The Changing Role of Visuals

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Back in the late 1980’s, presenters with live audiences had limited choices when it came to visuals. If you wanted to use a visual aid in your presentation, you were confined to props, displaying a transparency on an overhead projector, or referencing some type of visual on a large poster. Visuals were clearly supplemental and played second fiddle to the main speaker. Regardless of whether you were presenting to teach, inform, persuade, or entertain, visual aids were the secondary messenger and the speaker was primary.

For example, if a presenter claimed something should be done about the high cost of healthcare in the 1980’s, they would likely reveal a poster with a table chart depicting how health care costs have risen dramatically over the past several years. The visual would offer supporting evidence with accurate statistics from a credible source to support their claim that health care costs were rising. Then, when the presenter was ready to move to another point, the poster was covered. In other words, visuals were used to clarify points at the time the content called out for more clarity. Once the point was made, the visual was removed and the speaker became the focus of attention once more.

Flash forward to the advent of web conferencing nearly 20 years ago, where this operating principle got turned on its head. Suddenly, a constant barrage of slides became “the presenter,” while the audio commentator of speaker took the back seat. Visuals were shown at all times throughout the presentation, which also became common place with PowerPoint slide presentations as well. Slides visuals took over as the primary messenger, and the speaker’s audio became secondary. Why? Visuals simply steal the show. As John Medina in his book, Brain Rules says, “the visual sense trumps all other senses.” Unfortunately, to make matters worse, stagnant slides in the early days of web conferencing displayed for long chunks of time, while presenters often droned on with audio commentary.

The result?

Paper airplanes flying around workplace cubicles during webinars.

Today we’ve seen how dramatically web conferencing, webinars, and virtual classrooms have evolved. Yet the challenge to continually engage attendees remains as strong as ever. One shift is the improved quality and ease of video and integrated webcams. We see this adoption of streaming live video growing. In fact, some presenters stay on camera through the entire webinar presentation, in addition to subjecting viewers to continual slides. Although we’ve made improvements over the past decades in the number of slides shown, as well as shortened the amount of time they remain static, a new challenge has emerged.

When presenters leave their webcams on for the entirety of a webinar, in addition to showing multiple succession of slide visuals, viewers experience competing visual stimuli. Where to look? The disadvantage is that by focusing on the speaker’s video, for example, absorption from the content of the slide takes a hit. From what we know about research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, this type of attending and processing involves task switching, holding content in working memory, and likely, some cognitive load if the content is complex. The challenge is that viewers will likely not successfully absorb all slide content, while simultaneously watching and listening to the video of the speaker. Virtual attendees cannot attend to both and do them well.

Therefore, it is the presenter or the facilitator’s job to guide the viewer where to look. By turning off the webcam at strategic points, attendees can be directed to focus on the slides only, for example. By turning off slide display or displaying a fully colored, blank slide (explaining why it’s blank) or a slide with minimal content, attendees’ attention can be directed to the speaker’s video.

The lesson here is that just as a film director works with a cinematographer to direct where the audience should focus in a production, so also, we should carefully and thoughtfully determine when and where to best turn our webcam on and when to project slides. Video works great to introduce the presenter at the beginning, as well as during question and answer periods, for example.

Some web conferencing platforms now even allow for frames to be adjusted to consume more real estate, and then be reduced in size later. This is yet another tool at our disposal for helping communicate what the primary messenger is and what should be supplementary at any given time.

Using visuals to enhance and clarify our presentation should not be a 3-ring circus, but instead, a well crafted and directed production that considers the attendee first and foremost.

What say you?

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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?

3 Tips For Scripting Your Video

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Scripting Your Video

Have you ever struggled with how to write a good script? Do you know what makes an effective one? If you’ve ever thought about these questions, here are three key tips to help you write a script that will help you write and shoot a quality video.

TIP #1:  Use Conversational Language

Remember one of the most important elements of video delivery is to be conversational. This means that when you speak on camera, not only should your delivery style be informal, fluent, and natural, but the words you use should be as well. Avoid scripting traditional “writing” words like “overall,” and “furthermore” in your script. When there’s a two cent word that does the job, opt for the smaller word instead. Also, consider weaving contractions into your script to add to the casual, conversational feel.

