6 Tips for better video narrations

In developing marketing videos, we usually start with a script — that is, words on paper. This is a sensible and congenial way for technology marketers to work, since most of us spend a lot more time dealing with text in various forms than the do with video. Better-written scripts help assure better video narrations. But the spoken words of a video script needs to be looked at differently from the way you look at written text.  On the page, human expressiveness doesn’t look like corporate messaging. It’s easy to overlook how every single spoken word will increase the length of the video. If they’re the right words, spoken persuasively, they’ll also add to the video’s meaning and its success. Wasted words add length, even as they subtract from the message.

1. Count the words

better explainer video narrations

Every word adds to the length of a video. That’s why it’s so critical to make every word count. “All the logistics” takes up about 1 second.

Many smart people who write well have trouble converting the number of words they write to the length of time needed to say the same words aloud. If your aim is to write a video that’s 60 seconds long, your first draft should contain about 125 words.

Yes, you can say more words than that in 60 seconds. I, myself, normally speak about three words per second when reading aloud. But if you listened to me — or James Earl Jones, or Scarlett Johansen, or anyone else — rattle on about a technology solution at 180 words per minute — well, you wouldn’t listen. No one would.

Sentences need rhythm. Viewers need time to absorb what is being spoken and the visual storytelling. If you want to keep your message short and understandable, you need to be an implacable word counter from the get-go.

2. Talk the talk

Another consideration marketers are apt to overlook is that the narrator needs to talk the way people talk. Industry jargon may be a big plus. On the other hand, marketing-speak, 


Testimonial Videos Made Simple

The ideal testimonial is a story about how someone like you solved a problem like yours. But good video testimonials are rare, despite their obvious value in an era of digital selling. Why? Because, however much they truly value a product or service, customers see little benefit in a not-entirely work-related project that will probably require legal department sign-off. And sales reps are reluctant to ask their customers to put in the effort needed to make a good video testimonial.

Testimonial video “based a true story”

Some of the best recent entertainment in film and TV has claimed to be ”based on a true story.” Viewers understand this to imply a mixture of truth, glossed-over details, and “composite” characters introduced to help to propel the story.

If you think about it, except for the composite characters, much the same could be said of the content B2B buyers value most highly when they are researching their needs.

Source: https://www.marketingcharts.com/cross-media-and-traditional/content-marketing-225508

You rarely encounter an interesting character with a compelling story in any of the content types shown in the chart. Dull storytelling is one reason why most of this content takes a good deal of patience and mental work to absorb.

Being real about business

You can use video to turn reports, case studies, and similar content into stories people will be interested in. All you need to do is

  • develop composite characters with jobs like those in your target audience — maybe based on personas already developed by the marketing team
  • give these characters credible stories to relate

No one will mistake animated characters for “real” people, but a competent voice actor can make your character sound credible. If what they are saying rings true, people will listen.

This doesn’t require Disney-quality animation. Your character doesn’t need any dramatic moves or facial expressions. You can keep things moving along with a minimum of character animation and simple visual support like charts, illustrations, photos, and lists or bullet points.

You don’t need an elaborate environment — something resembling an in-person or online meeting works. Hearing real(ish) people, talking realistically, about real problems is a good way to learn something new about a product or service. In fact.  a testimonial video narrated by a professional actor is likely to be more concise and easier to watch than hearing the story from a real customer.


Conversational Video For Hybrid Selling

A technology consultant contacted me recently looking for a video solution to this problem: how to spread the word about his firm’s software solutions in order to start pilot projects for new applications. What he had in mind was a 2-Minute Explainer® video — that’s what we’re best-known for. But it quickly became clear that, while his target audience can be defined with unusual precision, the “product” and its value proposition hadn’t really come into focus as yet. What’s needed is the type of conversational video, which I’ve been writing about for years — but in a format that meets the needs of today’s hybrid selling styles.

The “Rule of Thirds” for  Hybrid Sales

More digital, less in-person.

