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Sharpen Your Focus to Produce Stronger Videos - 7/15/2014 -

When you focus on everything, you’re not focused on anything, says SHRM’s video expert.

By Jennifer J. Salopek

Are you focusing on the wrong things when you produce videos? Many of us are, says Patrick Mirza, multimedia producer at the Society for Human Resource Management. In his session at the AM&P Annual Meeting in May, Mirza notes that most video work occurs before the camera is even turned on. Devoting sufficient thought and time to planning your video production can increase the quality and impact of your videos significantly.

Mirza, who hosts a biweekly video program for SHRM and who estimates that he has produced more than a thousand video and audio projects, says that people without video experience tend to make certain key mistakes. "The first thing many people think about is capturing footage,” he says. "They’re excited to jump in and shoot.”

It’s critical to determine what you are capturing, why, and how; in other words, to focus on what’s important in your video. "When you focus on everything, you’re not focused on anything,” Mirza says. He emphasizes that pre-production planning should take more time than production and post-production together — about 70 percent of the total project time. Pre-production includes:

  • Background research.
  • Story line development.
  • Distribution.
  • Budget.
  • Schedule.
  • Legal issues.
  • Logistics.

Addressing these considerations in advance is vital, says Mirza, who notes that otherwise you may not capture enough material, you may miss critical elements, or you may capture too much content, which leads to lengthy editing.

"If we could skip 70 percent of the work and still put out a good video, we would do it every single time,” he notes.

Mirza acknowledges that many of us receive video requests on the fly because important people will be at a certain place at a certain time. Those making the request often aren’t aware of the pre-work that should go into a video production and underestimate the amount of time it takes to shoot footage. Mirza recommends pre-interviews via telephone that can help refine talking points until they are crisp and prioritized and recommends allotting at least 45 minutes for each interview. "Trying to fit video interviews into the cracks of another event can work, but only if there is enough time,” he says.

He also recommends against rushing board members and other VIPs. As he notes, the people selected for videos are usually high-profile, busy people. "People like that typically are used to controlling situations,” he says. "They don’t like to be rushed and will resist if you try.”

Another common mistake we make is assuming that video is reality. It isn’t, Mirza says — video is performance. "People don’t naturally show up in clothes that look good on camera, sit in beautifully lit settings, and offer pithy comments,” he says.

"Imagine trying to put on a play that you had never rehearsed. You wouldn’t! But people try to do that all the time with video.”

Pre-production should ultimately help you determine the answers to four key questions:

  • What is your business objective?
  • What audience are you trying to reach?
  • What key message do you want to deliver to that audience?
  • What is your call to action?

"When we answer these questions, we often agree to do a very different video from the one originally proposed,” Mirza says.

It’s also important to focus on what video is good at. "Video is a great tool, but it’s not good for everything,” Mirza says. Some of video’s strengths include speed, intimacy, emotion, action, and scale. It is not good for stories that lack a visual element or those that have a very short shelf life.

During the Q&A portion of the session, one attendee asked how to combat association executives’ desire for "talking heads on video.” Mirza recommends asking your internal client: What is the benefit that video brings if there is no visual element? What are we getting for the extra cost?

"You can make something that looks like a video without any video footage — for example, by combining audio with headshots and animated graphics,” he notes. "Video is inherently expensive stuff.”

Jennifer J. Salopek is a freelance writer who specializes in association communications.


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