After our webcast, John Schoonover, former Executive Producer for Microsoft Production Studios, and I sat down together to answer some specific questions on how to get executive video communications right. These are great relevant questions that we didn’t have time to address during the live show.
View the recorded webcast here: Executive Video Communications
How long should a recorded video be?
There is no exact rule and it depends on the platform/venue. The general guidance is under 2:00, especially if online. Really, it should only be as long as it needs to be to deliver the message.
Should we give executives the opportunity to use makeup?
You should encourage make-up. It is our default position as Microsoft but sometimes Execs are not willing.
How do ensure great Audio? Do you typically Mic the executive or use a Boom Mic?
If time allows, we do both for redundancy. The lav is preferred but if you have an Exec on a tight time schedule a boom can work well.
What is a good benchmark for views: the target for percentage of employees who view the video?
The benchmark differs for a live event versus a recorded, video on-demand (VOD). 25% of the target audience is a good viewership number. For our Microsoft CEO Q&As, we get between 25,000 to 30,000 for a target audience of 100,000.
The taping is not the hard part for us; it’s the editing. We don’t have the software or knowledge to do that — or the budget to outsource it. Any advice?
First, editing software has never been more affordable…so take another look. Second, if no editing is available I suspect you will have to make scripts short, sweet and simple to make certain your Exec can get a clean take.
Teleprompter or no prompter? Pros and Cons?
Depends on the Exec but the answer is yes on prompter to insure time efficiency. However, many enterprise studios do not have prompter equipment. The biggest con is that the Exec may not being able to interpret the copy and look less than authentic.
Most CEO’s are misinformed by ‘Media training’ instead of ‘made comfortable in front on the camera’. 2 totally different aspects of being in front of the camera. How do you communicate the difference?
I would call it a video coach not media training. Some media training programs are focused on how to manage press interviews, not on being successful in front of the camera.
So make-up and script read takes less than 15mins?
Yes, that is oftentimes the case. There are times when we have more time…but rare. Sometimes make-up is done “on the set” to save time.
How do you manage/ direct an executive when the video requires the exec walk toward the camera while delivering dialog? We need to make this particular exec sound and look relaxed and engaging, and incorporate a little action.
In this case, an interviewer can facilitate the conversation. Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8JwNZBJ_wI. If not, I think this complexity requires time for an Exec to memorize the copy and rehearse the copy and shot blocking.
What equipment or resource, other than a camera, would you cancel a shoot for if it was unavailable?
You must have quality video and clear sound, so Exec must be properly mic’ed. Some amount of lighting is often critical to make the Exec look great. Beyond that, I guess you can drop teleprompter and maybe craft services.
Which format would you recommend doing for a stimulating webcast with three people?
If you are working with three people on a single topic, or connected set of topics, then I think the interview/discussion style works really well. The key is you need one person to be the lead. They own keeping the conversation moving and keeping the comments balanced across the three participants. We used that format for this webcast: two people, interview/discussion style and I was the lead. It is simple to prepare, and each presenter should have their own content/point of view. Coordinating ahead of time helps as well. John and I had 2 short phone prep calls for our event. We actually met live for the first time on the morning of the event.
What’s the best strategy for execs who want to use smart phones for messaging firm-wide?
Video can still work and be broadcast to smart phones. The caveat is that you will need to be cautious on session length and will not want to use any slides/graphics as they will be too small to read. It is more common for people to want broadcasts to be smart-phone compatible vs smart-phone exclusive.
What’s the cost?
Cost is a tough thing to answer. The classic answer is, it depends. If you keep it simple, shoot it in house, use all your own lighting, etc. you can actually do a broadcast for nearly nothing. Cameras in the $2,000+ range can give you a high-quality output. The real expense in broadcasts are: renting a studio, hiring production and camera people, purchasing software for streaming/network delivery solution/archive portal, talent coach and promotion. As you work your way down that list, everything you can do yourself saves you money. The production, studio time, etc. for our broadcast was approximately $5000. We used our own people for the camera and production. The main cost for us was for studio time, travel and incidentals.
How do you deal with an un-prepared/ill-prepared presenter?
