Online Video: The “Slight Shift” Difference

I had an editor once request I change a word in my title because, as he explained it, a singular word can either “kill or boost readership” depending on the word, of course.

Now that’s powerful.

Most of us would be in a hurry to shrug off any difference a slight adjustment might make on a bigger outcome. Yet analytics tell us a different story. Research studies prove otherwise as well.

Apparently, one word can make a difference.

Magazine editors know this truth well. The image selected to grace the cover of a magazine can determine whether or not a magazine sells well. Book editors know that a book’s title can make the difference in whether or not the book has the potential to be a bestseller.

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These minor adjustments are all slight shifts and may seem minute, but ultimately . . . they can make a big difference.

Let’s apply this notion to online video. Some of the widespread beliefs about video are: “online video doesn’t have to be high quality”; “just get it done and post it on YouTube”; “don’t sweat the small stuff”; “viewers of online video are used to low quality”; “just turn on the video camera and start talking”; etc.

Yet there’s definitely something missing in this thinking.

As it turns out, little things can make an impact. For example, by directing your eye contact right at the camera lens, you can connect with viewers in a more powerful and compelling way. By smiling when it’s appropriate in your content, you establish rapport with your viewer, increase likability, and may be watched longer because you’re perceived as inviting and friendly. By taking the time to frame your shot and remove potential distracting background items from view, you help to direct focus on the speaker and his/her message.

Have you noticed a pattern?

All of these adjustments are slight shifts. Slight shifts in the way an online presenter on video comes across, slight shifts in on-camera presence, slight shifts that don’t take that long to make . . . yet, which ultimately . . . make a big difference.

 

What are the collective “slight shifts” you can make in your video presentations?

Why You Need to Invite Viewers (of video) To Participate

Last week, we explored the power of fostering a participative community in today’s multimedia-rich age. Today’s consumers, customers, and users now expect to participate in the process of learning, viewing, voting, competing, entertaining, etc.

Period.

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Our technological age has ushered in this desire for end-users to connect and participate with those “inside” the media they consume. Time and space are no longer barriers in our virtual world. Also gone are the days of passive observers. Because the technological capability is available, we expect to be given the opportunity to participate.

So how does this apply to creating online video presentations?

When you present on video, whether you are teaching, selling, informing, or entertaining, you are addressing a virtual audience that wants to be part of the experience. Let’s explore some of the ways you might involve viewers.

  1. Ask Questions in Your Video
    Asking rhetorical questions in your video presentation and pausing briefly to allow viewers to think about their response is one way to involve viewers. Rhetorical questions can be useful on the front-end, as closing punctuation, or even throughout your video.
  2. Invite Posts and Comments
    Requesting viewers communicate what they want to hear, comment on what you’ve discussed, ask questions, and add their own suggestions to your ideas are all ways to solicit comments and engage viewers.
  3. Request Photos from Viewers
    You can also request viewers send images of how they’ve applied what you’ve shared. For example, if you’ve created a video to show customers how to make a gluten-free cake, ask them to send a photo of the cake they made using your instructions or encourage them to post the image on social media.
  4. Encourage Viewers to Create a Video
    In response to what you’ve shared on your video, encourage viewers to create their own videos to demonstrate ideas, showcase what they’ve learned, or ask direct questions.
  5. Notice your Language – Keep it Personal and Informal
    When you are presenting on video, you can include more personal pronouns in your delivery so we are once again reminded that you are really talking to us. Additionally, you can include phrases such as “now you might be thinking, . . .” In this way, you are reaching out to viewers and including what they might be thinking in your video.

Just because we can’t physically see our audience in video, doesn’t mean we can’t involve them, invite them to participate, and of course, connect with them. A virtual audience member for online videos is still a real viewer.  And yes, they want to be part of your video experience. So make sure . . . they receive an invitation.

What are your ideas for including viewers in online video presentations?

