Have you claimed your local business address on Google+?

This is a puzzling stat and there are many more if you search #OnTheMap on Google. I don’t really understand why more businesses aren’t all over this easy and free way to promote their businesses. According to Google’s research (which I’m going to bet is pretty robust given the petabytes of data on virtually everything digital in the world today) customers are also 38% more likely to visit businesses with complete listings. Here’s that stat again in a more snackable/Pinnable/Instagrammable/Tweetable/LinkedInable format:

Google is really pushing this initiative and offers oodles of free advice and tools on how to list your business and easily add content to your business Google+ page like photos, blog posts, panoramic tours, etc. Here’s a link:

By updating your business info on Google Search and #OnTheMap, you make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking ––> you! Use this tool to make sure your Google listing is complete: http://goo.gl/vW52mC

I work as a freelance photographer, out of my home. Notwithstanding, I’ve created my Google+ Business Page (listed here as JulianHaberPhotographyMontreal) and so far am seeing a few nice things happen online that are favourable towards my business.

  • I’m popping up at or near the top of the first page of Google search results on phrases clients would use to find me
  • My posts feature a little picture of me next to them and show up as independent results (maybe this is just an ego-stroke, but it’s kind of cool seeing your posts accompanied by your headshot)
  • I’m finding more and more interesting ways to leverage Google+ to create an interconnected web of links referring back to my main blog (this one right here) and my portfolio site at Julian Haber Photography
  • I now have a convenient way to gather reviews – the new currency of the digital world – without relying on Yelp’s sometimes inordinately choosy algorithm that seems to arbitrarily quarantine reviews it deems “not recommended” primarily because their authors have little or no previous activity on Yelp

For these reasons alone I will continue to explore, experiment and develop my digital real estate with Google, but if I also had a physical, real-world, public facing business I would be even more heavily invested than I already am. The virtual tours alone are worth the time it takes to build up your business page (think Streetview but INSIDE your business). Here’s an example of a 360 panoramic tour of the inside of a place I’ve seen the inside fairly often: Brutopia pub in Montreal:  How cool is that really?  Almost as good as having a pint at the bar itself=)

So, if you are one of the 63% of business in Canada who still hasn’t claimed your local business address on Google+, what are waiting for?  Click here and get started.

How to get found online

Wherever your canvas, you need to find a way to stand out

Wherever your canvas, you need to find a way to stand out

Whether you are a small business owner, brand manager, entrepreneur or artist, you face a common challenge: how to get noticed online. How do you connect with the people you ultimately hope will become your clients (and pay you in money/love/attention) if they don’t know who you are? It’s a huge challenge but as a photographer who works a lot with businesses trying to do just that, I’ll try to share what I’ve learned in this (and future posts) on the theme of helping your business stand out and be found.

To begin, let’s understand that there are three main ways your business can be found online: paid media, owned media and earned media. In the following brief post I’ll explain what each term means, ending with a call to action to create great content.

Continue reading

Yes, people judge you based on how your profile pic looks

Professional headshot

It’s not fair. It’s not even nice, but it seems that people really do make decisions about who you are based on their gut reactions to how you look in your profile picture. As a headshot photographer, I’ve always thought that it was my job to make people feel good and look good when I take their picture (it’s hard to have the latter without the former anyway), but I never gave much thought to why. Then I read this article, “Modeling first impressions from highly variable facial images” – or more accurately, stumbled across it while exploring Pinterest pages on headshots and realized that my work can have a tangible and direct impact on whether someone gets a job, finds a match on a dating site, or gets Friended, Retweeted or LinkedIn. It’s kind of sad, but the truth is, appearances really do matter so you might as well just accept it and try to get the best – and most appropriate – profile photo you can. What works on Facebook (and no, it’s not a good idea to use a photo of your kid as your profile picture there either) doesn’t work on LinkedIn and vice-versa. I’ve written about this before in my post on how to prepare for a photoshoot, and in my post on how your online photo is your avatar, but here are a few thoughts and tips to keep in mind when you realize that it’s time to take your online image as seriously as you do your real world one and update your set of profile photos:

  1. Your online photo is a marketing tool. Perhaps the most important one you’ve got as a shockingly high number of people may not even bother to scroll past your photo if they don’t like what they see.
  2. You can optimize the way you look online. While excessive and heavy-handed use of Photoshop doesn’t really look good (plastic fantastic may work for Barbie but is not recommended for your portrait), that doesn’t mean you can’t have your photo professionally taken, with flattering lighting and lightly retouched to take away distracting elements that take away from your natural good looks.
  3. Choose wisely. Before uploading any photo of yourself, whether it’s for a profile or not, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable with this being on the front page of the New York Times. If not, don’t do it.
  4. Be appropriate: Different online identities call for different looks. While it’s all “you” in the aggregate, a picture you put on Facebook for your friends and family is not necessarily (probably isn’t) appropriate for LinkedIn. Your image should reflect your personal brand in a professional setting, and your personality on more social networks. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but a cropped photo of you from your vacation in Italy is not a good image to lead in with at the head of your LinkedIn profile page.
  5. Don’t do it yourself: while I am a fan of the Maker Movement and respect entrepreneurs and DIYers in general, a good photograph of yourself is harder to get than it looks. I’ve been a professional photographer for over a decade and I wouldn’t take my own photo. In fact, I probably take the worst selfies on the planet. Whether you hire a pro (recommended, of course) or get a friend who knows what they are doing, try to get the best quality image you can get. If you think of your headshot like an online ad for yourself, the cost of paying a professional to take it is negligible compared to the amount of space and views it will garner as you push it out through your various online personae.

As cutting as it sounds, we are quick to judge people on how they look and long to remember our facile first impressions. Make yours count.

Essential shotlist for conference & tradeshow photography

One of the most important things to keep in mind when hiring a shooter to provide conference or trade show photography is to think about the value the photos create and how you will get the best use out of the images.

There are multiple audiences for good conference and trade show coverage. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Past and present attendees
  • Prospective and future attendees
  • Speakers & presenters
  • Corporate communications teams
  • Marketing and sales teams
  • Event planners and event management companies
  • Experiential marketers
  • Venue owners

What is the value of these types of images?
Depending on who the end client/user/viewer of the images is intended for, the value can be:

  • Showcase a successful event – large filled rooms, happy smiling people looking engaged, looking like they are having a good time, connecting with each other, doing business
  • Highlight successful positioning of branded signage and collateral
  • Highlight the breadth and scope of an event to attract future attendees
  • Show off quality of speakers and content
  • Boost employee morale and drive engagement
  • Sell tickets / drive attendance rates for future events
  • Builds content for your social media channels and web properties

So which types of shots are the most useful and critical to get right?

le Windsor room set up

le Windsor room set up

1. Set-up and room décor
Ideally rooms should be shot from multiple angles, but preferably with a wide enough lens to capture the breadth and feel of the space. The best time to capture the room set up is just before it will be opened up to the public, when the lighting is set up and the room is like a present waiting to be opened up.

2. People networking
This is an easy one to get done but requires attention and fast reflexes. You must anticipate handshakes, smiles and friendly greetings and capture the exchanges without interfering. Every conference has built in networking sessions even if they don’t call them that. More festive social events will also leverage the socially enlivening effects of alcohol. Depending on the industry, the drinks and bars themselves will have branded sponsors. Embedding into this environment requires a special blend of sociability and detachment so you know when to step back and capture images of people as they begin to loosen up.

We mix business with pleasure

We mix business with pleasure

Size matters

Size matters

3. Speakers on stage – front and side views
Getting good images of people on stage is trickier than it looks as the stage lighting can often cast unwanted colours or distortions on your subject. As well, not all speakers are to the podium born and some spend more than ninety percent of the time looking down at their notes. The best shots will come from both telephoto and shorter lenses, shot from the front of house and close to the sides. I usually aim to capture a few images of speakers with fun or illustrative slides behind them if they are in the midst of a slide show, but also make sure to get a few clean and clear ones just them, eyes open, faces smiling and mouths preferably not mid-word. It can be a bit of trial and error but the end goal is really just to get a handful of great shots of each speaker.