Tough question. You really have 3 options: 1) find a way to help them through by changing the format for them. Have someone ask them questions in an interview style and take the pressure off the presenter. 2) Let them go as planned – let them fail – probably not a good answer in many cases, but sometimes that is what it takes to get people to prepare correctly for next time. 3) Pull them from the broadcast and have someone else cover their material or leave it out. Obviously option #1 is the best approach, but it takes courage to make changes at the last minute. Most people actually do #2 and hope is goes ok – it rarely does in this case.
How do you get executives to be animated on video if their normal demeanor is serious and soft spoken?
Practice! Use a coach if you can. Showing an exec a playback of themselves is a great tool. Get them to present without a prompter or any notes until they get to the point where they can really talk about their content with confidence. Have them talk about their kids or their dog, then play that back to them. Hopefully they can see the difference and see how they are more alive when talking about topics they are close to. Another more detailed tip is to get executives comfortable talking while making some hand gestures. It sounds like a nit, but can be the key to loosening up a stiff speaker. Asking them to start with their hands in front of them with their fingers interlocked can help.
When coaching, how do you get talent to be succinct in giving their statements?
Playback is a great tool to make it clear to the Exec when they are rambling or slightly off topic. Have people see themselves going off track. Next, force them to organize all of their thoughts into groups of 2 or 3 simple points. No points should be more than 30 seconds. Most rambling comes from a lack of preparation and well-organized content – OR – is the result of a poor presenter having to perform in a more free-form style than they are capable of. If the issue persists, change the format on them and have a host manage them in a Q&A style.
If a leader is nervous – even in a pre-recorded segment that will be edited – how can we teach them to relax on camera? (If no coach available) – Any quick tips for getting them relaxed?
Use a Q&A format, even if you edit out the person asking the questions. Set up your shoot so the executive is speaking to the person asking the questions, NOT looking directly at the camera. Be sure they get lots practice and positive feedback when it is clear they are doing better. Talking to a camera is really hard. I would also recommend the idea of the executive using hand gestures in this case as well. Getting their hands in front of them and moving just a little bit can make a real difference.
What tips do you have for calming down/relaxing interviewees?
Preparation. Be sure they are really comfortable with the content. Show them the set, describe in detail how it will work, who will be standing where, etc. Sit in the actual set and do a quick run through. A great moderator/interviewer can help by smiling and nodding affirmation back to the executive. This can make a huge difference within a segment. Moderator can also inject small bits of humor or ask follow-up questions on topics where the executive seems especially comfortable.
How do you get the executive to take the process seriously? I feel that most don’t see the need to look over scripts etc. before shooting.
This is tough – in the end you need an executive sponsor or an outsider to give direct feedback that it is not OK to be poorly prepared. I also think post mortems are really key. Detailed feedback on how each executive did, how they were perceived (nervous, ill-prepared, rambled, etc.) is really helpful. I would also turn the situation around and I would ask the executive “what can we do as your team, to help you be more/better prepared for these video shoots?” Maybe they would do better with outlines rather than full scripts, maybe they really require a dry run the day before, and maybe they need some 1 on 1 coaching. All things considered, feedback is the key.
What the best way to handle secondary content, ppt slides, while an exec is presenting?
Another “it depends” question. If you are using a webcasting tool and can show the presenter and slides side by side, that is usually a good approach. If not, generally 1/3 of time should be spent on the slides and 2/3 on the presenter – just cut from one view to the other. Be sure your presenters know how this will work. If you are doing the cut away from one to the other, the presenter will need to better cover the items on the slides. If they are side by side, the presenter should speak to the high points of the slides.
How can I work myself out of a job and get the exec to film him/herself using the Kollective webcaster platform?
Well, not likely to happen, but getting execs comfortable filming short video messages at their desk is a doable thing. Show them how simple the process is. Pick some milestone that warrants recognition, but not something you would do a bigger broadcast for. Maybe it is a customer win or a production milestone. Have the exec shoot a quick 60-120 second message from their desk with you/your team in support. Then show them how you want them to publish the results.
I video tape outstanding (non-executive) employees for recognition videos. How does this guidance translate to those employees?
I use the term executive here just because that’s the typical audience we are working with, but all of these tips apply to employees as well. Just remember that video communications is probably not in their job description, so you might need an extra dose of patience. The only thing I would add on the employee front is to be sure this is something they actually want to do. Sometimes people feel obligated, but are not really comfortable – these situations rarely deliver good results.