Video: The New Literacy

In an address last year, Bill Rankin (Apple’s Director of Learning) said “making videos is a new literacy.” With the explosive growth of video in the last few years and its trajectory for continued growth, video is quickly becoming the dominant communication medium. According to Syndacast,  74% of all Internet traffic by next year will be video.

This notion of being “video literate” is intriquing. Ages ago in the Egyptian culture, only 1% of the population could read or write. These literate scribes were entrusted with writing and reading skills, as well as translations on behalf of their citizenry. Then in various cultures over the ages, literacy began to grow at variable rates. The advent of the printing press and the wider distribution of books also accelerated the spread of literacy. Benjamin Franklin’s idea to create lending institutions for sharing books without fees (our modern day library) also contributed to the cause, as did many other educational variables, and cultural shifts.

Today, we are faced with a need for a new literacy – video literacy. Many professionals have not been trained as videographers, cinematographer, on-camera talent, lighting specialists, and video script writers. Yet in the age of digital media, almost everyone has access to HD video cameras on smart phones and tablets. Publically accessible video platforms such as YouTube and vimeo have made it easy for us to record video ourselves and distribute them with relative ease to a global audience.

However, after watching many of the videos available to global viewers, you may notice some interesting trends. Videos are often handheld creating the “shaky cam” syndrome which is difficult for viewers to watch. Other videos are shot in the dark or backlit, as video requires lots of light. Some video messages ramble on and lose viewers within the first 30 seconds. Other videos showcase very poor audio quality. Some presenters on video aren’t sure where to look, how to move, and reveal their discomfort on-camera, and the list goes on.

So is recording a quality, effective video a new literacy?

Absolutely. As we transition to this age of dominant video communication, there are slight shifts all of us can make to raise the quality and improve our effectiveness. From technical aspects to visual framing, and from message design to on-camera presence, competencies exist that many professionals don’t yet know that they don’t know. By learning how to change a few things in video in order to create a greater impact, we align ourselves to reach our video message goals.

Video literacy begins with learning what those slight shifts are that we need to make. We need to learn and practice how to improve our ability to communicate effectively in this new medium. It is an exciting time for pioneering . . . are you ready?

What’s one thing you’ve noticed recently that video presenters could improve? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.

The Common Mistake Presenters Make On Video

What is the most common mistake video presenters make? After coaching various clients on video presentations, the most common mistake I see is actually quite simple. As is often the case with many mistakes, it’s also one presenters don’t realize they’re making.

The mistake is that people present on video as if they were in a large face-to-face environment.

It’s easy to see why. It’s only natural to take what we know from the real world and map it on to video. However, presenting in person to a live audience uses a very different space, presence, and medium than presenting to a limited camera frame.

For example, when most people present on camera, they often think they can just talk as they normally would in conversation or a speech. Contrary to popular opinion, presenters should not just press record and start talking. Rambling on about your subject area of choice is not the best use of the video medium. So including the usual “interesting” tangents and sub-topic trails in video presentations is the first mistake.

Yes, it’s important to keep your video presentation conversational, but in video, it’s even more important to be succinct. Video presentations need to be short and to the point in order to keep viewers watching. It needs to be conversational, but tighter.

So make your point and move on. We can always replay your video, if needed.

Another example can be seen in video presenters’ body movement. In front of a live audience, speakers are used to being able to move from one side of the room to the other, and this movement can serve as transitions between points. Even moving toward an audience can serve as a point of emphasis.

In video, however, the camera provides the movement. Depending on your content and message, video presenters remain in the same spot, while the camera varies the shot. For example, the camera may show a wide shot initially, then a close-up, and then  a medium shot. The camera also provides movement with camera angles which provides a dynamic flow.

A third example of this common mistake can be seen in hand gestures. The camera frame is much smaller than a face-to-face room, and gestures need to be visible in the camera frame to be seen. If gestures are jerky movements that come into the camera’s view and then exit just as quickly, this can be very distracting to viewers.

