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SellToCamera.com: A blog for software professionals on speaking to camera

SellToCamera.com is a blog about helping software professionals with presentation experience make the move to web video, addressing the concerns many feel when first asked to speak directly into a video camera’s unblinking eye.

Update June 2012 — This blog is retired. For ease of maintenance I’ve imported the posts into category SellToCamera.com.

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4 thoughts on “SellToCamera.com: A blog for software professionals on speaking to camera”

  1. Congratulations for the SellToCamera.com blog. The subject is hot. But as you already mentioned, the acceptance is still low. May be it really needs your blog to booster video presentations. We are in software business and I have not seen many videos except tutorial or boring product presentation.

    I would very much like at least a “say hello video” on our website, but my partners and colleagues are not keen on supporting me. Obviously it needs also arguments and explanations to convince the employee behind the company, because they must also like it.

    By the way, the best video I have seen on web was on Renault’s website. It was a short overview on the Laguna presented by the footballer Eric Cantona. There was an English version were Cantona has a very strong French accent. One of the subtleties is that the sentences are in good English despite the accent. He says things like: “I was about to forget the most important”. Not many Frenchmen would express themselves like this in English. The person on that video is not somebody of the company, as you suggested. But he is neither a PR person. He is a special person. I fully agree with your opinion on that subject. We should show our own faces and not be afraid of people discovering your body language. OK, may be that I just like it because I am a Frenchman and I like Cantona. By the way I did not by a Laguna.

    In the last few weeks some questions came up:
    – how professional must the video be?
    – can we produce the video by ourselves?
    – should the video(s) be renewed from time to time? At which frequency?
    – should we present a list of videos with different subjects?
    – what written text would encourage the website visitor to start the video?
    – should we have the same video in different languages?
    – an many more which do not come into my mind just yet.
    May some answer will come up soon.

    I look forward reading the blog.

    Best regards,
    Claude

    1. Hi Claude,

      Thanks for your kind words about SellToCamera.com and your detailed comment.

      I agree with your observation that many (most?) companies are making too little use of video in their sales and marketing activities. I think the reason (to a large extent) is that video is a new medium for mainstream business, and anything new is always scary.

      Putting screencasts up on a website is often a first step. In the software business, of course, this is more widespread and common practice for a while. Where I see a real reluctance and companies holding back is showing real people on screen.

      Instead of hiding behind a “corporate veil”, companies need to recognize that we are entering a different mode of business, one that is far more social. Your potential customers want to know who you are.

      On the one hand this reluctance is odd. Many companies are in the service business and what they are really selling is the skills of their people. It seems somewhat odd that they are holding back on putting their “goods” in their “shop window”. If you were buying services, you would want to know who was going to deliver it.

      On the other hand, I fully accept that reluctance to show ourselves is a very normal and understandable reaction. I think this is partly because we are not used to seeing ourselves on screen as other people see us (we only see ourselves in a mirror, and that is very different, as I will cover in an up-coming post). Because we are personally uncomfortable seeing ourselves on screen, we hold back from taking this step.

      It is this reluctance for the people behind companies to show their face on the screen that was a key driver for me to found SellToCamera.com. I want to encourage people to get out from behind their “About Us” page. That this is OK, and there is nothing difficult or strange about this. It is just the next step along the long road of making use of new media.

      The sorts of videos that I am thinking about are more like what you see in a documentary or news report (talking direct to camera). I am not so much thinking about advertising in the sense of the Renault advert you linked to on YouTube.

      That sort of video advertising is too complex, expensive and difficult to do well for most companies to consider. Just look at the number of advertisements on TV or video that are complete rubbish!

      To be specific, here is some quick feedback on the points you raised:

      – To be effective in a business context the videos must look professional. This does not mean, however, that we are talking about Hollywood production values. Professional “speaking to camera” videos are very achievable for normal business users like us. That is what I hope to show on this blog.

