Chapterizing videos? Why aren’t you doing it?

What are your reasons for not chapterizing videos? Consider any of the following situations.

chapterizing videos#1. You are a new employee. Your Employee Orientation Package contains links to a number of webinar recordings, executive presentations, solution demos, and tutorials — several hours’ worth, say — that you are urged to watch to help you get oriented. You are given only the title and a very brief summary of the contents of each video. Which would you prefer to do?

  1. Open each video and watch it to the end
  2. Open each video and watch it until it starts to seem irrelevant to you and your job, then go on to the next one
  3. Open each video, review its chapter headings, and click on links to segments of the video that seem especially relevant to your job, or things you had hesitated to ask about, or had not thought of.

#2. You are a marketing executive. You’re working on a new messaging document. You vaguely remember that a highly technical 90-minute video put together by the engineers included a segment about an intriguing use case. But the engineers are not available today, and you need to submit the document by noon. What would be your preference?


Making numbers count in marketing videos

Are you making numbers count in marketing videos? I recently ran across through an oversized marketing infographic containing two dozen statistics intended to make the case that 2015, at last, The Year of Video Marketing. Presumably, sharing this infographic with the powers that be could help to boost video marketing budgets.

Making numbers count in marketing videos

This is one screenful (on my laptop) out of 14 in this infographic.

It is interesting to know that

  • 75% of business executives watch work-related videos at least weekly
  • 59% of of senior executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic on the same page, they prefer to watch the video

Letting your eye wander over numbers that quantify this, that, and the other, is part of what makes infographics fun.


How to use a user interface in your explainer video

If you’re marketing software, you naturally want to show off your feature-packed and easy-to-use user interface. Determining why users should be interested in your solution is key to deciding what to show them. But keep in mind that you’re marketing, not demo-ing. Here are a few different approaches to conveying business benefits while making your software look good. Here are a few ideas for showing a user interface in your explainer video.

Features and benefits without screens

User interfaces are designed to perform tasks and provide visibility into collected data. So the decision on what to show and how to show it comes down to which tasks and data sets to show off.

user interface in your explainer video

This is from a video about banking software, but the interface is not important to the message, which is about reaching millennials whose “relationships” with banks are different from those of earlier generations.

If the process is routine — like checking a bank balance on a mobile device — there is probably no reason to show it at all. The point you want to make is that this ought to be routine, and it is. So, in this presentation for a company that makes software that financial institutions re-sell to their customers, the emphasis is on the target market, millennials, not the software interface.

user interface in your explainer video

In this abstract view of satellite management software, we see a software feature, the ability to switch to a new equipment chain. More important, we understand the revenue impact of using the feature.

Similarly, if the key product benefit is insight into the business, it may be preferable to bring out that insight in the context of a simplified UI. In this video, the software makes lots of useful details available to the operator, but the unique business value is in the ability to display network operations in terms of business impact. That comes across more clearly in a simplified illustration based on the real user interface.

Business results tied to screens

On the other hand, if the target audience for the video is potential hands-on users of the software, it’s important to show what the user actually sees. But this isn’t a tutorial. There’s no need to follow the exact sequence of operations through a lot of clicks, drags, and drops. You’re still addressing buyers looking for business results


Communicating insight in a technology video

Communicating insight in a technology videoIn videos that explain technology solutions, the on-screen action is never action-movie quality. Nevertheless, thinking through the sequence of images that will meet the viewer’s eye is arguably much more important than coming up with the words to accompany them in communicating insight into a technology in a video.

When we introduced Flash explainer videos in 2004, they filled a need for sales and marketing people who were having trouble bringing prospects up to speed on new technology solutions. Our videos still do.

Razzle-dazzle vs. insight

These days, however, video product and solution overviews are ubiquitous, and animation software allows for a lot more visual razzle-dazzle than was possible a decade ago. But razzle-dazzle by itself doesn’t communicate insight. Low-end explainer video companies offer a complete video “from your script” for a few hundred dollars. Some even throw in the script writing.

But if you want your viewer to take away insight into what makes your solution different, you need to present meaningful visuals more than anything else. And these meaningful visuals must be considered in the script from the outset — and modified along with the dialog as the script develops.