4. Views of room from speakers p.o.v
This is really a hybrid categories as it touches on both speakers and rooms, but it is worth having a few of these shots usually angled from the side or sometimes above the speaker, showing both the speaker on stage and the audience to whom he or she is speaking. This is a fun photo for the speaker themselves to have later one and helps promote a sense of attending an interesting, worthwhile event.

Life's a stage

Life’s a stage

5. Big and wide shots of filled rooms
All event planners, conference organizers and companies hosting events want to see their event as a success – and nothing says success better than showing a room full of people. There will be different kinds of such rooms: some will be general sessions with people sitting in their seats, others will show the room in states of transition before or after an event. Sometimes the big room is where an opening night reception is being held. Other times it’s just a general overview shot to show the look and feel of the full space. These images should be taken with big, wide angles, but can also be augmented with candid portraits drawn from the crowd shot on telephoto lenses so the subjects are truly at ease and may not even realize they are in the photos.

I'm paying close attention

I’m paying close attention

6. Engaged audiences in sessions
Diving a little deeper into the idea of showing full rooms, these shots pertain primarily to smaller breakout sessions common at many conferences. Here the rooms are smaller, the speakers usually just standing at a the front of the room, sometimes with but often without podiums, and the aim, as always is to capture images of people paying attention, eyes forward, smiling and asking questions. Depending on the nature of the conference and industry, it may be helpful to have a few shots of people taking notes or texting on their phones, but the majority of images should show people doing what they are supposed to be doing in the room – learning something.

7. People smiling, having fun and making connections
The social side of business confabs is in some industries the most important part of the event. In businesses where making connections and doing deals is important (and when isn’t it) conferences can provide ideal locations for meeting a large number of high quality prospects/partners/future employers. This is the value to the people attending. The value to the people organizing these events is showing that their event is where business gets done and connections are formed. I love these kinds of events and have a lot of fun weaving in and out of the crowd soliciting, eliciting and noticing great photo ops. Selfies, photobombs, generic groupings of twosomes and foursomes (or more) will all happen in here so working with a short and flexible lens is key, but I also carry around a long lens to take sniper type shots of people across the room, trying to avoid detection so that I can capture real emotional exchanges and genuine reactions.



Seeing the forest for the trees

Seeing the forest for the trees

8. Interesting details, close ups of on-site marketing collateral, giveaways, promos
Finally, throughout the conference you’ll want to make sure you have images showing any promotional item provided by a sponsor, as well as just a set of fun, creative, interesting, artistic even, shots of details that emerge as salient to the event. Judgement and skill is required here but over time it becomes clear what these elements are. No-brainers include shots of program covers, branded spaces, signage, banners and products (in the case of trade shows).

9. People interacting with displays/products
This one pertains mainly to trade shows but can be relevant to conferences that host vendors in common areas as well. The main goal here is to showcase the brand, the product or service on offer, and lots of images of people engaging with the display or items. Interaction, engagement and as always, smiling faces are key here. Closeups on pertinent details and any interesting visual elements available should also be captured.

The laser pointers were a hit

The laser pointers were a hit

What good are you doing?

Looking good while doing good
Looking good while doing good

Looking good while doing good

It’s a tough question for any day, let alone a Friday, but I think it is one worth asking yourself regularly.

Many working people struggle to find meaning and relevancy in their lives. Not every company provides a wholesome, satisfying place to spend the majority of your waking hours, and while it may provide sufficient money to compensate you for your time and effort, most people want more from their lives than just to survive it.

I am in the happy and fortunate position of being in attendance at many different kinds of events, working for many, varied companies and organizations. Some of my favourite work is for charitable organizations because the people involved in charities are passionate people. They are committed to something bigger and better than themselves. They are motivated every day to do more. To try a little harder. To raise more money next year than they did in this one. Many have a personal inspiration – someone they love, a child, a wife, a brother – who has suffered through cancer or some kind of health related trauma, through struggles that they alone cannot help with. Some find it in themselves to reach beyond themselves, reaching for help at first, and support, and then becoming part of something that gives help and support back to others.

