Putting Your Best Face Forward – Creating Better Videos to Drive Results

Previously we explored what equipment you need to make videos. This week we dig into how to make a good video.

First, use the best camera that you have available – this may be a digital SLR or it might just be your cell phone.  Just make sure that it is at least 8 megapixels – most newer smartphones are of this quality or better (click here for a guide to good video creation).  If using a smartphone, ensure that you are using the rear camera as it is the one with the highest quality.  Front cameras are ok for a short Snapchat video but if you are putting this on YouTube or Facebook you will want the better quality – click here for more.

Next, pick a location with good lighting, such as outside on a sunny day, a room with lots of windows or with a lot of good lights.  If you need to try and touch up or brighten a video you will likely lose enough quality as to make it unusable.  Pick a background that has the light source behind the camera to avoid any glare on the lens.  Position your camera at or above shoulder height.  Many experts suggest that a good shot has the character’s shoulders near the middle of the shot and their waist or knees at the bottom.  If you are wanting to do multiple angles, have the other cameras set up and record everything at once so that you can just switch angles with your editing software instead of moving the camera.  Putting your camera in motion is difficult for non-professional equipment to keep it’s focus and framing constant – the odds are it will come out looking like those old home movies that everyone cringes when watching.  Try taking a short video with your phone while moving – you will see how long it takes to refocus unless you move it extremely slowly.  It’s not what they are made for so play to it’s strengths!  While we are at it, avoid zooming in and out.  The time needed to get back into focus will be noticeable.

Having a script is an absolute must.  People will notice if you are trying to ad-lib and most of us are not good enough to carry it off.  Know what you are going to be talking about.  And practice, practice and when you think you have it memorized, practice it a few more times.  You are going to need to be loud as the microphone on a smartphone or digital SLR is only designed for the speaker to be close to it.  A normal conversational volume will come out as too quiet.  Record yourself a few times to determine what volume you need to be so that it can be pleasantly listened to but not so much that it sounds like you are shouting at your audience.  Just remember, you are not a professional and you are going to mess up.  Now, when you are speaking act like you are talking to someone.  Don’t just stare at the camera or any one object.  Shift your weight a bit, vary your voice (unless you really are going after sounding like the home room teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and use your face to reinforce your points.

When you are recording, do it in landscape mode.  This will look the best when your audience is using something other than a mobile device to view it.  To help you keep the angle proper, add a grid to your screen so that you can use the background as a reference to make certain that your video is straight.  Nothing will say amateur as quickly as having your camera tilted to one side.  You may need to go into your camera settings to enable the grid (if it is available on your device).  The grid lets you align your shot with lines on the screen.  If you can use one, try to position your subject’s eyes level with the upper line of the grid.  If you are into photography, use the rule of thirds (see here for a short introduction for those who are unfamiliar with this concept).  This video offers some tips on getting smooth handheld shots

Be prepared to take multiple recordings.  Unless you are hiring professional actors, someone is going to make a major stumble in their spoken parts – it happens.  Similarly, if you are outdoors a bird, squirrel, car or just someone walking is going to photobomb your shot.  When you are indoors, make sure the ringer is turned off on all phones (cellular or land line) and lock the door and put a sign on it asking people not to knock or enter.  Don’t assume that people are going to know or remember that you are doing a video shoot.  Minor things will help make your video look authentic but if something major happens and disrupts the flow just do it again.

Finally, look at what other people are doing to see what you like or dislike about how the recording was done.  Ensure that you understand that if you are doing it then expecting a Hollywood level production is not going to happen but make sure that the quality is reflective of your organization.  There are a LOT of clips on YouTube that offer tips on how to create better videos (such as this one by Peter McKinnon or this one by Video Influencers).  Do your preparation, practice your spoken parts, pick a good location and most importantly, have fun with your video as that energy will be noticed by your audience!

Using Video As a Recruiting Magnet

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been reviewing best practices with the use of Social Media.  If you were on the fence, hopefully you’ve now bought into the idea of using social media strategically. We’ve mentioned video a lot – mainly because it gives the audience a first-hand look at your operations and your culture. To reiterate, the whole purpose of using social media is to achieve scale, and produce a network effect – reaching an audience you would never be able to reach without. Once you’ve reached those people, nurturing them over time to the point where, if conditions are right, they come to you for a job instead of the other way around (inbound marketing).  Today, let’s dive deeper into video. When most people think about video, they equate it to massive budgets, production, editing, scripting etc.   How can you use video, in an affordable manner, while also capturing a genuine and professional glimpse into your company’s culture, work environment and ambitions?

