Monthly Archives: August 2015

Point of View Finder

I have a friend that uses a GoPro camera to capture all kinds of video.  It is compact and easy to operate, which he puts to use for the extreme sport of parenting, mostly.  I read in an airplane magazine that the company’s founder wanted to watch himself surf and show his buddies.  No products existed so he built one and with it, a whole new industry.

As interpreters, our products are built to connect people to places and ideas.  One powerful technique is using point of view.  That is also GoPro’s approach.  For us, and them, the impact of technology is important.  GoPro’s success is aligned with the social media movement and, I think, a general desire in our culture to generate excitement from a grass roots level.  Granted, not every Facebook post, tweet, Pinterest thingy, rookie mountain biker video, or Instagram photo is exhilarating, but that is often the aim.

eagle pov

Eagle eye view.  Video here

I had an idea sitting on my couch the other evening about using a helmet-cam to film something mundane and be that guy that shows up with a helmet and the adrenaline mindset for an otherwise low-key event.  The thought amused me.  Then I started thinking, what if we could use an action camera to help our audience gain a unique perspective of our interpretive site?  Then I remembered I have a blog-post due.

I haven’t had time to try anything yet and don’t own a pocket camcorder, a.k.a. action camera, but maybe you do.  Does anyone use one related to interpretation?   Or does this spark ideas of how you might?  The GoPro founder reportedly strapped one to his chest during the birth of his sons.  Though I am by no means recommending anyone try that, what else could we attempt?

What outside-the-box thinking can we find to help our audiences gain perspective through a unique point of view?  Hollywood directors, extreme athletes, The Rolling Stones, and our military all use GoPro’s.  Like them, we are innovators.  So go ahead, be a daredevil.  Let me know what you come up with and I’ll do the same.

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Beyond Maslow

If you’ve gone through training with NAI you’ve no doubt been exposed to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It is most often portrayed as a pyramid with your most basic needs at the bottom and higher needs at the top.  The basic needs must be met before you can move up the pyramid to the higher needs such as belongingness and self-actualization.  A common example given is that if you have to use the restroom, you can’t focus on a program you’re attending.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a hypothetical construct that allows us to take complex human behavior and see it in a way that we can understand.  I remember the first time I heard about it.  I was a graduate student studying how people use technology and I had one of those genuine “A-ha” moments.  It’s not perfect and like any model trying to describe human behavior, it can generalize too much.

But the Hierarchy of Needs is a useful tool.  With that said, it is typically limited in how it’s applied.  If we just focus on the basic needs, we treat our visitors no differently than we would cattle.  Of course, our visitors are not cattle. So what do I mean?

Here’s an example.  My family and I recently visited Europe.  One of our tour stops was Paris, France. (Not to be confused with Paris, Tennessee.)  We were on a tour bus that made several stops around town.  The local guide knew her material and pointed out restrooms and places for refreshment.  However, on two occasions, people were left behind.  She did point out the meeting place and time.  Those individuals were responsible for their own actions.  BUT, I did not get a sense that it bothered her in the least that folks missed the bus.  Once she stated, without much emotion, “I hope they can get a taxi.”

While it sometimes feels like we’re herding cattle, we’re not.  We’re dealing with people, human beings with human needs and emotions. Yes, some of our visitors are difficult to deal with. But it’s all part of our job, a job that changes lives. Beyond pointing out the restrooms and water fountains, we choose to care for the whole person. We take the time to make a human connection. Why? Because that’s our job. And it’s worth doing well.

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Show Me The Money

As I sit working on the NAI regional budget for 2016, the famous line from Jerry McGuire, “Show me the money!” is reverberating in my mind. Many of you probably haven’t thought much of our region’s finances unless you have been on a planning committee for a regional workshop or are on the board. I would like to share some of the ways I can show you the money in our region.

