While I have never been known for taking the path of least resistance, little did I know that the launch date for my vlog would occur during a pandemic, making it a path with a whole lot of unanticipated resistance. But when #quarantinelife gives you lemons, you find a way to use it for one of your newly discovered hobbies and soldier on.
For me, this meant a fast and furious pivot. First, a moment of silence to grieve all of my conference interviews that bit the dust in the germ-filled world. Then cue the movie montage music as I rapidly set up an in-house studio and figured out how to film remote interviews.
Fortunately, I was able to tap into my network as I was reconfiguring everything. I firmly believe that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and what they know. This was true yet again for me because I know nothing about setting up a filming studio in my apartment, and the equipment that I owned was far from adequate. That is where my videographer, Scott Rippey of Scott Michael Media, stepped up. Not only does he have mad camera skills, but he set up my amazing film studio and made a checklist that broke down what I needed to do before each interview. The stay home order meant that I would be filming solo. Since the list included really complicated things — like turn off the kitchen light and press the button marked with red tape — it should come as no surprise that I messed it up… the first three times. (Quick shout out to all those behind-the-scenes people who we now appreciate like never before.)
Next, I tapped into my online community, because someone once told me that interviews required interviewees. #wordsofwisdom This was… an excellent challenge for me as I was completely recrafting the content for my vlog. As I mentioned previously, I had planned to continue attending various tech and engineering conferences so my fingers could be on the pulse of the industry. There would have been live interviews, filmed interviews, companion blog articles, and accompanying social media updates. I was planning on even recycling what I was learning to use in my own upcoming conference speaking gigs. To put it humbly, it was going to be a masterful convergence of mediums. However, we do not get the lead in the world as we plan it, but the world as it is — even if everything in that world gets turned on its head. So, goodbye perfect planning and hello busting butt to find interviewees, recalibrate my content, and make it timely.
I was on the prowl like never before. Some blogs got stolen for the sake of a vlog. Friends recommended friends, and I delved into the world of serious social media stalking.
And since I ended up with not one but two TED talk presenters with over 1.5 million views a piece, I think I can say that I struck gold. I had already lined David Burkus up for a blog interview about his new book, Pick a Fight, but with his experience in front of a camera, he was perfectly poised to be fodder for my vlog. My poor little guinea pig really pulled me through the interview and made me look like a pro.
Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of Affectiva, on the other hand wasn’t someone who I knew personally. However, I was of course familiar with her TED talk, and we had previously been scheduled to speak at the same conference (before COVID-19 cancelled life as we knew it). With her newly scheduled virtual book tour for Girl Decoded, she was happy to schedule an interview (Pro blog/vlog tip: it is easier to snag interviewees of a higher caliber if you give them a couple minutes to plug their book or business. Then you can use the rest of the time getting great content on their field of expertise. It’s all about the give and take.)
Create new content
Remember that finger on the pulse of the industry? The fresh content just being spoon fed to me at conferences? Yeah, goodbye. Now I had to find a new way to keep my content fresh, and moments like this are why I do not believe the value of a solid network can be overstated. Many of my blog and vlog ideas come from questions from and conversations with my network. So when a new contact in my network told me about Tomasso Gecchelin, CTO at NEXT Future Transportation, and his inventions that sound like some sort of vehicle in a new sci-fi movie <excuse me while I wipe the drool off my chin>… I knew I had to get in on this story. It took a couple of connections, conversations, and research to get that interview. While it might not be spoon fed, it is so worth the work.
Make it timely
When plans are thrown off by something that affects a lot of us, like… I don’t know… let’s say… a pandemic, it is great to weave that into your work. With that in mind, it was my goal to showcase the insights that each contributor could share as we face COVID-19, and the many ripple effects that have come with it. For example, I knew Carmen Fontana would be an excellent resource as people are adjusting to working remotely. She specializes in Cloud and emerging tech at Centric Consulting, and also took time to break down what it looks like to have adequate cybersecurity right now. That woman is in the know.
And just to wrap it all up, here is the skinny, for all my fellow type-As who need me to boil it down in black and white. During this whirlwind of content creation, I learned the following key take-aways:
- We can’t grow as leaders if we just cave under unpredictability.
- Create opportunities by tapping into your network.
- Tuck your perfect plans away for another day, then straighten-up buttercup, and get to work! Pull up the bootstraps on your OSHA-certified footwear and get moving. If you want to get this done, you’ve got to dare bravely.
So after doing enough pivots to make me dizzy, my vlog was born. This sweet little bundle of joy ended up being a germ-covered hot mess that destroyed my apartment. Even in the midst of so much uncertainty together, so many people breathed life into this initiative — because we don’t cave under our circumstances; we think, adjust, and then begin anyway.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.