Photo by Stem List for Unsplash

Have you heard the new buzzword? It’s Hybrid events. And yet, hybrid experiences have been around for more than 100 years.   Now we have new tools to add impact and engagement.

So no need to panic. Let’s break it down into what works.

What’s Old is New Again

My grandfather was a great lover of baseball. In his youth, if he was very lucky and could get away from work, he would attend a game or two at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Then, in 1947, the transistor radio was born. Now, he could listen from work or home—I can just picture him with the one earbud and a fist pump on a great play–while he packed boxes at his day job at the American Bible Society.  So baseball became a “hybrid” event—one that people could experience both live in the stadium and somewhere far away, hearing the play-by-play.  In fact, many people began bringing their transistor radios to the games, because they liked both watching the game live and hearing the lively commentary from the radio. Today we call this “second screen engagement” during live events—see next paragraph for details!

Help Remote Audiences to Stay Tuned In

The biggest challenge of both remote and live audience engagement is distraction. Remote audiences aren’t in the room or stadium. They have dogs barking, kids needing attention, emails to write. So for a remote audience experience to equal that of a live audience, you must work harder to keep them focused. But live audiences also have mobile phones to distract them. So why not use them? Some of the best ways to engage are with live-polling—tools like Sli.do and Mentimeter let speakers take the pulse of audiences both in the room and those joining remotely.

But not every speaker knows how to use these tools. So added speaker training and prep is incumbent upon hybrid event planners to be sure their presenters have a plan for engaging both live and remote audiences effectively.

Another strategy for better audience engagement is to keep speeches short and instead use Q&A opportunities with a host moderating. Having an experienced host interview a major headliner, rather than having that person deliver a keynote, keeps the audience engaged and feeling like they are participating. Pro hosts can also integrate questions from both your live and remote audiences (who can submit via your event platform app). Both sets of questions can be fed to a monitor on stage, thus putting the remote and live audience on equal footing.

Anchor Your Event in the Live Experience

The primary impact of any in-person event, whether it is a conference, a concert or a sports event, is that live in-the-moment experience. Even from the nosebleed seats, live participants feel that vibe of sharing with other humans in a common space. Very few online events were able to capture this energy during the pandemic because there was no live audience. The ones that did focused on these key areas: presenters who were lively, video content that was brief, and opportunities to acknowledge audience members through live chat, live polling, and post-event networking. So whatever you design, be sure that home audiences feel energized by your in-the-room experience.

Use New Ways to Engage

Sports continues to be a groundbreaking area for hybrid events and fan engagement. The NBA has embraced VR as a way for fans to be right inside the game, experiencing plays from new angles. And if you don’t have the budget of the NBA, you can host your event on 3D platforms like All Seated or Moot Up. These virtual spaces allow remote users to “walk through” spaces and meet with people, just as they would at a live event. They can join others who are connecting live.

Ask One Key Question

When building a hybrid event, there is really just one question you need to ask: what story are we telling? Whether your audience is live or remote, they will need to connect with that story.  So before you book speakers or start worrying about live-polling, consider these storytelling questions:

  • What is the story we want our audience to know after they’ve attended our event?
  • Who is the best at telling our story?
  • Are there any communities we are leaving out of our story? If so, how can we be sure they feel included?

This last question is critical. Today, AI-enabled captioning via companies like Rev.com offer live captioning for Zoom, for example, so that virtual audiences with hearing challenges can still engage with your content. But you may also want to engage a sign language interpreter to be live on screen during your event.

Whatever you do, be sure that you are creating a cohesive story that gives all audiences—whether at home or in the room–a reason to learn and connect with your brand story.

For more ideas on how to generate exciting hybrid events, check out my webinar on July 27 at 2pm ET: Hybrid Events People Actually Want to Attend: How to Craft a Compelling Experience that Engages Live and Virtual Audiences’ with Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices. Attendees are eligible for 1 CAE credit! Get your seat today!

 

 

Photo by Unsplash

If you’ve been creating content for virtual meetings and events this year, then you know that you need to maximize the impact and longevity of your content, even after the meeting. In this blog post, I’ll talk about how to plan engaging content that helps you maximize impact, amp up your next virtual or live event, and ensures audiences engage with your brand even after your event is over.

