I’ve created a lot of talking head videos for my business, and I’ve had a lot of success with them. But making a video that’s all you come off as not all about you is a challenge. If you use videos in any part of your business—be it for marketing, relationship management, staff communication, or training and development, here are four tips to make your talking head videos more conversational.
1. Ditch the scripts and memorization
If you’re reading off of a script from your computer or a teleprompter, people can tell. That’s not conversational. That’s talking to someone. When you’re trying to engage an audience you don’t want to talk to them, you want to talk with them. There’s a big difference.
Instead, use an outline. Write down the main points you want to cover, and glance at each main point before you start talking. It’s okay to look at a sheet of paper and transition. For example, “Now that we talked about X, let’s go into Y …” and then read the Y from a paper if you need to. By all means, DO NOT MEMORIZE what you’re going to say. That will make you look robotic, with your eyes reading the back of your head searching for the next words to say instead of you being natural and engaging on camera. More on that later.
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2. Connect with your viewers through your message
Unless your objective is to deliver bullets of information and convey a list to a viewer (in which case, video may not be the best channel), find a way to connect to your viewers. This doesn’t mean you need to add story upon story, but it does mean that you need to let your audience know that you relate to them and understand them in some way. At some point in your video you want your viewers to say (or think) “yes” to you and your message. If you don’t give them any point of connection or relation, this is going to be difficult.
When we create messages that are all about our businesses or services then we lose the power of video as a form of connection. It’s OK to deliver information, but make sure you also deliver value. An example of this principle can be seen in Calm Your Nerves Before Public Speaking: Do the Penguin video, where I try to relate to my viewers by talking about nervousness and speaking, and demonstrate an activity that I encourage them to do with me, while even making a little bit of fun at my expense. Does this accomplish my goal of connection? I’ll let you decide.
3. Don’t record a video on something on which you know nothing (or little)
Don’t pretend to be an expert on a topic if you’re not one. The video will hurt your marketing and credibility more than it will help. When speaking from a knowledge position, you tend to be more conversational and sharing, instead of scripted and telling.
If you need to cover a topic on video where you don’t feel you have the expertise, bring in someone who does and do an interview. You’ll still be seen as the hero for getting the information out, but the pressure is off you for delivering all of the goods. Just like dogs can sense fear, so can video viewers. If they detect nervousness or apprehension in your delivery, they’re going to doubt your information and stop watching.
4. Be natural and engaging in delivery
Learn from my mistake. The first time I ever recorded a talking-head video was in 2008. I was teaching a senior-level class on crisis communication at Arizona State University. I needed to miss a day of class to attend a conference, but I didn’t want to cancel class or hire a substitute. Instead, I created an online lesson for my students to complete—including a talking-head video.
Knowing that eye contact is one of the most important aspects of presentation delivery, when I recorded this video on my webcam I was bound and determined to look directly into the camera and make eye contact with my audience. I made visual love to that lens.
I finished the six-minute video, uploaded it, and went on my merry way. During the next class period I asked my students what they thought of the online lesson. They were thrilled—why don’t more teachers do stuff like that? After the fanfare subsided, a student in the back raised his hand. I called on him and he said, “Jill, I absolutely love what you did, and I learned a lot from it, but I have one comment to share.”
“Go ahead,” I told him.
“With all due respect, I don’t think you blinked once in the entire video, and that was kind of freaky.”
The class laughed. So did I. I told him there’s no way that was true, so we pulled up the video in class, watched it together, and 3 minutes and 23 seconds into the video (to be exact) I blinked. The class cheered and laughed. We all learned a lesson.
Be natural! Just as when you’re speaking face-to-face, a conversational style is important. And if you stare directly into the eyes of your conversational partner—especially without blinking—you’re likely to create an awkward situation. It’s OK to briefly look away from the lens. It’s OK to be animated. It’s OK to check notes. It’s okay if you make a little slip up—you are human after all.
At the end of the video ask yourself, “Does this video communicate what I want to communicate?” If the answer is yes, even if your delivery isn’t perfect, then use it.
Perfection is overrated. Progress isn’t.