This week I had my first experience of the rapid development tool Sparkol (their homepage explains what it is if you don’t know). I collaborated with a colleague in our L&D team to develop the communications to manager’s in our business about a new 2013 objective and what it means.


The Sparkol video was to create a bit of sizzle by doing something different than what people had seen before and to explain the key points briefly and memorably. Sadly I can’t share the finished video with you as it’s corporate branded and specific to the internal communications inside Bupa International [where I worked at the time of this blog post].

These are some of the things I learnt, which I hope helps you out.

What went well

  • I drew on previous video production, IT, web and Flash development experience, as well as previous writing, communications and people experience. The colleague I collaborated with, had complimentary skills around the systems and business we were communicating about and to, as well as good IT skills
  • Sara had used Sparkol and I asked her to spend a few 15 minute blocks with me to give me the basics I hadn’t already worked out and I in turn shared this with my other colleague
  • Collaborating with someone – it meant that we both used our complementary skills and experience and split the work the best way for the limited time available to us. We shared the development of the video and included elements the other wouldn’t have thought of (I probably wouldn’t have had an owl and a cute tortoise exchanging information and would have missed getting the audience to laugh)
  • Using the materials we had developed to create the bullet point key messages to get across in the video
  • Having a fairly good definition of what we wanted the Sparkol video to achieve and knowing the audience it was for
  • Being able to write a conversational voice over script
  • Having some of the kit, such as a microphone, already set up in a ‘media suite’
  • Having a knowledgeable colleague to draw upon when I had questions

What I learnt (or, what didn’t go so well…)

  • We went from “let’s have a play with Sparkol to see what it’s like” to “we need to finish this quickly to show at the board meeting” without stopping in the middle! When I asked Craig Taylor for any tips on writing a script for Sparkol he said “yeah, write it first”. Point taken
  • I didn’t understand the implications of the sequence of choices – trying to record the voice over after the animation had been created meant it was stilted and didn’t sound natural
  • Forgetting the cognitive overload of speaking the same text someone is trying to read on screen. Craig pointed out this research whilst I was in the midst of a technical challenge and so, in addition to the above point, the voice over was abandoned
  • Next time:
    Select between either a voice over scripted piece and time the animation to it, or animated graphics and text with perhaps some overlaid music
  • Technical difficulties! Using Sparkol was a dream, the ensuing technical challenges were what I need to learn from. This was down to two things; being in a corporate network, with lack of software on the right machine and admin privileges to quickly change/fix something; not planning ahead and using the right machines/software in the first place. I’d like to blame the IT department and it sure could be less painful, but if I had done some things better then I wouldn’t be complaining at all


  • Next time:
    Check all the right tools are in place to do the job, drawing on the people that know to check/plan this
  • Remember to stop, look and listen. When Craig reminded me of the research about cognitive overload I kicked myself (not literally, our media suite isn’t big enough, especially with two of us in there). I knew the research, I had preached it in the past, but I hadn’t practised it in the present
  • To share what I’ve learnt with other people, so that I’m not in a situation of “yeah, Bob found that too”

Have fun with Sparkol and I’ve love to see your creations if you can share them!


  1. Hi Jo,

    A great honest, reflective blog post on something that I know has taken up a fair bit of yours and others time in the past week or three!

    I’m glad that you found my advice to be worthwhile albeit it a little late in the day and that the Clark and Meyer research helped to jog your memory around the use of media.

    Overall the honesty that has gone into your post will, I’m sure, help other people to avoid the pitfalls that you’ve encountered along the way.

    Next Challenge: Powtoon!!!

  2. Great piece of support and will certainly help in our quest to provide a piece on IP Addressing with Decimal and Binary understanding. We have been dabbling with the trial version all week and it is looking good but also wanting the added extras you get with the full pro version. If I get sign off and we create the videoscribe I will let you have visual on it. Thanks Jo 🙂

  3. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comments, I’m glad I can support from afar through the ether. I look forward to your workflow being an improvement on mine!

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