Posted October 23, 2015 by James Van Roekel 

The Content’s the Thing: Technologists Make Friends with Designers

Many of us technologists are in a position to offer great technology solutions to our clientele. We have spent a considerable amount of money and time in the installation of equipment and the training of our staff and students on said equipment. We have bright projectors, TVs that look like windows, programmable DMX and laser lighting, and audio to compete with Spinal Tap.Technologist helps a student with his project.

However, our clients often still bring PowerPoint slides with animations and too much text, audio playlists with questionable quality and extreme variations in loudness, and 240p videos that pixelate. How often have we heard, “Can’t you make it look/sound better than that?”

This is a legitimate question. After all, your facility is known on campus and in the community at large as having the most up-to-date, bleeding edge capabilities in the area. Technologists should make connections with the designers on campus. These creative professionals are very talented and love to help our clientele look and sound amazing.

In reaching out and perusing these relationships with designers, ensure that helping your clients will not interfere with their current tasks—they are sought often enough. Ask if there is anything your staff can do in preparation for any type of collaboration, and be prepared to do it. Also ask if they have minimum requirements for media that you can pass along to your clients. If not, write one with the designer’s help.

They may have artistic backgrounds that are much better than PowerPoint’s generics. They may have a substantial photo library that your clients can use. They will likely have solid suggestions on how to make the presentations better, so buy them coffee or perhaps even a beer (well, maybe not on campus; check your local policies).

The point is to make a connection that is useful to both parties. This, in turn, helps us with our clients’ events. Do not forget to explain to your clients that designers are a resource that can make suggestions, so don’t assume that they will produce the media unless explicitly offered. It is also helpful to remind your clients to:

  • Provide a script or at least an outline so we can follow the progression of your gig.
  • Please visit with us at least a few days in advance to test what you already have, as this will give you some time to make edits if needed. You do not want to do this the day of or 10 minutes before show time.
  • Have all media finalized prior to arriving to the facility on the day of the event.
  • It’s okay to reuse some media. It isn’t necessary to reinvent everything every time.
  • The fewer playback devices, the easier to switch (depending on capabilities).

Finally, with an encouraging smile, remind them that their gig is going to be great. At the end of all of this, we want to remember that regardless of the technology used, it should be transparent. Your clients’ content is the thing.

James Van Roekel

James Van Roekel is the Director of Student Affairs Technology at Sam Houston State University.

James has more than 18 years of higher education experience as a faculty member and administrator in academic and student affairs. His research, which can be found in 25 publications (including three books), and teaching focus investigates the utilization of free and off-the-shelf hardware and software toward the development of multimedia and digital applications in student learning. His grant writing has brought in more than $725,000 to engage faculty and students in current and emerging technologies. He is a member of EDUCAUSE, Infocomm International, and the Region II Leadership Team. James is a past recipient of SHSU’s Sammy Award and the Vice President's for Student Services Bearkat Spirit Award.

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