Last night I was covering a cocktail celebrating the more than 250 event organizers and fundraising groups that raise money every year to support the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. In 2014 they raise $7.5 million dollars which went directly into the purchase of equipment to help the children who need it the most. (You can view the pictures on my website JulianHaberPhotography)

Everyone in the room has a day job, bills to pay and to-do lists to strike through that have nothing to do with their cause. But everyone in that room carried inside of themselves something that gave the event an energy that was palpable.

Marie-Josée Gariépy, President of the Montreal Children's Foundation

Marie-Josée Gariépy, President of the Montreal Children’s Foundation

Presided over by Marie-Josée Gariépy, President of the Montreal Children’s Foundation, the evening was designed to showcase and thank the myriad volunteers whose contributions support the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s many needs.

The head of the Ophthalmology Division, Dr. Robert Koenekoop, highlighted just one of the many projects the funds raised for the MCHF contribute towards. In his research into the causes of childhood blindness he shared results from his work that led directly to restoring the sight of children suffering certain degenerative diseases of the retina – all thanks to the money his research team was given through donations.



Blind eyes

Blind eyes

The highlight of the evening for me was a presentation given by Robert Sears and Carl Mainguy about their organization, Kurling for Kids.

Carl Mainguy & Robert Sears of Kurling for Kids, Yehonatan Naidich (center)

Carl Mainguy & Robert Sears of Kurling for Kids, Yehonatan Naidich (center)

As is often the case, at the heart of this organization is the story of two babies, Robert Sears and Sylvie Sanschagrin’s daughter Jessica who was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) at the age of 2, and Carl Mainguy and Josée Beliveau’s son, Jéremie who contracted meningitis when he was 1 week old. Their initial modest goal of raising $500 in its first year was quickly surpassed when the tally from the end of the night of curling was close to $7,000. The next year, the goal was doubled and surpassed. Last year the organization raised over $350,000 and Jessica, now 20 is healthy and doing well while Jéremie is out of immediate danger and is on the path to recovery. Every year the charity identifies a clear and specific need that the Montreal Children’s Hospital has and then raises the money to help them meet it. The organization has inspired several supporting chapters around Montreal, and expanded its activities from curling to including participation in the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, poker tournaments and other fun events that raise awareness and money for their goals. Some of their takeaway messages for fundraising effectiveness:

  • Have a clear tangible goal
  • Get the word out as much as possible
  • Make the event itself fun
Antoine Natal, Marie Guy, Guylaine Belot, Marie-Josee Gariepy

Antoine Natal, Marie Guy, Guylaine Belot, Marie-Josee Gariepy

Another organization, Pedal for Kids, was celebrated at the event, for their contribution of $450,000 raised in 2014, bringing the total raised by people pedalling for kids to over $10M.

Yehonatan Naidich, spokesperson for Pedal for Kids, is a cancer survivor whose namesake Pedal for Kids team has raised over $56,000 to date. He gave a moving speech bringing home the message that these fundraising activities and contributions have a real, lasting and direct impact on the lives of children.

Yehonatan Naidich, Spokesperson for Pedal for Kids

Yehonatan Naidich, Spokesperson for Pedal for Kids

The best places to work understand that people want to believe that what they are doing is making a positive difference in the lives of others. Humans are social creatures, and have been long before the word took on its current online connotation. We are, quite literally, meant to be together. Wanting to belong to a team/tribe/group does not mean we want to be one of the herd. We are all individuals with our own personal dreams, aspirations and goals in life. But a common thread in happy and successful human lives – the kind of life all of us desire for ourselves and loved ones – is giving to others. Doing something good for others improves the quality of your life and the people you are helping. It is truly a win-win relationship.

What can your brand do to help?

Check out the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation on Facebook here.

Capturing company culture in a corporate portrait

One of the aims (and challenges) of portraiture is to tell a person’s story in just one image. Those that do it well, like Yousef Karsh‘s image of Churchill, are memorable because you see more than a representation of what someone looks like – you see something of who they are.

I was once on a portrait assignment in Old Montreal and asked to capture in a few portraits the main executives of a company with a long and interesting history.

The client, a family operation, has an extensive shipping network and is one of the leading shipping companies in Montreal. The current CEO is following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him. The corporate portrait needed to capture a sense of the current CEO’s personality and show a continuity and link to the company’s important and valuable heritage.