First, a Demand Gen survey found that 70% of respondents prefer an inexpensive format that pretty much any of us can produce with something that’s likely in your pocket or on your desk.  We’re talking about that smartphone that all of us carry.  Most phones manufactured in the last 3 years are capable of recording 1080p, high definition video.  If you have a little bit larger budget then invest in a digital SLR camera, such as the Nikon D3400 or Canon Rebel T5 – both priced under $500 – and a tripod to keep things steady (see this great article on some equipment suggestions).  You will get a better product and have more options with a decent digital SLR camera but

The next thing to consider is having the proper lighting.  When in doubt, face your light source.  If the light is behind you it will cast you in a silhouette and make it hard to see the images that you are trying to present.  In addition, if you are outdoors and have the sun behind what you are recording, they will get washed out.  So, a few other tips.  One – the sun is free so use it as much as possible.  Two – make sure to do a few test shots if you are using artificial lighting as many bulbs can give a yellow tinge that may not be visible to the naked eye but will show up on the camera. The better the lighting, the more professional the video will look.

Third is invest in a good microphone.  Poor sound quality will quickly chase your audience away.  The one on your smartphone will be ok if your subject is close to the phone and the filming is done in a quiet room with no background noise.  If you are shooting outdoors in a windy or noisy location, then the background noise will likely drown everything else out.  If you don’t use an external microphone, expect to spend more time with your video editing software and doing voice-overs that may or may not match up to your video.

Next, set up a professional looking background.  This could be as simple as a nice bookcase, the awards case in your office or even a nice park that is nearby (check out this article on backgrounds).  It is usually much better to not complicate things (see this vidyard.com post for some more tips).  If you decide on a backdrop, be sure to have it professionally printed.  And avoid having your branding if it will not always be visible – more on that later.

Spend the time to investigate what video editing software is best for your needs.  There are a number of free or open source options, such as Handbrake (for Windows, Mac or Linux), iMovie (for Apple products) or the free version of HitFilm among others so don’t assume that you need to get something expensive, especially to start.  Make sure that you can add in graphics so that you can show your branding throughout the video.  Software like Canva, or SnagIt ($49.95 one-time cost)  as well as free photo sources such as Unsplash, LibreStock, Gratisography, Pixabay or Pexels will help you create professional looking graphics that will increase the credibility of your finished product. We use Camtasia from TechSmith at inGauge. It allows you to edit, screen record, and comes stocked with lots of additional media resources to add to your content.

Ok, so now you have gathered the equipment to use.  But how do you create a great video?  Like most things, it takes a bit of planning.  First, what is the goal of the video?  Remember that with social media you are looking to gain trust and open conversations, so going for the sale (or at all)  is just going to put them (your audience) off. If you go to the pitch right away, it is now different than playing a video ad – all credibility is lost. The best videos don’t pitch anything. Always think storytelling as opposed to marketing. Speaking of them, what is your intended audience?  The more targeted you get here, the more effective your video is going to be.  Finally determine what resources you will need to bring this all together. This will form the basis of your production document which will act as your road map to pull this all together.

Once you have a goal and a target audience, craft your story to capture their attention (see this short video by Alan Alda discussing telling better stories).  Make it interesting and ensure that the target has something to take away (and even better, give them a reason to share your video).  If you are using this to recruit drivers, find one of your enthusiastic drivers and let them tell their story of interesting situations during their life on the road.

Pay attention to the pacing of the video and of the speaking.  Keep it at a conversational pace.  Look towards the camera – you want the viewer to feel that you are talking to them.  Most importantly just be yourself.  If you are a family run business that is in a rural setting, you don’t want to come across like you are a Wall Street firm in your video as people will see through that and you will lose credibility very quickly.  Tell them how you came about – put in any hardships the business has had to overcome – that makes a good story that people want to hear.  And have some fun.  That sort of infectious energy is what will convince people to not only watch your post put to share it with their social media friends.  The more people who see it, the more mindshare you are going to get.  Just remember that you are not going to hit a home run n the first try.  Expect to have to put up a few videos before you gain enough attention that people will start coming to you and sharing what you have to offer.  And that is how you are going to leverage a small investment into a great ROI.

Next week, we’ll discuss the ideal skill sets, and traits of the next generation marketing professional for your organization. Here’s some hints, they understand content creation, scale, and social media. They are light on degrees, and buzz words (and may have a couple tattoos).