. Keeping everyone in the loop is hard, especially as a team grows. I remember how aligned we were in a three-person team and how hard it became past 10 people.

Actually, years ago as we reached around 10 people in our team, we tried this tactic for a few months. We’d hold a regular Friday Skype audio call with everyone on the team for an hour. I’d talk, I’d ask everyone for an update, they’d say nothing or reluctantly say a few words… there were no meaningful questions or insights, and after an hour, everyone, including me, was happy the meeting was over.

It wasn’t great, but at least it got people updated, right?

Maybe… but at what cost? Just multiply everyone’s hourly salary, and such an update is a very expensive meeting! And it’s not like people were even truly engaged for the price.

Stop wasting people’s time.

As a manager, director or founder – or really anyone on the team who wants to bring everyone else up to speed on things – it’s time for you to learn how to vlog.

How I transformed a wasteful meeting into an effective vlog

A vlog is a “video blog,” so basically a video update. Many people on YouTube are vlogging these days, and if you’re using the Instagram Stories feature, you’re already a vlogger.

Remember, the goal of an “all-hands meeting” was to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on in the company and also take questions. With that goal in mind, let’s just put everything we’ve learned over the last few chapters of this book to work.

And the best part? You don’t need any special equipment for this – you can use your smartphone or iPad, and the results will be great!

Step 1. Write the script but try to record a video message

Yes, I could post just a blog post for everyone to read and ask for feedback. That’s one solution. But I believe a vlog conveys more – it shows emotion and it allows you to demo concepts and explain them more visually. It’s much more engaging, and as everyone on our team works from home, it’s a good opportunity for the team to see me regularly, beyond just seeing my name or messages.

I don’t typically write a word-for-word script of what I’m going to say in the vlog, though it’s a good idea for people less accustomed to speaking to a camera. Instead, I usually prepare by opening up a mind map and outlining my talking points.1

I go through my points several times and make sure the message is clear. Then I pull out my iPad Pro, put it on my desk, fire up the camera app, switch it to the front-facing camera and hit record.2

My aim is to record a short video, so I usually talk for no more than 15 minutes.

Step 2. Edit the video message quickly and inexpensively

It’s an internal team vlog, so my “subscribers” are comprised solely of my team members. This means there’s no need to edit the video too much, but as I sometimes stumble, review my talking points, repeat myself or just go off the script too much, I prefer to edit the video to shorten it as much as possible.

That being said, editing is optional. If you feel like you’ve recorded the right message, just post it as is.

Both iPhones and iPads have the video-editing iMovie app preinstalled, which is good enough. If you need something fancier, there are many alternatives in the App Store3 and Google Play.

It takes me between half an hour to an hour to edit my clip, and the end result is usually a short, punchy 10-minute vlog.

Step 3. Publish it internally and accept comments

You can publish a vlog in many ways to make sure it doesn’t leak to the outside world:

  • Upload it to a cloud folder (e.g., a Dropbox folder) that you share with your team.
  • Publish it on YouTube as “private” or with a “hidden link.”
  • Publish it on Vimeo and set your privacy settings accordingly.

We use Vimeo for much of our video hosting needs, so I publish the video with the following options: hide from Vimeo and let it embed only on my internal team site’s domain. This way, nobody else can watch it, unless they have access to our internal tool.

Just as I explained in Chapter 6, we communicate through tasks internally, so I create a task for each vlog in our shared project and mention everyone on the team so they know to take a look.

People watch the vlog, react with feedback and post any questions they may have in the comments.

Pro tip - encourage other people on the team to try it!

I’m not the only “internal vlogger” on the team now. Rafal, our VP of Product, hosts a “Product vlog” almost every week, where he explains new features we’ve added to our products. Again, a video clip is much clearer and much more detailed than a blog post. Through vlogs, people know with confidence what we’ve just shipped, what our customers can be expecting and where we are in the development cycle.

Benefits of vlogging vs “all-hands meeting”

I’ve been vlogging regularly to my team for the last two years now, and it’s clear that people really like this form of getting updates from me:

  • Time trade-off – Instead of wasting everyone’s time, it’s only “the vlogger” (leader, director, manager) who has to invest an hour or so to prepare and post a vlog. In that time, everyone else is working on their stuff.
  • Instead of a one hour meeting, people get a concise 10-minute update – This is my favorite part: instead of listening to me blabbing, people watch a short, edited version and are more likely to stay engaged.
  • People can watch it whenever they have a moment – You don’t need to interrupt your entire team’s work for your own convenience – instead, post the vlog when you’re ready and they can watch it now, in 10 minutes, in an hour or whenever. They can choose when they have the time to pay attention to you as the messenger.
  • Better questions – As discussed in previous chapters, it’s important to give people time to work through their thoughts. When people watch the vlog, they can take their time to post a thoughtful comment or ask a good question. You aren’t forcing them to come up with a brilliant idea righton the spot.
  • Vlog archive – My vlogs arearchived, so when a new person joins the team, part of their onboarding process is to watch at least the last five vlogs of mine to get an understanding of what’s going on in the team.

Choose your own vlogging frequency

You choose how often you vlog. It all depends on what’s going on with your team. To keep things in check, I try to vlog to the entire team at least once a month. Sometimes I do it twice a month, but rarely more often than that.

As we ship our app Nozbe Teams weekly, our VP of Product vlogs every week to make sure the team is up to date on the state of our app.

Topics I vlog about

Basically, I vlog about anything I’d love for my team members to know to ensure we’re all on the same page. I try to briefly summarize all the things that have happened since my last vlog:

– Milestones of our apps that have been shipped to customers – Challenges we’re facing as a team – What’s going on in each department – Who’s joining or who’s leaving the team – Address issues people have been raising recently – Major policy changes – I very often explain the nuances in the video

The one thing: Vlogging is the best way to update your team

As you can see from this chapter and previous ones, meetings can be avoided or exchanged for a more effective method of communication. A wasteful all-hands meeting can be replaced by a regular short video message that keeps everyone in the loop. With today’s technology, anyone can become a vlogger by just talking to the front-facing camera on a smartphone. Try it with your team.

  1. I use MindNode app for mind mapping on my iPad. Another good choice is iThoughts

  2. Sometimes I do write out the exact message I want to say, and for this I use the Video Teleprompter app so that I can look at the iPad camera and read the teleprompter messages all on one device. 

  3. Recently, I switched to the brilliant Luma Fusion app, which is now my go-to video editing app on the iPad. 

Next: Chapter 10 - Turn your work upside down

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