My Tools

I’m often asked about the hardware and software tools I use, books I read, and the wide variety of work and life hacks I use to run my businesses and my life. While this list doesn’t cover all of my tools, I’ve tried to list the main ones for your review and reference. I hope you find this helpful.

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If you’re a reader of the ECL.com blog, then you know that I often post about tools, apps and hacks that I like and use. After I upload a new post, I will often add the tool to this list. So be aware that it may change. It’s not static.

In the spirit of full transparency, I must admit that I’m not an early adopter when it comes to technology and tools. Nor am I an expert by any means on any of these. I watch and listen to what other business people whom I respect are saying and doing. Then I do a little studying on my own before often following their lead. So far, this approach has worked nicely for me.

Please know that some of the links in this list are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my link.  I’m comfortable doing this because I’ve had positive experiences with these products, and I suspect you will too. I recommend them because they are great products, not solely because of the small commissions I will make if you decide to buy them.  However, I always appreciate it when readers choose to purchase through my links. The affiliate income I earn helps to pay for the site and the content I deliver on it.

Computers/Tablet/Smartphone

Apple: These days I’m a diehard Apple hardware and software user. We switched from PCs to Apple in our home many years ago and I followed that move when I started my business. Everyday I use some combination of my iMac 27” desktop computer, iPad, iPhone 4S, and my older 13″ Macbook. As a carryover of my years of use at John Deere, I do have the Microsoft Office suite loaded on my Mac. While I still find myself regularly using Powerpoint, Word and Excel, I’m currently making the move to Keynote and Pages.

Sony Speaker system: I enjoy spending a lot of my time writing and working on the computer in my office. To make it even more enjoyable, I listen to Pandora through a Sony Companion 20 sound system. It’s a compact, but good sounding system, that let’s me listen to the external speakers or easily switch to headphones.

Website Hosting and Email List Management

BlueHost: I’ve been super happy with Bluehost as the company that hosts this website on their server. They’re a great value, easy to use, have great video tutorials, and their customer service followup after the purchase is first rate. As a result, I heartily recommend BlueHost with no reservations.

Aweber: All my email subscriptions are managed through Aweber. They let you automatically send free reports like mine, send special messages to your mailing list, send blog updates, and much more. I wouldn’t include Aweber here unless I was completely satisfied, and I am. They are my email engine!

Blogging

WordPress: I’ve used WordPress since I started blogging a few years ago. It’s free, easy to use, and easily customizable with the huge number of themes and plugins that are available. Plus, there is a ton of great tutorial information available on the web, both free and fee-based. My sense is that it’s the standard when it comes to professional blogging.

Get Noticed! WordPress theme: After waiting many months for its release, I was lucky enough to snag one of the early release copies of this theme in July, 2013. As a guy who is not a coder and can’t afford the time right now to learn it, I love this theme. For the businesses I’m in and the work I do today, it’s the perfect theme to help me build a platform. It was custom designed by successful author and speaker, Michael Hyatt, and his web developer, Andrew Buckman. It’s beautiful and super easy to use.

Feedly: When Google Reader went away in July 2013, Feedly is the aggregator that I switched to. I like it so far and use it to read the blogs I follow.

Video

Canon EOS Rebel T4i DSLR
Early in 2014, I upgraded to this used camera I bought from my good friend and video expert, Scott Skibell. I waited a long time to make this investment, but I’m glad I finally made the plunge. It’s been a great camera so far. I’ve owned two previous Canon Rebel cameras and had good success with them. I expect the same from this one. Something I did immediately after buying this was to invest $39 in Dave Dugdale’s online training course titled: Canon 650D/T4i Getting Started in Video. Dave’s course saved me hours and hours of trying to learn how to use the camera on my own. Trying to decipher the Canon owner’s manual is not easy…..or fun. 

Kodak Zi8 Video Camera: Does this one surprise you? This is not even close to being a professional video camera, but it’s the camera I used for nearly three years (through the end of 2013). I bought this little gem for about $100 on Amazon in 2010, based on a recommendation from passive income expert, Pat Flynn. The primary reason I chose it was because it had an external microphone jack. The external jack allowed me to match it’s great HD picture with high quality audio from my Sony wireless mic. It’s been a great camera for me.

Sony UWP-V6 Wireless Microphone: Because of the cost involved (it’s fairly high), buying this was a stretch for me, but it’s turned out to be a great decision. I bought it primarily for use when video recording some of my presentations and workshops, but it works great for in-house recording too.

Softbox Lights & Green Screen: Again, on a tip from Pat Flynn, I bought some lights, a green screen and a rack to hang it on. This combination allowed me to start shooting professional looking videos right in our youngest son’s bedroom (lucky for him, he had already moved to college). It is such a kick to shoot a clip one minute, drop it into Camtasia:Mac the next, remove the green background, and then drop in a new backdrop of my choice.

Teleprompter & Teleprompt+ app: Ok, the secret is out. I shoot many of my videos using a teleprompter, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Seriously, the teleprompter allows me to be much more efficient with my video work. I find that I’m able to stay on topic when on screen, and for me it’s a very comfortable way to deliver my messages. Another huge bonus is that for video blog posts, I can post the script as text on the blog for those folks who prefer to read versus watching the video. The teleprompter I use is very basic, but it does the job for me. The Teleprompt+ app scrolls the script on my iPad, which sits in the teleprompter below the angled glass. The end result is that the script scrolls up the glass at a preselected speed. Remember the opening of Star Wars? You get the picture!