  1. Ensure Video Content Fits into a (Virtual) Event Story Arc

So many times we create content for the wrong reasons. Maybe “Cherie needs to be in the video” because she’s an important stakeholder in the organization. Or a particular sponsor needs to be featured. But how do you connect these stories to the story you are telling in your event? Each event needs its own story arc, a narrative that you want attendees to come away with once the video cameras are off. So as you build your virtual content, ask these questions:

How do the various videos we want to share fit into our overall story?

Is there a way we can make them fit better?

Can we break longer videos up into smaller portions –“snackables” — to tell our story on social before and after our event?

It’s important to map that out, and find appropriate places for different narratives that feed into your larger story.  If something doesn’t fit, you might need to find an alternative. For example, often sponsors have multiple videos they’ve created about their products or services. Perhaps one fits better than others with your target attendees. Sometimes I’ve even been able to get sponsors to create a more customized version just for us. This way, attendees don’t feel like that content doesn’t fit with our bigger story. And anyone viewing your event afterwards online will also find a cohesive message.

  1. Engage Audiences as Communities Post-Event

Sometimes you need to deliver different content to different communities in different ways. That means planning ahead to create multiple versions of some videos you want to feature at your event. For example, you might share a 1-minute version of a member story for an association event, but then post-event, share the full 4-minute video. And post-event, what opportunities are you offering participants to engage with one another to share the impact and continue important conversations? Perhaps you create an event alumni Facebook group. Or invite attendees to join a monthly Zoom chat which you can kick off with a new impact story, to jumpstart the conversation. Or perhaps you want to engage your community post-event in some important policy action through an email campaign that contains links to several different content strands. Audience members are people, and your event is just one touch point to build a sense of shared purpose and continued connection.

  1. File Formats Best Practices for Video

If you are producing a hybrid or virtual event, you’ll likely have a number of different content elements to bring into your delivery platform, then share again afterwards. Most platforms are still only streaming at fairly low bandwidth depending on your subscription level, so don’t overwhelm the system by trying to play back 4K video. You could end up with audio out of sync and heavy digital drag.  If you have high resolution assets, make lower resolution compressions and test them in advance on your platform. Typically, 1080p mp4 files compressed for Vimeo or YouTube spec will play back just fine.

If you have speakers who will be sharing videos, be sure they play back these sources natively from their presentation computer (and whoever is hosting that session should also have a backup copy on their desktop.)  And don’t wait until your event to find out how they will look. Have speakers who want to share videos practice sharing in a test session. I recently attended a virtual concert where the speaker tried to play back a performance from her YouTube channel, which caused a lot of unnecessary lag and choppiness. She could have shared the source file with no problems directly from her desktop. And be sure any video content you want to play back through your event platform—such as sponsor videos, intro videos, or highlights—are also tested through the platform. You can always share higher resolution versions through your website, YouTube channel or Vimeo channel post-event.

 

Amy DeLouise is a producer/writer/director specializing in branded content for virtual and live events.

Whether you host a podcast or are creating video content, interviewing is essential. Here are some of my experiences and tips for working with VIPs, Celebrities and Experts.

Some of the most nervous and challenging subjects I’ve worked with on camera are celebrities, CEOs and subject matter experts. These are the very people you’d think are fairly comfortable in front of cameras.  Yet it’s worth remembering that not every celebrity loves cameras. The reasons can vary widely, and it’s useful if you can do your homework to be prepared.

For example, I once interviewed a brilliant scientist who shared in our pre-interview that he had ADHD, a condition which had eventually led him to a career in science to unlock the genetic secrets of the human condition. This scientist admitted that he was unlikely to stay focused for more than five minutes at a time. He was right. I had to let him get up and check on experiments and talk to colleagues in between every question. Flexibility is sometimes the key to a happy interviewee, and thus a better interview.

A brilliant conductor was another fascinating and tricky interview subject. Having worked with her for many years, I was not surprised that she almost directed our production from her seat. Allowing an expert to feel in control is often a key to creating a successful interview dynamic, even though you are always keeping track of the story arc and important points you want and need to draw out for your particular audience.

