Lessons Learned From “Is That Me?”


Throughout August I’ve been working on a project that’s had me navigating a huge learning curve – one I’ve been procrastinating on for quite some time. I’ve been “uncomfortable” throughout the process and it’s made me think about both my mother-in-law and the many people over the years who’ve attended my training but weren’t able to develop a practice of picking up the phone.

What am I finding so uncomfortable? And why does it make me think of my mother-in-law and past students?

Much of the past month I’ve been focused on creating video lessons. And while I’ve had the amazing support of many people, including Linda Daley of Daley Progress, there have been numerous missteps, way more time and effort than anticipated, and the need to simply relax into learning.

It’s made me think of a situation this past winter with my mother-in-law. She was living with us at the time and had enjoyed a long phone conversation from my office with one of her sons. When she forgot the content of that conversation, knowing it was recorded, I offered to let her listen to it. I set her up at my desk, hit PLAY, and then left the room.

I came back about 10 minutes later. “How’s it going, mom?” I asked. “Are you enjoying listening to the call?”

She gave me a very quizzical look and said, “Who am I listening too?”

It hadn’t occurred to me that she had never listened to a recording of her voice. She was completely confused and as we listened together she kept saying, “Is that me?” Like most of us, she was not impressed with the sound of her own voice. It was such a distraction for her, we had to stop the recording.

Yet, listening to ourselves, or in my case, watching myself, is an essential part of our ability to learn and improve.

While there are many (many) aspects of video creation I still need to learn, continually watching myself was a huge hurdle. It hadn’t occurred to me how much time I was going to spend looking at my own face on camera. This included: a few test videos each session to check on lighting and set-up; a detailed viewing of each completed recording to note where graphics should be inserted; a detailed viewing after the first edit to make any necessary adjustments; and a detailed viewing of the final edit before uploading to a learning platform.

At the start, I kept thinking, “Is that me?” And quite frankly, I was not impressed. Like my mother-in-law listening to her voice, I was drawn only to the imperfections, allowing each one to undermine my confidence and tenacity. I had to learn to get over it. For example:

  • My neck has wrinkles. While this doesn’t please me, I’m 60 and 60-year-old necks have wrinkles.
  • My face can become quite red by midday, especially when it’s warm. This is unavoidable, even with great makeup. My pale-skin Irish heritage has always been front and centre.
  • I often look too serious. This is part of learning to teach to a camera. I’m not (yet) as relaxed as I am in front of a group of people.

There are many more examples. But getting better at this, which I definitely want to do, demands that I keep looking at my own face.

What’s important is pushing through and pushing past. What I know to be true on the phone, I now know is also true about video: it’s the content that counts. For most of us, our self-criticism will always be greater than anyone else’s so we have to put it aside and judge the value of our work. Are we delivering great information? Have we presented it in a way that’s accessible? Are we creating as much engagement as possible? Have we done our best?

When it comes to learning, discomfort is part of the process. When you feel it, lean in, because knowledge and improvement are moments away.





3 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From “Is That Me?””

  1. Thanks for sharing your feelings about this, Mary Jane. I think they’re pretty typical.

    44 years ago this month I discovered that, for me, video role-playing was the most effective form of sales training… to see and hear yourself as others do and then to learn how to improve.

    I spent a week at Kodak’s Marketing Education Center in Henrietta, New York. It had a complete photographic retail store set up in a TV studio. Adjoining the studio was a comfortable tiered theatre-like viewing room with monitors hanging from the ceiling.

    In pairs, about 20 of us learners were given scenarios to role-play in the studio. One of us would be the sales person and the other was the customer. Just before “the customer” entered “the store,” they were cued to role-play a specific situation such as a parent interested in buying a camera as a graduation gift for a child; a realtor wondering if a slide projector could perpetually display all the photos of current listings in their office window, etc. The goal was for the sales person to uncover the customer’s need and then to satisfy it by successfully selling the appropriate solution.

    After each role play, the players would join the rest of the group in the viewing room. The trainer would run the tape (black and white in 1974), stopping and replaying it as needed. He led a discussion not just about tracking if the steps of the sales process had been correctly followed but about nuances in body language, choice of words, phrasing and voice inflections. By the end of the week, the powerful feedback we repeatedly received made us more highly-skilled at selling .

    During the following decades I’ve had mixed results encouraging others to participate in this training approach, even though the technology is now so convenient because you can merely pull out a smartphone anywhere and at anytime and record high quality images and sound. To your point, many are so self-conscious they can’t overcome how they appear and sound to theselves. Therefore they miss this rich opportunity to learn how they might become better communicators.

    Meanwhile, as a learner I’m still at it. Two weeks ago during sales training for myself, I gave my smartphone to an observer to shoot my role plays. In viewing my mock meetings, I realized I was starting most of my questions with, “So…” Without those recordings, I would never have caught and corrected that annoying habit.

    I wonder how other trainers have successfully helped learners who were so stuck looking at themselves in video role-play recordings that they couldn’t move forward to benefit from the training.


    • Wow, Geoff, thanks for this amazing comment. Very generous of you to share so much information. I love this quote, that by avoiding listening and viewing themselves as they work or learn, “They miss this rich opportunity to learn how they might become better communicators.” And all of us, continually, need to become better communicators. You’ve helped everyone tremendously by adding to this post. Great stories too! mj

  2. According to a biography I read, the members of KISS used video in their early days to learn how to PERFORM. They weren’t thinking of the music, or the lyrics, but rather how they SMILE, REACT, and play TO AN AUDIENCE. They apparently used video (when it was expensive, in the 70s) for EVERY rehearsal, and then rewatched it as grouped, critiquing themselves and each other. KISS eventually became known as one of the greatest stage performers in rock.

    You’re absolutely right, that we all have high quality cameras on our phones and we can set it up to record ourselves anytime we wish to then watch ourselves back, to practise a presentation, etc.


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