For interpreters, regional workshops are a great opportunity for networking with other interpreters and to learn new skills that you can take back to your workplace. For the region, it is our biggest expenditure for the year. When you pay a registration fee, it covers everything from food, rental costs and supplies needed to put on a successful workshop. It is the goal of the planning committee to cover all costs and keep costs low for attendees. At the same time, it should build revenue for the region that can help cover costs that don’t have a source of revenue.perky

Scholarships offer members a way to participate in workshops that they may not be able to afford. Scholarship awards typically cover registration, lodging accommodations and money for travel. Our region sent five people to the regional workshop in Puerto Rico that otherwise may not have been able to attend. Where does the money come from that supports these scholarships? You! When you bid on that auction item, you can think of it as a way to support NAI members to attend next year’s workshop. So bid big and bid often! The more money we bring in, the more scholarship opportunities we can offer in our region.

The Sunny Southeast is a large area and the regional workshop isn’t always a central location for everyone in the region. To give our members more opportunities to get together, state coordinators are tasked to organize at least one state meeting a year. What you may not know is that the region builds in a little dinero to our budget for state meetings. Coordinators can request up to $100 to cover costs of food, rental space or anything else used in the meeting. If you haven’t had a state gathering, contact your state representative and ask when they are going to organize the next meeting and remind them they can request this money.

There are costs associated with creating and providing opportunities for our members but it is our members that help raise the money it takes to support our region’s goals. If Rod Tidwell was treasurer he would ask, “That’s what I’m gonna do for you, what are you going to do for me? SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!”

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The Story is the Thing

I’ve been involved with telling and listening to stories my whole life. I came from a rich background of stories. At an early age, my mother took me to Selma, Alabama. You’ve heard of it—been in the news a lot these days. But we went for an annual event, just getting started when I was growing up, called the Tale-tellin’ Festival. It still exists. Storytellers, interpreters if I dare, gather from all around the United States to tell stories. Ghost stories, of course—the event is held in October. But stories of all sorts are told—stories of time and of place. True stories; fiction; and, of course, the stories that fall between.

I fell in love with stories long before that first festival. My mother could tell a wonderful story, all circular in logic and difficult to follow as a child, sometimes. But wonderful stories about her time growing up during the Great Depression, of eating chicken only on Sundays when the preacher came around, of light and happy moments and rolling marbles in the dirt and of darker times when trouble stood just beyond the door. The things that tied it all together? The place and the storyteller.

Just what makes a story powerful? The telling of it. And that’s just what interpreters do. They tell the story of a place, of a thing, of a time.

But back to my story about my mother’s stories. The story itself matters. Who is telling it and their skill at telling it matters. And, that last elusive piece, the most important part many times, that bit that connects us all and really makes an interpreter so powerful is the connection felt with who is telling the story.

Do we trust them? Do we feel that they have first hand knowledge? Do they care? Are they passionate? All these things flow through you, the storyteller, into the story you tell. Whether you tell the story standing in front of a crowd, by producing a fancy multi-media interactive app or create a simple tri-fold brochure, it is your passion that makes the connection.

The passion you have for telling the story, of living and breathing the place or the person the story is about is what pulls the story together and makes it magic. And that’s exhausting. But, if you do the sort of job that my mother did, what you are providing is really timeless. Make your stories count—and make them live on for generations to come.

This isn’t so much written to give anyone a lesson or to really teach anyone anything. Take it for what it is, an unabashed surge of joy about interpreters and the work that they do. Stories really are the thing—and the storytellers bring them to life.

Want to preserve your stories, the stories of your loved ones or, really anyone’s stories? Check out an app by the folks at NPR’s Story Corps.



About Joe: Joe Watts is a passionate proponent of nature tourism in Alabama. He regularly works with the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development on several tourism-related projects and just finished redesigning a website for his brother-in-law’s pet project that has cataloged 500 historic and nature-based sites in southwest Alabama ( He became a Certified Interpretive Guide in 2013. He fondly remembers those hot summer days of childhood when he could forget about the sweltering heat, even for a moment, by reading “The Call of the Wild.”

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