Think Up Selfie Movie Training

Yesterday at Think Up I ran a workshop training engineers in how to use selfie movies to tell communicate to people about engineering. The aim of the workshop was to inspire and give the participants the skills to use video as a medium to share interesting engineering stories. The attendees were a group of engineering students from UCL and Imperial and a couple of graduate engineers from Expedition Engineering.

The content I had to deliver was in two parts: the technical skills – talking to camera, framing the shot, etc; and storytelling – figuring out what to say.

In my experience people are nervous to talk to camera, so I kicked off the workshop with asking people to film a selfie introducing themselves and sharing two surprising facts about themselves. It turned out to be a great way to kick off the exercise. I think it worked because people had to confront their fears straight away. We used these examples as a context for talking about what makes a good selfie. I then showed them a selfie I had made that morning, and asked them what was good and bad about it (below).

We then moved on to storytelling. I had thought that the participants would find the storytelling easier than the technical material, but it was the contrary. I asked individuals to think of a subject that they are passionate about, and to find one particular intriguing aspect of that subject that could form the kernel of their story. That bit was mostly easy, the challenge was finding the language that helped weave a compelling yarn. In the end the way round this was for me to suggest linking phrases or expressions and to show them how they could be used, and then for the individuals to weave those phrases into their stories.

The impact was stark: once they had a compelling story to tell, and they knew how to say it, even the least confident sounded a lot more confident on camera.

In the end I saw some really quite moving videos being produced. As homework I asked the participants to polish their performances and upload a video to the Think Up Facebook page. I’ll have more to write on this depending on whether they do or don’t post anything!

There are some important things that I take away from delivering this workshop:-

  • This is another reminder that there is no substitute in learning for getting people to do. Forcing the participants to make a film straightaway was probably scary for most, but once they were ‘doing’ it was easier to talk about how to do it better. I had a similar experience in a communications workshop I ran last week on difficult conversations in engineering projects. We talked about the ideas, but it was only when I forced participants to role-play the scenarios (which they seemed reluctant to do at first) that the learning really seemed to sink in.
  • I haven’t previously appreciated the value of good storytelling, though many of the people I work with do. Perhaps because it is something I think I’m good at, I don’t recognise how other people find it a challenge. This is a theme that I would like to develop in more training for engineers.
  • This event was about confidence building, and I used a lot of the confidence building techniques I know from swing dance teaching – lots of applause for one-another’s efforts; keeping the momentum up and the tone positive – and it seemed to pay off.