Next in line

Next in line

I set up this shot in the board room, using two soft-boxes and positioning the CEO and VP beside earlier portraits of their father and former CEO. My intention was to give the impression of people who are in charge but know their place in history.

I took the next few portraits with the company’s business in mind. I wanted to include a view of the St. Lawrence Seaway visible down below, while highlighting the person in the portrait. Lighting a subject in front of a window is a bit tricky, but  with the help of an assistant holding up a baffle to block unwanted glare, and a willing subject, we were able to capture an image that highlights both the main subject and allows in elements of the background that I felt were important, if subtle, accents to the portrait itself.

A man with an Empire

A man with an Empire

Taking good corporate portraits often involves thinking not just about the subject and the technical requirements of the shoot, but also about your client’s business. I believe a good corporate portrait shows a subject in the context of the actual business. While in many cases, a client only needs or wants a straight portrait shot against a seamless grey or white background, in those cases where more can be done, a good way of capturing a corporate portrait is to situate the subject within a framework of visual elements that speak to the culture and brand of the company itself.

Celebrate your winners with a photo book

Full length portrait shot on white seamless backdrop of Lloyd Cooper, a top-performer with Cushman & Wakefield

Shine the spotlight on your top employees

Organizations that celebrate the achievements of their top-performing employees are the kinds of companies people like to work for. One of my regular corporate clients in Montreal celebrates their winners with an annual publication of a photo book showcasing their people who really shone and stood out in the past year. A full double page spread is used to highlight this year’s heroes, usually shot against a simple white backdrop to make a group composite image that brings together in one image, employees from offices across Canada.

Why bother with extra recognition? Aren’t employees rewarded enough with pay and or proportionate commissions on their sales?

According to the HR Council, employee recognition is important because:

  • Lets employees know that their work is valued and appreciated
  • Gives employees a sense of ownership and belonging in their place of work
  • Improves morale
  • Enhances loyalty
  • Helps build a supportive work environment
  • Increases employee motivation
  • Improves employee retention

There are many ways to do it and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Giving your employees a brand new profile photo or featuring them in an article on your website is an inexpensive way to share their success and help them boost their own personal brands. A lot of companies talk about how important their people are, but how many really walk the walk?

Have you got hidden gems in your organization that deserve better recognition and some praise? Are you doing enough to make your team feel appreciated? Recognition can be as simple as a friendly hello in the morning but shouldn’t stop there. While money and material things will add to an employee’s short-term happiness, in the long run, people who are truly happy and satisfied with their employers are those who feel recognized, appreciated and that their contributions are a part of the company’s overall success.

If you haven’t done it yet, make 2015 the year you prove to your employees that they really are key to your company’s success. Let them know how proud you are of them, and they’ll show you their appreciation by staying with you.

The marketing genius of letting people photograph your art

My sun and the Chihuly Sun sculpture

My sun and the Chihuly Sun sculpture

Driving home today listening the Home Run on CBC, I was happy to hear the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is going to be the permanent owner of the Chihuly Sun, thanks to a generous donation by Montreal philanthropist, Van Berkom. I was one of the 270,000 visitors to the exhibition last year on a day I played hookey with my daughter. As she is a budding artist I wanted to expose her to seeing beautiful things, and Chihuly’s glass sculptures fit the bill perfectly. I was thrilled as well, that photographing the art was not only allowed, but encouraged. I realized, while doing it, that this was genius marketing – both by the artist and the museum as it gave visitors the chance to not only experience the gorgeous opulence of Chihuly’s work, but gave them something to share with their friends and across their social networks, spreading both the fame of the artist and perhaps contributing to the record-breaking attendance levels the museum experienced.

I’ve worked for artists before, and photographed events and magazine features in the National Art Gallery of Canada, and I’ve always had restrictions on what I could and could not include in my shot, even if the subjects (people) were simply in the museum and the art was a colourful backdrop. I understand there are copyright issues, but at the same time, as an artist, wouldn’t you want your work to be seen as widely as possible, especially if, as in these cases, the works have already been purchased and are hanging on museum walls?

