Why Video Details Count

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Have you ever sold a house? If you have, you know how important it is to stage your home and present it in the best possible light. Literally. Turn on all the lights, make sure closets are lean, kitchen counters should sparkle, carefully arrange furniture, everything in working order, zero clutter . . . you get the picture.

Why? Because details count. And details, after all, leave impressions.

Imagine walls covered with nail holes, dirt smudges on the outside siding, and distracting nicks in kitchen appliances. These items will catch buyers’ attention, but obviously, not in a favorable way.

Instead, they call attention to themselves as defects and give the appearance of deficient care. Whether true or not, this can plant doubt in potential buyers’ minds about the owners’ lack of conscientiousness. The logic follows–albeit faulty–that there may be other issues wrong with the home then.

Impressions either place you in a credible light or they do the opposite.

This is also true for job interviews. We all know that a job candidate must put their best foot forward by dressing professionally and appearing well groomed. Language, demeanor, attitude, energy, professionalism, attire, and grooming all leave an impression–whether true or not. If we look professional, it creates the impression that we are professional. The logic that follows is that a professional-looking employee will contribute productively and positively to a company.

The bottom line is we create impressions. And these impressions lead us to believe other things about home owners and job candidates.

In the world of video production, impressions you create in the camera frame are created in a surprisingly similar fashion. When you present on video, you’re often selling yourself, your company, your brand, your message, your product, your services, etc. At some level, you’re selling something whether explicitly or implicitly. In doing this, you make an impression. Making a favorable impression on your video is essential because in order for viewers to choose to stay watching, you must be perceived as credible, interesting, helpful, or entertaining. To create this favorable impression, everything seen and heard in the visual frame counts.

So how can we create a positive impression on video?

As I mentioned earlier, everything counts. How you speak in the camera frame, where you look, what you wear, what your backdrop looks like, what is in the background behind you–all of these perceived visuals and auditory cues form an impression.

Viewers can get distracted looking at a video presenter’s hair if it’s not groomed well or calls attention to itself. Viewers may get distracted by a background if you’re shooting in a room unrelated to your content. For example, you wouldn’t want to shoot a professional video on how to build a firepit using the webcam on your computer in the bedroom. Also, is the baby dinosaur wallpaper in your video background competing with your video message on speaking with confidence? Perhaps shooting that video in an auditorium next to a lectern would be a better choice. Ask yourself if the background and foreground support or detract from your video message? Shaky cameras or poor audio leave a less than favorable impression. And a message that stumbles, repeats, and is full of tangents does not respect my limited time for watching video.

The simple truth is we will leave an impression whether we want to or not. So why not invest your video production time and effort to leave a favorable impression?

If it would help you, seek out a video coach or video consultant to help you come across with impact to be at your best and effectively reach your audience. Feel free to check out video coaching and consulting services at http://www.howlesassociates.com.

What video impressions are you making with viewers? What do you do to come across in favorable light?

Summer Conference Take-aways

Have you attended a conference recently that transformed the way you worked after returning to your office? Conferences are a great way to network with others, hear salient ideas from thought leaders, and be inspired by colleagues from any number of disciplines.

This year I was fortunate to attend six conferences, one of which, was the UW-Madison Distance Teaching and Learning Conference held this summer in Madison, Wisconsin. Although there were many great insights and lessons learned at this conference, I especially enjoyed the sessions on video and interactive video content and their relevance in today’s training and educational world.

For example, James Moore from DePaul University shared take-aways from video best practices and educational videos. He explored how you can create engaging video for instruction using ScreenFlow, Screencast, or Camtasia. He encouraged content creators to use content from open sources. Referencing Richard Mayer’s multimedia principles, he underscored the importance of applying several of these principles to video as well. To help with poor audio, he suggested using a pop filter as a best practice to minimize audio distractions. In terms of recording video on mobile devices, he reminded those who videotape themselves to turn their phones sideways before recording video. Watching videos in portrait mode requires the brain to scan vertically, and it’s not conducive to the way we normally view the world.

Additionally, because many people are uncomfortable when presenting in front of a camera or often look quite scared, Moore suggests creating bullets on the Teleprompter for on-camera talent so they are not tempted to read verbatim. This helps them to not be as tied down to the teleprompter and hopefully, relax more. Additionally, Moore emphasized that many more viewers are watching video only on their phones, especially millennials, so realize your videos will most likely be viewed on small screens.

Matt Pierce from TechSmith was another presenter at the conference who also discussed the use of video for learning. According to a 2016 study conducted by TechSmith, participants watching instructional and informative videos often stopped watching the videos after around one minute, and their main reasons for stopping the video were because they were bored or it wasn’t providing them what they were looking for generally. This raises the bigger question of the need to continually explore how to engage viewers through video.

For those who wish to integrate content with video, there are some applications that allow you to create video content and then pause and allow students to respond in a comment or a question box. Learners may select an answer and then receive immediate, corrective feedback. As we know from multiple research studies that show the results of the testing effect, frequent quizzes that test recall often and give corrective feedback are essential for learning. John Orlando from Northcentral University recommends a variety of interactive content applications which include:  EDpuzzle; dot storming; Videoant; Thinglink; and Touchcast.