I once worked with a Very Famous TV Personality whose name shall not be included here. That’s because her on-screen bouncy persona was a far cry from her real approach, which was difficult and anxious. Her assistant was equally challenging. We had to do many takes, some of which I had to carefully cajole out of her, because I realized no one on her team was willing to admit to her that she had made some mistakes. Yet I knew that she would want a perfect take, and wouldn’t approve anything less (and frankly, neither would I). When conducting interviews with experts, VIPs and celebrities, part of your job is also managing feelings, and managing the managers.

As an interviewer, director or producer, you need to be ready for everything.  Your best weapon is knowledge. Your second is patience. And for challenging VIP’s, the crew or tech team needs to be 100% on their toes, with no chit-chat. Everyone needs to exude the confidence that you will make this person look and sound their absolute best.

 

This blog post is partially excerpted from my content creator’s guide The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Routledge Press).

A Guest Post by Jendi Coursey, CEO, Jendi Coursey Communications

When I can muster the discipline to get up early and exercise, I love listening to my favorite podcasts while I work out, one of which is the daily current-affairs show from Economist Radio called The Intelligence.

Lead With Your Values

If you listen to podcasts, you know they generally include few short sponsorship ads during the course of the broadcast; The Intelligence is no exception. As I tune in to the podcast and take those first steps on my treadmill, I’m usually greeted by the voice of someone offering services from a financial institution like Capital One, Bank of America, or Bank of the West. All of them offer services that could be of use to listeners like me, but if I were looking for a new bank, I know exactly which one I would choose: the one that leads with its values.

Bank of the West has an ad stating that what they don’t finance is as important as what they do. They posit that banks can be a force for good in the world, that they can use deposits not only to finance home loans, car loans, and local business loans, but that they can also influence large-scale projects, which begs the question: which projects do you want your money to support?

Customers Are Choosing Values

More and more, savvy marketers understand that consumers are choosing products and services that meet more than a functional need. Consumers are choosing companies whose values align with theirs. So, if you’re responsible for your organization’s messaging, you may want to ask yourself: what is your company willing to stand up for? What beliefs are you willing to shout from the rooftops for the whole world to hear? Who wouldn’t you accept a check from?

Your Values Affect Your Bottom Line

If you do not know the answers to these questions, your customers probably don’t either—and that could be costing you money. A 2020 report by 5W Public Relations indicated that millennials, the generation born between 1981 to 1996, is the largest proportion of the workforce in the U.S. and will soon overtake Baby Boomers to become the largest living population of adults. Consequently, their purchase habits are shaping how business is done. 5W data indicate that 83 percent of millennials say it is important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values.

In its 2018 report, another communications firm, Edelman, stated that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, and that number is trending upward.

Making Your Values Plan

If you haven’t already, it is time to take a hard look at your mission, vision, and values. Do they include a bunch of meaningless platitudes or can they be used as a guide for how each and every organizational decision is made? It is better to go narrow and deep than to have dozens of values that no one can remember. If you’re interested in a book to guide you through the process of establishing or updating these foundational pillars, consider Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage.

If you’d like help digging into this work, reach out to Jendi via her website above or on LinkedIn

In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (“Boy #1, Boy #2,” CBS, 1965) Rob casts their son and one of his friends in an episode of his TV show. The results aren’t as anticipated. He confesses to the two moms: “Those kids can’t act, they’re terrible…When they started out they were almost fair, but the more they rehearsed the worse they got!” When the moms remind him the kids aren’t professionals, he responds “Yeah, because professionals get better!” So true. One of the big differences between trained and untrained talent is that repetition and self-consciousness about being in front of cameras and crew often degrades rather than enhances their “performance.”  And each time you make your reality player self-conscious about the camera, chances are high they will be less natural—the very reason you wanted them in the first place. This, in turn, can radically affect your schedule and budget.  In other chapters, we address specific techniques for re-introducing a question during an interview, for blocking a re-enactment, or getting that scene from another angle for a documentary, all without making your subject feel awkward.  To keep your production schedule and budget on target, you need all the help you can get to minimize retakes and set-ups. Even if you are masterful at keeping your subject from feeling pressure during the shoot, every minute you spend in shoot planning will be paid back in decreased time and costs on the post-production side.  Since you never entirely know how a “real person” will react to being on camera, the following are some strategies you can use to minimize unpleasant surprises and budget-busting problems, while you maximize creative opportunities.

