How to Convert a Business Presentation into a Great Video
HOW TO MAKE GREAT VIDEOS OF GOOD PRESENTATIONS
by Jim Staylor, Staylor-Made Communications, Inc. For more info, see staylor-made.com
Do you ever need to document meetings, seminars or lectures to share later?
This article addresses challenges to producing good quality video from live presentations and provides ideas you can use before, during and after recording to help achieve the best possible results.
Barriers to successful video usually stem from one or more of these 5 areas: content, presenter, lighting, audio and/or camerawork. Issues with any one can distract viewers and detract from your message.
Content – Some topics don’t lend themselves to video. Interactive training with lots of hands-on audience participation likely will not translate well to video. With no visual elements, it's just a “talking head.” Even slide-supported presentations have impediments to being effective as video.
Presenter – The person giving the live presentation needs to be aware of and do certain things to help facilitate a good video recording -- e.g. dress and move appropriately, stand in the light, use a microphone properly, etc.
Lighting – Insufficient lighting means poor video. House lights usually get dimmed to help live audiences see projector screens. Unless lighting is added, however, the presenter will likely appear too dark to maintain appropriate detail for video. Can lights are aimed straight down and are never a good solution. They create face shadows, hide the eyes and make presenters look like zombies.
Audio – Microphones on back-of-the-room cameras pick up every little noise between the camera and speaker. Whatever is closest will sound loudest. Good audio for video requires an external microphone, such as a wireless lavaliere. For proper audio pick up, position the lavaliere in the middle of the chest. Too high under the chin, the voice sounds muffled. Too low requires adjusting the mic level so you hear room noise. Mounted to one side yields huge variations in audio levels whenever the presenter turns his or her head closer to or farther from the mic. To hear audience questions, add another microphone or coach the presenter to repeat questions.
Camerawork – Most modern cameras offer sufficient quality to acquire a decent picture. How the camera is operated, however, plays a major role in the quality of the finished video. It’s important to position the camera to capture a good angle on both the presenter and the slides – while not affecting or being affected by the audience. Also, consider whether to include audience reaction shots. Framing, composition and movement matter greatly to production value.
If you want the viewing audience to think, feel or take a certain action, first you must capture and hold their attention. Don' t let the quality of the production interfere with the value of your communication. Heed this advice during pre-production, production and post-production to increase the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome.
Determine whether the topic warrants being recorded. Will there be enough of an audience to watch it later if you make the video available? If there are no visual elements, consider presenting the information as something other than video.
Scout the location. Determine where you can offload equipment and park your vehicle. Decide the best place to position the camera and find a place to plug into A/C power; Don’t run out of batteries in the middle of recording a long presentation. Discover whether you might need to arrange or acquire some sort of riser to get you and the camera higher for a better angle on the presenter and projector screen.
Obtain proper equipment. Rent, borrow, buy or steal it, but acquire these tools for decent video recording:
HD Camera with external mic connections
Fluid-head tripod for smooth movements
Wireless lav mic – compatible with camera
Closed headphones to monitor audio recorded
Small dimmable light (256 LEDs or more)
Remote zoom control
Second LED light for backlight
Check equipment. Test and troubleshoot equipment before each shoot to ensure everything is in working order and you know how to operate it properly.
Coaching For Presenters
Share these tips with presenters ahead of time to help them help you make videos look and sound better. The live audience will also enjoy a stronger presentation.
Use a Video-Friendly Slide Style When creating slides to appear on video, choose a darker background with lighter colored text. This helps balance the contrast between presenter and slides making it more pleasant to the viewer. Live audiences also appreciate when the projector screen is not a overly bright.
Modify Slide Content for Stronger Communication Because most people now view videos on tablets or smartphones – and absorb messages in smaller bites – it’s important for slides to each contain a concise, compelling concept – best expressed with some sort of graphic (still photo, line art, simple chart, etc.) along with very minimal text support.
Though most slide presentation programs default to a hierarchy of bullet points, you do not and should not follow that template. Many presentation experts warn against “Death by Bullet Points.” Try to limit text on any one screen to 3 to 5 lines with only 3 to 5 words per line. It is acceptable to use one word or even no words and still be able convey a powerful message on any given slide. For some projects, this might mean more slides, but the result is a much more powerful presentation. Consider providing complicated graphs, statistics and other intricate charts separately in a handout or website with a link provided.
Practice Microphone Management When you have no budget for a separate audio technician with additional equipment, you need to make the most of only one lavaliere microphone. If the introduction belongs in the finished video, make sure the emcee/host stands right next to the presenter so the one mic hears it. With a series of two or more presenters, allow time to stop the presentation briefly to switch the mic to the next person. If two people must present at the same time, have the two presenters stand shoulder to shoulder and clip the mic to one of their shoulders.
