Are enough people benefiting from your performances?

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There are already many great performances that are recorded and available on the web that will improve the lives of many (enjoyment, education, informative, etc.). Live performances that are great, but are not recorded or shared, will however most likely not be remembered – the presenter will not achieve the reputation or legacy that they are potentially capable of, and the potential maximum audience that that could have benefited from hearing/seeing the performance (and enjoying it, or learning from it) won’t have done so.

It frustrates me that ‘great’ training performances aren’t leveraged for the benefit of others; it frustrates me that only live participants benefit from great conferences or leadership updates (is there really such a premium on live attendance that means those unfortunate not to be able to attend should pay the penalty of missing out?).

Given readily available tools to enable the recording and sharing of audio and video recordings, I feel we have reached an important stage of development, where we can all benefit from sharing our performances more often and more widely.

Making it personal

There are famous events and performances that happen, which will be forever remembered: a great speech, a famous concert, a star acting performance, a memorable sporting event, etc.

I don’t yet want to name specific events (*) – this will hopefully have conjured up thoughts in your mind of specific examples. Think about them. Of those events, which ones were ‘recorded’ (as a video or audio recording, or at least documented in some sort of written review, in a newspaper, for example)? Which ones had no subsequent evidence of their existence, other than their word-of-mouth reputation?

Now think about those events that are more than 5 years old. Think about those that are more than 50 years old. It’s mostly the recorded ones which prevail.

On the other hand, now think about some personal experiences that you have been part of – again, a concert, a great speech, a great performance of some form. Think about good experiences/memories that you have had the fortune to attend through your work, your personal/private life, and also your social life. Which of those were recorded? What happened to your memories of those that weren’t recorded?

Nowadays the internet is awash with many fantastic videos, podcasts, audio recordings, etc. which include some fantastic ‘performances’ by individuals and teams/groups, which are being viewed by millions. Take a TED talk for example – some of these talks have had millions of ‘views’ (for example, Ken Robinson’s talk on how ‘schools kill creativity’ has had 6,107,699 views as of the time of writing).

Not only famous actors, rock stars and business gurus have the potential to build a name for themselves now – through leveraging the power of networks (within an organisation, or even globally) anyone can share leading practice content.

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to attend some excellent events (as well as some ‘duds’!) – classes (at various school, college, and universities), speeches at conferences, office training events, work related presentations and proposals, conference calls, etc. In most cases these were not recorded, but rather the event was run for the sole benefit of the physical attendees – sometimes that meant only a few people, sometimes a few hundred, and occasionally a few thousand (although sometimes less than originally intended due to cancellations, or poor communication of the event). In hindsight that seems such a waste.

It is unlikely that Ken Robinson, other successful TED presenters, Salmon Khan (of Khan Academy), or the professors are making their courses available online could ever reach via live performances the millions of people that watch their videos. There seems to be a trend of people doing more of this, but there is still a lot of content that is not recorded and shared.

Any yet, it’s so easy to do – iPhones, iPods, iPads, digicams and other smartphones can make audio (and in some cases) video recordings. More professional recording equipment is also becoming cheaper and there are nowadays more people capable of using it.

What’s more, even those who attended a presentation, will almost certainly eventually forget some, or all of it – decay theory highlights that memory typically fades over time, however that rehearsal helps maintain the memories (therefore, wouldn’t it benefit participants of a presentation/speech if they could refer back to a recording?).

So why don’t we ‘record’ our own live performances more often?

There are a number of possible reasons, however if we truly challenge ourselves, I believe it becomes difficult to justify these:

  • We maybe scared of being recorded, because we fear our performance might not be great or someone might catch us out, on something we said – this is, as Seth Godin would say, the ‘lizard’ taking over; we need to be confident of our efforts, and strive to be great, and trust our instincts, otherwise we shouldn’t even be standing in front of anyone to deliver a performance (and caveat our performance if necessary) – in fact recording ourselves is also a great way to learn where we can improve our performances;
  • We might think our performance has such value that it should only be shared with a limited audience – that might be true initially, but that audience eventually forgets your performance, or the relevance to them goes away;
  • We might think that only the ‘live’ performance has true value – sure, there is something extra special about live performances, but a recorded performance might have some value to others, and in some cases possibly even more than the live performance, for example to those who are a long way away, or unable to attend the original moment due to a clash of timetables or being too far away, or because the number of places available for live attendance was simply too restricted
  • We might think that we are good at presenting, and can therefore anyway repeat the performance if required – this might be true to a point to a point (and attendees of your live performances will be grateful for this), but to be sure, there are still many that will miss out if you take this approach (not least those who could have benefited after you pass away!)
  • We might fear that our recorded, online persona might reduce the value of, and demand for the real, live performance – for some people the recording will be sufficient, but for good performers there is clearly always demand for them to give live performances (U2, the Irish rock group, still fill stadia for their concerts, despite the sale of millions of albums and concert videos; TED Talks still sell out, despite the millions of viewers online) – if you think you can, and are more interested in profit than sharing a message as widely as possible, charge a sensible market rate for access to the recording where it is appropriate to do so (but at least make it available)
  • We might consider the content to be proprietary – of course, confidential or sensitive information shouldn’t be shared, but in the same way that thought leadership can highlight an individual’s, or organisation’s talent, so can sharing presentations/speeches; in most cases it would likely be naive to assume that others don’t have similar, or even better content, and so at least you can take a lead in demonstrating that you have it – customers/consumers/readers might than come to you for to tailor a service to a situation, or for your potential to delivery further such presentations in future; therefore, the real value is in the skill of delivery/execution, not in the raw knowledge itself);
  • We might fear that sharing our performances means we are losing our vanity, or being narcissistic – possible, and in some cases it will be true, but wouldn’t it maximise the chances of great content being shared if we let the users decide what is valuable (through comments, ratings, and search rank, the ‘cream will rise to the top’)
  • We might fear that we are clogging up the internet with unnecessary recordings – of course, if everyone shares their performances on the internet, then there will be a challenge to find the good stuff (it is reported that YouTube users are already uploading more than 48 hours of video every minute) but as I’ve referred to before, I’m a supporter of Clay Shirky’s statement “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure
  • We might fear that the IT challenge is too complex – if it’s possible for this to be put online (‘Charlie bit my finger’, watched by more than 365 million people!) can it really so difficult? (in any case, there’s plenty of places to find help also)

Now think back to training courses that you have instructed (or attended), and conferences that you have instructed (or attended), which weren’t recorded. Do you still believe that the best approach was to run the event live only, without recording?

I have certainly have had moments where I have ended a presentation or speech to a group of people and thought ‘that’s about as good as it gets’.

And given that more and more people are recording their performances, and making them available on the web, if your performance doesn’t make it that far, it is likely that your potential reputation is being diluted by those who do make their recorded performances available for others to see (even if your’s may be better).

–> What is your potential legacy?  Why not maximize it by broadening the population who have access to your performances? Don’t more people deserve to benefit from your best performances, beyond the one’s fortunate enough to have been in the audience at the time?

Some caveats and other final thoughts, which hopefully help mitigate concerns that you might have:

  • Maybe not everything should be recorded – in some specific cases (eg, funerals) there is a very personal reason for the moment being left only for those at the time (but I believe there are only a few such clear-cut cases).
  • Some performances are intended for the live experience of the moment (eg, theatrical productions) – perhaps, but shouldn’t at least one of the live performances be recorded and saved for sharing with others? (and if so, why not record them all, and save the best?)
  • Some performances may be too private/personal/sensitive/confidential – for example, pitches and proposals (but if we could develop a culture where it is more acceptable to record situations, under certain pre-agreed constraints, then these might in fact be some of the best situations at which to record the performance, for future learning).
  • Not every recording, or all of every recording needs to be shared – you can agree up front that you will decide how to edit and select (possibly picking the best bits, or the best performances from several), or possibly delay the sharing of recorded performances (but it’s too late to decide afterwards if you thought a great performance was worth sharing, if it wasn’t recorded).
  • Not every recording needs to be shared with everybody – you may only want to share some things within an organisation, or with a certain group of people; this is easily possibly on intranets, or even on the internet (albeit, it’s worth thinking also whether there might be benefit in sharing the information wider – see the comments above on ‘proprietary content’)
  • Sometimes it may be necessary to limit the parts of the performance that get recorded, or obtain the agreement up-front of third parties, whether they are also recorded – for example, in a presentation, it may be enough to record only the speaker, and not the audience (although I don’t recall ever being asked whether I agreed to rock concerts that I attended being recorded, and yet finding them available on video/DVD later on).

* A few examples: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in 1963; the Isle of Wight Woodstock concert/festival in 1969, Marlon Brando’s performance in ‘The Godfather’, Jonah Lomu’s performance for the All Blacks against England, etc.

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