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?

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?

So You’ve Been Asked to Speak on Video?

So you’ve been asked to speak on video and post it online . . . now what?

Sometimes knowing where to start is the most difficult part. Not only is there the swelling angst of camera anxiety, the rapidly approaching deadline that shouts “we needed it yesterday,” the overwhelming feeling of where to begin, the technical know-how gap, and of course–if we’re being really honest–a delicate ego and image to preserve after all.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll tackle these obstacles to help you conquer the camera, and create online videos that are both professional and effective.

As a place to begin, some of the best video presentations emerge from a need or a core problem in your current business or situation. Make sure you identify this need so your online video can hit its target. This is why I challenge you to begin by identifying your target audience. Is your target audience internal colleagues? Staff? External customers? Students? Constituents? Clients? For example, if you are a professor teaching an online course, your target audience is the students enrolled in your course. So what is it they need from you?

This next step then determines what your target audience needs. Video is best at leveraging movement, presence, and storytelling. Which of these elements would help you address their needs? Using the online course example, students need to get to know you as their online instructor, to develop a rapport with you–albeit virtually–and to recognize your credibility and content expertise. Therefore, creating an online video to introduce students to you, your background, and course expectations is an example of using video to address a specific need for a specific, target audience.

After determining your audience and their need, your next step is to identify your Central Goal. The Central Goal is the ultimate impact you wish to achieve with your online video, condensed into one sentence. To help you identify it, consider the following questions: What impact do you want to achieve? Do you want customers to buy more “XX more gidgets” after watching the video? Do you want to increase your Twitter following? Do you want to attract more patients? Do you want to increase your clientele by XX%? Boil down the impact in one concise statement.

Concision is of the most difficult parts to writing a Central Idea. Imagine pitching your sales product to someone in an elevator. As you know, you have only a few seconds before that elevator door opens, so your pitch must be concise. The Central Goal needs to be just as concise. It is in the process of paring it down, that you get at the core of why you’re creating an online video and what you really hope to achieve with it as a result. Concision leads to clarity.

After all, if you don’t know why you’re presenting on video or what you hope to achieve with it at the deepest level . . . you’ll miss everytime.

Tune in next week for more tips . . .

What are your biggest concerns about speaking on video?

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?

On-Camera Presentation Framework: Message Design

I remember when fonts first emerged on the word processing scene. Because we now had the world (or keys) at our fingertips and could display text however we wished, we did just that. After a short stint of reading documents with multiple fonts on one page, however, we realized the necessity for ground rules and–shall we say–acceptable protocol.

This same notion reared its head once again in the transition from classroom training to e-learning. All was fair game in the beginning as learning and coursework were transitioned online. As time went on, however, we realized that applying certain principles and strategies to online learning made it more effective while other techniques were less effective.

In today’s world, once again, we find ourselves in that place of change as a new medium explodes with growing popularity–online video. Online video is becoming the new medium for communicating, informing, entertaining, educating, and even marketing. The challenge, however, is that most professionals and individuals do not have experience or training presenting on-camera, framing a shot, or staging an effective backdrop.

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In response to this need, our company has found the above model helpful with clients. This model serves as a guiding framework for developing the skill sets for presenting effectively in video. The model is called “4 Core Elements of On-camera Presentations.”

This post will be dedicated to the first core element, message design. Message design includes many areas from content to language choice and supporting visuals to opening hooks. At its heart, message design is about placing yourself in the shoes of the viewer and asking what should this video include, address, or teach from the viewer’s perspective? Because after all, it’s ultimately all about the viewer.

Message design also includes your content outline for your video presentation. To begin, you want to isolate and identify the effect you want to produce in viewers with your video. This effect is also the impact, shown above on the model with the outstretched arrows. Then, working backward you can draft your video script to include the components that will bring about that effect.

Message Design also includes openers that hook your audience’s attention which means it’s not just “Hi, I’m XXX.” Keep in mind, that in the video world, you will always be competing for viewer attention. Even after you’ve successfully grabbed a viewer’s attention, we still have to maintain it. Openers can be startling statements, humorous visuals, though-provoking questions, pithy quotations, surprising statistics, etc. Just remember, you need to hook your viewer in those first few seconds.

Other aspects of message design include word choice/language, transitions, participatory cues, including supporting visuals where clarification is needed, concision and not repetition, overall content organization, and a “memorable” last impression. Thanks to the recency effect, if you’ve managed to persuade your viewer into watching the duration of your video, the last thing viewers see is what they’ll remember most.

Stay tuned for discussion in future posts of other key elements for skill development in on-camera presentations.

What do you think might be missing from this model? What say you?

Using Video to Improve Your Speaking

Twenty-five years ago, we began videotaping our students’ speeches in college public speaking classes. As faculty, we thought that incorporating this technology was fairly advanced for the time and were rather proud of ourselves. Cameras were installed in the ceiling corners of all speech classrooms, cabinets were built with VCR shelves inside each lectern, and video viewing labs were opened to provide opportunities and equipment for students to watch their own recordings. All was well in the world of learning and speaking, that is, with the exception of one slight problem.

Students hated watching themselves on video.