  1. Be sure you discuss options for on-camera clothing before the shoot. Bring extra ties on set. If green-screen, be sure your subject is not wearing any green!
  2. Have enough crew. A production assistant is worth their weight in gold to help move gear in place quickly, or handle the back-end of recording remotely. Non-actors are not used to the “hurry up and wait” pattern of production life.
  3. Give non-actors a break by shooting b-roll.  I often shoot a little bit of b-roll to warm them up to the crew, before sitting the person down for an interview.
  4. Use Locations Familiar to Subject to help them be more comfortable. If you need to move objects around for a better background, ask permission. (You may need to have the person themselves move things around for remote interviews.)

Excerpted from my book “The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera”.  I love directing “real people” on camera. Please sign up for my additional tips ——–> see sidebar!

Coming up with client profiles can be a fun exercise in strategic planning.

As busy creatives, we are always racing the clock. We might be rushing to deliver a portfolio of new photos for a client. Or working overnight on a new website. Or finishing a series of final edits in order to deliver videos for a virtual conference. Whatever we are working on, we will probably do it again some time soon. So it makes sense when marketing our creative businesses to develop packages of products and services that help our customers get what they need, when they need it, and help us deliver quality for a consistent price. One of the ways we can do that is by planning ahead for common types of projects for predictable types of customers and organizations. In short, building customer profiles.

Creating prospective customer and project profiles can actually be a lot of fun. It’s a good strategic planning exercise for a company retreat. First step: put yourself in the client’s shoes. What are the problems they need to solve? What would be the financial and time pressures on such a project? What “pain points” could you solve for this type of company or organization?

Figuring out the answers to these questions before you are faced with the precise project can help you market your company and your solutions, and set yourself apart in a crowded field. They can also help you consider how much time and staffing you’d need to accomplish those projects quickly.

Let’s say you own a graphics design company. There might be four profiles that show the different problems your customers face and the solutions you can provide. You want to focus on different sized customers, because their structure affects the kinds of problems they face.  A small company might need help with a website design or refresh. They don’t have anyone in-house with the time to do it. They can update the content themselves, once you set it up for them, but they have a limited ability to do major design changes. For this kind of client, you can create a template approach that can be customized, since they won’t want to spend large amounts of money. But it is also a great gateway project for other, bigger projects.

By contrast, a large company with a big in-house design and communications shop might have a completely different set of deliverables for a website redesign. They may want not just a new website but an entirely new logo and brand redesign, along with brand identity elements for every channel, and a brand guide on how to use them. There might be feedback from multiple different departments along the way, with a more time-consuming workflow as a result.

As you think through all the different kinds of problems clients have, you can design a few profiles that fit. And that gives you the type of customer you are pitching to, so you can design appropriate marketing campaigns and sales strategies.  These profiles are also useful frameworks as you develop package pricing and bids.

Whether your creative business is large or small, creating detailed client and project profiles is a great way to jump-start your strategic planning for the New Year.

 

This blog post is adapted from Amy’s upcoming LinkedIn Learning course on Launching Your Creative Business. See LinkedIn Learning for more of her video courses. 

Photo by Gabriel Benois, Unsplash

Brands deliver value. To customers (a consistency of brand promise, or “knowing what you’ll get”). To shareholders (increased revenues, a shorter sales/conversion cycle). To employees (motivated and brand-engaged employees have less turnover, higher satisfaction, and deliver better on KPI’s).

So if the ROI of good branding is so high, why is it always so hard to keep the brand at the center of strategic focus?  One simple reason is cost.  If the opportunity cost of NOT branding effectively or efficiently isn’t factored in, decision-makers often think it is too expensive to expend time and financial resources on brand-building exercises.   Here are four strategies that are cost-effective ways to keep your brand alive and well.