Recent research has been published by McKinsey & Company on the hybrid sales model that has emerged to prevail during the pandemic. Basically, hybrid sales is like field sales, but much more digital, less in-person.  McKinsey’s research  identifies what they call a “rule of thirds.” B2B buying decision-makers say they are using roughly an even mix of three sales channel types at each stage of the sales process:

  • Traditional sales, like in-person meetings
  • Remote sales, like videoconferencing
  • Self-service, like digital portals

94% of decision-makers now say this ‘omnichannel’ sales model is at least as effective as what they were doing before the pandemic. (By contrast, in April 2020, only 65% of respondents thought the new ways of selling were as effective as their pre-COVID-19 model.)

Conversational Video: Credible Personalization

At each stage of the sales process  there’s a conversation going on in every channel that would probably move along faster and smoother with strong visual support, including video. Take self-service portals, for example. They have always been the sweet spot for explainer videos — but there’s room for lots of different types of videos here and elsewhere. The more specific to the customer’s interests, the more “personalized” the feel.

The technology consultant who is looking for pilot projects, for example, needs videos that illustrate the concepts and use cases that are normally discussed on video calls and searched for in web portals. He doesn’t need traditional videos as much as he needs animations and stories can both arouse interest and help to better define the product’s appeal from the customer’s point of view.

Sources for these visuals could be whiteboard sketches, PowerPoint or technical discussion diagrams, even internal demos and presentations recorded with Slack. The key is to deliver them in a cost-effective video format —like video messaging,  that promotes conversation. Hybrid selling is here to stay. Tap the talents of your video team to give customers more of what they are looking for.


Video Messaging for Customers and Colleagues

When was the last time you read an email that made you feel smarter? Or felt enlightened during an online meeting? The unexpected experience of a clear, concise explanation of something that matters to you is both rare and refreshing in the “new normal” online information environment. Crafting clear, concise emails is tedious work that often goes unrewarded because the recipient doesn’t have time to read detailed emails. And sometimes just trying to schedule a screen-sharing meeting can be frustrating. Video messaging is a communication solution with a much better chance of being viewed and understood than an email.

What is video messaging?

It’s asynchronous communication, meaning you never need to find a convenient time or request permission to share your screen.

The sweet spot for video messaging is when talking through a concept or a process with visuals is the most efficient way to give the viewer an Aha moment.

The format can be quite informal and personal, like video chat. The visuals can be diagrams, video snips, even something you draw on a white board. You can focus on explaining just one thing as well as you can. So you won’t need bullet slides. On the other hand, you can create video messages that work like slide decks — viewers can click through selectively.

Cost-effective videos

If you can’t repurpose visuals that you already have on hand, consider tapping professional creative resources to help build your video messages. It is video and, consciously or not, people expect videos to be like TV, with some level of professional production quality. Upgrading your video message with professional illustrations and animation will cost a fraction of what a typical marketing video costs — and professionally crafted visuals will almost certainly have multiple uses.

Ease of production

The presenters in video messages are likely to be subject matter experts or salespeople who may not feel comfortable on camera. But video messaging is much less stressful than they may fear. It’s done with recordings, not as live events. There’s time to rehearse and polish each segment. Presenters don’t need to command the screen. They can add commentary, personality and humor from a small window in a corner of the screen, or off-screen.

Personalization and re-use for a wider audience

Obviously, it would be fairly easy to tweak a presentation that like this for individual recipients. But it may not even be necessary. From the viewer’s perspective, the experience of having a real person, who knows what they’re talking about, deliver a crystal-clear explanation, is bound to feel special.

Getting started

To make and share video messaging recordings takes some practice, but not a lot of technical equipment or video experience. You can leverage video creation tools built into Windows and MacOS, or online meeting software. Specialized video messaging platforms with more options for creation and sharing (e.g. Loom, mmhmm) offer free trials.