TIP #2:  Show and Tell

When writing a script, the temptation is to “tell” the whole story. But sometimes we forget that video is a visual medium and the visual element should also be involved in revealing and unfolding the story. In the editing process, scan your script to find text references that could be shown visually instead of “telling.” Ideally, the spoken word and the visual frame will work together in the storytelling. There will be times when the visual is enough and other times when the on-camera talent speaks in front of a certain backdrop. The trick is to look carefully at your content and let the content determine when  and where it makes sense to depict a scene visually, script it verbally with a presenter, or use both.

TIP #3:  Pair Scene Descriptions with Text

It’s also helpful in your script to use a word processing software that allows you to create columns and rows. This way you can identify corresponding shots associated with scripted text for each scene. This helps clarify the length and content, as well as the shot list for the director. Creating a shot list in tandem with your verbal script, encourages you to think carefully about flow, pacing, length, consistency, and how to best illustrate the script. Always plan out the script and shot list together well ahead of video shoot day. Enlisting edits from a few trusted colleagues or friends (if you’re shooting the video alone) gives you additional perspective. Always have someone else edit your script and offer suggestions and feedback before your video shoot.

So the next time you sit down to write a script for video, remember to apply these key tips. Soon you’ll be on your way to leveraging both verbal and visual elements for great videos. Happy scripting!

What scripting tips do you use?

 

Backward Design Your Video Scripts

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Have you struggled with where to start when you script your video? It’s easy to get caught up in the myriad of “to do’s” for online videos. You need to set up good lighting, ensure you’re using quality video equipment, find the appropriate backdrop to your content, etc. However, there’s one “to do” element that should take front stage in video planning.

Your video script.

Your video script not only facilitates careful design ahead of time–which will save you a lot of time on shooting day–it also serves as your production blueprint. During a video shoot, it’s okay to not actually speak from your script so you can maintain a conversational and spontaneous feel, but regardless, it’s still helpful to script out your message ahead of time so you know where you’re headed.

Some individuals insist they can successfully “wing” their video productions, but this is quite rare because without pre-production planning, scripting and rehearsing ahead of time, your shoot will likely require many more re-takes. This translates into more cost and more time.

So how should you begin scripting?

A helpful technique to guide your scripting is backward design, which has been useful in other applications as well. As the name implies, this means the scriptwriter or designer works backwards. For example, you would first identify what kind of impact you want the video to produce? Do you want viewers to buy something, thing more highly of your brand, associate you with a unique message, learn something, be able to apply XYZ? Whatever it may be, identify the impact clearly and document it in writing.

Then based on the impact you want to have, identify what goals need to be accomplished to be successful. Keep goals limited to two-four in order to keep the scope manageable and achievable.

Your goals then drive the creation of an outline. As you write the outline, ensure your outline includes the call-to-action at the end or a memorable take-away. The outline should also include key points and sub-points to support your key message. You can use cut-away shots, testimonials, interviews, B roll, slide visuals, demos, and other types of visual content to support your message. In your outline, you also want to suggest how you will grab your viewer’s attention at the beginning. After all, you only have a few critical seconds to win viewers over, make a good impression, intrigue their curiosity, and keep them watching.

Now that you have an outline aligned with your desired impact and goals, set aside time to write your script from the outline. Your first attempt will be a rough draft for your eyes only. After completing the first draft, take a break for a day or so to let the script “breathe.” When you come back to review and edit your script with fresh eyes, you will find ways to improve concision and clarity. Once this editing is complete, it’s time to share the script with others.

Every piece of writing improves when it is reviewed by others, so make sure you ask one or two other people to do so. Remind colleagues to help you identify sections that may not flow well, do not make sense, are too lengthy or unclear, etc. Even the Declaration of Independence in 1776 named a lead writer, Thomas Jefferson, but the document benefitted from reviews and edits by other committee members as well, such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (patriotic peer reviews).

After you’ve received edits from others, it’s time for a final round of revisions. What works best at this stage is to read your script aloud. After all, the script will be delivered orally, so it should be rehearsed in the oral medium. When you read out loud, you will immediately hear phrases that sound awkward, are not conversational, or stick out in a distracting way. Make your final revisions, and then write the final script. Using this process, a script could endure at least three rounds of editing to trim the fat and ensure your script achieves its intended goals.

Backward design is a brilliant way to ensure your video message achieves what it set out to achieve. Script your videos with this process to place you well on your way to powerfully impacting your viewers.

What scripting tips have worked best for you? Let us know your thoughts below.

