5 Tips for DIY Videos for Your Business

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While looking up some websites for business in our new neighborhood, I stumbled upon some more DIY videos that left a lot to be desired. A. LOT. So I thought I would share a few things I noticed that could make be huge improvements. (In the interest of a good neighbor I’m not going to actually post the bad videos. They tried, they really did, and it’s not nice to make fun of people like that.)Video Camera

  1. Keep It Short and Sweet (or the 1st KISS): Attention spans get shorter and shorter. You love your product/store/event, but even you aren’t going to sit through almost six minutes of what is basically a silent film. Pick a purpose or specific topic for and shoot for the video about 30 seconds long. You can create several videos released over time to help you build your audience and create interest in your business.
  2. Keep It Simple, Stupid (2nd KISS): Keep the topics of the video simple. Think food, people, products, location, fun, history…comparing the philosophical debate between Vulcan and Romulus in a 30 second video for a used book store may be a difficult concept for some people to understand. Video of lots of happy people reading big piles of books, better yet buying big piles of books, is easy to understand. Easy to understand usually goes over better with the audience.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Slow: People have a tendency to quickly pan across shelves and speed through tilts up and down displays. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want it to look boring. Sometimes people don’t know better or think about it. When you move the camera quickly multiple things happen. First, you could make someone sick. Seriously, it can make people motion sick. Second, it looks unprofessional because the quick movement usually also includes bobbing and bouncing camera work as well. Slow even camera work allows the viewer to actually see what you’re trying to show them, get interested in it, and makes them more likely to want to see it in person.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Zoom In or Shoot Close-Ups: Wide shots are great for showing viewers what a place looks like, but if you want them to really like something, if you want them to fall in love with a product, then zoom in on it. Show a close-up of a yummy treat your store sells or the detailed bead-work of a one-of-a-kind necklace will draw your audience in and show them the quality of what you sell.
  5. Make the Audience Fall In Love: Pay attention to the little things like the lighting and the sound. Make sure when you shoot the video that the sun isn’t so bright, or it’s so dark, that you can’t see anything. Make sure that there aren’t any strange/annoying sounds in the background. Make sure that there aren’t any songs or signs in the background that could get you in copyright trouble.
  6. BONUS TIP – Have Fun and Be Creative! Have fun with it and get creative, your audience will have fun too. Even if your business is a Victorian Tea Room, there’s no need for your video to be stuffy or boring.

I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. What tips do you have?

Video Blessings in Disguise

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A few weeks ago I saw this great story about two Vancouver film students trying to track down Morgan Freeman for their film final. First, it’s just awesome in and of itself. But it also speaks to something else. Video blessings in disguise.

I have lost projects. I’ve had footage turn out to be trash. I’ve had a full day’s worth of interviews pretty much ruined because the back-focus of the camera went out while I was on location and there was very little I could do about it. But, most of the time, things seemed to work out. Mistakes and issues and things seeming to go to hell-in-a-hand-basket can force you to think more creatively. They can steer your project in a direction you never saw. On more than one occasion the replacement piece I did when my masterpiece fell apart turned out to be 100 times better – the storytelling was tighter and the flow was better because I had a better feel for it.
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The same is true for all kinds of things in life and work. So many times the things we’re ripping our hair out over today will turn out to be something that made all the difference in our lives. Sometimes it’s the delays and wrong turns that point us in the right direction.

Oh, there will still be swearing and gnashing of teeth the next time a project goes wrong. But I’ll try to remember the lesson I’ve learned, the lesson those two really cool guys just learned, sometimes a video problem is a blessing in disguise.

Go with Your Gut

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In storytelling, video production, marketing…heck LIFE…there are times you reach a crossroads. times when you need to make a decision. Times when you need to choose a direction. I would take just a moment to offer a little advice. Go with your gut.

That little voice deep inside you telling you what to do, which direction to choose or what option is best. For some reason most of us have a tendency to ignore that voice. We sit and worry and wonder and generally stress out rather than trust ourselves. It just happened to me – I was so worried about what was right and how to do it that I kept out-thinking myself. In the end, I trusted my gut (which told me to trust my experience and training) and things worked out really well.

There are times when you know what’s right. You can feel it. Trust that feeling. It really applies to everything…whether it’s you should go back and re-edit a video or which tagline to use or picking a place to live or whether you should keep dating the person you’re seeing. Your gut, your instinct will rarely steer you wrong.

Who Are You Telling Your Story To?

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Stanford Smith makes some great points this post about “preaching to the choir” if you will. And he’s right. It’s great to have the support of like-minded people, but if the right people aren’t getting your message the right way, you’re getting nowhere. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to know your audience. And, whether your marketing a university, developing adult learning content, or producing a killer video, you need to make sure the audience you’re creating your story for is the audience that gets it. It happens all the time. We write a marketing piece in a way that appeals to our executive, but is it written in a way  that will appeal (and sell to) your audience? Will your learners love the content as much as the other instructional designers do, or will the be confused and turned-off by it? Those special-effects and artistic edits are awesome, but are you doing it to show off your favorite skills or to reach wedding and corporate clients? It’s so easy to study your audience and develop something for them but do it in a way that appeals not to the audience, but to ourselves or our peers. I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time. I’ll be the first to admit that I have. I’ve done promos and videos that I thought were great but missed the mark with the audience because they just didn’t get it. But, I’ve also done videos that I didn’t really connect with that were exactly what the client and the audience needed to see. I challenge you to go back and take an honest look at the stories you’re telling. I have and I’m going to be doing a few rewrites on a project I’m working on where the target audience is very different from the people involved. I did a pretty good job in the beginning, but I can see now that I lost that edge a bit. Now that I’m aware I can make it right. If you’re in the same boat I’m in, here are a few suggestions to help you stay on track:

  • Get out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to the interests and environment of your audience. Remind yourself where they’re coming from. Don’t assume you know.
  • Do a focus group or have an informal chat with folks from your target audience. What story do they want to hear from you or your client?
  • Look for outside experts. Don’t just listen to the usual people get opinions from, find someone from outside your circle to give an objective opinion.
  • I’ve been known to put up signs up around my desk to remind me about the audience I’m trying to reach.
Take a minute. Think about the stories you’re telling now. Are you telling your story in a way that will move, excite or affect your audience? Is your story being told in a way that’s too “inside” your environment to reach that target audience out there?  Are you telling the right story, the right way, to the right audience?
The answer to those questions are the difference between telling your story and selling your story.

Writing for Your Audience and Your Medium

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Family watching television, c. 1958

Image via Wikipedia

Over the last few days I’ve been reminded again how important it is to write for your audience and your medium. We’ve all heard about writing for the intended audience (you don’t write at a college level when your audience is 4th graders) and how important it is to make sure the audience will understand what you’re trying to say. If we’re lucky we’ve even had a little time to study the audience and understand them. The final product has a better chance of being accepted when we know the audience and write for them.

A lot of people forget about the importance of writing to the medium as well. In my experience a lot of people forget that there is a difference between the way you should write for a text-book, a presentation, a website and video. The delivery method has a huge impact on the way information is received, so it should influence the content itself. For example, how do you think a video would be received when the script sounds like it’s been directly lifted from a text-book? Would a presentation have the same feeling as an article on a web? If you want to be successful the answer should be no.

I’ve worked in video, marketing and instructional design. I’ve written for everything from TV promos to kiosks to instructor guides. Trust me, if you want to hold people’s interest and make your point you need to think about how your message is being delivered. If what you delivered will be read aloud, then you need to read it out-loud. You need to hear the way the words sound together and make sure it’s easy to listen to, and just as importantly, that it can be easily read. If the words are awkward or hard to say the person you are trying to communicate with will have a hard time receiving the message. I have had the opportunity to rewrite a number of scripts so that look good on paper, but when you read them out loud it is a whole different story. (As a side note, scripts that have been proofread and approved by lawyers is often difficult to read out-loud and to hear).

Take my advice, and save yourself a lot of trouble, add delivery medium to the list of  things you think about before you start to write. Your audience will thank you for it.

Video Marketing

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It seems like over the last week or so I’ve been overwhelmed by discussions on video marketing. To be specific, using video as a marketing tool. I totally get it and agree 100%. A video can help put a product into context in a way other mediums can’t. I’m right there with you people! But, I disagree a little on some of the finer points.

Like what exactly is a video. I guess I’m old school. In my mind a video would be something that involves, you know, video. It also includes animations, graphics, motion graphics and images, and so on. I’ve seen other uses a slide presentation set to music and exported with a video extension as video. I have to say I have a hard time with that…I suppose technically anything that runs on YouTube is a video. But do slides, no matter how nicely done put together and awesome looking (and some of them do look awesome) really count as video? Maybe it’s just the video purist in me, but that’s something I have to get used to.

The other point is that anyone can use the above technique, or any number of free or cheap software programs and a couple of hours to make a video that will win them lots of business. In my mind this goes to quality. I’m not saying that you need to spend thousands of dollars making videos. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think you can make some really great high quality products with a pocket friendly budget. But as I’ve discussed here before, sometimes you get what you pay for.

I do think that there’s room for all kinds of video (even if I’m partial to actual video kind of videos), but I also believe that people need to look before they leap. Nothing beats planning. A video should make sense to your marketing campaign. It should have a purpose and not be a video just so can say that you did one. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, do a video because it is the best way to reach your audience not because everyone else is doing them. That will be the fastest way to video marketing success.

One More Time!

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I find myself this morning in the lovely position of having to restart a project I’ve been editing for a week in a new software program. Yes, I did actually finish the rough draft and it doesn’t look to bad. The issue is that the program I used (the only one available to me at the time) will not release the video in an acceptable quality. It acts if I am just asking too much and crashes about 2 minutes into the export.

Now I know some of my video friends out there will jump in with ideas, but the reality is that this particular program (I’m not going into detail to protect the guilty)  is not designed to do what I was trying to make it do. I only had the option of 4 video tracks (I really needed at least 5, but made do). I was doing motion images, motion video, re-sized images…not very complicated from my human perspective, but from the software’s perspective it’s very complicated. I was finally able to get a low res, low quality version out. It gave the people I was doing the video for the chance to see what I had tried to get them to envision (they like it by the way!). I just can’t get a higher quality version to out-put.

After examining my options, I think the quickest and easiest will be to recreate the video in another software program. Anyone who has gotten towards the end of a project only to find out a file got corrupted, or a drive died, or someone erased the tape knows how it feels. It can be frustrating, depressing, and overwhelming to think of having to go back and recreate what you’ve already done. Especially when your deadline is less than 48 hours away.

I’m trying to look on the bright side. The video is only around 90 seconds, so it’s not that bad. I have the audio cut and soundbite already saved as a separate file so that can just be imported in. And, I know what I’m doing this time. In the past when I’ve been faced with situations like these I find that the second version is usually tighter and generally better because I had a chance to think through what worked and what didn’t and what would work better. And hey, waiting for the new software to download has given me a few minutes to update my blog. What more could a girl ask for?

And so back to the bowels of my project…”once more into the breach, dear friends…”