Thursday, July 09, 2009

Check out Audio Boo for short podcasted audio from your iPhone

I just got back from meeting with Mike Green, an evangelist living outside Tachoma, WA. He and a few other families are involved in planting a new congregation in DuPont, WA ( My family and I actually had the pleasure of attending the very first worship service of this newly formed congregation and it was exciting to be there knowing that the Lord's church is active for maybe the first time in that city. Please pray for this new congregation as they reach out to the community with the Gospel.

The next morning Mike and a fellow worker of his met with me to discuss how they might use technology to reach out into the area. We talked about a number of things, but at one point Mike said he liked the idea of recording very short (2 or 3 minute) audio files that he could then use for evangelism issues. Providentially, as I went about looking at new tools and techniques during the week I discovered Audio Boo. Audio Boo does exactly what Mike was asking me about - you can record very short (3 minute maximum) audio clips and post them to the web. The service is very much like Twitter (a little like Facebook) in that you can "follow" certain peoples "boos" and they can follow yours. The downside of this service is that it is for the iPhone only at this point. (I realize that leaves a great many people out of the loop, but it isn't my product.) You simply download the app to your iPhone and set up your free account online and you are ready to Boo! One of the great feature of this service is that you can have AudioBoo automatically "tweet" your posts on your Twitter account and/or post it to your Facebook profile status for others to hear. You will also be able to subscribe to the podcasted Boos through iTunes on any computer. This is certainly a niche product that may not appeal to everyone, but it seems like the potential is there to deliver your message in a new a interesting form.

We'll have to see if this service really takes off or not, but it certainly fits the need that Mike was talking about. I have recorded my first Boo and you can listen to it here. It should also appear in my Twitter posts (@jmhite) and in my Facebook profile. As you can see you can also embed the player into your website or blog.

NON-IPHONE USERS - AudioBoo does provide a service for those without an iPhone (it is called PhoneBoo), but the catch is you have to call a phone number in the UK to make your recording. Obviously not very practical for those of us in the U.S. You can use Skype to call the number and save some coin, but that does cause another link in the chain to keep up with. One of the advantages of the iPhone app is being able to create your audio anywhere, anytime.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Five Ideas for Using Twitter for Church Communication

I ran across this article online today and thought I would pass it along. I agree with the comment regarding the details we should provide regarding prayer requests, but overall I like the content that he suggests we drive with Twitter.

Here are five great Twitter ideas you can use for your church communication efforts:

  • Celebrations: Every time a person dedicates their life to Jesus, gets married in the church, or does something awesome you can tell the world and you church members about it!
  • Prayer: While you may want to be careful on what details you provide, you can ask your Twitter followers to pray for a specific need or person — or just offer a short daily prayer people can read and feel energized by.
  • Events: You can easily keep your congregation or church members informed of planned gatherings (or even spontaneous get together’s) by sending Twitter updates — or why not use it to invite people to church in a non-threatening way?
  • Sermons or Message: Why not drop a link into your conversation and let people know you have a new sermon or message uploaded so they can listen or watch if they missed it?
  • Community Dialogue: People in your community will probably be on Twitter and you can begin conversations on pressing needs in your town, schools, or other churches. You can discuss social issues to religion to sports…all great things for building trust and building your church “brand”.

link: 5 Great Twitter Ideas for Church Communications :: Church Communications Pro | Church Marketing | Church Web Design

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Better presentations using index cards

Here is a quick idea to help you create better PowerPoint presentation to support your sermons or Bible classes - start with index cards. Too often people start straight into a blank PowerPoint file without a plan. They go point by point through their sermon outline and type in the bullet points and stop occasionally to search Google images for a small rectangular image they can place on the slide. This approach just doesn't work well. The result is often a static "sermon outline" on screen rather than an attempt to communicate their message visually.

But there is hope. Those 3x5 index cards you can buy at any office supply store are roughly the same shape as the slides you project for your presentation. Armed with your sermon outline and a stack of index cards begin to plan how best to visually present your material BEFORE you ever even open PowerPoint on your computer. As you pour through your outline look for elements you want to emphasize visually and go through the process here:

  • Take a blank card and draw (yes, you can!) what words and images you want on the slide. You don't have to be a Van Gogh here, even simple stick figures can say a great deal about what you are trying to visualize for your audience. (The book The Back of a Napkin by Dan Roam is a great example of what can be communicated with simple stick figures and diagrams.) You just want to get a sense of what kind of image you need to search for later - two people shaking hands, a image of the cross, an empty tomb, etc...
  • Be specific. Write the exact words or phrases you want to put on the slide on the index card. If you have to write too small for the words to fit easily they will probably be too small and crowded on your final slide to be effective. If you aren't sure about readability, set the card 8 to 10 feet away and see if you can read it easily. If not, your audience will struggle when it is projected on the walls. Reduce the number of words to as few as possible.
  • Lay the cards out in order and look at the flow from slide to slide. Does it make sense? Is it connected? Are the major sections well defined? At this point you can rearrange and reorder the cards any way you want. Create a stack and flip through them one card at a time to see how the ideas will play out on screen. Note that any changes in order may need to be reflected in your sermon outline as well.
  • Once you are satisfied with the flow, open PowerPoint and lay out your slides one at a time based on what you put on each card. Google search (or visit a stock photo site like iStockphoto) for the images you ALREADY determined you wanted to make your point visually. You know what you are looking for - the problem will be finding it. THIS IS THE KEY! Often times people start looking for images before they really know what they want. They have an abstract idea and begin the search and far too quickly settle for what they find. Determine before you ever go to Google exactly what you want. You may not find it exactly, but you will be much closer to your mark.
This approach will help you be more intentional about the flow of your presentation and the images you choose to put on the screen. It will help keep you focused. Try it - you may be surprised at how much it helps.