Wrap-up Thoughts On Recent OWAA Conference

I write this blog post with lots of mixed emotions.   Back in 1989, when I attended my first Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conference in Des Moines, Iowa, I was in awe.   There must have been nearly 800 writers in attendance and the atmosphere was alive with excitement.  Craft improvement sessions were held in big auditoriums with hundreds in attendance.   Heck, there was even a company there from Colorado, I think, that sold audio recordings of all the sessions so a member could either replay favorite sessions or perhaps purchase part of a session they missed.

In the evenings there were dozens of hospitality suites hosted by supporting members where great food and networking could take place.   On breakout day displays were galore by 80 to 100 supporting member companies—all there to garner the attention of the writers.IMG_0603

Much of this is all gone now.

You see, until attending this recent conference, it had been 15+ years since I had last been at an OWAA event.   I was remembering what once was…and unfortunately, things have evolved into something much different.   I won’t rehash many of the details here regarding why this is the case.   Most of them can be found in a blog post I made back in 2005 found here.

The point is outdoor writers do not have one big main organization these days.   For the most part, it appears to be splintered between the OWAA and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), of which I am also a current member.   And while I see POMA coming on strong and doing great things…I must say what I recently witnessed in Rochester with OWAA left me a bit depressed.IMG_0609

All of this came as a result of a squabble basically between the National Rifle Association and the Humane Society of the US.   I know I’m simplifying things here a bit, but most will agree that is where the hard feelings developed.   So, in a nutshell, this disagreement ended up splintering the NRA off along with many of the traditional hunting and shooting writers to form a new group (POMA).

Okay, so you can’t rewrite history…but something kept nagging at me during the entire OWAA conference.   Where is HSUS now?   I saw no presence at OWAA.   HSUS either never became or, at least, is not now a current supporting member of OWAA.   Did they just stir trouble within our ranks and now that they accomplished that…choose to disappear?   Makes me wonder.   Actually, make me sort of angry.IMG_0610

Indeed, having not attended a conference for nearly 15 years afforded me a unique perspective on things.   When you fondly remember sitting in craft improvement sessions with hundreds of people and now you sit in one with as few as 7 peers, yeah…it’s noticeable.   Several of the craft improvement sessions I attended had sparse attendance—ranging from a low of 7 writers to perhaps a high of 35 or 40.

Even the last day of OWAA (which I did not attend because it was largely filled with business meetings and I was commuting from home) showed signs of problems.   On Twitter I even read a tweet that was pleading for members to come down to the business meeting from their hotel rooms so they could have a quorum and conduct business.   According to the bylaws, it only takes 50 members to constitute a quorum.   Believe me, in the old days this would not have been a problem.IMG_0607

Sure, I’m lamenting about an organization that has definitely seen ups and downs.   Don’t get me wrong, OWAA is still filled with lots of great people who are excellent outdoor communicators.   That being said, I sure noticed how most of the members in attendance were quite gray and closing in on the twilight of their writing careers.   It could be these are the type of folks who now have the time and money to attend these sort of conferences.   Or, it could be this is a sign how there just isn’t the kind of new blood entering the outdoors writing profession these days.IMG00130-20100612-1106

In closing, the OWAA was my inspiration during my early years as a communicator to develop as a professional.   I scrimped and saved my money so I could attend conferences around the country.   Truly, I felt it was that important that I take part in this annual event.   It was the place to be and the thing to do as an outdoors writer.   Not sure I can say that anymore.   Had this event not been in my backyard (close enough for an easy commute)…well, I’m just not sure I would have been satisfied to have traveled across the country to take in this conference.   Indeed, things have changed.


