How to make good business videos without going to Hollywood

Further to my two earlier articles about the need for a script when you make even the simplest of business videos and how to write and use that script, let’s now take a look at how to inspire a bit of audience-pleasing imagination into your 2 minute website intro or your business’s YouTube channel.

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A good business video doesn’t have to cost much to film and edit, as long as you make the most of the medium. It won’t be a Hollywood production, but it will show customers and prospects what your business can do for them.

It’s interesting to see everyone going nuts videoing anything from street riots to grass growing and slapping it up live on Periscope or Blab (why does the name Blab make me think of a pustulating skin complaint?) That’s fine if all you want to do is bore your friends and contacts on Facebook or Instagram. But pre-recorded business video has a bit more work to do.

Unless you’re as professional as Oprah or a Dimbleby, do not  speak to camera

I am getting very tired of watching SME head honchos who welcome people to their websites by staring fixedly into the camera lens, speaking in funereal tones and looking like they have just sat on an electric fence.

I am also very tired of watching similar head honchos peering up at me over the bottom of the frame and glancing around at their idiot stickers which they have placed all over the area around the camera to remind them what to say. It makes them look like cat burglars casing da joint with their eyes flickering around looking for the cops.

In short, unless you are very good at speaking to camera (and it takes many years of practice), don’t do it in your business video.

Show us in your business video – don’t just tell

Instead, get yourself out of the chair and go and show us why your business is interesting, how much it can do for us, and how well.

You need someone to prompt you so you can speak naturally. Ideally you should have an “off-camera interviewer” – someone who basically has a conversation with you but gets cut out of the video afterwards in the edit, so in the final video we just see you talking in statements.

This is a common technique used in TV interviews. At a pinch though, the person doing the filming can prompt you in the same way, as long as they can do the two jobs at the same time.

What to show?

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You probably would be surprised at how many interesting images you can film to show what your business does and achieves for its customers.

Show us around your business, especially if it is visually interesting. Show us the machines that do incredible things at high speed. Show us the workshop or the control centre or the manufacturing area and tell us how it works. Show us how to print a banner or make up a floral arrangement or change a toilet plunger or repair a laptop.

Even if your business consists of entirely office-based work, show us the staff at work. Get them to say a few words to you about how their contribution helps customers. Show a montage of people’s faces, working at screens, discussing stuff in a meeting.

In other words, show us what your business and brand are all about and what they do for us (and don’t forget to use the SO WHAT? test for your business video content as well as your elevator pitch).

Avoid the cheesy business video graphics

There are hundreds of companies on the internet selling whizzy whiteboard writing and zooming column charts and other such visual chewing gum.

By all means insert a small amount of graphics if it is essential to tell your story, but remember that these gizmos are nothing more than glammed-up PowerPoint slides.

And whatever happens, don’t have the voice over telling you what you can already read in the graphic sections, unless you are catering for an audience of the hearing or vision impaired.

Of course, some people use the slides/voice over combination for how-to videos and – especially when you’re talking online applications, screenshots, etc – these are quite effective.

But if you put more than a mere soupçon of still graphics into an otherwise live action video (video that shows moving real-life images), the graphics have a nasty way of making it all judder to a halt. Live action video should be at least 90 percent movement if you want it to work seamlessly.

Get professional editing

…or at least, get someone who knows how to do it sharply and creatively. If you can’t afford a pro editor, hunt around for a keen teenager who loves making music videos and preferably edits them on a powerful Mac system or similar.

Knowing where to cut and join up video sequences is often an instinctive skill and anyone who can cut performance and dance live action to a music track should have this ability.

As I mentioned in this article, the fact that your video will run according to a pre-determined script not only makes the filming easier, it also makes life much easier for the editor. He or she will know the following important things:

1) The total running time required
2) The fact that the video content has been approved and signed off at script stage, so no-one can move goalposts around
3) That although filming may not have been done in script order, all required elements will be there to work with

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Let’s learn from spontaneity and informality of live video and put those styles to work for us in our business videos.

With more and more live business video around (as opposed to live action pre-recorded business video) we can’t help but see increasing amounts of “fly-on-the-wall” footage on the burgeoning number of live video channels, showing viewers what we do and how we do it in almost any sphere of life.

To me, this is healthy; it’s about making video a natural part of sharing our lives.

So in business video, let’s learn a lesson from that. Let’s get the camera away from the talking heads and the static graphics and out into the real world, where it shows our customers and prospects what our businesses and brands really can do for them.

What do you think about business video?

How do you feel about the (pre-recorded) business videos you see on company websites and YouTube channels?

Please share your views!

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