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?

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?

Finding Your Passion

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Have you found your passion?

Is it mountain climbing? Writing? Performing on stage? Teaching? Making crafts? Cooking?

Joseph Campbell is attributed with the famous call to action to “follow your bliss.” This profound statement encourages all hearers to look deep inside and find within–that about which we are truly, innately passionate. However, mere discovery is only part of this call to action. This charge also necessitates the courage to follow and pursue one’s bliss. It’s almost as if an effervescent seed has been planted within – hidden clues on a scavenger hunt to find your life’s destiny. Once discovered, this passion can unfold with seemingly effortless ease.

But how does one find their passion?

We simply need to pay attention.

We’ve all observed those individuals who gravitate toward their natural interests. They radiate enthusiasm for those interests, and continue to apply them repeatedly, eventually becoming very skilled and highly respected in their areas of domain. These individuals can even become more effective and productive – quite simply, because they love what they do. Whether it be mountain climbing, childcare work, dental surgery, singing, acts of compassion, city engineering, or youth ministry, individuals who have found their passion realize what they were meant to do because they paid attention.

We can all think of people who are living their passion. The list is extensive, but here are a few exceptional individuals who come to mind. Feel free to use the reply box below to share others who exemplify passion to you.

  • Michael Jordan – an exceptional basketball player who sets his own gold standard.
  • Natalie MacMaster – who has a passion for Nova Scotia music, and is one of the world’s best Fiddlers.
  • Maya Angelou – a prolific American poet and author who has touched all our lives.
  • J.K. Rowling – renowed author of the Harry Potter series who said all she ever wanted to do was to write books.
  • Steve Jobs – revolutionized the way we communicate through technology with his leadership at Apple.
  • Derek Hough – a passionate dancer who continues to raise the bar for his own standards of ballroom dance.

Do you notice a pattern? There are actually several patterns emerging here, but some of them include:  enjoyment; talent, hard work; and focus. Another common pattern is that a natural outcome of their lives’ pursuit is the joy and inspiration it brings to others. You see, when you pursue your bliss, it’s not just you who benefits, but those with whom you share your talents and abilities.

Delivering presentations and speaking to audiences is one of my passions. Because I naturally love speaking to audiences, I enjoy the magic that comes from connecting with an audience whether it be in-person or in a virtual setting. Because of this, I also enjoy coaching others to improve their effectiveness as presenters. This is not something that you manufacture. This is not something you make yourself cultivate.

It just is.

Have you looked deep inside yourself? Have you found your passion? If you have, are you pursuing it? If not, what’s holding you back? The passion planted deep within you has a purpose for you and those around you. It is up to you to discover it, nurture it, improve your skill set, be mentored, gain experience, and then blossom by sharing your gifts with the world.

Although pursuing your passion may seem like an unsurmountable mountain pass at times, once you do what you love and love what you do, “the universe will open doors for you where {before} there were only walls.” (Joseph Campbell)

What is your bliss?

TED Talk Ideas for Your Presentations

Many people agree that TED talks may just be the standard of excellence for in-person and virtual presentations in today’s digital world. TED, which is a non-profit devoted to effectively spreading great ideas, began as a face-to-face conference on topics related to Technology, Entertainment, and Design back in the 1980s. Today boasting millions of Internet hits daily, TED talks address a wide range of topic areas; in fact, any idea worth spreading–as their slogan suggests.

So what is it that makes TED talks so effective, whether viewed as a live audience member or viewed virtually by the global community? As several published works will tell you, there are many reasons why TED talks are successful. From my perspective as a professional presenter, following are a few of the reasons why I think TED talks hit their mark.

To begin, have you noticed there are no physical barriers separating the in-person audience and the presenter in the auditorium? The absence of a lectern is immediately apparent. In a non-verbal way, this opens up the space dynamic between presenter and audience. From the onset, there is no physical structure to hide behind, no furniture to mute presenter energy, no lectern to support reading from notes, and no limits on a presenter’s onstage movement. This dynamic clears the way for a deeper connection between sender and recipient. Experiment with this when delivering your own presentations. Observe the freedom you have as a presenter to move across the stage to accent your transitions. Observe how you may feel more connected to your audience and the reciprocal connection they may feel likewise with you.

Another reason TED talks are effective is because if they do use visuals their supporting visuals are just that—supporting. Visuals used in TED talks do not compete with presenters to be primary. They merely illustrate any content that need more clarification. That said, notice the brevity and the lean design of the visuals. They are not text-heavy. Supporting visuals should be used to support content when needed, provide illustrations when helpful, and provide an engaging experience that will help with building mental models for recall later.

Additionally, TED talks are kept to an 18 minute maximum. Certainly, there are a few exceptions here and there. However, this length of time was researched and TED staff determined it was just long enough to prevent improvisation, yet short enough to keep an audience’s attention. Obviously, your application for presentations in the workplace may find different time constraints in the real world. However, the key point here is still applicable. Your audience can only process so much information for a limited select timeframe. So leverage the limits of working memory by applying brevity to your presentations where you can. We’ll be exploring ways to keep your audience engaged for short time periods in future blogs.

Lastly, TED talks are well rehearsed – and some, many, many times. Presenters usually have plenty of lead time unless they’re called to fill in a spot that may have opened up at the last minute. Ideally, not only have they had months to prepare, but they’ve had opportunities to work out the kinks, present before others, and get comfortable with the set-up and stage. All this preparation maximizes a presenter’s feeling of control, and this is very important to minimizing any presenter anxiety. Additionally, when you know your content that well you can deliver your presentation more conversationally because it flows naturally. I realize that in your daily work life, rehearsing a presentation many, many times may not be practical for you, but do your best to prepare as much as your schedule allows with spaced rehearsals to help solidify the content in your mind.

Think of the last TED talk you viewed? If you were engaged, why were you?

What say you?