1. Mine Your Own Content

A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a mish-mash of files that are not indexed, so no one can find them. Every graphic, photograph, video clip, newsletter article or blog post you and your team have created are already sunk costs. Properly archived and tagged with metadata, they can be repurposed and reused in multiple ways to put your brand front and center with customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders.   The key is to use a DAM (digital asset management system) or MAM (media asset management system–often for larger files like video and audio) and build workflow best practices into every time you create a digital asset. Create a consistent system that works for everyone in your organization, with anywhere anytime access–vital with teleworking–is essential, so that you can build and share branded content that everyone can access, not only the intern, editor or photographer who first created it. A photo DAM system can help you avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) for photos, for example, by batch renaming name on ingest. But always maintain the original name in the data. Adobe Bridge, Google Photos (heads up–free is over June 2021!) and Adobe Lightroom are tools for managing photo content. LuminarAI is out in Beta from Skylum* and has a number of great photo management tools built into its AI-powered creative engine. For video, there are a number of DAMs (digital asset management) systems out there–from Imagen to CATdv by Squarebox.  (If you are looking for a MAM, this is a handy guide.)  There are also brand-specific systems, designed specifically for the marketing department (as opposed to a video production company or broadcaster) such as Brandfolder, Bynder, and Cloudinary.

  • Bottom Line: If you can’t find it, you can’t use it. So whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, save money and create your own “stock” library of branded content to tell your organization’s story.

*disclaimer: I do some writing and marketing work for Skylum. I do not receive any fees related to sales.

2. Video Sells

According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting. It’s a time-consuming process, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. With just the investment in a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder, a SONY FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD video camcorder, and some basic audio recording/mixing software like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you can quickly share useful branded video clips to your target audience. Or consider building your community by sharing useful content with a podcast. For a quick rundown on the latest podcasting software, check out this review.

  • Bottom Line: Build video into your brand strategy. It works.

    Photo by Sam Mcghee, Unsplash

3. Show Not Tell

So many people want to say WHAT it is they do, before really explaining HOW and WHY they do it. This is the core of your brand, and that’s the story you want to tell through any platform, whether it is a speaking engagement, podcast, blog post, or branded video.  BTS, or “Behind the Scenes”, is some of the top-shared content online. Why? Because as humans we are naturally curious and love to know what makes things work. So build “How to” or “How we made that” into every production or project.  That means adding a BTS camera. At the low end, could be a mobile phone. But for under $300 you could add a LOT of quality and pizzazz with a tool like the 4K DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal Camera. Or if that’s too pricey, throw your mobile phone onto a gimbal with this little number, also from DJI. In a future post I’ll talk about good lighting and sound.

  • Bottom Line: Make shooting and sharing BTS part of your brand best practices.

DJI Pocket Osmo Camera in action

4. Email Signature is Free Branded Space

Lately, most of my incoming emails from systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact are going into my Spam and Promotions folders. So those are lost efforts to convey branded content. Why not supplement those efforts through a free space your contacts see every day: your e-mail signature. What a great opportunity to do a little brand storytelling!  A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video.  This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone in your organization with easily copied information and links.)

  • Bottom Line: Creating an email signature strategy builds brand awareness for free.

Using these four strategies, you can gain ground with your brand, and decrease the cost of creating or trying to find existing content to share with your audience.  More story. Less hassle. And that adds to your brand ROI.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video and virtual event producer, brand strategist, author and speaker. 

Patty Jenkins directs Wonder Woman

#Storytellers are #LEADERS in many cultures. They preserve the past. They envision the future. And they help us frame who we are. So why are so few women the leading storytellers of our times?

 
It’s not for lack of trying.
 
As the numbers from the recent USC Annenberg #Inclusion initiative shows that across 1,200 leading films, women only direct 4%. And numbers behind the camera are equally dismal. Despite small inroads, the film director’s chair remains white and male. Much like the CEO chair and the Boardroom Chair.
 
But, we also know that women make highly competent #leaders. Women score higher than men in most leadership skills.
 
So what’s the deal?
 
There is often a #confidence gap. Society’s confidence in us as leaders. And women’s confidence in our own story as leaders. Which affects our ability to hone leadership skills, find mentors and champions, negotiate for the better positions/pay, and own our leadership brand.
 
This fall I will be joined by several incredible women who have helped boost my own skills and confidence as a leader at our #GALSNGEAR Taking the Lead Women’s Career Accelerator Workshop this fall. Check out these carefully planned sessions to take your leadership to the next level—we’d love to have you! 
Please follow me @galsngear on instagram for up to the minute info on this and other initiatives to promote women in the media and film industry.