In the world of human experience, I think you will find this to be a common sentiment. There’s something about listening to yourself on the phone, watching yourself in movies, or worse yet, viewing yourself present on video. On the other hand as you may have guessed, there really is no better substitute for seeing yourself as “others see you” – which is the affordance this tool provides. Over time, some students discovered this insight for themselves. If students actually took the time (and it was required) to view their presentation from the lens of an “audience member,” they too, saw strengths and opportunities in their abilities and techniques to which they were not privy before.

I recently participated in a training certification which required each speaker to present a number presentations over the course of several days. Once again, all presentations were recorded on video and we were required to view them. Now with the tables turned, I too, dreaded the task of watching myself on video. However, I must admit that watching those tapes was invaluable. For example, my sister has often remarked at how fast I talk. Over the years, I’ve thought my pace was not that fast; however, after viewing several of my presentations on video over time, I see how I do have the tendency to speed up during certain phrases at ends of sentences. Add repetitive gestures to this list, posture opportunities for improvement, removing vocalized pauses, strengthening transitions, etc. and soon enough, very specific professional development goals become very clear.

There really is no better way to improve your speaking performance than to watch yourself present on video and see yourself as the audience sees you. This lesson crosses many genres as well. The best actors I know understand what it’s like to sit in the back of the auditorium and not be able to see actors’ gestures and movement on stage. Good actors maintain a stage presence and mind’s eye that keeps this audience’s perspective in mind, and reminds them to match the size of their gestures to the size of the theatre. Additionally, a good teacher knows what it’s like to be in a classroom as a “student” themselves with no prior knowledge to connect to the content being taught. So the skilled teacher creates a context or shares a metaphor to which students can connect, always keeping that new student perspective in mind. And the list goes on . . .

With so many technological advancements at our fingertips now, we have no excuse for not leveraging tools to help us improve and sharpen skills. This is true whether you’re a speaker, presenter, teacher, trainer or leader. Even recording a presentation on your own computer camera and viewing it over time is one way to advance your presentation skill set with the help of technology.

Professional speakers, teachers, and presenters can always improve, always grow, and always continue sharpening their saws. But in the process, be careful not to rule out video. It may just be . . .  your best improvement tool.

What say you?

Audio Lessons from Carnegie Hall

As a violinist, many years ago I was offered a wonderful opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall, New York City. The performing orchestra was in need of more violinists and after hearing about the opportunity, I auditioned. Naturally, I felt very fortunate to be awarded one of the slots. The performance was a wonderful experience. I was thrilled to play violin in the famed, prestigious hall, and although several of those memories are still vivid for me, there is one item that stands out above the rest.

What I remember most above everything else is the Carnegie backstage crew clearly telling us, “when you get on stage, DON’T MOVE anything!”

What they meant is that we should not re-position our chairs, we should not shift our music stands from where they were placed, we should not slide our chairs with our shoes . . . Nothing.

Perhaps I remember this most because the backstage crew emphatically emphasized it. Or perhaps I remember it most because we knew it was important. So after walking on stage for the performance, we were all careful to sit quietly in our “previously placed” chairs. We did not attempt to re-position them in even the slightest way. We also resisted any temptation to pick up our music stands or move them closer to ourselves.

The reason behind their request is quite simple. The natural acoustics in the Carnegie Hall are so phenomenal that had we re-adjusted our stands or any of the equipment on stage, the noise would have resounded and resonated throughout that great hall. These audible distractions would not have been professional and would have distracted the audience from the performance’s feature.

According to legendary story, one pianist (a frequent Carnegie Hall performer) always spent an hour or more testing the acoustics of his piano in the hall prior to performance. This resulted in the crew shifting the piano all around the stage to find the perfect and exact position–according to the concert pianist’s trained ear. After several technical rehearsals over time, the crew began to notice an emerging pattern. The piano’s final position always seemed to land in the same spot.

Thinking ahead the next time, the crew cleverly marked the spot and positioned the piano there before the pianist arrived. They secretly hoped to save themselves an hour of piano re-positioning.

Alas, when the pianist arrived for the tech rehearsal, he sat down to play the piano but then to their surprise, motioned for it to be moved again. The normal pattern ensued as the pianist requested the piano be moved all around the stage, as was his normal custom. When the pianist made it clear that he was finally satisfied with the piano’s placement, the crew looked down to observe its final resting place. To their astonishment, it had arrived back in the same spot from where it had begun!

These stories are certainly enjoyable to hear and share, but they also highlight the importance of taking the time and making the effort to ensure great audio for performances. Whether you’re delivering a live presentation, recorded presentation, speaking for a video bio or recording, reading a voiceover, or educating others with a virtual presentation, quality audio makes a significant professional difference.

If you record video, ensure you wear a mic instead of relying on the microphone in the camera, iPad or tablet which can create the “cave sound” effect. If you record a voiceover, take the time to find a secluded room and remove all competing audio distractions. Invest in a quality recorder where you can transfer files to your computer for audio editing instead of just recording from your smart phone or tablet. Use pop filters on your microphone to prevent consonant pops like “Ts” and “Ps” and save you editing time later. When you present to live to audiences larger than 25, you use a house speaker system and lavalier microphone and test audio and feedback ahead of time.

Audio lessons from Carnegie Hall are clear. If you want to deliver a professional performance or presentation, it’s worth the time to eliminate all potential audio distractions and to deliver to your audience or viewers the best audio possible.