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  • Five Tips for Video Presenters: Lessons from Live TV

    Posted on January 3rd, 2017 admin No comments

    Since getting my 101Hero 3D printer, I've been watching a lot of  how-to videos.  Generally speaking, I loathe amateur instructional videos on Youtube.   I'm not talking about camera technique, video quality, smoothness of editing or any other technical topic.   I'm talking about the person in front of the camera, telling  (instead of showing) me something that I want to know or learn or do.

    If a video can't hook me in the first 30 seconds, I'm gone.  Lost as an audience now and probably forever.

    I used to work in live TV (a show called "Homework Hotline") . I got that job because as an Advanced Toastmaster,  experienced public speaker and award-winning teacher, I was able to present well on air.   Not that I didn't occasionally goof; I'm human.   Yes, there was a seven-second delay, and yes, a mistake would be edited in the video for distribution, but when you're on live transmission, dead air and wasted time are a no-no.  A lot of what I'm talking about in this post came from lessons learned on that show.

    I'm not going to embarrass anybody by linking to flawed presentations... but ooh, it's tempting! If you're a video presenter and you want me (and others) to watch your work, here are five things I wish you'd pay attention to when you do your video.

    1.  Show some life

    Please don't be just a talking head.  Show some animation.  If you look and sound bored, the chances are pretty good that your video will be boring.  But the chances are also pretty good that I won't know or care, because I'll be gone within the first 10 or 15 seconds.

    The Hotline hired teachers who could put some pizzazz into a lesson.  You need to do that for your video.

    2. Get Right Into Your Topic

    Our producer used to stress that "Air time is money! Don't waste it.  Get right to your material!"  Perhaps as a result of that,  I have come to hate presenters who waste a lot of time with long and irrelevant introductions.

    A guy bored by your video presentation.

    How I feel about  your video presentation.

    "Hi, guys, how ya doin'? This is Greg the curizan specialist comin' to ya from Upchuck South to tell ya all about how to dilate your curizan. If ya got a curizan that don't dilate and ya wanna know how to make it do that, I'm the man to tell ya. I picked up my latest curizan at a flea market in Upchuk North for ony a buck, but it didn't dilate right -- ya always gotta be careful with what ya buy in a yard sale, don't ya? So I had to figure it out and now I'll share that with you."

    And on, and on, and he's wasted several minutes telling me NOTHING but what I already knew about the video just from the title.   If you've picked your title well -- "Dilate Your Curizan by Greg", or "Greg Shows How to Dilate a Curizan" -- you needn't say much more.  You don't even need "Hi, how ya doin'?   Greg here again to talk about Curizans."  I know that already.

    Save me the trouble of fast-forwarding to where you say something important.  Get right into your topic.

    3. Have Your Props Ready

    For heavens sake, if you need props or samples, have them right at hand.   Our floor manager used to rips us a new one if we didn't have our lesson materials right where we wanted them and right when we needed them.

    You're your own producer and director and floor manager, so this is all under your control.  Your items can be off to the side just out of camera range, or on a small table beside you (also out of camera range) or even on the desk in plain sight.   Do some preparation, know what you're going need at each point in your presentation, have your props ready and in sequence.

    Above all, please, don't be dodging off camera to get something.  Especially don't make a comment while you disappear, "Shoot, where did I leave that?"  At the very least, edit the break for a smooth transition before posting your video.

    4. Don't Um and Ah.

    Speech hesitations, unnecessary interjections, false starts --"Um, man, like, you know, I, uh, got this curizon, and, like, it didn't work, you know"  ARRGH!

    You'll notice that professionals don't do a lot of this.   If you have your own Youtube channel and do a lot of videos, please review a few of your posts and take a count of the number of speech stumbles.    If there are more than a couple, plan to do something about it.   Take a speech class.  Join Toastmasters.  Get a friend to slap your face with a dirty sock whenever you do something like this.   For Canadians, it's that unconscious "eh?" at the end of our sentences that we don't even notice until our American friends tease us about it.

    It takes a little practice and training to break these speech habits,  but you can learn to speak fluently.

    4. Pay Attention to Pacing

    blah-blah-blah-clipart-1-jpgThis is a toughie that comes with practice.  I find that the average video presenter talks so slowly that I want to shake him (or her) and say, "Go! Get on with it!"  On the other hand, if you're rattling along like an auctioneer, I'm going to be missing some of what you say.

    Many sources give the average conversational speech rate as about 110 to 140 words a minute, but our listening comprehension goes much higher.  Trained professionals -- motivational speakers, newscasters, advertising readers--tend to be at the higher end, up to 160 words per minute (one study of Ted Talks found the average rate was 163 wpm).  With crisp, clear delivery and good enunciation, a speaker may be understandable at a faster rate, up to around 220 or even 240, but that's the upper limit for effective listening.

    Your goal is somewhere between the used car salesman's rapid-fire pitch and the kindergarten teacher explaining to the slowest students in the class.  Of course, the best speakers also vary their rate, just as they vary their inflection, for greater emphasis on certain points.  You can also do this in your video.

    But here's the rub:  Average reading speed is 200 to 300 words per minute, and faster readers can easily hit 500 or more. To a reader, your talking video is incredibly, frustratingly, annoyingly   s....l....o....w.   This is the main reason I hate videos: I can read your material in a fifth of the time it takes you to say it.

    5. Don't Tell Me -- Show Me

    "Show, don't tell" is a writer's dictum that also applies to videos. Most Youtube videos are telling me something (slowly) that I'd rather read (quickly).  The value of a video is when you can show me a process or skill or operation that can't easily be described in words.  If you're just telling, you can video a text screen that I can scroll past after I've read it.  Saves us both time.   But talking heads?  Pfui.

    I like Instructables because they generally use words and tagged images.  I can take those at my pace, as fast as I can  handle them.  But Instructables also sometimes include short video clips that show or demonstrate some particular point or process.   Those are truly worthwhile use of the video format, especially if they've been tightly edited to show only the essentials.


    Much of what I've written here is basic to any public speaking class, or is covered by a year in Toastmasters or a similar organization.  However, if you're doing instructional videos, you can improve your product -- your presentation--not only by taking courses or training but also by paying attention to what you're doing, being prepared, and simply working at being better.

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