Using video to tell your stories

Video is a great way to tell your stories and deliver messages in a way that other formats can’t match. More on that in a bit!

I recently joined the Nonprofit Technology Network, better known as NTEN. Due to its name, I had thought it primarily had an information technology focus. It does but it also have a strong focus on communications for nonprofit. I realized that as technology allows social profits new opportunities to communicate, this organization could provide me with great professional development opportunities.

For example yesterday, I participated in a webinar called “Why bad video happens to good causes.” It was hosted by story telling expert Andy Goodman. The presenter was Steve Stockman who has oodles of professional credentials but has also written a book “How to shoot video that doesn’t suck” than emerged in part from his work with disadvantaged youth.

You can purchase a recording of this and other webinars here.

10 tips on using video to tell your stories

Here are 10 tips I learned from Steve Stockman. I’ve included some examples of videos that I think help illustrate the tips.

1. Entertain or die

You want people to watch your video so it needs to be entertaining or else they will make other choices. If no one watches the video, it can’t help your organization.

Here’s an animated video that helps to explain the YMCA’s brand.

2. Video communicates motion and emotion

A combination of motion and emotion is what video delivers to your audience in a way that no print publication, audio recording or online tool can do. Use it to show what can’t be easily described. Use it to touch people. Here’s one by Skylight Productions that does so without words.

3. “Viral” is not a kind of video

This tip reminds me of Scott Stratten who often says you can’t make a video go viral. Stockman reminded us that viral is the result of how viewers respond to a video. He also says that as there more video is found online and the quality improves, it gets more challenging to have a video be shared enough to be tagged a “viral video.”

4. The most memorable video tells a story

Just as in a good story told orally or written, a good video has a hero, a beginning, a middle and an end. Here’s an effective example from Rosco Films.

5. Think in shots

A series of shots can help convey actions to us. They can help move a story forward in seconds.

This 29 Leaps video (that I highlighted a week ago) works better because it has been thought out in shots.

6. Make your stars look great

People who are comfortable on camera make a video enjoyable to watch. Pick your “stars” carefully and help make them look good. If you have someone who needs to be included but is awkward on camera, find a way around it such as showing them in action or having a voiceover.

This video I took of Paul Nazareth talking about LinkedIn works–even without slides–because he has a dynamic personality.

7. Bad sound, lighting or photography

It basically comes down to many of the same tips I shared here about photography. The biggest difference is sound. If you are relying on your camera’s internal microphone, be sure to get close for the best quality.

8. Try using humour and music in your video

If you can pull humour off, go for it. You don’t need to make a comedy. Just make people smile. Think it doesn’t work for your organization? Here’s a video Grand River Carshare recently released:

Looking for music that isn’t covered by copyright. Search for stock music websites. Some are reasonably priced but you might be better paying more to get better quality or rights.

9. Keep your video short

How long should your video be? Divide that by three and that’s how long you should plan to make it. Andy Goodman suggests you should be able to tell a good story in 2 – 3 minutes and the same applies to video.

Here’s a video about a cultural event called Steel Rails that could have been much longer but works better being three minutes.

10. You can’t groupthink your way to a great video.

Stockman says if you do, you’ll get mush. I agree. In fact, I’d suggest that any creative endeavour will almost certainly turn to mush if it comes out of a group that includes too many folks whose strength is not creative thinking.

A bonus from me: Know when to call in the pros

One of the great things about video over the past decade is how easy it is to do it yourself. And with the amount of amateur video that has been successful on Youtube, a polished video is no longer a must.

On the other hand, it could be argued that now people try to make videos that require a greater degree of finesse, talent and skill than what they possess.

Here’s an example:

How we can help

Communicate and Howe! can help you make your video in many ways:

  • with our trusty HD Flip cam
  • determining your needs
  • helping you to select and/or work with a video firm
  • writing a script
  • ensuring your video is integrated into your overall communications efforts
  • promoting your video

What do you think?

Do you have any tips for making videos? Anything to avoid? Perhaps lessons learned from your own experience.

2 comments
Brendan Blaine
Brendan Blaine

Thank you for the great post James (and for actively tweeting on the #ntenlearn hashtag during the webinar)! The tips presented by Steve make so much sense it almost hurts to know that there are still folks trying to produce videos that don't adhere to them. -Brendan

James Howe
James Howe

I'm happy to share this great content Brendan. Even when things make sense, they're easy to miss when you don't realize what you don't know.

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