Presentation or Performance?

Every now and then I am asked to record and produce a video that documents a conference or convention. Sometimes, this is basically recording a speaker and their presentation. On first blush, many marketing and communications people will think this is a no-brainer gig and requires little more than a locked down camera and a tripod. While this approach might work for an audience that hasn’t watched a program made after 1953 or ever been online, it is insufficient for modern viewers. Even if it is required viewing.

Whether they know it or not, this video is a kind of social media. It is being used to engage co-workers, colleagues or potential clients. If it is posted publicly, assume anyone interested in your company will see it. If you want to skate by and only present your message in the most basic way possible, just remember that people will make judgements based on that. They will see the missed opportunity, even if they don’t completely understand it.

So, here’s a few tips to make your conference video a little more watchable.

Presentation: This is a basic detail that I see overlooked at even the highest levels of business and government. A human can read two to three words per second on a screen. Knowing this, does your audience have ten minutes to read all of the 12 point text that was crammed into your slide? Also, remember that your audience is watching it from at least ten feet away. Will they even be able to see your text as anything more than a dense wall of words? If the audience is trying to read your slides, they won’t have time to process what you are saying.
Performance: The fact of the matter is that if you are standing in front of a group of people and speaking, you are giving a performance. Your job is to get their attention and hold it. Not only the people in the room, many of whom you may have a business relationship with, but also the millions who might see it on video. Never assume they will watch the slides and not you. You are moving and alive, viewers will always look to the speaker to bring the material alive for them. Happily, you don’t have to be a Tony winning actor to do this. You just need to be aware that there is an audience and don’t insult them by pretending they aren’t there. By all means, don’t spend the whole time looking at your slides. The audience can see them well enough with their own eyes.

Multiple Cameras: Ideally, I like to shoot a conference with three cameras. One for the room, one for the presenter, and one for the audience. That way anything that happens will be covered and an editor will be able to keep it lively. A little bit of production can make a dull presentation much more watchable. Likewise, do whatever you can to make the presentation itself part of the program. Whether a direct feed from the laptop (best option) or a camera pointed at the screen (worst option), let the viewer get as close to the slide as possible.

Audio: Yeah, you want people to hear what you’re saying, right? A microphone in the back of the room will not cut it.

Mis-En-Scene: To borrow a fancy pants film school word, this means everything in the frame of the camera. How is the lighting in the room? What about the clothes your presenters are wearing? Is the background too busy, too bright or messy? These are all things that can be controlled and can add much to your video. If done well, this can make your conference look like a full-blown show with a budget much higher than it actually had.

You’re welcome to click on over to my YouTube to see some examples of previous conferences I’ve done. If you’re interested in having me produce a video for you, please call or email.