Writing for the eye, as well as the ear

I like to start with a script that reads somewhat like a screenplay, except that it is divided into more scenes (or shots) than a classic screenplay. As the script makes its way through subject matter experts, sales engineers, and others in the approval process, they are very apt to edit the spoken words with little or no regard to the images that the words are supposed to accompany. And people who are not accustomed to writing for video have a perverse tendency to use fluffy words like holistic that can’t be illustrated.


Why you should make interactive marketing videos

interactive marketing videosEducators and corporate trainers have been using “interactive” video for decades — at least, since the dawn of “Educational TV” — but it’s just now making its way into online sales engagement and content marketing. YouTube, Wistia, Hapyak, and Viewbix are among the services offering annotations and analytics. Learning management systems can be extended to marketing. And there are cost-effective specialized solutions, like Share-vid, for narrated PowerPoint presentations. Here’s why you should consider interactive marketing videos.

Beyond marketing: engagement

After clicking on a typical marketing video, the only action a viewer can take is to choose whether or not to pay attention to a barrage of marketing messages. That’s a weak form of engagement compared to actively choosing what to view, answering quiz questions, or providing feedback — the kinds of things an interactive video does.

Reinforcing the message with interactive marketing videos

Even the most rudimentary interactivity, such the chapterization possible with YouTube annotations, forces the viewer to make choices. And if those choices are How feature “A” delivers benefit “X” vs. How feature “B” delivers benefit “Y”, then both messages get some attention and reinforcement.

Respecting the prospect


Using filmable ideas in marketing videos

For me, cinema is essentially emotion. It is pieces of film joined together that create an idea, which in turn creates an emotion in the mind of the audience. Not through spoken words, but through the visuals. It’s a visual medium. And montage is the main thing. All moviemaking is pure montage.
Alfred Hitchcock

Using filmable ideas in marketing videos

The Kuleshov Effect: The three scenes start the same, but they end up evoking very different responses and interpretations of the action. Watch on YouTube.

The term montage, as used by Hitchcock above, was coined by the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, to denote a “scientific” editing process in which a sequence of unrelated images is calculated to evoke the idea you want the audience to go along with.

This approach was validated in a clever experiment by the filmmaker and theorist Lev Kuleshov, with whom Eisenstein studied in the 1920s. Kuleshov concocted a movie that presents the same film clip of an actor’s face  intercut with an image of a of a young girl in a coffin, then with a plate of soup, and, finally, with an alluring woman on a divan. The actor’s expression never varies, but the audience was aroused, nonetheless, by what they saw as sensitive portrayals of sadness, hunger, and lust. And they praised the actor’s range!

What’s the big idea?

Of course, your marketing video is probably not trying to achieve its emotional effect with Bolshevist film editing techniques. But you are trying to create ideas and positive feelings.

This is not the same as communicating a “message.” A typical technology solution “messaging document” starts out with a lot of context, like this:

Automation is critically important to IT departments. Automation standardizes and simplifies day-to-day operations, reduces costs, and increases agility. Effective automation can only be achieved with Enterprise Integration.

This is all correct and clear, and may contain the Big Idea, but it is clearly not filmable. Even as dialog between movie stars, it would be unwatchable.

Finding the filmable ideas


5 more ways to make better technology videos

Here are 5 more ways to make better technology videos than your competitors.

1. Skip the intro

ways to make better technology videos

I don’t care.

Interactive video expert Randy Tinfow contributed this to our LinkedIn discussion group: “if we break a 3:30 video into chapters, and call one of them INTRO, 47% of viewers skip it entirely, assuming it’s boring and useless.”

Start with your best story or most significant benefit or coolest diagram. People are used to watching TV and movies that plunk the audience down in the middle of an event. As long as the things stay interesting, we keep watching.

2. Count every word and make every word count

ways to make better technology videos

The hard sell it is!

In two minutes a narrator can speak about 250 words. Of course, he or she can get in more words. The fast-talking world record, 603 words in 54 seconds, extrapolates to over 1300 words in two minutes (if you could keep it up). How fast a delivery needs to be before it becomes an unbearable hard sell is impossible to say. You should be headed in the opposite direction, regardless.