Instead, video presenters need to realize that their presentation space is now smaller and rectangular. Your communication space is limited to the confines of the camera lens. Ask your videographer, “how big is my frame?” to best leverage the camera medium and realize where your gestures should be placed to be seen.

So the next time you need to present on video, keep these tips in mind. Make sure you’re not the one making the “common mistake” . . .

What say you?

Video Presentations: The Power of Conversational Delivery

In the last blog, we highlighted the importance of coming across in a personable way when you present on video. Establishing eye contact with viewers through the camera lens is one way to accomplish this.

Another way to connect with viewers and communicate in a personable way is to be conversational.

If someone were to coach your next video presentation and remind you to relax and “talk” as if your viewers were right there with you in your living room, it might seem laughable to you. However, you coach has–in fact–hit upon an ingredient that will make your videos more successful.

If the viewer feels like you are having a conversation with them, that you are talking with them as if it was just the two of you in your living room, their natural communication instincts will engage and they will be more inclined to be attentive.

The real question, however, is how do we achieve that conversational quality?

In our everyday, normal lives we all know how to do this naturally. We share thoughts formed as words, we listen to other’s responses, and we respond to other’s comments. Words are in the moment, spontaneous, informal, and real.

The obvious challenge with video is that the reality of the video is artificial, while the effect needs to be real. Sure, it’s staged and yes, it’s been scripted. However, the real trick is communicating your message in such a way that we retain the freshness of the moment as if that line or sentence is just being thought of at that time.

There are several ways to come across conversationally, and we’ll explore more of these ways in the coming posts. For now, let’s focus on one strategy in particular. To be more conversational, script your message ahead of time. The task of carving out time before your video shoot day to carefully think through what you’ll say, and more importantly, how you say it is vital. In this process of thoughtful preparation, you’ll become more familiar with the content and how to recall it.

After scripting your message and thoughts in a way that feels smooth and genuine, practice out loud several times by initially just reading it. Next, identify the key main points and/or sub-points that must be communicated. To help remind you what to say, you can even post these key points on posters or paper notes right next to your lens or use a teleprompter.

Before you shoot your video, rehearse your script by looking at the camera and choosing the words that you speak at the time that you speak them. Your preparation in writing the script down helps your preparation process, but doesn’t necessarily need to be read verbatim when you record your video. This is one way to ensure that your message will be extemporaneous, and of course, conversational.

Stay tuned for future posts on additional tips you can use to be more conversational on camera.

What say you?

The Personable Factor: On-camera Eye Contact

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When viewers perceive you as “personable” in video presentations, it’s a good thing–a very good thing. In fact, it’s apparently even more important than we thought.

According to a proceedings paper presented at the Learning at Scale Conference (a conference dedicated to promoting scientific exchange of interdisciplinary research), the quality of being “personable” on-camera is even more important than technical quality. This tells us that the messenger is key to delivering the message, because a personable speaker engages an audience.

We all know what it means to be personable. You’ve likely met many personable people in your lifetime. We recognize these individuals as immediately likable, socially and interpersonally adept, friendly, a good listener, someone who connects well with others, gives us their full attention, and the list goes on.

So if this element is so important for video presentations, how do we best achieve it?

One characteristic of being personable on video is the ability to establish great eye contact. I know what you’re thinking. How do we create a sense of connection and eye contact with an invisible audience?

The single best way to establish eye contact with your viewers is to always look directly at the camera lens. When you look directly at the lens, we feel as if you are talking right to us. This is a key ingredient to being personable.

I realize the cold, camera lens is not exactly the most comfortable or preferred spot to focus your eyes, but you need to place yourself in the shoes of the viewer. The viewer wants to feel connected to you, to feel like you’re looking at them and talking right to them. When viewers feel connected, they engage with your message.

To help you overcome the awkwardness of looking at a sterile lens, imagine a friend or someone you know standing right in front of the camera lens. This will help to remind you that you are ultimately talking to real people–just across time and space. Viewers are still there on the other side of the media, reacting and listening to you.

