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How To Engage An Audience Who Don’t Want To Be Engaged

Barrie McDermid performing a live show.
Barrie performing a live show.

A journey into making young folk pay attention

Today's guest post is by teacher, musician, creator and father/husband, Barrie McDermid, who is the creative force behind, and host of The Punctuation Show.

Don’t we all want to be noticed more?  Aren’t we all looking for an extra ‘like’ on social media? Don’t we all just want to be loved?  

Maybe a bit dramatic…

As a typical business owner, no doubt you want to find an audience and engage them.  Think about the typical classroom teacher: they have a captive audience, who often don’t want to be engaged.  As someone who loves a challenge (or maybe as a bit of an idiot), I started a business that has both of those challenges.

After a few years in various sales jobs, I retrained as an English teacher and absolutely loved the job.  Working with young people is a privilege, because young people have so much energy and honesty.  The honesty does not always go in your favour.

For a number of reasons, after a moderately successful career in teaching, I decided to go it alone with a concept that combined my love of teaching with a love of performing and I created The Punctuation Show.

The concept centred around my findings that people are more engaged if they’re having fun.   This doesn’t just apply to children either as I have noticed from my work as a musician/performer.

So the next question is what makes people laugh? 

The answer to this will depend on the demographic of your audience.  As a teacher/educator, my target audience tends to be age 7-13.  They like listening to songs (which is handy as I’m a musician), they like jokes and cartoons.

I’m an English teacher, so writing a few puns and jokes is easy enough, but making cartoons - that’s really time consuming.  In order to get the show off the ground, I tried placing some flat images over the audio file in iMovie.  They were bright and colourful, so it worked to a degree, but I wasn’t totally happy.

Looking for the solution.

I tried an older version of Toon Boom.  It was great - I managed to follow some tutorials and learned some basics about animation and even produced a couple of moving characters, but it took so long.  Anime Studio Pro (now known as MOHO) had the same issue for me.  Some great tools and lots of free tutorials available, but the speed of workflow just wasn’t there.

Previously, I’d had a playaround with Reallusion’s CrazyTalk.  Quite a few people in education were using it to make the heads of famous figures talk and deliver lessons - easy to use and fun, but only worked with heads!  

I then learned that Reallusion had another product in its stable called CrazyTalk Animator (now known as Cartoon Animator).  I got this at version two when it it was going in the direction of vector drawings and Flash.  You could get great results, but I felt the vector look was a bit cliched and probably a bit too ‘corporate explainer’ video for my needs.  That was until I discovered the content store and a couple of artists really caught my eye.

One company called ToonsUnlimited had managed to create an entire Universe, with props, scenes and customisable characters.  They had kind of a ‘South Park’ feel to them, which was perfect for what I wanted to achieve (kids are particularly keen on something they feel they’re not supposed to be watching).  

A still from Barrie's animations
featuring a Garry Pye Character.
The other artist I was particularly keen on was Garry Pye (who I now work with as a voiceover artist).  He had some fantastic scenes and characters reminiscent of the cartoons I used to love as a kid.  

Along with Reallusions own ready made motions, I was able to easily realise the vision I had for the animated sketches I wanted to create.  Due to my work in audio and as a voiceover artist, I was able to get really professional looking results fairly quickly and I had my solution.

The cartoons I’ve created have been seen by live audiences all over the UK and number into the thousands.  Due to Covid-19, I’ve moved my shows onto Facebook Live, where you can watch me talk about punctuation and grammar on a Tuesday morning at 10:15am (BST).

Why not check it out and say hello.

The Punctuation Show Links:

About Barrie McDermid

Barrie McDermid
Barrie McDermid
Barrie is an English teacher, musician, creator and father/husband from the UK.  He is currently running his Punctuation Show on Facebook Live as Covid-19 is preventing him from visiting any schools!




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