Sunday, May 17, 2020, 17:39 | No Comments »

The Covid-19 crisis has meant that many churches, charities and businesses have had to re-think how they operate. In one sense this has opened up a new door of opportunity via live streaming.

Overnight, many people suddenly had to become au fait with various kinds of live streaming technologies and options. Many questions previously unheard of sudeenlty became very pressing! How are we going to get our church service online? Which kind of streaming service do I need? What technology is needed? How can we be creative and authentic without overloading our 'techy' people?!

So let's think of some of the various options to livestream first of all.

Streamyard – this is web-based (rather than an app) and is the best solution for a church who wants things to look professional quickly. It uses its own system for video and audio (all you need is a device with a webcam) and it includes overlays (adding words on top of images), the ability to play back mp4 videos, to add different people on screen. Around $25 a month for the basic version (if paying monthly) – on MacOS you need Chrome and on iOS or iPadOS you have to use Safari.

Ecamm – in many ways, this is my preferred choice and is an app you download. Again if you pay monthly the fee is $25 for the Pro version (highly recommended you use this). The advantage of this is that it is a tool designed for livestreaming and gives lots of options but in a very user-friendly way (like you’d expect good Mac software to be). You can bring people in on Skype calls or Zoom calls, decide who comes in and when. You can set up ‘scenes’ so that you can livestream various things with the click of a button. You can play back words from Pro Presenter (worship software) and use NDI (playing back other sources over a network – e.g. over your internet connection) and plug in separate cameras. A much more professional product than Streamyard but not quite as simple.

OBS Studio – see the ton of information below. Strength are it offers lots of options but is a fairly steep learning curve. One thing to be aware of is that the virtual camera option within OBS is PC-only. For Mac you can use other options such as NDI. A virtual camera allows you to show anything on your computer - it's a bit like having a webcam that shows what's going on inside your computer, not outside of it like a wbcam does! Great thing about OBS is that it's also free!

There are other options - some people use the churchonlineplatform which brings in your livestream so you can chat and have the live stream 'within' your wesbite -

Smaller churches simply choose to use web conferencing software like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams (paid for). These services give you various services but you will get what you pay for. Zoom has a time limit of 40mins for its free service and others will offer paid-for options that may be helpful. Some are simpy uploading videos to YouTube or using Facebook Live.

There are higher-end paid-for streaming options that you may want to investigate if you have more complex needs. These include wirecast, dacast, vMix (PC-only). If you have creative ideas these may help.

Finally you need to think about the technology needed for delivering these services. Your Mac or PC will need to be fairly competent as livestreaming gets quite intensive for your processor and graphics card. If you want to take the 'load' off one computer, you can use more than one computer. Use one to handle the 'live streaming' side of things (for example) and another to do things like words and videos. This is where things like 'NDI' come in. NDI means you could (for example) send words or another webcam over your internet connection from one computer to another, rather than using a cable. Or you will need a video converter that brings one computer's signal into another (HDMI-USB video converter) and these are in short supply.

You will also need a good internet connection, prefereably a very good one (as will any 'guests' that you use). Ideally you will want to be on an ethernet connection and not on WiFi as it's more reliable and faster.

If you're recording anything on your computer, it is always good to disable any kind of sound processing on live streaming software. The sound processing is there to stop feedback (loud squealy noises) but it also means your sound is poorer quality and you sometimes can't have more than one person speaking at a time. To avoid this, you will need to have headphones plugged in to your computer - as will every guest that appears. This stops the high-pitched squealing sound!

If you want to use more than one camera, or eventually have livestreaming from your church building and use more than one camera, then something like the Blackmagic ATEM Mini (or prfereably the Pro version) would also be ideal.

So just a few ideas for live streaming. Any questions please ask!

Monday, January 20, 2020, 13:58 | No Comments »

The design of promotional material is a great asset to any business or charity. When you create flyers and business cards to advertise, you are communicating a message instantly. Before advertising, you need to carefully think about what you are doing, why and what you are saying to any potential customers.

In this blog post we're going to think about how to design a flyer in terms of your content, how its displayed - and the things to avoid!

Imagine the scenario that you are advertising your business with flyers in a neighbourhood where you are looking for new clients. So you create a flyer, maybe using a designer or using an online template via a printing company. What do you need to think about?

1. If you have a logo, this should go somewhere prominent on the flyer so the person reading the flyer immediately knows who you are. This is usually accompanied by text stating your business name. Make sure this is very clear so that it stands out.

2. You should alson consider a 'strapline' - a quick description of what it is that you do. So for example if you are a window cleaning business then your strapline will state what you do, where and the kinds of services. "Professional and friendly window cleaning, gutter cleaning and fascia cleaning services for residential and professional properties in the Devon and Cornwall area."