      – Yes, you can produce these videos yourself, and I will be doing this with my own videos here on SellToCamera.com. I do not have any previous experience with creating video, so if I can do it so can anyone else. The tools are out there, and so is the experience. We just need to filter it and focus on what is really important to get started.

      – You can show different videos to first time visitors and people coming back to the site, so that would not be an issue. The “Hello” type videos are more general, however, so I do not think you need to replace these.

      – Once the “Hello” video is in place you can then start to add more content. I would recommend investing the time to create a number of short videos and not a few long ones. A good place to start is short (2 minute at most) videos where your colleagues introduce themselves. These tell your visitors much more than a standard headshot photo and a short bio. After that, I would go out into the field and do short (2 minute at most again) interviews with customers and partners. These are much more effective than written case studies for new visitors. You can support the video with a written case study for people interested in learning more, but I think most will look at the video first.

      – I think that the most effective aspects to getting visitors to click on your hello video are (1) Where it is on the screen, (2) the opening graphic which is shown before the video starts, and (3) making it clear that this is a short video. Someone coming to the website wants to know who you are. If you make it clear that this information is readily available then they will click on it. A further point worth mentioning here is that you need to put the Hello video on every page on the site, not just the home page. The reason is that Google has exploded the traditional website structure and you cannot know where the user will enter your site. They are most likely coming from Google search, so you need to design your site on the basis that every page is a home page for that specific visitor. The top-down hierarchy we used to have in the past is no longer the only path into your site.

      – Use the same language for the Hello video and the text on your web page. If you have multiple language versions of your site then you should consider having multiple versions of the video. You can either do this by swapping out the soundtrack in the video editing software, or you could overlay subtitles. I think this is a nice problem to have, however, and would start with your main language and not worry too much about the others for the time being.

      These were some first thoughts on the excellent points you raised. I will be going into these issues in coming posts on SellToCamera.com.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Andrew.

      Update: A longer version of this reply appears as 9 important questions from a business professional thinking about creating web video.

      1. Hi Norbert,

        Thanks for your comments and the links to example videos. I had a look at these videos and here are my first impressions and some suggestions:

        The first video on the Success with Hypnosis blog is a welcome video from the home page of Sylvia Wohak’s natural health praxis website. Here are 3 simple steps to improve this video:

        (1) 3:52 is too long for an introduction video; split it into 2, one to say hello and introduce yourself and then a second to introduce what you do. Videos longer than 2 minutes show a rapid drop in viewers. If viewers like the first video then they will also watch the second. This also gives some useful feedback by comparing the number of viewers of the first and second videos.

        (2) The introduction title sequence is too long; we have to wait 18 seconds before hearing “hello”. 3 to 5 seconds is enough for a title sequence. Include a longer title sequence in the call to action with URL at the end.

        (3) Sylvia does not blink for most of this video. It looks like she is reading a script placed somewhere behind the camera. This is fine, but towards the end of the video her gaze is a long way off-centre from the camera. This gives an odd impression, like a TV presenter who is talking to the wrong camera by mistake. If using a prompt then place it behind or below the camera. A good solution is to place a laptop below the camera and use one of the (free) teleprompter software products that scrolls your text as you read (remember to blink!)

        However, having said all that, this is a good example of how a Hello video makes a difference; so congratulations to Sylvia Wohak for taking the step of including a welcome video on her website.

        The Quick Tour Movie from Data Inherit is an example of a type of video I would argue against producing. The video starts well, but when the voiceover comes in the good first impression is lost for me.

        I was expecting to have the person reading the voice over actually appear in the video. Instead, what they are showing is an animated presentation created from a series of still images (this is called the Ken Burns effect).

        I think a real person telling their story to the camera would improve this video. Data Inherit’s value proposition is all about keeping your data safe and passing it on to your dependents. This is a great chance to putting a real person on camera to tell their story.

        Still, a good first step so congratulations to Data Inherit.

        Regards,

        Andrew.

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