Lessons Learned – Vietnam Learning on The Street

Just Say YES

We were walking out of a successful 1-hour meeting with Shaw TV. We were pitching a documentary idea about the charity’s upcoming mission to Vietnam. They loved it! We are in. That’s when Laverne turns to me and asks, “Do you want to come along and be our videographer?” It really is true. If an opportunity presents itself to you, something that you are passionate about, Just Say Yes. Don’t waste a second thinking about it. The dots will connect. It will all come together. And so did my first trip as a volunteer videographer to Vietnam in March 2014. You can read the detailed story here Volunteer Videographer for a Children’s Mission in Vietnam


We land at Saigon airport, after 3 legs of a 23-hour flight. Our taxi pulls up to our downtown hotel around 3 am. But there is still partying outside as if it were Mardi Gras. By the time we each get our room assignments and keys, I turn in around 4 am.

Don’t Bolt

I awake several hours later at 7 am. I hitch up with Laverne, who has been here several times. She is my tour guide and we are going for coffee. It is Sat at 8 am and I am confounded with the rain and shower of motorbikes flooding the street haphazardly without any uniformity as we know in the west. But this is the street we need to cross, to get to the newest and biggest Starbucks ever. She turns to me and gives me my first and BIGGEST piece of advice – “Whatever you do, don’t bolt”. That is, when you are crossing the street, be seen, be predictable, do not zig – do not zag. If you do, You will get hit. Those words lingered in my mind for the remainder of our 3-week mission. I would practice this adage most every time I was on the streets.

My Mission

Our team of 10 would be delivering 2-day workshops to parents and their young children stricken with various degrees of cerebral palsy or CP – a motor nerve disability caused by dead brain areas due to oxygen starvation either before or during birth. Up to 40 mothers at a time would be attending with their CP stricken children and our team would be doing 1-on-1 exercises, teaching the parents how to care for and help their children. By comparison, my task was to capture a video showing how our team worked in rotating 1-on-1 sessions with the parents & children.

Intro at Rehab

As we began each 2-day workshop in a new rehab hospital, we always gave each parent, a microphone so they could introduce themselves and tell us their story and journey, of their child’s cerebral palsy, when they were first diagnosed – delivered the shattering news that their child has this affliction called cerebral palsy. With a translator, each 5-minute story became 10. Several stories brought those parents to tears. Our volunteer translator turned to me and said, “many of these mothers have never been given this opportunity to tell their story – no one has ever  asked them . . . no one has ever cared !” Truly a moment to capture on video.

Watching Everyone

While everyone was watching the person speaking at the front, facing forward, I was always sitting to the side, near the front but always looking back into the audience. I was looking for every facial expression that I could capture in my video. A mother in tears over her dilemma of having a child with cerebral palsy. I looked for the smiling face of a 3-year old stricken with CP, to be able to show everyone watching the video months later at home, that YES, even children with CP have a life like you and me, and can smile, can enjoy the simple things in their daily living.

My Days Long

As a volunteer videographer, my days were long. I would be standing the entire day, with camera in hand, always looking for the ideal vantage point. Sketchers should have been my main sponsor! Our team’s day at the rehab hospital would start with their arrival at 8 am and end at 4 pm. Then we had a 1-hour bus ride back to our hotel. Time to refresh and we agreed to meet around 6 in the hotel lobby, to go out for a group dinner and our debrief of the day. Our team each got to debrief, share their emotional experience. Then we did some walk sightseeing and I would turn in around 10 pm. I never wake to an alarm. So here too I would rise upon first awakening – usually, around 3 or 4 am. Then I would begin my backup of yesterday’s videos. I would review what I took and plan for today’s shoot. Then I would pack my video gear with some plans and meet our team in the hotel breakfast area at 6 am. Our departure was usually 7 am to our next rehab hospital. And of course, I would begin to drink water. I never drank so much water in my life. The hotels we stayed at cleaned your room only once – when you left. When we did, my floor was covered in empty water bottles. I kept this schedule for most of the 23-day mission. Never once did I feel tired. Imagine.