So, ask yourself, do I need to persuade any teammates, prospects, or customers to take a look at something from a different perspective? If you do, video messaging is a solution worth looking into.


How To Combat Zoom Fatigue

Citibank’s CEO, Jane Fraser, made a splash with her last year announcement of Zoom-free Fridays for employees, “to combat the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that many of us feel.” This is no knock on Zoom, or online meeting software in general, which has proven to be remarkably effective during the pandemic. The problem isn’t software, it’s people.

What causes Zoom fatigue?

In Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab suggests several reasons why video calls are so tiring.

  • Eye gaze at a close distance. People appear to stare at you far more intrusively than they would in a real meeting. And you’re doing the same to them.
  • Cognitive load. It takes a lot of mental effort to understand what’s going on without the nonverbal cues that make face-to-face meetings so much more engaging.
  • Stress caused by looking at yourself all day. Studies show that seeing a reflection of yourself tends to make you more self-critical. “Zoom users are seeing reflections of themselves at a frequency and duration that hasn’t been seen before in the history of media,” Berenson writes.
  • Reduced mobility. People are comfortable in face-to-face meetings moving around, stretching, making notes, refilling their water glass. In video meetings, most of us try to sit still and look interested, which is work. Of course, ignoring the camera can be problematic.

Turn off the video

It’s common practice to fight Zoom fatigue in internal meetings by starting out with your video switched off, hoping you won’t need to switch it on. But this can be counter-productive in situations like sales or education where you’re trying to build trust and determine how much of what you’re saying is getting across.

3 ways to reduce Zoom fatigue

  1. Move away from the camera. Positioning the camera so that others can see your upper body and arms makes better use of the screen, and of your communication skills, too. Obviously, you’ll also want to be well-lighted and look comfortable in your environment.
  2. Show and tell. A colleague of mine tells me that her family Zoom calls have gotten much livelier since they suggested that everyone bring a show-and-tell item. Salespeople know that showing the product on camera can make a big difference. In both cases, it’s not just the thing itself, but also the relief of looking at a thing — instead of an array of faces — that makes the meeting go better.
  3. Switch to a different channel. Given that a Zoom meeting is basically a sort of weird TV show known to cause fatigue, it follows that switching to something more normal — like an informative video clip — will be welcome relief. Imagine how energizing your Zoom meetings would be if each participant brought a piece of video worth watching.

Note: this article is adapted from its earlier publication in Biznology.


Do a short videos need narration?

More show, less tell

Have you given any thought to how much video these days gets watched without audio? More than you think, probably, because LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all autoplay videos with no audio by default. Now consider the short videos you’ve created to explain and promote your products and services. If the viewer doesn’t listen to the voice track, how much of your message is getting across?

Social media viewers have become accustomed to being carried along by animations and imagery supported by subtitles, headlines, and other text elements. They’re happy to watch entire videos without the need for sound, as long as they get something out of it. Publishers are crafting more and more videos to work without audio.

Consumers have long relied on videos to see how to use a product, how it’s put together, and what people are doing with it. B2B buyers, on the other hand, often get their information from short videos based on messaging documents that are not primarily visual. In today’s environment, B2B videos that emphasize “show” over “tell” can gain a competitive advantage.

Rethinking the script

In a typical explainer video, the story is built around those problems that can only be overcome with your company’s solution. But if you want to get the most value out of video production, construct the script to be broken out into pieces.

For example, if the story revolves around “a day in the life” of troubled characters presented with several problems during the day, a short video can show how a single problem was solved. It requires editing and the addition of text — but it doesn’t require narration as long as the it’s clear what the character is doing. On-screen text, subtitles, and speech balloons and thought bubbles can substitute for narration, too.

In some cases, rather than make two-minute videos to summarize complex solutions, it is more efficient to craft longer, more deep-dive, explainer videos scripted to be broken down into snackable, “silent” segments for social media.

And, if you create appealing characters to tell the complex story, you can re-use them as animated gifs and spokespeople to extend your brand’s reach in social media.