The best way to control the word count is to let the pictures do the talking. Instead of saying things the viewer can see for himself, tell viewers what you want them to see.

3. Make every picture count


5 ways to make better technology videos than your competitors

Make better technology videos than your competitors — here are five ways

1.    Focus on the action you want the viewer to take

make better technology videos than your competitors

Everyone knows a video should have a call-to-action. This is often defined in terms of clicks or conversions. But if you’re marketing a complex technology solution, the action you really want is information seeking.

“The only decision a prospect really needs to make is to seek more information” is how interactive video expert Randy Tinfow puts it. Try sizing up every word and image in your video this way: “Is this something a good prospect wants to know more about?”

Instead of just putting up a link at the end that clicks through to another piece of content, make a video that arouses curiosity. Your competitors are probably not thinking along these lines. Nearly all technology marketing videos are designed to maximize the amount of product information delivered over the video’s duration.

2.    Divide (your audience) and conquer (with relevant info)

make better technology videos than your competitorsIf what you’re selling is a software solution bought by committee, then your video’s audience will include users and non-users in various roles. The users want to know what it’s like to use it; everybody else probably wants to know — well, almost anything else. They don’t want to see a lot of screens.

Think of it this way: you’re making a sales pitch to the CIO, the COO, the CEO. They’re all raising different issues. They not very interested in each other’s issues.

This is why we’re recommending producing multiple short videos about clearly defined issues, features, visions, differentiators, etc. If you can get to the point — one your audience cares about — in the first 15 seconds or so, your video is more than halfway home. 

3.    Draw a diagram

make better technology videos than your competitors

Try watching some “explainer” videos on YouTube with the sound turned off. Did you learn anything that makes you want to know more? Not likely.

Yet, we all know that people process visuals at least a thousand times faster than words. So maximizing the visual content minimizes the length.


Directing the viewer’s vision in explainer videos

Directing the viewer’s vision in explainer videosCatching up with Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” podcast from WNYC recently, I was surprised to hear, in a very good interview with the affable Julianne Moore, that some directors (she mentioned David Cronenberg and Woody Allen) rarely say anything to the actors on set. Instead of trying to share a vision with actors, they concentrate on how to direct the audience’s vision. You can take this direction to make your explainer videos explain better.

How to avoid confusing the viewer

The visual conventions used to tell your technology story on a flat rectangular screen — camera moves, edits, composition — are ways of telling stories that audiences understand from a century of motion picture watching. You understand them too, even if you can’t distinguish a pan from a zoom.

Inspect every frame of your video for elements that are distracting or confusing. When something is in motion, that’s where the viewer will look, so make sure the thing in motion is what you want the viewer to look at. Along the same lines, viewers should be able to follow the plot and understand the message with the sound turned off. That will tell you whether the graphics and animation are pulling their weight, or merely decorating the text. You don’t want to pay for video that’s not working.


Creating an explainer video may be harder than you think

creating an explainer video may be harder than you think

In one of the generally excellent HubSpot blogs, I recently ran across this bit of advice:

Compiling an explainer video isn’t much more complicated than putting together a slide deck in a PowerPoint presentation. You decide what to say and find some relevant graphics to jazz things up.

Leaving aside the question of whether your video should be like a PowerPoint presentation, this might be the case if all of the following apply:

  • Your technology solution is easy to explain on the phone
  • There are no competitors with similar solutions
  • Your prospects’ preconceptions and levels of interest are all pretty much the same

If you ticked all three boxes, stop here.

It’s hard to decide what to say

The 30-or-so words you say in the first 15 seconds of your video are critical — attention spans are short. So, exactly who are you talking to and how do you greet them?

If you need to talk to people who will actually be using your solution, you may want to start off by talking about ease of use. If you’re talking to their bosses, you could start with the staff productivity gains your solution provides. Or an interesting use case.

Meanwhile, their bosses may be impatient to learn about the risks associated with adopting your new solution, or how it differs from others they’re evaluating, or where the ROI comes in.

If you’re in doubt about whose concerns matter most, you should consider splitting your video into several shorter videos for different audiences.