The global shutdown is forcing organizations to re-examine the value of their archives–an internal “stock image library” they already own.  Here’s a case study I wrote about last year that is even more relevant today, showing how you can create content with impact that tells an organizational story and propels your brand message–all with internally owned content.

Fulbright Prize Introduction from Amy DeLouise on Vimeo.

The project is a motion graphics opener I just produced for the Fulbright Prize event in Berlin, where this highly regarded international prize was given to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. As these stories so often start, we had brainstorming meetings about how to tell the history of the prize in 2 minutes. In addition, we wanted to show the breadth of the work of the association giving the prize. Also, we needed to list past prize winners and years. Oh, and show all of their images, some of which were not available in the organization’s archives. Also, we needed to include quotes about the importance of the prize and the value of international exchange from well-known people and prize winners. And…we also needed to incorporate the thematic blue color of the organization’s logo, and create a look and font style that could be incorporated into the print, social, and other materials for the event.

This is all great stuff and just the kind of thing that gets my creative juices flowing! So here was our process:

Step One: Identify existing content that helps tell the story. This involved digging into archives for old footage, transcripts of old speeches, and old newsletter articles. Also pulling together archival images of past awardees, and more recent digital images of association events. We determined in this phase that the quality of archival clips were not good enough to pull footage (and it would make the show too long anyway), so we would look instead for quotes that told the story.

Before the magic begins, we start with raw materials–archival content from a variety of media sources

Step Two: We boiled down the best quotes from the broadest representation of past prize winners, and people who had spoken about the importance of the Fulbright international exchange program, and shaped it into a script. (Note: Scripts don’t have to include spoken words.)

Step Three: We identified the best images of awardees, and then we had to license and request some additional ones, so that we had a full compliment of images of past awardees at the high resolution required for large-screen HD presentation.

Step Four: As part of the image curation process, I pulled together those “action shots” I thought best exemplified the work of the association–as a convener, educator, and source of ongoing cultural exchange.

Step Five: I selected several cuts of music–pacing is critical for animation, and we “cut to the music”, so we have to choose this first. We settled on a piece we felt had rhythm, excitement, and momentum. I also like to lean towards more full orchestrations for videos that will air live in a large space, with quality speakers.

Step Six: Since this was airing abroad, which has different frame rate specs than the US, we sent a test file to the A/V company at the on-site location, to be sure it worked well from their end before we started to animate.

Step Seven (really steps 7 through 10): My graphics team and I went through multiple drafts of the story, honing and tweaking until we–with our client–felt we had the best representation of the story.

Step Eight: We rendered out our final files and shared them, making sure they had been proofed (so many names!)

Step Nine: We delivered the final files via link to the company in Berlin who was running all the A/V at the event.

Final Step: This step hasn’t happened yet, but we need to have the video audio-described, so that a blind or visually impaired viewer can still access this content. Accessibility is not just a matter of captioning, though captions are essential for videos with spoken words and narration.

Here’s the big takeaway: saving your archival assets is essential–you never know when you will need them. Digitizing them at high quality, retaining the originals, and metatagging them with important information is even more important. Your media archive contains gold, if you know where to find it.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, author and trainer, helping organizations tell their best stories. She has a new LinkedIn Learning course out on Multi-Platform Storytelling, will be giving workshops at NAB Show this Spring (see Speaking page).

People come to my workshops all the time looking for help with scriptwriting. Often they are videographers and editors who are tasked with managing the entire creative process, from concept through delivery. The classic “one man/woman band”. If that person is you, or you manage that person, this blog post is for you. (Note: If you have hired a pro scriptwriter to work with your team, then you will only need to brainstorm steps 1 and 2, and then share feedback on revisions through the production process.)