©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

OWAA Conference — Profiting From YouTube and YouTube Like Videos

Presented by John Beath (OWAA president):

  • Use YouTube videos to drive traffic to your site.
  • Brand your videos in the editing process (both when the video starts and ends).
  • You must be entertaining, informative or both.
  • You need to have good sound for your videos.
  • Always offer an interesting background.
  • Use videos to entertain your site visitors and keep them returning to see more of your videos.
  • Use video to show off and explain your product.
  • Use video for how-to informative videos.
  • Always put your website address on the video and brand it as your words.
  • You do all of this to build relationships with people—at least that should be your goal.
  • How you code your YouTube page will determine where you appear in the search engines.  You can have a video appear on the search engine’s front page.
  • Let YouTube host your videos rather than your own website.  Search engines will find you more easily this way.
  • You can create a slideshow or video webinar online.
  • Use video to promote your event/seminar.
  • Camtasia Studio — allows you to record what is on your screen.
  • E-junkie: hosts your webinar and will even sell it for you.
  • Video can be a very powerful way to sell.
  • www.halibut.net/owaa/ (most of these notes and sample videos are available at this link from the presenter)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Strive to get people to subscribe to your YouTube channel.
  • The best videos are about 1.5 to 4 minutes in length.
  • www.halibut.net/owaa/tips.htm

 ©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

OWAA Conference — How To Talk To The (Video) Camera

Craft improvement presentation by Lisa Densmore:

  • Universal rules:
    • Treat the video camera as a person.
    • Minimize hand movement — don’t point at the camera, if it’s obvious, you don’t need to point to the object shown in the video.
    • Slow down — speak decisively.
    • Eliminate the “um’s” and the “Uh’s” — silence is better.
    • Don’t refer to people by their first names only unless it is known (by your audience) you are personal friends.
    • Talk to an 8th grade level.
    • Use limited words over 3 syllables in length. (this increases the ease of comprehension)
    • Keep it short. (speak in sound bytes)
    • Enjoy the moment. (relax and do what you know how to do)
  • The show opening:
    • Look at the camera
    • Walk then talk—take a step or two before you begin to talk
    • Don’t read your eyelids—when you talk put it into conversational words (don’t sound scripted).
  • Tell the viewer what they are watching:
    • Welcome to [show name]
    • Your location
    • Your name
    • And what (the viewer) is going to learn.
  • Show opening with a co-host:
    • Know the camera movement (1 shot pull to a two shot or a 2 shot from the start)
    • Intro the show to the camera
    • Intro your co-shot or guest, then let him/her talk quickly after the viewer sees them.
    • Look at whomever is talking.
    • Give interesting information.
    • Glance back at the camera together periodically
    • Both should look at the camera for “throw.”
  • In the action — if docu-style, stay in the action. The viewer is “fly on the wall.”
  • If running monologue, engage the camera.
  • Common mistakes—looking at the camera during the action.  Be aware of where the camera is at all times.
  • Don’t block the camera or ever put your back to it.
  • Never upstage another on-camera person.
  • When talking to the camera, don’t look off-camera (indicating there is action the viewer is not seeing).
  • Don’t lose continuity by:
    • Clothing change
    • Gear change
    • Positioning of people, gear, etc.
    • Random word changes
  • It’s your job as the show host to avoid all these problems—not the cameraman.
  • Intro’s and outro’s — Welcome back = reset (show name, host name and the location again). The further you get into the show you can leave stuff out.
  • Look at your guest when talking to the guest…but you can turn to the camera when you go to a “throw” or “break.”
  • If using a stick mic, don’t cover the face.  Hold it low in front of the chin.
  • Ask the viewer what they want to know.
  • Make the guest look like a star—in the process, you will then look good.
  • Banter is better.
  • Always stay on topic.
  • Interviewing mistakes:
    • Interrupting (when guests take a breath take control back)
    • Looking away from your guest
    • Long questions
    • Excess body movement
    • Asking “yes or no” (close-ended) questions.
  • As the interviewee:
    • Look at the host, not the camera after you are introduced
    • Keep it short—just enough to get your point across
    • Reveal interesting information, keep anecdotes short.
  • In the studio: same rules of camera engagement.
  • Sit up and slightly forward, yet have a relaxed demeanor.
  • Eliminate hand movement.
  • If using the teleprompter, set the font size large enough (to avoid “reading eyes”)
  • On narration:
    • Pacing is important
    • Read slowly but with energy
    • Make it sound like spoken prose
    • Inflect the right tone
    • Be satisfied or re-do it.
  • What to wear: Blues, purples, greens are best.  Avoid bright neon (solid white or black)
  • Keep blaze orange at the legal minimum.
  • Beware of the brim on baseball style caps — creates a shadow.
  • In the close, thank the viewer for watching and invite them back next time.

 ©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.