Fun With PowToon

Summary: The following article tells of a great (but time-limited) deal for making animated videos.  At the bottom, there is a video demo of the results I got with my first try.


I got a great deal from AppSumo yesterday on the Pro version of PowToon. is an online service that lets you make very quick animated videos. You can use it for explainer-videos, marketing and just plain entertainment. You can publish what you do as a movie or a slide show. PowToon will even put it directly into YouTube, Facebook and/or other media.

And, if you take the PowToon upgrade offer in the already fabulously discounted Pro deal from AppSumo, you’ll be able to use your creations commercially. It usually costs $228 for a year’s subscription to PowToon, but AppSumo is offering it for $49.  And the upgrade offered after you register at PowToon is another $49 for the commercial license.  Apparently the usual cost for the commercial upgrade is over $600.

In addition to the ways you can use it on your website, you could also make entertaining slides for some serious presentations.  After all, one of the most-given pieces of advice to educators and speakers is to add humor or something that is entertaining and engaging to presentations.

These days, it isn’t just content that is king, it’s video content that is king.  And video (or slideshow) content is king for speaking, training and educational professionals as well.

I have no relationship to either or other than being a customer.  If you want to try before committing any money, they have a free version.  But don’t wait too long.  This is only good for a few days.

As a brand-new user of PowToon, I took the opportunity to try it out by making a demo of what can be done in a matter of minutes with their system.  It ain’t polished, but it is my first attempt.  Have a look.


Tools For Motivating Employees. The Power of Handwritten Notes and Cards.

employee recognition header

Summary: This post contains not only an article about the engagement value of handwritten notes in employee recognition, but also a video interview with Chester Elton, author of “The Carrot Principle,” expanding on the subject.  In addition, there are links to sources of message samples and there are two pdf sets of printable note templates you can use to make your own clip-on notes or sticky notes.

Time after time, research shows employees value recognition above money.

There is only so much reward value to money.  Sure, people want to be fairly compensated.  But they’d rather have less money and an appreciative boss.

In fact, many people take jobs or stay with jobs with companies that don’t pay as well as the average, if the bosses and co-workers are friendly, caring, understanding and appreciative.

There are two kinds of employees you need to recognize.

As you might expect, people want recognition for various levels of above-average work — from “this is a particularly good job” through “this is outstanding” to “Wow! I think you just saved the company!”  You can easily see and desire to reward particularly good performance.

But there are plenty of good, steady workers who deliver the work you hired them for.  Their work is consistent and reliable.  It is of the good quality you expect of workers at their levels. It is the work that you need to make the organization operate smoothly.  And they show up on time, work the full day and do what is expected of them.

Usually, you can’t think of any one action or project that is deserving of particular praise.  They don’t do anything especially outstanding.  It’s just that having employees like these is outstanding in and of itself.

Those employees want and deserve recognition as much as the so-called “star performers.”  They are “stars” in their own way.

You need both types of performers.  The first type help your business grow.  The second type make it run.  In fact, most of your best employees have both types of characteristics — they are steady and reliable, yet they also are able to go above and beyond.

So, how do you recognize both kinds of good employee performance and productivity.  And how do you do it so that it is genuine and reflects the value of the performance?

A great way is to send handwritten notes.  Notes that  tell the employee specifically what contribution he or she made.

Most verbal praise lasts as long as the paper it’s not printed on.  Not to mention that few people know how to express themselves fully but succinctly when they are face to face.

A handwritten note may be the highest form of personal recognition.  It implies that you took the time to think about the employee and write it yourself.  You didn’t have your secretary or assistant type and email a standard “good work” message.  It is an original, one-off, completely individual acknowledgement.

Because it is unique to that employee, the employee usually keeps it.  Values it.  Because the employee feels valued.  Noticed.  Appreciated.

You can’t buy the goodwill that comes with that kind of feeling.  It feeds the employee’s self-esteem.  Money and gifts can’t do that.  Personal attention can.

It doesn’t take a long letter.  Something the size of a sticky note can work very well for the more frequent and casual messages.  Sticky notes actually are perfect for sending a quick “thank you” or “good job” right on the documents or objects that you are praising.  Or, if you primarily exchange documents by email, you can print out a document you want to comment on and stick a note to it.  It’s easy to do this so you can do it fairly frequently.

For both kinds of performance I mentioned earlier, you can merely write a few words that say specifically what you appreciated about the employee’s work and sign it.  As a base for your handwritten note, you can use pre-printed note paper, cards and sticky notes that call special attention to your message. (People love them.)

You can also download sample messages to help you compose your own.  Just be sure to point out something in particular about the work of the employee you’re writing to.  Keep in mind that it is a personal message.

Here are some sites where you can copy or download sample messages.

  1. (this site also has printed note paper and cards you can use to write your message on.)

In addition, I’ve made some sticky note style print-ables you can use to write your notes on.  You can download them here:  It is a tw0-page pdf.  You can use one set of four notes for praising special achievements and the other for messages that recognize the value of continuous, everyday good work.


In this video, Chester Elton, author of The Carrot Principle talks about the power of specific recognition and the handwritten note


Source For Free Images That Will Knock Your Socks Off

maldivespavilliononpierI’ve mentioned before as a site to get copyright-free stock photos.  Indeed, there are several sites that have sprung up over the last couple of years that provide excellent photography with either no copyright restriction or with very generous royalty-free licenses.

But today, I want to talk just about  It has become a repository for spectacular landscapes.  That’s not its mission.  It serves up all kinds of subjects.  However, more landscapes appear to be submitted than other kinds of photos.

This is a great opportunity in so many ways.

Think about it this way: look at the photo at the top of this post.  What associations does it bring up for you?

When I first saw it, I thought I could smell the wood of the pier and the salty sea water under it.  I could almost hear a gull cry.  I thought how nice it would be to take a book and a folding chair down to that pavilion at the end of the pier and just sit, read and enjoy the silence, solitude and sea breeze.

Pictures like this are wonderful for inspirational posters.  Or inclusion in inspirational videos (maybe even with the sound of a gull dubbed in.)  They’re great in greeting cards and postcards. They are valuable to use as conceptual art for stimulating ideas for posts and articles of all sorts. They make fine backgrounds for compositing to create illustrations for books and ebooks.

There is no end to their uses.  They are a treasure trove for putting together products quickly.  Or making a point that you can’t fully express with just text.

Their greatest value, however, is in the fact that they make you feel something.  They speak to the emotions of your readers or viewers.

Nature photography — especially landscape– and art actually has been shown in scientific research to quickly and effectively reduce stress and lift spirits.

Because of the emotional connection, folks who read your articles and books may be more engaged and more likely to write comments or reviews.  People who view your nature/landscape themed videos may be more attracted to see more of your channel.  The products you make from photos that are excellent in and of themselves will probably sell better.  Especially if you are good at enhancing them and fitting them to the right products.

As I said, free public domain photos that are so good are a real opportunity.  What are you waiting for?

Take it.  Create something even more wonderful than the photos per se.