View from the back of the room - Tips for Presenters pt1

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I've spent more than 20 years filming at events for a huge range of businesses around the world. I'm usually at the back of the room on a raised podium filming whatever happens on stage and that also gives me a great view of the what the audience are doing. Since the advent of smartphones and iPads it's made it very obvious when an audience is distracted or losing interest, sometimes it's like being at a concert when everyone holds their phones in the air to create a sea of swaying lights, only in this case the lights are kept low and hidden behind the person in front.

Now I'm no expert in how to present to an audience, I've never done it myself, so my thoughts are only based on observing hundreds (possibly thousands) of speakers over the years. What's the one main thing that I see that loses an audience? turning to the screen behind you. Whether you use it to remind yourself where you are in a presentation or if you're highlighting something on your powerpoint then your audience will almost certainly disengage, it's like they see this as "permission" to check their phones.

How do you avoid this? If you have areas of your presentation you want to highlight then do it your powerpoint. If you want to check the slide that's on screen, then hopefully you'll have a "comfort" monitor at the front of the stage. If not then a sly glance back to the screen should be OK. If you struggle to remember everything in your presentation then use cue cards, there's no shame in having these with you on stage, some of the best presenters I've seen have them and even if you don't need to use them they can give you a boost in confidence.

Standing on a stage talking to an audience is a difficult thing to do, I have huge respect for anyone that does it, especially when they take the time to really make sure that they really engage with the audience. Do you have any tips? I'd love to see them in the comments below.

Your YouTube Channel isn't getting enough views!


That's if you have one (there's a surprising amount of businesses that don't)

If you have a YouTube channel, you've probably noticed that's it's VERY difficult to get a reasonable amount of views, I've certainly noticed this on my channel. One of the biggest problems is the sheer amount of video being uploaded to the site, some claim that there is up to 300 HOURS of video being uploaded EVERY MINUTE! so naturally that's going to make your channel a very small fish in a vastly expanding ocean so how do you give your videos the best chance to be seen?

Well it's not all bad news, there are more uploads but there are also more views, MerchDope claim up to 5 billion videos are being watched every day, for many people, especially in the younger demographic, YouTube has replaced network television so your potential customers are definitely still out there, it's up to you to give them the best chance of finding your content? Here's just a few thoughts.

Firstly you can actually tell people you have videos, make sure any content you upload is part of a marketing strategy, even if just involves spreading the word via your social media accounts. Just uploading a video without this will probably not get many views at all.

Secondly make sure you add a full description and as many keywords as you can. The ideal place for your video is in the "up next" column, this gets you a lot of views from people that are theoretically interested in whatever your videos are about. This is where description and keywords really work for you.

Thirdly make your content INTERESTING, we live in a world where we are constantly being told to film everything and put it online, whilst people will watch a "Star" vlogger for 20 minutes, they probably won't stay with your 20 minute talking head vlog shot on your iPhone if it's not engaging enough. This is where getting some professional assistance can really help.

My Company, Symphony Digital Media, can help with full video production as well as training and advice for shooting your own content as well as working with you on a full video content strategy. We can even setup, manage and optimise your social video channels for you. I've been working with online video since before the days of YouTube, I've made films for global brands and SMBs and I have my own YouTube channel with over 12million views.

As you've no doubt noticed on social media and on your LinkedIn feed, Video is a powerful tool in any Marketers toolbox but it has to be used correctly to get the absolute best ROI for your investment.

Please feel free to message me if you'd like to discuss how I can help you.

"How long should my video be"


This is a subject that's very well covered across social media, LOTS of "research" showing what the attention span of video viewers is, telling you how long before the average viewer will click away from your very expensive video. It seems this figure is getting shorter every time a new "study" appears. Pretty soon your 2 minute video is going to look like the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - if you haven't engaged the viewer by the first time they blink then all is lost!

