Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

The Challenge

For professional speakers to get to the top echelon – to demand top dollar for a keynote presentation, there is no question about the need for a first class demo video. On the other hand video is:

  1. relatively expensive
  2. dependent on a large audience and venue
  3. a loaded gun (if you don’t know how to use it properly, and point it in the wrong direction, you can hurt yourself, from both an image and financial perspective).

In this short article, I can’t cover off everything a professional producer/director would be concerned about on your behalf, but I can provide some tips that will go a long way towards helping you get the best quality video of your performance, when the opportunity presents itself.

The Solution

Here are the 3 keys to overcoming the above concerns:

  1. Don’t shy away from doing a first class job. Hire the best production videographers shooting on high quality videotape (such as beta or DV).
  2. Plan. Even though you must amass footage along the road, you can do this relatively inexpensively if you know a few tricks of the trade. Getting a good product is mostly a result of careful planning.
  3. When you’re ready to edit together a final video, hire a very good producer/director. Make sure they’ve been in the industry a long time and understand your business. Finally, determining your central theme (or image) and bringing it to the screen through a tightly cut video, will be key to your success.

Top Ten Secrets

1. Lighting and camera. Lighting is everything! In television, we paint pretty pictures (and great looking speakers!) through the use of light. Your videographer (or if you’re working with a theatrical lighting director) must know how to light effectively for television. Hire only professionals – no wedding videographers  . . . unless you know they do exceptional production work. The difference in cost will only be a few hundred dollars at most, versus double the original amount to re-do it again.

In terms of your dress, try to stay away from whites and blacks. Stay in mid range colors – pastels are the best. Make-up is the ultimate for a really professional product; if you have fair skin, mandatory. Fair skinned people reflect light. We tend to “white out” if we don’t wear a make up “base” to absorb some of that light. Make up or powder also reduces any shine, which is distracting. And, if you wear glasses, make sure you’ve allowed for them in the lighting. They tend to reflect light.

Showing the use of a backlight.

A back light will give you some sparkle and separate you from the background. This one, however, is a little too strong for the little blonde guy.

2. Video is all about PLANNING. Secondly: Video LIVES FOREVER! In the industry, every time they go out on a shoot, professionals spent hours making sure everything about that day is organized BEYOND being organized. In other words, plan for everything to go wrong and you’ll have an exceptional day. What you get on tape will not get better over time. No amount of editing will improve it. So . . . make sure you plan for the venue (better still if you have a say in what venue is selected), hire only the best production people, perfect your keynote and work with your videographer to ensure they know what you need to end up with. Here’s where you might need to talk to a director beforehand to determine what it is you’re actually asking for, in “video-speak.”

Shot showing light pole in it.

Here's a light stand peaking into the background, destroying the look of the stage. Make sure when you shoot video, you have a background that looks absolutely terrific!

3. Mind the frame. Your performance determines how tight the shot should be. If you use lots of humor that require facial expressions and intricate timing, close-ups will be very important. If you’re all over the stage and use large gestures, you’ll want what we call a “full shot” – head to toe (or at least head to knees). Make sure you know how your planned blocking will affect lighting and sound. Work with your videographer or director to define where you will be . . . when. Know where the camera is positioned and make sure you favor it when you presen

4. Sound is 60% of video. You’ll watch a bad picture with terrific sound, but not the opposite. If you’re debating whether to tape a performance, consider these critical deterrents:

    1. Is it near an airport or under a flight path?
    2. Is it near a train track?
    3. Is there a wedding or karaoke session in the next room (if in a hotel)?
    4. Is there an air conditioning system that sounds like a jet engine?

Check your sound in the camera before you go on – always.

5. Beware the environment. When working on stage at an event, make sure you know the lay of the land well in advance. Know what the background will be. The look of the stage you’re on has a critical effect on how your audience perceives your performance. A spectacular background, colorfully lit, will raise your profile. Make sure you visit the site as soon beforehand as possible. And if you’re setting this up yourself in a small venue, make sure the ceiling height is at least 12 feet and NO CHANDELIERS!

6. Know your objective. Plan for the end use. For example, if you’re doing a demo video, your key need is for small bytes of video (5 – 10 second clips) of your very best “stuff.” Or it might be a slightly longer story that’s delivered particularly well. The idea in the first part of your video is to “wow” the viewer and keep them watching – also to give a clear picture of your style. You only typically need one camera on-site to capture this type of material.

However, if you’re capturing footage for a longer-length training program, for example,  or if you have lots of audience interaction (and need to capture them), you’re looking at two cameras or more and you really need a director involved to help you plan and capture this properly. So, know what your intended use is before you get up on stage in front of a camera.

If you’re shooting with one camera and have control of the venue to some extent, you can get your close-up audience shots at the end of your talk. Just get the videographer to come down to the stage (or even on stage) and then instruct the audience to give you their best reactions as you deliver is little section of your talk again. Most audiences will be thrilled to help you reach your objective. And make sure you prompt them – work with them to direct THEIR performance. Challenge them and make it fun!

7. Get it on tape FIRST and . . . worry about the editing later. Contrary to popular belief, you really can’t “fix it in post.” It has to be on tape. In editing, you can mitigate the damage but you won’t really make what you already have better than it is.

Post-production is all about enhancing your main theme through the appropriate music (the cuts you select are absolutely critical to your image), graphics and colors. Go with a pro on this and don’t even think about buying your own editing system and trying to do it yourself!

8. YOU . . . Director! It’s in your best interests to become a “technical performer.” Understand the video medium as best you can and work with the best people to get your image on video and you’ll never look back. You need to know enough about the television medium to know what works for you and what doesn’t. You need to control the shooting environment as much as you can (there are always limitations here) and do your planning beforehand. You need to be a bit of a quasi-director. And have a professional attitude and respect for this powerful medium.

A note about third party taping. This is a situation in which a third is taping your performance. Firstly, make sure that you negotiate a high quality videotape copy of your performance for your own use. And MAKE SURE you control the rights to the footage THEY end up with (in terms of where it will be used). This is YOUR product on tape and YOU need to control both WHERE it’s used and HOW it’s used . . .  and for HOW LONG. You don’t necessarily want something you did five years ago showing up unexpectedly and possibly affecting your new image in a negative way.

9. Know your medium. Videotape is still the choice for recording. DVDs are for distribution only (they replace VHS copies). Don’t accept original footage as a DVD copy – it will do you little good in the long run. You simply can’t re-use it with any amount of quality. Also, if you’re setting up a session on your own, be aware that broadcast beta tapes run only 30 minutes, so you need to break your presentation to allow a 30 second (or so) tape change. Other types of tapes run at different lengths of time. Know the length of the tape you’re using and make sure you adjust your talk for it.

For internet use, you’ll want to convert your end product to Flash video – in today’s world, Flash is the most universal medium and the one that will give almost instant playback with the least technical requirements.

10. Do your homework. Professional videographers will cost from $1100 – 1600 a day. They typically work on a day or half-day booking (a half day rate is usually a bit more than half the day rate). If you need a producer/director, if it were me making your decision, I would lean towards high end “corporate” or “entertainment” directors (the latter may be more expensive.) And make sure you know the costs of packaging. You’ll need to allow for artwork, as well.

Video is Very Powerful

Video is the most powerful communication medium we have. It has become more accessible but this is both an advantage and a curse. It can advance your career tremendously if used well, but bring it to a grinding halt if used badly. And it can cost you a fortune for a library of badly shot YOU!

Make sure you load your gun with high quality ammunition, get the best help you can to shoot it properly and aim it in the right direction!

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