So the next time you’re speaking on video, and you feel the urge to look away, look down, or hide under a bed . . . just remember that looking at the camera lens will help you connect with your audience, and ultimately, make you (and your message) more effective!

Stay tuned for future posts as we explore additional ways to be personable on video . . .

What say you?

Speaking on Video: Outlines or Teleprompter?

When you speak on video, the challenge is always remembering what you want to say in order to deliver your message effectively. That is not easily done. You may experience camera anxiety, you may be nervous and forgetful about your content, and you may default into “reading” mode.

The bottom line is that regardless of your on-camera experience or familiarity with the topic, you’ll want to always prepare what you will say ahead of time. Dedicate preparation time to think through your comments beforehand, as individuals who believe they can “wing it” often end up consuming precious studio time, not to mention, wasting the time of video crew, post-production staff, and yourself. Time after all, is money.

Once you’ve carved out time to think through your message for video, clients usually ask whether they should speak from an outline or deliver from a script. There are some people who can successfully read from a script via teleprompter because they are able to read without sounding like they’re “reading.” If this is you, you are one of the lucky ones.

For those who can successfully read conversationally from a teleprompter, they sound as if they are speaking extemporaneously, even though they’re reading full sentences scrolling in front of them. This creates a genuine tone, believability, and a realism that is engaging to viewers pulled in by the authenticity of the message.

The key to sounding like you’re not reading is in the script writing. Script in such a way that your words, phrasing, and sentences are constructed the way you would normally speak. To help you achieve this effect, read your script out loud and edit appropriately.

For individuals who tend to sound like they’re “reading,” speaking from an outline is a better alternative. Outline your central idea and then supporting sub-points to develop your central idea. Place your outline as close as possible to the lens, so that you can be reminded of what to say. This way, you know where you’re headed, but your spoken words will be what comes to you at the time. This extemporaneous kind of speaking will help you come across more naturally, and engage and maintain your viewers’ attention more effectively.

What questions do you have about speaking from outlines or a teleprompter?

Presenting on Video: More Rx Vocal Tips

Using your voice is such an integral part of video presentations that it deserves more attention than you’d think. This post is devoted to exploring additional tips and tricks to ensure your voice is up to par, so you can sound great for your viewers.

Keeping hydrated is one of the key tips to ensuring your voice doesn’t crack during “takes,” or cause you to make vocal mistakes that lengthen your shoot with more “takes” than you wanted. The all-time best way to keep your vocal cords hydrated is by drinking water. Room temperature water is best, as chilled water can constrict your throat. Stay away from caffeinated drinks too, and of course, alcoholic beverages, as they can really dry out your vocal cords.

Contant clearing of your throat is also rough on your throat and can stress vocal chords. If you find that you’re someone who habitually clears your throat, try light swallowing instead when you feel that urge. Soft humming is also a way to get past the throat tickle, but helps you remove the urge in a healthier way. Humming is also a great way to warm-up your voice and keep your cords working for you, not against you.

The wonderful thing about video is that you don’t need to shout or project a theatre voice for the camera. Thankfully, your microphone does all the amplification for you. Of course, you’ll still need breath support from your diaphragm in your lower abdomen to have a resonant voice, but you won’t have to strain your voice by pushing your own volume.

Sometimes speakers’ voices on video have a static to them or noisy ambience, this can sometimes be attributed to what happens when the video is compressed. Be careful when you reduce your video’s file size and bandwidth, so that it doesn’t compress your audio in a way that makes the speaker’s voice filled with static or tinny sounding.

Finally, remember that a credible, confident, and solid voice comes from good posture. Surprising, I know . . . but true. Slouching can constrict your voice and your breath support, neither of which is helpful to a video presenter on-camera.

Applying these few simple tips can ensure that your voice is ready to go . . . the next time you present on video.

What voice tips have you used successfully?

