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

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 organizes an “all-hands meeting”, also known as “town hall”. What it basically means is that they gather everyone on the team in one place and one of the directors announces things to the team and takes questions from them.

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

I get it. Keeping everyone in the loop is hard. Especially as the team grows. I remember how aligned we were in a 3-person team and how hard it became past 10 people.

Actually, as we were around 10 people years ago, we tried that for a few months. We’d make 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 I 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 I could feel people were truly engaged for that price.

Stop wasting people’s time.

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

How I changed a wasteful meeting to an effective vlog

Vlog is a “video blog”, so basically a video update. Many people on YouTube are vlogging these days and if you’re using 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 too much equipment for this - you can just use your smartphone or iPad to do it and the results will be really 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, you can explain some concepts more visually or demo them. It’s just more engaging and in our team as everyone works from home and not everyone sees me regularly on a video call, it’s just good to remind my team how I look like :-)

I don’t write a word-for-word script of what I’m going to say in the vlog, but that’s a good idea for people less accustomed to speaking to a camera. I usually open up a mind map and outline my talking points1

I go through the points several times, make sure the message is clear what I want to say and then I just pull out my iPad Pro, put it on the desk and fire up the camera app, switch 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 cheaply

It’s an internal team vlog. My subscribers are my team members and nobody else. This means there’s no need to edit the video 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.

But editing is optional. If you feel like you’ve recorded a right message, just post it as is.

Both iPhone and iPad have the video-editing iMovie app preinstalled which is good enough. And if you need something fancier, there are many alternatives on the App Store.3

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:

  • Just upload it to a Dropbox folder that you share with your team
  • Publish it on YouTube as “private” or with just a “hidden link”
  • Publish it on Vimeo and set privacy settings correctly.

The last option is what I do. We use Vimeo anyway for much of our video hosting needs, so what I do is 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 to take a look.

People watch the vlog, react with reactions and if they have questions, they post them 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 is doing a “Product vlog” almost every week where he explains new features we just added to our products. Again, a video clip is much better than a blog post with lots of screenshots. This way people know what we’ve just shipped, what our customers can be expecting and where we are in development cycle.

Benefits of vlogging vs “all-hands meeting”

I’ve been vlogging regularly to my team for the last 2 years now and I can see 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) has to invest an hour or two to prepare and post a vlog. In that time everyone is working on their stuff.
  • Instead of 1-hour meeting, people get a concise 10-minute update - that’s my favorite part - instead of listening to me blabbing, people watch a short, edited version and are more likely to stay engaged and really pay attention.
  • People can watch it whenever they have a moment - you don’t take all of them from their work when it’s convenient for you - you post the vlog when you’re ready and they can watch it now, in 10 minutes, in 1 hour, or later. They choose the time to pay attention to you as the messenger.
  • Better questions - just as we discussed in previous chapters, when people watch the vlog, they can take their time to post a thoughtful comment or ask a good question. You don’t force them to come up with a brilliant thought right there on the spot.
  • Vlog archive - the vlogs are being archived so if a new person joins the team, part of their onboarding process is to watch at least last 5 vlogs of mine, to get a feeling 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 twice a month. Rarely more often.

As we ship our app Nozbe Teams weekly, our VP of Product vlogs weekly as well, 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. So that we’re on the same page. I try to find a balance of all the things that happened since my last vlog:

  • Milestones of our apps that we shipped to customers
  • Challenges we’re facing as a team
  • What’s up in all of the departments
  • Who’s new coming 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

One thing: Vlogging is the best way to update your team

As you can see from this chapter and from the previous ones, meetings can be avoided or exchanged for something much better. A wasteful all-hands meeting can become 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 exactly a 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 - Pyramid of Communication

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