Much of the information out there is badly researched or is presented entirely out of context. If your audience is teenagers on Snapchat then yes you probably DO have a shorter time to capture their attention, but if you're targeting adults or a business audience then your video doesn't always have to be quite as short. What's my evidence for that you ask? Well to start with then just take a look at TED Talks These are videos that can last as long as twenty minutes and they are just basically presenters on stage. They get millions of views and people actually watch them all the way to the end! I often see so much good content end up on the cutting room floor because the client is convinced that the video should be a short as possible.

I have a "hobby" YouTube Channel with over 10 million views, Flying Machines TV this consists of a number of shorter films and a few 60-70 minute documentaries. The most watched clip on my channel lasts just 26 seconds, but the second most watched, with over a million and a half views, is 60 minutes long! While the average watch time on this is just under 10 minutes a reasonable amount of people watched the whole film, and this is a film of an airshow without any story.

There are many ways to keep people's attention on a video but for me the key one is story, people love compelling stories especially when told well, after all humans have been storytellers for thousands of years so it's in our DNA. When I make a film I aim to have a strong beginning, a clearly defined middle and a good payoff off at the end, this applies whether I'm making a two hour film or a 20 second web commercial. This "three act" structure is the device that movies, theatre and literature often use and it's something that viewers are very used to.

It's also more impactful if you can provoke an emotional response from the viewer, that's why so many TV commercials are designed to make you laugh or cry, that's something that's not always possible to do but you'd be surprised how often it's possible to do that in a film about something comparatively mundane. This is one of the big advantages of engaging us creatives to tell your stories for you.

There are plenty of other tricks that we can use to make sure you message gets across, even if the viewer does switch the video off after a while - strong messages at the start, a summary of your message in the first 30 secs of the film followed by more detailed content in the later stages. You can even make a short "trailer" to link people through to the full film which has more detail.

The mistake people often make is NOT using content that could be very useful to an engaged buyer who will happily sit through longer content to get the information they need. That's why having a great video content strategy in place can really get the most value out of video production. If you'd like to talk about that or any other aspect of video production then feel free to contact us.

Don't make a video!

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Don't make a video - that might be a strange statement from someone who makes videos for a living, but in today's social media world you have to look at visual media production in a different way.

I guarantee at some point you've scrolled past endless articles on how good video is at engaging people, there are so many "studies" they are hard to miss and despite some increasingly wild claims on how effective it is, video IS certainly a very useful tool. However it can also be a comparatively expensive one, so what's the best way to get as much value as possible out of it?

For most films, the production process normally involves gathering lots of footage, interviews, graphics, audio etc. This creates a library of material that is used to make the final edit. Over the last few years that final edit is usually something quite short (video length is another subject I'll cover in another blog) so a lot of material ends up on the "cutting room floor"

Most of the time lots of this material is very useful, for example the first "content" version of any edit I do can have 30 or 40 minutes of great material in it which is then whittled down to just 2 minutes - so why not use that extra content elsewhere? This is where a video content strategy comes in.

Social Media is a hungry monster, it needs feeding regularly and by regularly adding video you can keep it well fed with quality and engaging content. So by planning on making video content instead of just a video you can get the maximum value from your budget. 

As well as a short, high impact, video you can make a longer more detailed version with more content for the viewer that want's to find out more. You can also split down other footage into short clips that can accompany social media posts.

All the content you create can also exist in a single video library that is keyworded so in the future if you need supporting video content for social media, presentations, pitches, shows etc it is easily retrievable.

This need for content and the realisation that there is a lot of wasted footage in the video production process has prompted me to start a new social video agency Symphony Digital Media where we will help Companies make the best use of their budgets for video with the maximum impact, feel free to contact us if you'd like to know more.


Case Study Films - some thoughts

I'll start by admitting my bias, I'm a big fan of case study films, I think having your customers, on film, explaining how great your product is, or how you solved a business problem for them is one of the best uses of video in marketing you can have. They can be surprisingly straightforward to put together and they can also be relatively low cost. But there are a few things to look out for when you are making one.

1. Getting the Customer to agree!
This is probably the most difficult part of any case study film, hopefully it's not hard for you to find a happy customer but getting them to agree to be on film can be a problem. In my experience people can be very nervous about appearing on camera and no matter how much you reassure them that it won't be difficult they still imagine that it's going to be a difficult experience. It's important to reassure the customer that they are in charge of the process, it's not live TV so they will be able to take their time to answer. Also (hopefully!) they will have approval over the final edit so there will be no chance of any inaccuracies or sensitive information being published.

