Make small experiments.

About two years ago I had a chance to meet with Tom Kelly from IDEO and he said something to me that really inspired me to take more risks. He told me to “make more experiments. Make small experiments”.

As a storyteller, quick victories come from quick, small experiments. Try new ideas. Share more ideas. Quick ones, too. The more you do, the more comfortable you’ll be to share. Because they’re quick, it’s easier to keep your confidence and adjust for your next idea project. Listen to feedback, yet, consider the source. Some people only see the surface, other see beyond. Find them. Ask them, adjust where needed and apply the tweaks.

Some examples of quick victories for me:

Example 1: at an education conference years ago, I was working with kids in San Diego and we came up with a quick experiment to capture interviews of participants, conference go-ers as they went up or down the escalator. The one question interview worked! The escalator took 1.5 minutes to climb or decent and the kids asked the question prior to the escalator travel, this, a loosing more time for the answer. It was a great victory that created a smart and efficient way to work, shoot, edit, and leverage the new world of podcasts (at the time). By the end of the conference, this interview series was the most popular web showcase for the entire event.

Reflection: there was an interesting catch, authentic interviews, there was content people can connect with, it was visually interesting, it created a buzz (people sought the students for their own interview), and they were short, sweet, and quick.

Consider your quick and small experiments.

Example 2: at a Teacher learning meeting, I was asked to teach a tech tool for digital storytelling, however, I taught storytelling strategies that teach the tools in context. For 15 minutes, I asked the teachers to interview their elbow buddy about those “B-sides”. A B-side is an old 45 record reference. The A-side was the hit song, the song everyone knew. The B-side was the unknown song, many times, it wasn’t even on the album. It was a side you didn’t know. For my teachers, the goal was to find out their B side– what is something people don’t know about you. In 15 minutes, the noise level rose, the laughter, the “oooohhs and awes” were sounds of people connecting with stories. This part worked!

Afterwards, they took turns (at locations of their choice and they were given 1 hr (start to finish) to shoot the interview, edit, and save for sharing in the afternoon. To assist them, I told them to keep it simple– here was the recommended template for the project.

1. A-side: what’s your name, what do you do at school.
2. B-Side: what is your B-side, describe it if needed (but don’t explain too much. Stories love ambiguity). Some examples that came out that day: a goat judge, rail road train hobbiest, judo instructor, former MLB catcher, and a former drummer of a heavy metal band.
3. Why: Why do they do it, why did they do it?
4. Connection: how does/did it help your A-side.

That’s it! Simple cuts in between the parts and save!! Afterwards, we shared! The teachers really enjoyed this! They connected in new ways!

Reflection: Another cool result was during viewing, we asked what could we do to make them even better– people suggested text, fades, and B roll (supported footage: photos, videos of the action/ activities). This was great because day 2 focused on the tech tid-bits needed to add value to their project. Learning was in context!

This too turned into a very successful video storytelling project at many schools. Teachers used this technique to get students to get to know each other quickly in the first week of school. This was a quick victory that built will. These were small and quick experiments that turned into quick victories that helped me build my own confidence.


Storytelling your journey: The stuff. Part 1 of 2

[ draft ]

Explorers are cool!  Explorers who travel with a map maker is even cooler! Explorers who travel with a storytelling mapmakers ARE THE COOLEST! Why? Because they create a buzz!

What does the explorer, mapmaker, and storyteller backpack look like? I’ll show you mine.


Lets chat about what I think a story can be:

  1. Victories (big or small)
  2. Lessons learned (pluses, deltas, reflections)
  3. Needs and concerns (what questions do we still have)

How do we collect, create, and showcase those stories:

  1. Text (blogs, journals, social media tools).
  2. Audio
  3. Video
  4. Photos
  5. A mix of media.


  1. iPad/ media tablet: A very rich, media creating device.   There are so many tools to help capture stories and evidence. Audio, text, video, and animation.
  2. iphone/ smartphone.  There are so many tools to help capture stories and evidence. Audio, text, video, and animation.
  3. DSLR / Camera: Quality is key for me.  There are times where I need QUALITY images and video and thanks to DSLR (or mirror less cameras with interchangeable lenses), I can get great images that utilize existing light more effectively than video focused cameras.  Most DSLRs now record great HD video and (FOR ME) the depth of field control (the area in focus) is AMAZING!!!  That’s the process of controlling what is in focus and what isnt.  It provides a better focus on what you want to people to focus on.

nikon DSLR

  1. Microphone / audio recorder: Many times video doesn’t work.  Sometimes people are too nervous to respond to a video camera or you’re not sure if you have the appropriate release for them.  There are many mice and audio devices you can use.  Using your iPhone/ ipad/tablet can do the job for you, too.You can record ambient sounds of  the activity, interviews, edit them in an editor like garageband or audacity and share it out (NPR style).
  2. Tripod of some sort.  Please USE a tripod when you can!  Moving video can be nauseating.  KEEP AS STILL AS POSSIBLE, if you don’t.  When using an iPhone/iPad/ or other smart device— you can look into solutions for mini tripods and claps to help you with that!

iphone tripod

  1. A notepad (in any format): I write and draw and map out my stories, my collected media assets, my production notes.  ALL DIRECTORS DO!!  Storytelling is a process in assembling, dot-connecting, curating and strategizing.  Notes, many times for storytellers, are very visual and a notepad/notebook, or even note taking tools are critical.  Being able to share those notes is even better.  I can talk about that on a later sharing!  Simple: Use your notebook! Share your notes!
  2. A Stage: Vimeo, Youtube, Blog, GoogleDrive, iLife theater.  I don’t know what the parameters are for the schools but you need a stage— ITS YOUR PORTFOLIO!  Its a place that showcases your verbs, what you did, what you’re doing, and what you’re gonna do!  This is an area that is not super strong with schools.  Making evidence and showcasing the victories, the lessons learned, and any needs and concerns are critical to what the story is with you.  Rumors, perceptions, and other forms of outside determined forces DONT HAVE TO paint your picture, tell your story.  Think of a place that serves two purposes:
    1. Identify your stories.
    2. Collect your stories. Create them.
    3. Curate and Cultivate the stories— What can be an out facing story, what is inside facing!
    4. Share and showcase.

There are many tools for the job and TODAY is a great day because there are many tools that can help enhance the story making and sharing experience.  Explore!  Share your tools, your storytelling strategies!

iphone tripod