Chihuly, aside from making stunning works of art, completely understands that while not everyone can afford to take home a $6,000 bowl (on the extreme low-end of his offerings), everyone can still take something away from the exhibit with the photos. And these photos not only allow viewers to have a deeper, more intimate connection to his work, but will also serve as ambassadors for his fame and enhance the cachet for those lucky few who can afford to own his works. Everybody wins.

Here are a few of the shots from that day I spent in the sun, with my little girl. Feel free to share;)





Doing good is good for your brand – Jack Hoffman’s story

The story of the Jack Hoffman Star Rookie trading card by The Upper Deck Trading Company

I first heard about Jack Hoffman at an iMedia conference earlier this year, when Chris Carlin, Senior Marketing and Social Media Manager at the Upper Deck Company, a sports trading card company got up on stage and played this video:


Think Different (ly?)

Chris is a big man with a heart as wide as his smile and a knack for cracking clever jokes, sometimes about Canadians. He is also the originator of the Jack Hoffman trading card idea, the first of a series of collectible Star Rookie trading cards featuring children struggling with paediatric brain tumours.

According to the about page on the Team Jack Foundation site, Jack was “no different than any other little boy growing up in the great state of Nebraska–he loves to play sports, ride bike, fish, hunt, and watch Cornhusker football”. No different except that he had a tumour the size of a golf ball on left temporal lobe of his brain at the age of six. When Chris Carlin heard about Jack, he felt moved as a human being first, and secondly a marketer, to do something big and powerful that would help Jack. As Chris put it, I wanted to show that we can “use brands to make the world a better place.”

So, in 2013, Chris convinced his team at Upper Deck to create a “Star Rookie” trading card for Jack Hoffman, who had recently fulfilled a childhood dream of running a touchdown in for Nebraska during their spring game. All proceeds from the sale of this card ($50,000 and counting – go buy one now!) have gone towards defraying some of Jack’s medical bills and funding the Team Jack Foundation for paediatric brain cancer research.

Jack Hoffman Star Rookie Trading Card by the Upper Deck Company

Jack Hoffman Star Rookie Trading Card by the Upper Deck Company

The Jack Hoffman card and later the Star Rookie series has not only been an incredibly positive force in the life of Jack Hoffman, for whom it was intended, but, unsurprisingly has greatly enhanced the reputation of the Upper Deck company, proving that doing good can be good for the brand. While never the intention, the positive associations are well-deserved and unavoidable.

These same positive associations help bring Chris Carling into contact with Denis Murphy, father of Jaclyn Murphy, leading to the development of a new “Heroic Inspirations” trading card for Jaclyn Murphy who is the founder of the Friends of Jaclyn charity and herself the survivor of childhood brain cancer.

Learn more about the Friends of Jaclyn foundation here.

Important links
Visit www.TeamJackFoundation.org to learn about how you can help #pediatricbraincancer kids be kids #Fighting4AVictory
Jack Hoffman Foundation Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TeamJackFoundation

Jack Hoffman Foundation website: http://www.teamjackfoundation.org/

About Jack Hoffman: http://www.teamjackfoundation.org/about-jack-hoffman

It’s Not Impossible to make the world a better place – commit and figure it out

Want to make the world a better place? Read on.

Mick Ebeling, CEO & Founder, Not Imossible

Mick Ebeling, CEO & Founder, Not Impossible

Every now and then, while covering an event I get exposed to someone who is so inspiring I am compelled to share what I’ve learned with as many people as I can. iMedia Summits are intoxicating, both literally and intellectually. As an event photographer I am a fly on the wall on all the workshops, roundtables, keynote sessions and more and I have the wonderful opportunity to listen to smart people describe what is happening on the bleeding edge of digital marketing. That said, the most moving and inspirational experience of the entire summit was witnessing the keynote address by Mick Ebeling from NotImpossibleNow.com. If you haven’t heard of Mick Ebeling and his extraordinary achievements and world changing organization (which, given his exposure across virtually every media platform in existence seems highly unlikely) then open a new tab in your browser and go check him out right now. Here’s the link again. Having just returned from the 2014 iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado (California) I can’t stop talking about Mick Ebeling’s keynote presentation because I believe what he is doing is probably the best example of making the world a better place I have heard of and I want everyone I know to be inspired by him as I was.