 

 

Video: The New Communication Medium

Video is not only growing exponentially, it’s also beginning to trump traditional methods of communication. For example, according to a QUMU press release, “video is today’s document.” And as Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research states, “video is the new document.”

But apparently, documents are not the only communication medium video is trumping. Video is also becoming the “new phone call.”

When a new American President is first elected, it is customary for world leaders to call and offer their congratulations via telephone. Interestingly enough, when President-Elect Donald Trump was recently elected, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a congratulatory message as one might expect. But this time, he sent the congratulatory message via video (see YouTube video).

The Israeli leader’s video conveyed congratulatory words and tone similar to what a telephone medium could convey (“tele” meaning at a distance). Yet with video, the message goes beyond just words and tone. In just 45 seconds, we see and perceive the leader’s persona and personality, energy level, eye contact, expectations for working together, nonverbal body language, sincerity, and more. And by leveraging video to communicate this message, it can now be accessible worldwide, guaranteeing re-play capability and archiving for future generations.

This is a fascinating trend, and one that we can expect to see more and more. With accessible high quality video equipment and worldwide video distribution systems in place, video is becoming accessible to all, and not just world leaders.

In addition to congratulatory messages, we see video application growing in the field of education, employee on boarding, corporate YouTube channels, live event streaming, and talent development.

What other ways do you predict video will be used to communicate?

If you’d like to learn more about how to create effective video messages where you work, send us an inquiry by completing the fields below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

The Top 5 Online Video Mistakes

A  friend of mine recently shared how she conducted a job interview with a candidate in a non-traditional way.

She and her team interviewed the candidate online . . . using video.

The candidate used the built-in camera on his laptop to connect visually, and my friend and her colleagues used video conferencing equipment at their workplace. As the interviewer, my friend shared how pleased and surprised she was with how well the interview went using video technology.

But then at the end of the interview, the unthinkable happened . . .

Apparently, both parties had said their “thank you’s” to close the interview. But instead of the interviewee turning off his video, he unintentionally kept the video live and used his hands to half close the laptop while remaining seated to do other work.

The result?

The laptop’s video camera was now directed solely at the candidate’s lap, and suddenly his job interviewers found themselves staring directly at a crotch onscreen.

ONLINE VIDEO MISTAKES

Not exactly how you want to end a professional interview, right? Let’s just say, it was . . . well, awkward.

Because video is being used more and more for video conferencing, job interviews, video tutorials, corporate messaging, e-learning, telepresence conferencing, there is plenty to learn as we move toward becoming a video literate society.

Below are some common mistakes people tend to make when on-camera. Knowing what these errors are can help you avoid them, so your onscreen time can leave audiences with a powerful impact, and not the opposite.

TOP 5 COMMON MISTAKES

5. Long Openings 

Nothing says boring like a long introduction, a lengthy bio, a drawn out welcome, etc. Think about online video as brief snippets of information. Everything you say should be concise and relevant. Remember, viewers can always go back and view it again, if needed. Keep those first few seconds short and to the point, afterall, this is when you make a first impression.

4. Mellow Energy

Even normally energetic personalities sometimes lose their energy when placed in front of a cold, lonely camera lens. Remember, your energy as presenter is contagious to those watching. If you have come across with low energy and no passion for your content, we will feel the same way.

3. Deer in Headlights Expression

There’s nothing like a semi-coma look to energize viewers on the other end of the screen. Facial expression cannot be blank on-camera. Remember, video is all about movement. Natural facial expression and subtle movements keep us interested and attentive. We don’t want to watch a presenter who doesn’t look delighted to be there.

2. Irrelevant Tangents

Although you do want to come across with spontaneity, you want to curb the topical tangents. True, these can be cut in post-production but that requires more editing time and time is money. Prepare your video presentation ahead of time with a script or talking points, so you can keep yourself on topic. Think about talking in sound bites on topical chunks. Your viewers will thank you.

1. Camera Know-how

The most important part is realizing when your camera is on, when it’s off, how to turn it on, and how to turn it off. It’s also about knowing what’s visible to viewers and what’s out of frame. Where is the camera targeted and can viewers see you scratching your belly right now or is the camera really off?

Let’s keep all these common errors in mind, and allow them to inform the success of our future video presentations.

Please let me know in the comments below what memorable mistakes you’ve observed with video users?

What say you?

 

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?