In terms of actual video production, Pierce suggests that if you do make a mistake while recording video to simply speak the line again. This is a more efficient way to record, rather than starting completely over as a new “take.” In post-production, the error can be edited out or smoothed over with a transition or cut-away clip. There are also ways to underscore your video productions and cue the viewers as to the most important content and parts of your video. For example, you can use a verbal signpost such as “If you hear nothing else, remember this . . . ” Phrases such as these alert the listener to pay extra special attention.

The best take-away from conferences, of course, is the ability to return to the workplace and apply something new. And hopefully, you and your organization will reap the benefits of transformation somewhere along the way . . .

What is one of your key take-aways from professional development or conferences you’ve attended this year?

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?

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?

On-camera Presentation Framework: Visual Staging

When you watch videos on Vimeo, YouTube or websites, you’ll notice a variety of background contexts for speakers, some of which are conducive and some of which are distracting. For example, you might observe baby owl wallpaper in the background, piles of books and paper, orange paint on the walls, personal portraits, or even doors and windows behind the speaker. This staged background for your online video shoot is “visual staging,” and this is the third core element of the On-camera Presentation framework (see graphic below) that we’ll explore next.

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The guiding principle when it comes to visual staging is to remove distractions that could upstage your content. Your message (verbal and nonverbal) is the most important piece in an online video. If the clothing you wear, the desk behind you, the equipment on the floor, or the cluttered bookcase grab attention and focus viewers away from you and your message, your visual stage needs to be remedied. Let’s explore some of the things you can do to ensure that your message is the central element of your video.

First, look through the monitor before recording to view the camera frame as a potential viewer would. You’ll observe excessive jewelry that competes for attention, the mini refrigerator in the shot that could be moved out of frame, the plant that sticks over the head of the presenter that makes her look like she’s wearing antennas, or the speaker wearing a black shirt sitting on a black chair that makes him look like Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. When you just look at the scene in real life, you’re missing the perspective of the viewer who sees only what’s in frame.

If, however, you are shooting a medical video, it is appropriate to have medical equipment in the background or to shoot on location in a medical context. Additionally, if you’re talking about travel, it’s appropriate to have a globe in the background, etc. However, when there is so much visual noise and competition in the background, it is useful to employ a backdrop to bring neutrality to the scene and make the speaker “pop” instead of the background. You can use a professional studio’s background or on a shoestring budget, invest in a solid color fabric that can be weighted and hung behind you, etc.

Clothing also contributes to the visual staging. Avoid wearing clothing that will call attention to itself. For example, black can be absorbed by a darker background and white can reflect light. Extremely loud colors, stripes, and logos can draw our focus and distract our attention. Overall, it’s best to wear solid, muted colors on-camera.

Overall, visual staging needs to keep the presenter the main event, and support the speaker’s content, not compete with it. If you follow these simple tips and techniques, you will be well on your way to staging a successful video.

What say you?

Show and Tell: What Video Cameras Do Best

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We’ve come a long way from 19th century cameras like this one. In the 1830’s, photography required an exposure that sometimes lasted 15 minutes or longer. In order for the portrait images to be clear, subjects had to remain still for the duration. It’s no wonder my great grandfather and great grandmother were not smiling!

Now “flash” forward to today where photography is no longer a luxury, but so common that it has become ubiquitous. Today average citizens find themselves holding high-end camera capability in the palms of their hands. Unlike 19th century photography, a professional photographer is no longer required. Video, too, has become accessible and affordable through mobile devices and tablets, and no longer require professionals to operate them.

What’s interesting about human patterns with new technologies is that one pattern remains very consistent. As human beings, we tend to carry paradigms from the old mediums to the new medium, regardless of whether or not it remains relevant. For example, early television began by mimicking what radio did; i.e., placing reporters at a table in front of a microphone. It wasn’t until later that we realized television had many more affordances that could be explored, and we began experimenting with several camera angles, movement, and multiple sets. Additionally, when e-books first entered the literary world, many traditional print books were simply converted to PDFs and placed online. Yet the online medium offers many more multimedia platform capabilities which the traditional “book” cannot.

Similarly, the traditional paradigm of face-to-face instruction or presentations is being transferred directly to video. What we need to remember is that video is a completely different medium, and with new mediums, the rules change and opportunities emerge. For example, in on-camera presentations, video can also support audio effects, visual illustrations to clarify content at the right moment, cut-away shots to referenced content, expert interviews, music, and many other innovative supports. Naturally, the goals and purpose of the video must guide thoughtful design.

Essentially, video is a show and tell medium. Picture book authors know that the text to their stories only tell part of the story, as the partner storyteller is the illustrations. Together, they share the journey of “show and tell” together. So, also, it is with video. Video provides us with many options. Video can capture dynamic movement (visual and audio)–unlike its cousin, photography–and video can also convey subtle, affective and interpersonal elements which can impact how a message is received. For example, in on-camera presentations, video can also convey interpersonal elements related to personality, passion, intimacy and attitudes, and these elements can either effect the viewer positively or negatively. We’ll cover this area in greater depth in a future blog post. One tip to consider is to be careful not to rely solely on your video script to describe places, people, and events, but rather, cut away to images of referenced people or places to share in telling the story. When content requires greater clarity for your viewer, reference supporting visuals as well in your video.

Thankfully, we no longer need to remain “still” for 15 minutes in today’s world of photography or videography. Yet it would serve us well to remember that what video does best is capture dynamic movement and affective, interpersonal speaker elements which influence the message. When you create videos to teach, market, or inform, design your video content to show and tell, and most importantly, remember to wear that “new paradigm lens.”