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An Interview with Joe Gustafson

Joe Gustafson Joe Gustafson, CEO of Brainshark, Inc., founded the company in 1999 to help knowledge experts accelerate the flow of information to their audiences in a highly effective format. He is an experienced leader in the technology-based training industry, and prior to Brainshark, was the founder and CEO of Relational Courseware, Inc. (acquired by Gartner). Under Joe's leadership, Brainshark has become a leader in on-demand business communications and a successful Software-as-a-Service company, with more than 1,000 world-class customers, including a third of the Fortune 100. In this interview, Joe talks about the new myBrainshark site.

Geetesh: Tell us more about Brainshark, and the natural evolution to the new myBrainshark site.

Joe: I founded Brainshark, Inc., in 1999 to create a simpler, faster and more cost-effective way for organizations to deliver information. We’ve worked hard to realize that vision, and today our company is the leader in on-demand presentations – every five seconds a Brainshark presentation is viewed, and we have more than 1,000 customers worldwide using our business solutions.

Our products are easy-to-use and their applications are endless – we frequently see our customers use Brainshark to improve the effectiveness and reduce the costs of sales, marketing, training and HR communications. By replacing and supplementing live communications with our on-demand presentations, our customers also realize huge productivity gains and can pare down travel budgets. Today, communications are getting shorter, faster, richer and more cost-effective – because people are demanding it – and we’re enabling organizations to meet those demands and provide a better experience for the audiences they need to reach.

Unlike companies that have launched free products and Web sites and then tried to figure out the business model, we’ve done the opposite with myBrainshark. Having proven ourselves commercially, we’d now like to reach a larger audience, who can tap into the benefits of Brainshark without any price barriers. With myBrainshark – where users upload PowerPoint decks and other content to create, share and track voice-enriched multimedia presentations for free – we are exposing more people to the uses and effectiveness of online, on-demand presentations. We’re also letting them incorporate audio, interactivity, video and more to communicate in a high-impact way and reach a large audience with their content.

Geetesh: What new opportunities does myBrainshark open to end-users?

Joe: myBrainshark is a “show-and-tell” site for business communicators. Armed with professional content creation tools, you can create and share multimedia content – telling an engaging story to your target audience at no cost. The ability to synchronize your own voice with your presentations really adds context and meaning to your message. It’s not just about sharing files – your message comes to life and stands out.

What’s interesting about myBrainshark, too, is that it can be used on and off the job – to promote yourself or your business, share expertise, produce fundraising communications, publicize an event, create a podcast, narrate a photo slide show and much more. On the site you can see some examples to help you get started.

Once you’ve created and shared content, you can also see – for free – if your presentations are resonating. Tracking tools and charts within myBrainshark let you see when and where your presentations were watched, how much content was consumed, how survey questions were answered and more.

Site users will also see that there are a lot of ways to interact with the content on myBrainshark. For example, you can rate and comment on the presentations you see – and also easily share them through social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Geetesh: How easy is it to get started with myBrainshark? What do I need to be productive?

Joe: To start creating and sharing on-demand presentations, first complete a very brief registration form. Once you’re registered, creating a voice-enriched presentation on myBrainshark is a cinch. Simply upload a file you’d like to add voice to – such as a PowerPoint presentation – to the myBrainshark site. Then pick up the phone to synchronize your voice with the presentation slides. You’ll have the opportunity to add bells and whistles, such as video, survey questions, attachments, music and more.

You can share the presentation by sending others a link to myBrainshark’s site, embedding the presentation in your Web page or blog, or using the social media tie-ins to distribute your content. Also, as I’d mentioned, you can use the tracking tools in myBrainshark to monitor viewing activity. All content on the site is indexed and search engine optimized.

To be most productive, you’ll want to come at this with a vision. Practice your audio beforehand, and if you plan to upload a PowerPoint presentation, write out what you want to say in the slide notes. myBrainshark allows you to see this script as you record your voice. Be clear and concise in your words, and keep it moving! When you’re presenting for an on-demand, online audience, use a faster cadence than you might normally use if you were presenting in person.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your Learning Providers and Affinity Partner programs on myBrainshark.

Joe: That’s a great question – those programs are a great opportunity for subject matter experts to get involved at a whole new level. Through myBrainshark, users who are professional experts on business or training topics can apply online to become Learning Providers. This designation means they can put a price on their content, if they’d like. Site visitors can browse, access, view and/or buy this premium content, which currently covers topics including selling skills, leadership, compliance and more. This learning content is also available and promoted through the Learning Content Network, a service of Training Industry, Inc.

Our Affinity Partner Program is a great way for organizations to get involved and share the benefits of myBrainshark within their own communities – generally business professionals that either have expertise to share or who are looking for content on business topics. Our affinity partners promote myBrainshark as a way to improve business communications, share industry expertise and heighten awareness on timely topics. Some of our current partners include the Bank Insurance & Securities Association (BISA),, Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI) and

Geetesh: How do your Brainshark and myBrainshark sites complement each other – would myBrainshark users be able to upgrade to Brainshark, and why would they do that?

Joe: Although myBrainshark and Brainshark complement each other, there are other differences, beyond the fact that myBrainshark is free to use and Brainshark is sold through a subscription model.

For starters, all the content on myBrainshark is publicly available – and many will see the benefit to having their content available to a worldwide audience. But for those who are looking to create a branded, privacy-enabled communications experience for their business, Brainshark’s paid subscription offerings will be the way to go.

A myBrainshark account is an individual, single-user account. We also offer Brainshark Personal Edition, which is also an individual account, but allows you to create presentations for private use – that is, the presentations you create are not published to a public Web site.

Our solutions for business are designed for multiple users – whether you have five or 50,000 employees. Brainshark is a powerful application that allows you to share content across your organization and manage large numbers of users and the content they create. These are our Standard, Corporate and Unlimited Editions. The tracking and reporting information is much more granular, and report formats are much more extensive and flexible through our enterprise applications. Brainshark enterprise editions also easily integrate with CRM, LMS and other software applications.

So, while we think myBrainshark will be a great way for any business professional to create and share multimedia presentations online, many will also want to take advantage of the enhanced functionality of our other offerings to achieve their business objectives of reaching targeted audiences at a low cost.

Geetesh: Does myBrainshark work with VoIP services such as Skype?

Joe: Our process of recording over the phone requires the ability to use phone prompts – similar to recording your voicemail, and I’m not aware of Skype’s ability to support that. We do recommend calling from a landline – rather than a mobile phone – to ensure the highest quality audio, with no static, background noise or any other distractions. And phone is not the only option – you can upload MP3s recorded with a PC microphone or in a studio. We’re looking forward to showing even more people the benefits of voice-enriched, on-demand presentations, and encourage you to check out the site, create a presentation and send us your feedback!

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