Camera in Face

In order to capture true moments of expression that arrive unannounced and last only secs, I had my camera in hand, on, and facing people. Literally, my camera was in their face. I quickly discovered what an invasion of privacy that is. I discovered a simple sneaky trick I used – just have the camera in full view, in-hand, lens pointing all the time, and eventually everyone gets tired of being on-guard and just accepts me. And they become their natural selves. But I decided to call it a truce when we finished at 4 pm daily. I would put the camera down and away, so everyone on our team could relax – debrief the day’s events and speak openly with full privacy. I was there to capture a story, not smut for a tabloid. With the video camera in hand, I quickly learned and practiced, “Trust is a Must”.

Street Taxi

The taxi peddles bikes are so innovative – aggressive – persistent – just to earn a few of my dollars. They engage in light conversation, with the few correct English words they know, asking, “Where You From?”. Once they hear Western Canada, they say – I meet Paul from Vancouver. They pull out their guest book and show me their customer’s handwritten comments. Then they mention John from Toronto who used their bike taxi 4 months ago and wrote comments. “You know him?”. They make such a simple connection – I am impressed. How could I not give them my business? They watch me as I walk on the street, to see what hotel I am staying at. Sometimes I would circle the block so they do not track me. But occasionally, I slip and let my guard down. They see what hotel I go into. Sure enough, the next morning at 6 am, they are outside my hotel entrance, waiting for me. They start selling to me again.

Customer Service

We ate at many different places in the evenings. And if we really liked a place, we would return. While standing in line, in the middle or end of the line, waiting, we would be noticed and immediately pulled and seated to our liking. Turns out, returning to the same place to eat is the biggest compliment you can give those restaurants. Now that is customer service, worth tipping.

Jaywalking on Last Day

23 days later, it was time to go home. It was 7 am Monday morning and I am in our hotel breakfast area eating. I did something, something perhaps stupid, that still scares me to this day! I was having breakfast in our downtown Saigon hotel where our mission first began 3 weeks ago. In 2 hours we would be boarding our flight back to Canada. I realized that I may never be back in Vietnam. I picked up my video camera, turned it on, and began walking around on the streets surrounding our hotel. Rush hour was still full-on with bikes and cars everywhere. Then I decided to put my first lesson of “Don’t Bolt” to the test, and I began jaywalking. With a video camera running at my side, I would walk directly onto an incoming sea of motorbikes. I would even stop at times, in the middle of the street and force them to go around me. The buses made me a little nervous though and I didn’t challenge them. But my guardian angel was there with me, as why I am able to write about it here today to you.

Everyone Has Story

I learned, witnessed, and lived many life-changing events in that first videography mission to Vietnam. But the single most important learning is that EVERYONE HAS A STORY – It’s up to me as a videographer, to nurture and capture that story in the video – YOUR VIDEO – which turns into Your Marketing Video. I also learned that Video Connects – connects YOU with your potential clients faster than any other medium “ Nothing Brands You Better Than Video “

What’s Your Story

So What is Your Story? Your Story becomes your – Digital Marketing Video – It’s the video that lives on your website and shows your potential clients –  WHAT YOU DO – and HOW YOU DO IT. It’s your MARKETING VIDEO that SELLS your product, DELIVERS your service, or SHARES your message to those that can benefit.

Not sure what to say? I can help write your script. Not sure where to say it? I can choreograph your presentation. Nervous about speaking? Well, I can also coach you through your speech.

I offer the complete package, of whatever coaching you may need – and deliver it in your HD Marketing Video – because “Nothing Brands You Better Than Video“ and “Video-Connects”.

I am Terry and my video marketing business was born in Vietnam in March 2014.



I am a video marketer, videographer, blogger, story teller - always looking for the next story - YOUR story.I coach and write soft skills articles based on my experience to help you become a better speaker, leader, presenter and influencer.I capture and deliver your story in video so you can best connect with your audience.