These days, folks understand that creating effective high quality video doesn’t come from just pressing record on a cameraphone and letting the subject talk off-the-cuff. But even utilizing high resolution HD cameras, film lighting, and a prepared script does not an effective video make. (Yes, sometimes I write like Yoda, what?)
Okay, so what does? Good question. My answer is skill, continual learning, experience, planning, passion, and practice...but while that may be true, how does that help you now?
Again, I suggest that folks take a look at the article I mentioned above to gain a deeper understanding of how to step up your video production game, but here are a handful of tips that you can easily implement to help optimize your next DYI video:
Be Clear About What You Feel Makes Up an Effective Video
My first suggestion is to review and break down the elements of a few of the videos that you've resonated personally with in the past, as well as a few of your competitors videos that are similar to the video(s) you're seeking to create. In whatever fashion you (or your team) prefers, take a critical look at what you feel works well and what doesn't work about those videos.This exercise is a good start toward shaping your video, but just as importantly, it's a great way to gain a better understanding of how one can use the medium of video to create a feeling, to present a message, and how to best connect with your specific audience.
In my experience, DYI video creators (and most people in general) often aren't entirely clear why they themselves resonate or not with the videos they watch. In the same way that we don't do a "deep dive" into why we prefer one flavor of ice cream over another---either we like how the ice cream tastes or we don't---with video, often we simply know that we want to keep watching the video or we know that we don't.
By taking time to get specific to understand the elements that make up a video, such as background, camera angles, props, colors, music, and the presentation of the people in the video, you can better utilize the video medium to optimize the ROI of your hard work, time, and budget.
And remember, the goal is not to determine what works best for you personally, the goal is to determine what works best for your audience.
Reading a Law Book Doesn't Make You a Lawyer and Watching a Few How-To Videos Doesn't Make You a Video Professional
Most people’s jobs (in any field) are far more complicated and nuanced to do effectively than folks on the outside-looking-in might first think, and effective video production is no different.
In the same way that reading a few law books doesn't make me a lawyer or ready to cross examine a witness--or for that matter, reading a few books on the subject doesn't make me a structural engineer, musician, or data scientist-- reading up and watching a few "how-to" videos online doesn't make one a video professional able to create video with the strongest ROI on your effort, time, and money.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't make your own videos. In fact, DYI videos are an important part of any marketing strategy. What I do suggest is that you go in to creating DYI videos with the mindset that creating a solid one takes study, effort, practice, and passion.
Some people have spent decades to master the art, technology, and "psychology" needed to create an effective video. So be prepared to learn as you go.
Bottom Line: Start small, "MVP" it (create a Minimum Viable Product), and fail early and often. I understand that you only have a limited amount of time, energy, and money to create your videos...and that your stakeholders want their video yesterday.
That said, if you are seeking to minimize the resources you're putting into your video and if you are seeking to get a measurable ROI, I suggest that you maintain the mindset that there's a lot for you to learn. If you go into it with an expectation that you will fail early and often, not only will you learn more and improve the effectiveness of your videos, but it's likely that you will also enjoy the process more as well.
Choose Your Video’s Background with Intention
Everything that is shown within the camera frame sends a message(s) to the viewer. Therefore, everything in the frame is important, tells your story, and can affect your audience's view of you, your brand, or your product (positively or negatively) depending on what they see.
By way of example, using a plain white background can often make the video or the person it it come across as bland and antiseptic. But even if you decide to use a beautiful park or an interesting Green Screen as your environment, those backgrounds may not be in alignment with your brand either.
It’s not that those backgrounds are inherently bad, it’s that they may not represent or be in full alignment with your brand’s message. Using a background or environment that is not in alignment with the authentic message you are trying to send could be a missed opportunity to use a background that tells the audience a clear story about your brand without using words.
So when considering where you record your video, ask yourself: Does this background give the viewer the sense of our brand or message? If a viewer saw your video without sound, would they understand what we’re about and what we stand for? Who We Are? Does the background add or takeaway from the story we are seeking to tell about our organization?
You can write up the perfect Mission Statement, have the most engaging content, and create the most On Brand logo possible, but the entirety of what folks see in your videos will tell audiences more about your organization than one might think.
Bottom line: What you show people in a video, no matter how seemingly insignificant, sends a message to your audience. The message that the environment, background, and props within your video sends a message that is often stronger than what is said in it.
Audio is Just as Important as Video
“Bad audio," sound that is too low, and/or audio with distracting noises or music in it is obviously not a positive. But more than that, bad audio is near the top of why viewers stop watching videos part way through, and why they may not return to view a future video from a creator. If you want to reach audiences, engage audiences, convert leads, and improve your SEO, it is imperative that you consider audio a top priority.
To start, consider your location. Is there intermittent HVAC noise the churns up every so often? Office chatter? Construction, neighbor, or computer or appliance noise in the area? If so, it is advisable that you pick a different location.
Another barrier for audiences is music that is too loud, too soft, or not in alignment with the time, spirit, vibe, and style of the video. Audience may not always express it clearly, but they feel that something is “off” that distracts them from enjoying the video and absorbing the content shared in the video.
Bottom Line: Don’t neglect your video’s audio. Be mindful and strategic about your video location and the music choices and recording levels you choose.
Camera Angles Tell Your Story
Similar to choosing a background, the camera angles and camera style affects the audience whether you’re mindful of them or not. For example, a camera angle that looks up at a subject will make them seem somewhere along the lines of formidable or foreboding, while one from a high angle can make a subject look less powerful. A video of a subject looking directly into the camera can make a subject seem welcoming and warm or awkward and creepy, depending on the circumstance. And Perhaps not surprisingly, a camera that moves all around the place can make the video seem energetic or hectic and jarring depending on the circumstance.
Video creators need to figure out for themselves (through trial and error) what approach best suits them and what approach best resonates with their audiences.
Bottom line: Where you place the camera and how you address your audience will send a message to your audience about your organization and brand whether you're intending it or not. So make sure you are utilizing a strategic approach that you feel best sends the message you want.
Have a Clear and Specific CTA
The ultimate goal of nearly all videos is to motivate audiences to take some sort of action. Whether that is to make a purchase or give a donation, absorb more content, or “hit Subscribe,” most videos are posted with a CTA in mind. "CTA" stands for “Call To Action,” and each of your videos should have a strong one. By strong I mean they should clear, easy to act on, and be the driving force of your video.
That is, anything that takes away from the goal of your CTA should be removed from your video and everything in the video should lead folks to take an action. For example, if the CTA of your video is to get folks to download a free guide, don’t mention some other piece of content or action for them to take. If the CTA is to share a specific message you have, don’t use time in the video to talk about a different message, no matter how important that message may be. Save that other content and other message for different videos.
And what I mean by “easy to act on” is that make your CTA as clear and as simple as possible and try to have the fewest steps to take for the audience to take. Again, this starts with your messaging and removing any barriers folks may have from understanding what you want them to do and how to do it.
For example, if you want your audience to download a free e-book, make sure it takes the least amount of steps as possible. Make the download process as clear and inviting as possible. You should make a pitch and explain the value of the e-book, but be pithy and to the point about it. If they need to click a link, make sure the link is easy to “hit”, easy to retype if needed, and easy for them to find.
Bottom line: Have one specific goal driving each of your videos, a clear and easy to act upon CTA. Make sure your messaging, links, offers, and so on, lead simply and smoothly to an action an audience can take.
This list is by no means comprehensive, it’s meant to simply start to the conversation. If you have a list you’d like to share or elements you feel belong on the list, please feel free to comment below. Happy Videoing to you!
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