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Book Review of: Camera Ready

How to present your best self and ideas on air or online

Kindle Price: $8.39
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Review of Camera Ready, by Author (ebook, 2012)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


This book is very well done. The author provides an intelligent and thorough presentation of the subject (being ready for the camera). I can't think of anything she left out, and it doesn't have any fluff put in there just to make it bigger. Apparently, Joshua Spanier, the Head of Media at Google, shares that opinion. He wrote the Foreword and his comments were very positive. The book delivers on the promises he made in his comments.

Let me establish a foundation for my review, so you know where I'm coming from on the subject of presentation.

Some years ago, I wrote a course on how to give a winning presentation. It definitely fills a need. Too many people who give live presentations have this misguided notion that Death by Powerpoint is somehow beneficial, but it does in fact isolate the speaker instead of connect the speaker to the audience. Powerpoint is not the presentation; at best, it's an audio visual aid. And the way it's typically used makes it worse than no aid at all. Nobody connects with a disembodied voice in the dark. In fact, this is a standard element in horror movies. And it's horrible for presentations. What presenters need to do instead is present themselves their ideas.

The same concept, of presenting yourself and your ideas, carries over into video. The same rules apply, except with video there are some additional ones. Just as it's a FAIL to be a talking head numbly reading PowerPoint slides to a live audience, so it is a FAIL to be a talking head talking numbly in front of the camera. Ms. Zomorodi explains how to look and sound good in front of the camera, whether you are recording a video for later distribution or are responding to a reporter who approached you on the courthouse steps.

This book could have been a laundry list of rules, which would violate its own premise of effective presentation. Instead, Ms. Zomorodi guides the reader through a structure of progressive chapters. The reader learns the fundamentals, then builds on those. The result is that, by the end of the book, you know how to prepare your ideas, your message, and yourself for that camera.

It's always been possible to turn audiences off so that they tune you out. This effect has, due to Death by Powerpoint and other mistakes, long been a tradition on the rubber chicken circuit. When you make an online video and turn audiences off, they don't tune you out while you drone on, they click away. It's as if you never made the video in the first place. But what happens when you connect with the audience? When your delivery and your message click with them? They share that video. It could even go viral, meaning your audience grows exponentially with no additional work from you.

Getting that connection doesn't require you to have some kind of genetic advantage, superb oratory skills, or other gift. It does require preparation. In this ebook, Ms. Zomorodi explains how to prepare. Not only that, she features interviews with experts; you can watch the videos and hear their wisdom directly from the source.

If you were writing a text for text-only reading, you would avoid long quotes. The exception there is you might give an expert a whole chapter. But you don't want to interrupt your flow by taking the reader on a long quote ride. With the ebook version, you can break this rule using video. The reader doesn't have to come back, after several pages, to where your narrative paused. The reader clicked a video link and is still at that point where you paused. It's easy to pick up again.

The very structure of this ebook is an object lesson in communicating in multimedia. And each video is also an object lesson in some aspect of video production. You could ignore the content itself and learn plenty just by using this book as an example of how to do it right. Of course, you'll learn the most by following Ms. Zomorodi through this book from start to finish.

This book consists of six chapters, an appendix, an epilogue, a glossary, acknowledgements, a section about the author, and a section about the filmmaker. It is a multimedia work that contains videos and hyperlinks.

Notes on review method

This is my first review of an e-book. This particular book was made for the Kindle ebook reader. I have the jetBook reader from Ectaco, and it converts this file to text format. So I wasn't able to access the videos or follow the hyperlinks, but for me that is actually my preferred way to read. After reading the book, I did go back and skim through it on my PC using the free Kindle emulator so I could do some video watching and hyperlink following.

Like nearly everyone else, I can read the same amount of information as text much faster than I can view it in video. But I have an exceptionally strong preference for text and very little patience for video. When I was in 7th grade, my reading speed consistently clocked in at 2800 words per minute with 80% accuracy. I've had plenty of reading practice since then.

While I did read all of the text, I watched only some of the video content. My review is based on what I read, not on what I watched. It does seem to me, though, that the video information generally appears in the text.

The book also contains many hyperlinks, and I clicked on only a few of them. When I read an article online, it's rare for me to click on an outbound link. It's the specific article I'm reading that interested me in the first place, and I feel it's up to the author to cover the subject. However, sometimes those outbound links really do enhance the article and I'm happy to click through and see what that external resource provides. I just don't do it unless there's a compelling reason to.

The number of us text-based consumers (also called "readers") is shrinking relative to the number of video-based information consumers. So e-books with video make sense today. Even more so for a book like this, which is about making videos and appearing on camera.


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