Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Free Stock Photos

There are a lot of places that we use and suggest acquiring stock photographs and imagery for presentations. One of them is your own digital camera or scanner. You are your own greatest source for images that YOU want to use, that YOU own. Don't be afraid to take your own photos and use them in your presentation. It adds a lot of authenticity to the production, and really brings a lot of connection to your audience.

Another great source for free stock photos is StockArch. There is a good selection of really nice photography to use as you please. We also use iStock for low-cost photo and video clip options, and a few others found on the web, too. Don't be fooled into thinking that you need to use high-cost stock photos from Getty or other stock photo houses (are there any left that Getty didn't buy up?). There are plenty of other options that won't cost you much at all.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Always Prepare

Though many on our coasts don't believe it, Chicago is booming with start-up technology companies, venture capital and a strong pioneering spirit. For the next seven days, you can see all of these things first hand at TechWeek, a conference that brings it all together.

At the invitation of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, SquarePlanet was asked to moderate a panel discussion on the idea that regardless of the underlying technology, relationships are really the key to success. We jumped at the chance and were very excited as the panelists themselves couldn't have been better.

The panel included Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studios, Ted Novak from Clique Studios, Chris Mickens from Educo Web Design and finally Jon Schickendanz from Imaginary Landscape. Together, we were to tackle the product vs. people debate.

At SqP, we actually practice what we preach, so about a week before the event we all got on a conference call, and even the day of, for well over an hour, we sat together and discussed the topic. Additionally, I spent at least 3 more hours preparing opening and closing remarks, developing individual bio's on each person and a multitude of questions with potential follow-up questions.

You see, we had ONE shot to get this right. All of our chips were on the table, this was an "all in" bet, whether we liked it or not. That's simply the nature of presenting, no second chances. No do-overs.

All of that preparation paid off, as the audience thoroughly enjoyed the 60 minutes we spent together. Further, the CEO and founder of midVentures Geoff Domoracki wrote "I overheard, when your panel ended- from the leaving attendees- that that was the best session they had been to. Your session received a lot of positive feedback and we thank you for helping put it together!"

This is high praise...midVentures started TechWeek, and they are the single biggest contributor of time, talent and money to the whole event! When Geoff speaks, people listen.

So, this is NOT a blog entry to boast. It's a blog entry to remind you to ALWAYS prepare. Our ratio of preparation time to actual on-stage time was about 5-1. Five hours to effectively communicate for one hour. That's not a hard and fast rule, that's just specific to this event. But, the takeaway is clear, to ensure your "all in" bet comes up a winner; prepare, prepare, prepare.

Thanks to Linda Dao at the Chamber, the awesome panelists and all those who came out to see us. CHEERS!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Follow the Frog

Summer in Chicago is truly magnificent. Maybe it's because our weather is so often miserable, maybe it's because I'm getting old and sentimental, regardless, a gorgeous day is a welcome gift. Yesterday we took advantage of a perfect day and for those unfamiliar with Chicago, our beaches and lakefront parks are truly world-class.

A hidden gem along the lakefront is the Caldwell Lily Pool. This exceptional respite, smack dab in the middle of everything moving and grooving, is simply delightful.

Check it out:

As one might expect in a lily pool, take a look into the water and you're likely to see a frog or two. For any botanists out there, don't crucify for getting this wrong—sure, it might be a toad, but to a city boy like me, they're all frogs. I continue...

Let me set the scene: dragonflies are buzzing just over the water, lotus flowers are blooming on the lily pads, birds sing and frogs are bobbing motionless in the water, mouths just creeping into the daytime air. Then, without warning, and with incredible speed and ferocity, the frog leaps into the sky, body fully exposed—above the water, snagging an unsuspecting dragonfly out of thin air, flopping into then under the water to enjoy it's lunch. Amazing.

This is exactly what I witnessed yesterday at the Lilly Pool. Beyond being totally cool, unless of course you're the dragonfly, it served a great lesson. You see, the frog took a risk, leaped from the safety and comfort of it's spot under the water and snagged a prize from thin air.