Camtasia for Mac: I currently use this software (from TechSmith) for all of my screencasting and video editing needs. I’m totally sold on this program and on its maker, TechSmith. It’s super easy to use, let’s me quickly make professional looking videos and tutorials, and is supported by excellent free online tutorials and by outstanding people at TechSmith. I attended their free “unconference”, Screencast Camp, in August 2013. It was a blast!

Vimeo and YouTube: I use YouTube for embedding and serving up videos that I want to also be “found” on the Internet. When I’m less concerned about maximum exposure, but want great quality, I use Vimeo as my video host. I started a couple of years ago with a free Vimeo account, but currently have a Vimeo Pro account. As my video hosting needs grow, I may move to Wistia. Even if you don’t need their services right now, Wistia regularly produces wonderful free tutorials on using video.

Wacom Bamboo Pen and Tablet – I’m a big fan of using a whiteboard or blackboard effect when doing video tutorials. This is the pen and tablet combination (older model) I use to make drawings on the screen. In effect, it’s a replacement for the mouse.

Skype: Skype is my communication tool of choice for doing both audio and video interviews. Maybe best of all….it’s free!

Ecamm Call Recorder: This is a super simple tool for recording Skype Video Calls on a Mac. This software is what allows me to capture both parties when I do guest interviews. Afterwards, I move the files into Camtasia and do all the finish editing there.

Roland 05 Digital Recorder: I use this now as a higher end replacement for the Olympus recorder listed below.

Images & Photos

iStockPhoto: If you want your posts to get noticed, you need to use photos. They pull people into the content. Yes, you can get free ones at places like Flickr.com, but personally, I can’t afford the time. iStockPhoto is one of the largest online stock photo databases. It is now owned by Getty Images.

Depositphotos: This is a site that a respected friend recently turned me onto. He said it is less expensive than istockphoto, but has great photos, videos, etc. I plan to definitely give it a try.

Photo Pin: This is another site I just learned about from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. John is a well-known and respected small business expert. This site is worth checking out too.

Writing

Scrivener: It was Michael Hyatt who turned me onto this software for writing with his post here. While it has much more power than what I need right now, I’ve already grown to really like it. I expect it to be a great tool for me as I work to advance my writing efforts.

Social Media Management

HootSuite: I like this tool a lot, but have to admit that I’m hardly scratching the surface of what it can do. The one way I do use it right now is to quickly upload new blog posts to all of my social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn).

Speaking 

Toastmasters International: After shaking, and sweating profusely, while I presented in 1979 (as a summer student) to a group of high level managers at John Deere, this is the organization that opened my eyes to the joys and pleasures of public speaking. Toastmasters helped set me on a path that allowed a scared engineering intern to become a confident professional speaker. I highly recommend Toastmasters as a wonderful resource and learning tool, especially if you’re just getting started on your public speaking journey. I doubt you’ll find a more supportive environment for building your speaking skills.

SCORRE Conference: This conference is designed for professional speakers and others who simply want to communicate more professionally. SCORRE is actually an acronym for a method of preparation and delivery that let’s you maximize your impact on the audience. This conference is not inexpensive, but I feel good about the ROI I’ve gotten since attending in the fall of 2011. I use the SCORRE structure regularly with my speaking and my blogging.

Slideology and Resonate: I own and have read many great books on public speaking and presenting (you can find some of them listed on the Learning Store page), but I have to give a special shout out to these two from Nancy Duarte. They are both chock full of valuable insights on their respective topics, but they are also beautifully designed books. Both have had a very positive impact on my presentations and on my speaking career.

Olympus WS-700M Digital Voice Recorder: For years, I’ve used various recording devices to help me become a better speaker. I’ve had this recorder for quite a few years, but I still like it for its ease of use and versatility. If you’re serious about improving your speaking skills, I believe it’s imperative that you record and review your presentations.

Productivity

  • Chrome: This is my browser of choice. I find that it is faster than Safari or Firefox. I just like its simplicity.
  • DropBox: This is the application I use to share files with my family, friends and business associates. What can I say? It’s a no-brainer and super easy to use.
  • Evernote: This is my digital brain on steroids. If I want to access something later, I store it in Evernote. It’s robust search engine let’s me find stuff fast. I strongly urge you to try Evernote today!
  • Evernote Essentials: This is a great e-book intro to Evernote by Brett Kelly. It will save you hours of learning on your own. Highly recommended.
  • Fujitsu S1300i ScanSnap Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Document Scanner: This is how I convert all paper to digital. I simply run it through my scanner and it inserts it into Evernote, complete with tags, etc.
  • Google Calendar: Google Calendar provides all the functionality I need.
  • Gmail: Gmail is my email choice. Like Calendar, it does what I need.
  • Snagit: I use this Techsmith program for all my screen capture needs. It is something I use daily. It has a robust set of effects tools, like borders, drop shadows, reflections, and perspective. It also has an amazing array of annotation tools. Did I mention that it can also do video capture of your screen (i.e., a screencast)? Whoaaaaa, this is one great tool.
  • LiftThe tagline on the website of this app is “Build better habits. Change your life.” Trust me on this one. This app performs. Of course, you have to upload it and use it, but it definitely can help you change habits that you’ve been trying to change for years. I’m 56 years old and have never flossed on a regular, daily basis. Now after a month of using Lift to help me change my end of the day routine, I’m flossing every night. It’s a no brainer. Seriously, this research-based app is helping me change my diet, lose weight and run regularly. No matter what you want to change for the better, Lift can help you do it. Plus, it’s free!