2. Too much preparation
Once you've got them to agree you have to then make sure that they are prepared for their days filming without being too prepared. When interviewees turn up on the day with a prepared "script" I know it's probably going to be a difficult interview. It's much better to agree themes for questions beforehand rather than giving them actual questions, taking a conversational approach to asking the questions will get much more natural answers. I also try and make the shoot as informal as possible, modern LED lighting doesn't generate heat like TV lighting used to, so the filming environment is much more comfortable.

3.Cutaway Footage
A few minutes of just a "talking head" can be interesting but adding cutaway material, sometimes called "b-roll", will make the film more engaging. This can be filmed at the customer's offices on the same day or sometimes at other sites they may have. Sometimes you get lucky and they have their own pre-shot and pre-approved footage to use. Once again it's important to stress that any footage that is filmed on their premises will be subject to their final approval before publishing.

4.Final Approval
I've already mentioned this but it's VITAL that you let your customer have the final approval on the video. Often it will need to go through legal, branding and marketing as well. I often find that the customer's marketing department ask to use the film as well, which is added benefit as it gives you a broader audience for the film.

5.Getting it seen
As with any video you shouldn't expect to just put the film on YouTube or your website and expect people to find it. Make sure that you plan a marketing campaign for the film, there are also lot's of SEO elements you can use when uploading the video that will help get it placed in search rankings. This is something we are happy to help with. The film can have many uses beyond online, a case study film can be a great aid for your sales department to use in pitches and presentations.

Video is a great tool, especially in a world dominated by social media so do take time to think about adding some great case study films to your marketing toolbox.


"How much does a video cost"

This is a question I get asked a lot and there's obviously no immediate answer. It's quite possible to get a quality video made for a few hundred pounds, but it's equally possible to spend much, much more.

Many of you will be inundated with "we can make cheap video" posts on your Social Media timelines, on further inspection most of these offer animated videos using templates with very little customisation possible, but if you don't have the budget and want to start with a basic video presence then they can be a great way to start using video in your marketing. It's common knowledge that having any video on your website can improve Google search rankings so even a low cost templated video will be useful. In reality though you probably have to spend more to make a film that truly engages your customers and realistically this may cost considerably more. 

Modern camera technology and post-production software has helped lower costs and increase accessibility, it's amazing what great results can be achieved with a GoPro or an iPhone, in fact the car maker Bentley has made two films using only iPhones and iPads   However these films clearly have a LOT of creative input behind them so I don't imagine they were particularly low cost

Simple interview or blog films with some supporting footage included can be created for just a few hundred pounds, whereas more complex product or training films can cost in the thousands.The best approach is to decide exactly how much you have to spend and then talk to Agencies or Production Companies to see what that budget will get you. The low cost of entry has meant there are now a plethora of video companies out there and competition is fierce, but sometimes lower cost can mean compromise in quality both visually and creatively so it's wise to spend some time finding a business with experience that is a good "fit" with yours.



So you and your team have put together a great event - inspiring keynote speakers, lots of confirmed delegates and Clients from across your industry. The venue is amazing and your C-Suite team are all going to be there, you haven't forgotten anything - except filming it of course!

You dropped video coverage early in the budget meetings, it's money you could spend elsewhere, video doesn't make the event any more successful does it? it's just extra people to feed and as we all know film crews eat and drink a lot!

Plus your marketing department already spent a lot of money on some great videos to play at the show, so its no great surprise that you dropped it. But what are you missing out on?

1. Live feed - You've probably got some form of projection at the event to show all those carefully designed Powerpoint slides, video will give you the option of live feeds of your speakers as well. It also gives you the ability to livestream part or all of it. (Not as expensive or as difficult as you might think)

2. A record of the show - A dynamic highlights video can really capture the spirit of the event, it shows off all the work you've put in and it's a great tool to help market your next events. If its more than a one day show you can even get a closing highlights video made to play out at the end of the show.