  1. Start With Outcomes, Not the Shoot. Don’t worry, it’s a pretty common experience. Folks rush out to shoot some footage, and only later try to figure out how to piece that footage into a story. But unless you are a news crew, this is not the best workflow. Start instead with your Outcomes—what is it that this video should accomplish? Choose not more than three. And ideally just one main outcome. And be as specific as possible. For example, “Our top outcome from this video is to increase sign-ups for our next conference.” That’s pretty good. But even more specific is “Our top outcome from this video is more sign-ups among 35-50 year-olds for our next conference.” That outcome will drive your creative process, including the key elements of your story arc.
  2. Develop a Creative Vision. What’s the look of your piece going to be? What’s the editing style? What kind of music? Is there a graphical theme? Color scheme? Can you link to some videos that have a similar vibe to what you want? (And how much did those cost? Remember that big brand ad campaigns may look deceivingly simple, but actually use complex production techniques or post-production skill sets.) Your creative vision can be represented by a few simple frames on a Powerpoint. Or you can use tools like Storyboarder Plot or the more high-powered Frameforge. But don’t forget that even a crappy sketch can help everyone on the team visualize the look. A tool I’ve just started using for mood boards is Milanote. You can include all the elements discussed in your kick-off meetings, color swatches, fonts, deliverables lists, even links to inspiration videos.

    Milanote project board

  3. Write an Outline. If you have an interview-based production, then whenever possible conduct pre-interviews. I can’t tell you how many people come to me talking about scrubbing through footage looking for soundbites, which is a big waste of time. If you’ve pre-interviewed folks, then you already have a sense of who your primary characters and who your supporting characters will be. You can outline your story, which will help you construct your interview questions (more on that in a future blog post). You will want to consider what the peak of the story arc will be—what is the main heart or turning point of this story? Whether you are talking about a new piece of software or the mission of a nonprofit, you will still need a peak to the story that makes people want to keep watching. The other pieces then fall into place: the backstory or introduction, the resolution and the conclusion or call to action. This doesn’t mean the entire production can’t evolve organically. But if you have a plan for the story arc before you start shooting, you are more likely to shoot the b-roll shots and cutaways you need to cover the story.
  4. Make a B-Roll List. It’s amazing how many video shoots go forward without this simple tool. Make a list of all the shots you might need to bring your story to life. For reality-based stories, consider little moments—I call them “interstitials”—that can help you transition between scenes, but also deliver some important content. For example, if you are interviewing a young mom and dad, shoot a montage of baby bottles and toys. For a business owner, that might be a tracking shot of awards on her office wall. Once you’ve written your outline, dropped in your potential soundbites and b-roll–well, now you’ve written your shooting script!
  5. Get Interviews Transcribed. Once your shoot is over, you have one more step. Going to my earlier point about wasting time scrubbing through footage, you’ll save yourself enormous time and aggravation if you get transcriptions made of all your interviews, and even some b-roll sound if it is important to the story. You can get transcripts back in a day or two using automated services like https://www.speechmatics.com/ , semi-automated systems like https://www.rev.com/ , or human experts like Noble Transcriptions. For $1-2/minute, you’ll have accuracy not provided by the YouTube automated tool, and you can use the transcripts for all kinds of content—pulling quotes for your website and social posts, SEO keywords, and making revisions in the future.
  6. Cut a Paper Script Before Editing. I know, this seems like wasting time. Why not get right to editing? The fact is, if it doesn’t work on paper, it won’t work on the screen. So take a stab at sequencing your soundbites, figuring out what music cuts fit where, and which b-roll or stock images might best support your scenes. This, in fact, is your editing script. Once you build your story arc on paper, then you can hit the edit room. If you are using AVID, you have a built-in tool called ScriptSync that lets you import all your transcripts and conform your edit. Here’s a handy blog post on how that works. In FinalCutPro, you have the built-in tool Lumberjack, which lets you live log on your shoot and tag soundbites in the field, and also set up your top soundbites for editing. For those working in Premiere Pro, the plug-in Transcriptives from Digital Anarchy is a great way to go to simplify the soundbite-tagging-to-editing process. And all three of these systems allow you to speed up your captioning and subtitling workflow.
  7. Make a Final “As Aired” Version. I can’t tell you how often my team goes back to these “final” scripts as we make new versions of our videos. And since we also have all our original interview transcripts, it’s easy to swap out bites if we need to. Always be sure you have a PDF of your final version saved with your editing project files as well as in your desktop files.

Scriptwriting may seem daunting if you didn’t start your career as a writer. But by putting your creative on paper, and then working through soundbites and visual options before hopping into your edit, you’ll be more likely to deliver on stated outcomes. And that will make a stronger ROI for your company’s video investment.

For more nitty gritty tips and tools for video scripting, try my LinkedIn Learning course http://bit.ly/HowtoScript