Presentations are exactly the same. If you're not willing to take a few chances, leap into the unknown, you're never going to make a splash. Don't you want your presentation to be memorable? Don't you want people to notice you and what you did? Don't you want to enjoy the prize for your efforts?

The next time you're preparing a presentation, remember the lily pool and the frog. You can choose to remain hidden, silent and forgettable. On the other hand, you can leap and make a splash everyone remembers. At SquarePlanet, we say "Follow the Frog".

Cliff Clavin Sidebar Moment: Did you know Dragonflies EAT bees and mosquitoes? I love these things! Find more fun facts at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prepare by working BACKWARD.

SquarePlanet is just a few months old, but in a very short time we've done a pretty decent job in getting our name, services and philosophy out into the marketplace. One of the "partnerships" we've established is with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

You can check them out here:

Anyway, one of the great many things the Chamber does is a 60-minute intro meeting of their internal staff with new member organizations. As one would guess, it's a great way to quickly meet new members, see if any synergies exist and begin to help all parties find value in the relationship. Yesterday was our big shot, our chance to wow the Chamber of how awesome we really are and gain tons of new, important work.

As we did out customary prep work, both Doug and I realized we needed to add just a little something extra. See, we actually do what we say! We prepared, well in advance of the presentation. We truly thought through what message do we want to communicate and what do we need to do to fulfill that. We worked BACKWARD. Identify the intention, then do what you need to do to ensure it actually happens.

One of our core strengths is re-freakin-diciulous design. Oh yeah, that's clearly ALL me...that Doug guy has NOTHIN on me. (Right now the lie detector machine is going into overdrive and the dude running it is telling the cop, "yeah, he's tooootally full of crap").

Well, we wanted to really show off this core competence in a memorable, but simple way. So, using some high-definition footage, embedded in Keynote, we made our visuals leap off the screen and dazzle the audience. We'd like to throw a shout-out to the Scott Roberts, aka "Fish" at Edit Creations ( for his mad-skillz and lighting fast help.
Again, we worked BACKWARD. Identify your intention first, then fill in the necessary detail to make it happen.

Now, I can't speak for the Chamber people, but let's just say the meeting went very well and our relationship is off to a great start. Amazing things can happen when you think it through, and then take the time to execute your desires the right way.

Finally, you can wave back at Fish in the picture above OR come visit us and the Edit Creations Team anytime. THANKS!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Picture Superiority? Well....

The internet is full of all kinds of delicious gems. Everything from your's of the world all the way to of truly impressive, useful stuff that makes life easier and better.

Here at SquarePlanet we extol the virtues of words over pictures. We believe that not only is a picture worth a thousand words, it's actually easier for the audience to remember. We love pictures, we love them, collect them and honor them.

Well, combining our love of the internet and the desire of all clients to use more pictures, you can just about imagine some of the search results we get!!! Legal side bar here, not only do we NOT, we also do not condone the inappropriate use of copyright-protected material...don't steal someones intellectual property, got it buddy? Ok, good. Let's continue.

ANYWAY, back to search results. So, for an upcoming presentation we're giving, I type in the term "ugly". After a series of fruitless clicks I end up at

If you've ever been to this site you....know. You 'get it'. You 'feel it'. For those of you who haven't been there, RUN, don't walk, CLICK OVER NOW!!!

Seriously...RIGHT NOW!

This site gets my vote for best useless site of all time. I'm still trying to breathe, my drink of water really did come out my nose, my side hurts from laughing so hard and YES, they are actual, real, user-submitted photos.

Why do I post this here? Because if you, like us at SquarePlanet, believe in the Picture Superiority Effect, be sure to pick photos that should never ever, no matter what, ever be on Pick appropriate images that help communicate your message. Don't choose photos just for the sake of a cool shot or funny picture. Be sure that what you're trying to say is truly represented in the image you display.

Make sense? Good. If not, email Doug, he'll gladly fill you in on all the details.

Now, I'm off to my parents basement to burn all the old picture boxes ensuring I never magically appear on that site. CHEERS!