Making Better Youtube Videos
April 18, 2008 by Paul McKeever
An intelligent young fellow with whom I am acquainted recently made his first video production and posted it to youtube.com . In the video, he was well-dressed and delivered a speech to the camera using a teleprompter. He asked for constructive criticism, and I provided him with the following, which I share with you in the hope that you too will find it helpful should you – like me – be a youtuber:
1. Throw away the teleprompter…and the written speech. Instead, if you want to use written materials, use cue cards to structure the key points in your argument so that your argument doesn’t fall into digressions. Use them only to remind yourself of what you wanted to talk about next. And, do not replace a written speech with a memorized one: construct it as you go. The result will be: you will be transformed from a person who we can watch as he reads something to his shadow, to a person who is speaking directly to us.
Test what I’ve just suggested: do a video on the exact same topic, but without any written materials, and imagine, while you are speaking, that 100 people are all watching and listening to you live. Then watch it, and judge which of the two videos you find more interesting, engaging etc.
2. I’ve been a guest/panelist on TV shows since 1999, but I’ve been producing my own youtube videos only since October of 2006. Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to realize the importance of remembering to ask myself this question: “What value does a visual signal add to my presentation?” In other words, I’ve come to believe that reading a speech while standing in front of a camera gives the viewer no value other than that he could obtain by reading your speech on a blog, or listening to it on an audio podcast. I’ve been trying to train myself to make a video only when I think visual information will add value to what would otherwise be a mere textual or auditory presentation.
The value in question might simply be a visual scene that helps to put the person’s mind in the right context to receive your message. So, for example, if you are speaking about the use of nuclear weapons, it might be helpful to show the viewer the weapons, and/or their use, while you are speaking (or interspersed between things you say). If you are speaking about bad art, SHOW some. If you are speaking about “god”, show gods in their various, arbitrary configurations (i.e., from the white-bearded cloud rider, to the sea-dwelling guy with a trident)…and don’t be afraid to make the audience laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. For example, as I was typing about the trident, I imagined Neptune photoshopped into the painting “American Gothic”…silly, but entertaining if one is speaking about, say, “God in America”.
3. If you are the sort of person who uses his hands or other physical gestures while speaking to emphasize points or draw interest: use them in the video. Used appropriately, they are added value. Imagine how much better it would be to actually SEE Ayn Rand explaining her philosophy while standing on one foot!
I do not claim to have followed the above recommendations myself at all times. As video production amateurs, we youtubers are learning as we go. It is certainly the case that many of my videos – especially the earlier ones – failed to keep in mind the importance of using video as a way to add value that does not exist in mere written or audio formats. Hopefully, you will view my suggestions, above, as useful short-cuts along the learning curve.
P.S., I include a video below as an example of using video to present visual information that adds value to the verbal message.
An example of using video to add value to verbal content.