Mick’s story (because, as we learned at this event, it is all and always about STORY – without a narrative people just won’t care) was riveting right off the bat. He steps onto stage, tall, a bit lanky, bald and looking like he may well have just climbed out from under your car, or stepped off a longboard covered in stickers and graffiti. This is not just business casual – this is casual casual. But as soon as his story begins you stop seeing Mick and you start hearing such a powerful message you may not even remember what he looks like anymore.

What's your story?

What’s your story?

He begins with an account of how he and a motley gathering of hackers, makers, coders, artists and more than a few geniuses, cobble together an inexpensive solution to the mind numbing torture of an artist trapped in a shut-down body, ravaged by ALS. With all the ice bucket challenges going around ALS is high on people’s awareness radars but it is hard to convey in words just what a devastating and cruel disease it really is. Mick’s story personalized it for us all and made it real in a way no bucket of ice water has done for me at least.

Mick took us on a journey through LA to meet his friend, Tempt, a well known local graffiti artist. About 7 years ago, Tempt was diagnosed with ALS. Flash forward to the recent past and Tempt is trapped in a body that can do little independently but blink. He and his brother communicate using a printed sheet of letters, spelling out each word in order to talk to each other. It is painstaking, slow and so sad to watch. Enter Mick with his mantra – a phrase that should be emblazoned on the porticos of every educational facility in the world: “Commit, then figure it out.” He decides he is going to do something about helping Tempt communicate. And after pulling together his team of like-minded builders, the solution emerges as a cheap pair of glasses with some nifty software and visual recognition systems baked in that allow Tempt to “speak” and draw again freely by blinking. (Check it out here – really, go check it out).

Tempt’s first piece of independent communication in 7 years?

After 7 years, I took a breath

After 7 years, I took a breath

Not a dry eye in the house, and Mick is only halfway through his presentation. I’m bobbing up and down taking so many pictures my camera can’t keep up, I’m so supercharged by him. I’m wondering where does he go from here? How can he possibly top giving back the gift of self-expression to an artist that’s spent the past seven years of his life locked into a body that can’t move? Oh, how about printing prosthetic arms for a 14 year old war victim in Sudan who had his arms blown up? That’s not a typo. Printed. Arms.


Project Daniel

Project Daniel

Project Daniel, as it’s called in honour of the boy whose life Mick forever transformed, is another example of Mick’s commit-and-figure-it-out solutions. Using a 3D printer, an intense humanitarian passion and love for others and I can only think, a true visionary’s ability to see a simple solution to the kind of intractable problem most of us in the world just ignore because we think (convince ourselves) we can’t do anything about it, he restores a boy’s sense of self and actually gives him arms. And then, as if that single act of human goodness were not sufficient unto itself for Mick to be considered a living Buddha, he and his team teach the boy how to teach others to do the same thing. The image he shows at the end of his presentation of Daniel with his friend, each with a new set of arms is enough to stop your heart, make you hold your breath and realize that everything you’ve ever done in your life up until this moment has not been worth a damn.

I could go on and on but I think it’s best you visit NotImpossibleNow.com and discover for yourself what true commitment can achieve and how much better we can make this whole broken world if we refuse to let ourselves off the hook and commit, then figure it out. And none of this would have ever come to my attention were it not for the really great people at iMedia Communications who put Mick out there in front of some of the world’s most forward thinking brands and digital marketers and strategists who gave Mick the standing ovation he deserved. I can hardly imagine how much influence and how much can get done tackling any one of the world’s most serious problems – climate change, war in the Middle East, Ebola, pick your poison – now that the people in that room representing billions of dollars of market cap turn their minds towards taking action, making a commitment and getting it done.

So if you are in the midst of reflecting on your career path, maybe looking for a new job or thinking about what to do with your life, think about what Mick Ebeling is doing and has done and go find your cause that you will commit to. Then go figure out how to do it. (And if you want a chance to see Mick give this powerful presentation check out the upcoming iMedia Breakthrough Summit and get on board)