3. You can then go on to list other services if that helps but keep things short and clear. Remember to fit your content to the size of advert you're producing - so if you're doing one sided business cards, you just your need business or charity name, types of services and your contact details.

4. You may want to add pictures to your flyer. If you do, use ones that show properties you have cleaned, not just ones you've found online. I once traced a business flyer that I was suspicious of and found all the images online within a couple of minutes. So be unique. Don't overwhelm with images but also show enough of the image for people to be able to see it. A 2cm image may not be seen or be clear enough!

5. Add your contact information to the page. I'd also add that mobile numbers are fine, although sometimes adding a proper phone number with a code (or using an equivalent 0800 type number) may suggest you're more 'professional' if that is the image that you want to project. If you have a website, make sure you get a proper 'domain name' - like '' rather than get a free website name with a complex website address that people won't bother to type in!

6. The sizing of information on a flyer - should generally be going from largest to smallest as you look 'down' the flyer. So the top line should generally be the largest size / most visible. The next 'line' on the flyer should be your strapline with, with a slightly smaller size. Then the less important info (e.g. a detailed description of what you do) being a smaller size again. At the bottom of the flyer you can add your contact info in a larger size.

7. Check your spelling! Saying "profesional window cleaner' doesn't look very professional if you don't have a capital "P" and then don't spell the word 'Professional' properly. Check your flyer for spelling and if possible, get someone else to check it for you as a 'second set' of eyes often sees things you've missed.

8. Think about colours. I once had to design a flyer where the client insisted on a pale yellow and some white text. But the white text didn't stand out at all - so I added some shadow to the white text. Choose colours that work well together (google 'colour wheel') and don't mix similar colours when thinking about backgrounds and words. When choosing colours, think about ones that communicate your business - so for a tree and garden services flyer, use natural colours like greens and browns.

9. Think about sizing of your type (your words). What looks amazing on your computer screen doesn't always look amazing in real life. My church does some amazing flyers but regularly doesn't have large enough text. Make text as big as you can - you want people to be able to read what you've written! As a guide, if at all possible use font sizes of 11 or 12 and above - as people get older they often find it harder to read smaller print.

10. Consider the font / typeface you use (types of lettering e.g. Arial, Times etc). One organisation I know often used some 'fonts' (types of text) that weren't very readable, so people couldn't read what was being said simply because the wording wasn't clear due to the poor font. Again, a font communicates something. If you're a cutting edge business, don't use a 'medieval' looking font and if you're a traditional service like engraving, don't use a 'modern' looking font. One final thing to think about here is using capital letters. My advice is to never use CAPITAL LETTERS TO WRITE THINGS except the title of your flyer - as it's very hard to read!

How not to do a flyer...

And how to do a clear, simple and easy flyer...

(Note in this example which isn't real, a free online image has been used - but in reality insert your own!)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019, 13:10 | No Comments »

Social media can be a minefield for any business.

Your first question should be whether you have the resources to create and then maintain an effective social media presence.

Consider the following:

You need a plumber and want to find out more about a specific one you found online. So you decide to visit their social media page to find out more about them, their work and reviews. But when you check out the page, you find their social media page hasn't been updated since they launched it four years ago.

You may decide to find another plumber!

(Remember the same applies to your website!)

To avoid this happening, you need to think carefully about whether you have a social media presence. Are you definitely going to commit to updating it? Not doing so may even cost you customers. If you do, don't over stretch yourself. Use perhaps just one platform or two.

Deciding which platform to use will require you to think about what kind of person you want to appeal to. Facebook is a place for connecting and sharing; Instagram is similar but more image based; LinkedIn is more for professional connections; YouTube is more video based and a good place for 'how to' type videos (for example in your plumbing business). Think about your potential customers and what social media they use.

Now that you have decided which platform you want to use, decide on the kinds of content that will attract customers. Do you want to do a series of 'how to' videos; or perhaps a series of videos showcasing your work. Maybe you want to encourage 'reviews' (which you then engage with in a 'friend' way rather than in a soul-less 'professional way). Maybe you need to post (updated) examples of work you have done (with the permission of customers where appropriate).

Then commit to keeping the pages relevant, updated and engaging. No-one looking for a plumber wants a 20 minute exposition on the way that a toilet valve has been manufactured - they want to see how it fits, how it works and why you may be the person to fit it for them!

The same is true for charities or churches. Keep your content interesting and relevant. And engage with your audience - if they comment, reply to them. If they like your content, ask yourself why and how you can create similar content in the future.

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