Podium-mounted microphones are helpful when presenters stay at the podium. If using a hand-held mic – wired or wireless – hold it properly. Grip the middle of the mic with your thumb aimed up, then point your thumb at your mouth. Hold the mic about 3 or 4 inches below your mouth.
Stay in the Light In many situations, projector brightness is less than optimal. Lights are dimmed to help the audience see the screen, but this usually leaves insufficient lighting to properly capture good video of the presenter. When house lights are low, lighting should be augmented. Ballroom conference sessions often use truss-mounted spotlights aimed at the podium. In more intimate settings, position one or two lights so they illuminate the presenter without spilling light onto the screen. Either way, it is critical for the presenter to stay in the light. Humans have a natural tendency to want to avoid being caught in the glare. Learn to fight the feeling and STAY IN THE LIGHT.
Avoid Crossing the Screen If the podium is directly in front of the screen, move it to one side or the other. Check the background from the camera position to make sure nothing distracting appears behind the presenter, such as an exit sign, tree branch, or air-wall seam. To avoid being a silhouette, never stand or walk in front of the projector screen.
Repeat Audience Questions With only one microphone, the presenter must repeat any audience questions to include them in the finished video. Otherwise, answers alone often sound silly and devoid of context. The live audience might have missed the question, too.
What Not to Wear Avoid wearing all white, all black or very fine stripes. These all affect the camera image adversely. Earth tones or pastels generally look best on camera. Avoid the distraction of sparkly or dangly jewelry which can either reflect light into the camera or bump the microphone.
Add a Little Make Up Consider using some oil absorbing sheets and/or applying a light neutral powder to reduce shine on your face. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference toward appearing professional or not.
Position your camera so the presenter is not directly in front of the screen. This way he or she will not appear in silhouette and you will have the option to capture just the presenter, just the slides or both presenter and slides together. If your camera is somewhere in the middle of the room, you can capture audience shots occasionally, too.
Better… Bring a second camera to shoot the presenter and the slides the whole time. Use this angle when editing as a reference for timing their slide insertions. This allows you to keep your main camera as a close up or bust shot of presenters.
Best… Use a third camera aimed at just the screen, so for editing you just synchronize the recordings and transition between the different angles.
Use a good fluid-head tripod (prevents jerky movements) that’s tall enough to position your camera above the heads of the audience so you have a straight shot to the presenters and the projector screen. Use a separate riser for you and your camera so your movements don’t affect the camera. When zoomed in with the telephoto lens, any little vibrations become greatly exaggerated on-camera.
Add a small, dimmable LED light to brighten the presenter’s face without washing out the nearby projector screen. Often room lights get dimmed to help the audience see slides better, but this kills your ability to get decent video of the presenter. Presentations meant for live audiences or for video are rarely optimal for both.
Provide a separate microphone dedicated to audience questions. Otherwise, coach all presenters to repeat any questions so you have them on-camera.
Use gaffer’s tape or clear packaging tape to neatly cover any cables that might be a tripping hazard.
Bring an external monitor, a remote zoom control and a tall director’s chair so you can comfortably sit to view the image and easily control your camera without having to stand for 60-90 minutes while staring into a tiny viewfinder.
A well-recorded live presentation may only need to be captured and encoded to another format so it can be uploaded to the Internet or burned to DVD. With the proper technology, you can stream certain presentations directly to the web in real time.
Depending on how fancy you want the finished product to look, a video editor may need to perform additional post-production activities:
Adjust audio levels to achieve consistency throughout
Apply audio filters to reduce room noise such as air-conditioning
Tweak the video with filters to improve overall image quality
Add opening/closing title graphics
Add music or sound effect under graphics
Convert and insert actual slide contents as graphic images
Insert scan-converted slide contents with animations included
Encode the video in a variety of formats for final display, and/or
Combine video and slides for an online or mobile interactive experience
What you present is a reflection of your commitment to quality -- or lack thereof. Overcome the barriers, bring the right tools, coach your presenters and, by all means, consult a pro. Once you know how hard you have to work to make it look easy, get the right help to help get the job done right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Staylor is a video professional with 30 years experience working on movies, TV news, commercials, video games, and corporate communications. He has managed over 10,000 hours of projects including a great deal of video of live presentations, such as:
Sony Global Leadership Seminars at UCLA Anderson School of Management
Wireless Life Sciences Alliance conferences and educational expos
Random House Publishing presentations at Comic-Con
MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego’s monthly meetings
Continuing Medical Education and Grand Rounds for Sharp HealthCare
Staylor has taught video through The Art Institute, Platt College and the University of California San Diego’s Digital Arts Center. He produced the media training series: “How to Keep Your DO-IT-YOURSELF VIDEO from Looking Like You Did It Yourself.” Jim currently serves as in-house video producer for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego and occasionally teaches and offers videoservices through Staylor-Made Communications, Inc. For more info, see staylor-made.com