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10 Ways to Make Your Video Not Suck

As I’ve pointed out in previous blog posts, I know a few things about video production. Photography and videography are a passion of mine. So, listen up, please!

Nearly every tutorial that explains “how” to create a video is dead wrong. Crumple them up and toss them in the bin. Why? Because all of those tutorials focus on the technical “how” and not the conceptual “how”.

Here’s the difference: Shot List vs. Equipment List. Most tutorials drone on and on about buying a lighting kit and what kind of microphone to have and YOU MUST HAVE A TRIPOD! It’s all well intentioned, but it completely misses the point.

What are the three most important things in real estate? Location, location, location. In video production, the three most important things are concept, concept, concept!

If your concept sucks, your video will suck. I don’t care what kind of camera you have! So, if your concept calls for a fast-paced action sequence, you may not even need a tripod. And if your concept calls for a parody of reality TV, you won’t need a lighting kit. Now what if your concept calls for an homage to silent TV? You won’t need that microphone, will you?

The point is that not a single decision should be made regarding equipment, locations, or actors until you have settled upon your concept AND written several drafts of your script. Obviously, the constraints of your situation will help dictate your concept to some degree. Side note: This is a good thing. Being limited to what you’ve got lying around or can safely afford always brings out your creative best!

So, here are the ten ways to ensure that your video does not suck that are not focused on non-essential details like equipment.

  1. Determine your audience. Who is supposed to be watching this video? This can be difficult to determine. Let’s take the example of a bowling alley. Do you want to focus on seasoned bowlers or the occasional bowler? Knowing who you’re talking to affects how you present your product or service. If unsure, be precise and make separate videos for separate audiences.

  2. Sell the benefits, not the features. This is marketing 101. Don’t focus on the optical zoom number of that digital camera you’re selling, but instead focus on what the zoom will get you. Namely, a tight shot of your child’s smile as they accept their diploma. ALWAYS think in terms of benefits.

  3. Show me, don’t tell me. Don’t make an illustrated lecture. A moving picture version of a PowerPoint won’t sell anything except coffee. Nobody likes a PowerPoint. Don’t make one in video. Example: Don’t tell me that the optical zoom will get me a great shot of my kid at graduation while showing me a picture of the camera on a white background. Show me getting that perfect picture at a graduation! As far as concept is concerned, this is the difference between having a talking head (think news anchor) simply telling me about the zoom versus seeing it in action. This is an important distinction.

  4. Match the tone of your video to the tone of the product. Selling something zany? Make a zany video. Selling something serious? Make a more serious video.

  5. A parody of a popular genre provides a common ground for you and the viewer. Once you’ve established the genre (for example, historical documentary), you can use the conventions of that style without having to explain yourself. You can cut away to an interviewee in period costume and the audience will instantly understand what has happened. Or you can do a funny reenactment with the footage heavily slowed down or shifted to black & white and the audience will get the joke.

  6. Don’t take yourself or your product too seriously. Humor goes a long way in establishing trust with the audience. If you can poke a little fun at yourself, the audience will reward you with their attention and possibly a sale. That being said, always try to avoid making fun of the product itself. Remember, comedy is tricky and very difficult to pull off especially with amateur actors. If you’re going to do something funny, make sure that it doesn’t hinge on the delivery of a line in a particular way. Avoid lengthy scenes or skits and try to go with “punchy” jokes until you develop a style that works.

  7. Start the video strong. Do or say something attention-grabbing. DO NOT lead with your jingle, logo, or any other promotional nonsense. It’s boring. And I don’t care who made the video. Show me that stuff at the end when you’ve (hopefully) made the viewer interested enough to find out where to purchase it.

  8. Start simple. Focus on the one most important thing that your product or service does better than someone else. Once that has been made clear to the viewer, you can explain the other benefits later in the video.

  9. Don’t hide the monster. This isn’t a horror movie. You shouldn’t wait until the second act to reveal what it is that you’re selling. Show it as soon as possible. Don’t waste the first 45 seconds with your best attempt at an SNL skit (remember, those guys bomb all the time and they write comedy for a living!).

  10. Don’t exaggerate or make unverifiable claims. This is another Marketing 101 thing, but it’s important. “BowlZone is the Midwest’s Best Bowling Alley!” How do you define best? It’s a useless claim and they’re everywhere in advertisements. Don’t do it. Focus on what makes your product or service different from your competitors and make it clear in the first 5 seconds of your video.

Jamie Salvatori
Jamie Salvatori
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