What to Wear on Video

Working with online video, the question I get asked most often is, “What should I wear on video?”

That is a great question.

There are several simple things you can do to make sure you look good on-camera, and to ensure your message is communicated without visual distraction. First, you want to wear colors that will “pop” on camera. What this means is that brighter, solid colors come across better on camera, as everything on-screen is more washed out than in real life. Bright, solid colors like blue, burgundy, purple, and reds, for example, work best.

If you’re not using a chroma-key screen or “green screen” backdrop, you can also wear green. If you are presenting in front of a green screen and wearing green, however; you can disappear along with the backdrop in post-production when the special effects to remove the background behind you is replaced with another image.

You also want to steer away from wearing lots of black and white. Using black and white as accent colors in smaller sections of your clothing is workable. Otherwise, wearing mostly black can easily be absorbed by darker backgrounds or furniture, and white clothing reflects light toward the camera.

That said, the general principle of not allowing your clothes to draw attention to themselves still applies. Avoid logos and loud, obvious patterns–wearing only very limited patterns. Watch out for vertical stripes, polka dots or bold plaid, for example. Save those for off-camera fun! Another item to keep an eye on is big, shiny jewelry that may be visually distracting to viewers. I once advised a client during a shoot to remove her watch because as she gestured on-camera, it was so fancy and large that it called our attention away from what she was saying.

Gold necklaces and other sparkle jewelry can also create glares under the lights and on-camera, so watch the screen monitor to catch these and remove them, or playback your video to try to spot them if you’re shooting by yourself. This will help you catch visual distractions, so you don’t have to come back to the set and re-shoot.

Most people don’t often consider that what they wear on-camera can make a difference, but by thinking through a few simple guidelines, you can significantly improve the likelihood that your viewers are watching what you say . . . and NOT what you’re wearing.

What say you?

Video Presentation Tips: Rx for your Voice

There are a myriad of things which contribute to a presenter’s effectiveness on video. Some of them are overlooked because they seem almost invisible. Yet regardless of how seemingly unimportant they might be, there’s one element that is vitally important.

Your voice.

Your vocal tone, quality, pitch, inflection, resonance, and authority is such an integral part of your video presentation. In fact, your voice carries more influence than you might think. Voices can reveal confidence and credibility, they can grab interest and attention, and they can make messages personable and memorable. This blog will be the first in a short series on using voice in video.

There are several ways to maximize your voice in video. To begin, just as an athlete benefits from a warm up before a race or cardio activity, the voice also benefits from warm-ups. This is because your vocal cords are muscles too. When you first wake up the morning of a video shoot, warm up your voice by humming. This is less harsh on your voice than speaking and a healthy, gradual way to warm up your voice. As you get closer to the video shoot time, you can also sing softly–even if you think you can’t sing–because singing is actually less harsh on your vocal cords than speaking. Speak repetitive vowel sounds to warm up your voice; for example, you can say “Ahh, Ahh, Ahh, or Iii, Iii, Iii, or Eee, Eee, Eee.”

During the video shoot, if you find your mouth is dry, it is best to drink room temperature water. Extreme hot temperatures or very cold drinks can constrict your vocal cords. Additionally, if you are someone whose mouth creates clicks when you speak (some click louder than others), eating some bites of green apples can coat your throat and a little orange or citrus will moisten your mouth. There are also some throat sprays you can use to help minimize the mouth clicking or consonant pops. Recording with a pop filter on your microphone can also help eliminate the popping of consonants.

Lastly, even though your microphone amplifies the audio for you and you don’t have to project your voice like you would in a stage play, you still need proper breath support. Your diaphragm is designed to give you the most breath support by breathing from your abdomen. When you’re laying on your back, your body will naturally breathe this way. So you can observe how much deeper your breath support can be when you speak from there when on-camera.

Tune in for more on how you can maximize your voice in video presentations in future blogs.

What are some voice tips that have worked for you?