3. Content videos - Your inspiring keynote presentations can often make great post-event videos. You can extend the reach of your event beyond the attendees and get your message out to a much broader audience. It's a common misconception that people won't sit down and watch a 15 minute presentation on video, Ted Talks are exactly that and it's one of the most popular streaming sites on the planet. It gives you more content for your YouTube channel (you do have a YouTube Channel don't you?) and videos are great to use in your Social Media Campaigns.

4. Video Blogs - As you have so many people in one place it's an excellent opportunity to film short "soundbite" interviews with delegates or even testimonial videos from your Clients at the show giving you even more clips to feed into your YouTube Channel (what do you mean you don't have a YouTube Channel!) or your Social Media.

5. More ROI - As you know ROI on Events can be a hard thing to measure, but getting video interviews with delegates explaining exactly what they got out of can really help. It can also add value by providing valuable marketing and promotional material.

You can add video to any event from just a few hundred pounds, so perhaps if it's something that you regularly option out of your events it might be time to think again?


That’s actually a hacked line from the Sci-fi classic "Bladerunner" but it’s a good description of what I try to do with a lot of the films I make. You might not imagine it’s something you can do in Corporate films but in a lot of cases you can.

The best way to engage someone in a film is to appeal to some of their core instincts like humour, pride or even sadness. This can lead to a lasting impression or even (I hesitate to use the phrase) better "brand alignment" 

I regularly get comments back from clients like:

"That actually made me tear up", 

"The video really is fantastic, we even had one of our comms team crying!"

"Wow……. now we’ve finished crying I can reply!"

Now I’m not suggesting that an interview with your IT Director about the implementation of your new Linux servers can get this sort of response, but there are plenty of ways you can make a film about your Company that does.

Do you have a brand film? Brand films are not just for large Companies, even the smallest business can have a film that is designed to sum up what you do.

Do you have an engaged workforce? Interviews with employees about what they do and what makes them proud to be part of the business. This is a great way to illustrate your core values.

Do you have any great customer stories? Often a well told case study can work well, especially if your product or service does something to help of change people’s lives.

Every film should tell a good story whether it be a 30 second commercial, 5 minute infographic or 7 hour epic tale from Middle Earth and if you start with that idea, chances are you end up with something that people actually enjoy watching.


In reality it’s a promotional film that fits within a marketing strategy, designed to elicit a response across social networks, it’s what used to be called a “viral video”

It always seemed strange to me that I’d get clients who wanted to make a “viral”, more correct term would be “video that we hope will go viral” and to be honest more often than not they didn’t. There was an expectation that simply by putting a film on YouTube or Facebook, it would magically spread around the world and become another internet sensation.

Don’t get me wrong, this does happen, but most times it’s not by design it’s by chance and it’s almost never a video for a brand. Usually it’s a random something like camera phone footage of someone trying to park their car badly, funny baby or the ubiquitous cat video!

So the emerging term of “Social Video” is slowly taking over, Marketeers are realising that a well thought out video, whether it’s a short “Vine” or a longer film on YouTube/Facebook can add considerable value to a marketing campaign. The ability to post 15 second videos on Instagram, one of the fastest growing social networks, is also attracting a lot of major brands.

Now video can be expensive, especially when you frame it in social media terms, where tweeting, posting and blogging doesn’t cost very much at all, but these are all short engagement experiences for your potential customers. We’re all used to scrolling quickly through our Twitter and Facebook timelines and in the case of Millennials then it’s increased by a large factor, they positively devour information so you have just a second or two to get your message across.

Social Video has the possibility of engaging the viewer for a longer time, giving you more time to get the message across and yes it also has the possibility to “go viral”

But it can’t do it on it’s own, at least to start with, it needs to be fully integrated into a social media and marketing campaign, it has to be uploaded to the right video sites and it has to be optimised with description tags and keywords.

If you haven’t used video before, or you haven’t tried it for a while it may be worth looking at it again, production costs have dropped considerably over the last few years with the advent of new technology, making it affordable to many more businesses.