Better digital selling with short videos

Another reason to create a library of short videos is that discrete feature-benefit stories can be used to enliven online meetings without seeming to “take over” from the live presenter. And, because the video works without sound, the presenter can choose to talk over it. In any case, with or without narration, video is always preferable to PowerPoint.


Digital Selling with Video in 2021

The most influential tool for sales success in 2020 was video conferencing — a key element in digital selling. According to Hubspot, “74% of leaders who outperformed targets this year said virtual meetings were “as or more effective than face to face meetings.” In the same article, a spokesman for Zoom assures us that video is 34X as effective(!) Anyway, we can all agree that video is effective.

More show-and-tell

People involved in the sales process are much more comfortable turning on their webcams than they were a year ago, because putting your professional self out there can increase trust. They are using better lighting. They are paying more attention to what’s in the background. In 2021, the most successful presenters will add more show-and-tell — beyond PowerPoint — to the mix.

Anything that moves — video clips, whiteboard scribbling, objects held up to the camera, household pets (used judiciously) — can liven-up a meeting.

Digital selling and content management

It didn’t take long for “Zoom fatigue” to enter the lexicon in 2020, and there’s no reason to think that people will be eager to take on a heavier schedule of teleconferences in 2021. So, to keep up a schedule of sales nurturing, more content will be needed. Especially if you’re selling to IT, the more information you can offer buyers, the better.

Obviously, video is a great type of content to share, and it’s easy to share short videos on a schedule. Just make sure they communicate valuable information.

Video FAQ galleries

Product pages, especially those for technology solutions, often list features and benefits alongside videos summarizing the same product features and benefits.

A better approach — more browsable for customers and useful for sales communication — would be to create a video explaining each feature/benefit clearly and concisely. They needn’t be expensive or elaborate. Animation is a relatively inexpensive way to break down hard-to-grasp concepts and show what it’s like to use a technical product.

Make video a competitive edge

In 2020, the pandemic forced everyone to use video more frequently in sales. Most companies found that it worked quite well. So 2021 is likely to be a year in which the companies making the most imaginative use of video in sales stand to gain a significant competitive edge.


How much Sales Communication is too much?

At the top of a recent article titled “Attitudes Toward Information Signal Buying Effectiveness,” Gartner analyst Hank Barnes billboards this alarming (if you’re involved in sales communication) headline

“43% of Buyers Feel Strongly That Volume of Information Overwhelming”

The feeling captured in the headline emerged in Gartner’s studies of how organizations with different psychographic profiles think about enterprise technology adoption.

“Too much information” is something we’re all familiar with. But, besides the overwhelmed 43%, the data also distinguished a group of technology buyers who actually crave more information.

IT-led buying teams want more

What the give-us-more technology buying teams have in common, according to Gartner research, is that they are led by IT, or they exhibit good cooperation between IT and the business. “They want the details; they want to understand keys to successful implementation; they want checklists; and more,” Barnes writes. In other words, when it come to sales communication, they’re not at all averse to getting down in the weeds.

Gartner data shows that sellers who can satisfy this thirst for information are the ones who usually end up with more high-quality deals. The conclusion: “Good information is valuable. Understanding the desire and comfort that buyer team members have with information may be even more valuable.” So, here is also a big opportunity to outshine competitors by providing welcome information more efficiently and effectively.

Varieties of video sales communication

Many companies concentrate most of their video budget on videos with fairly high production values focused on product introductions, testimonials, thought leadership, and branding. Budgets for purely “informational” videos are much lower. Videos that venture into “the weeds” (demos, webinars, tech talks, etc.) consume significant time and effort on the part of subject matter experts, but a lack of visual support results in long stretches of video where there is little or no action happening on-screen. This doesn’t necessarily make them boring or unwatchable. But with less in-person communication, making these video trips into the weeds less of a slog could become a significant competitive advantage in 2021.

While some non-professionals can use today’s video tools to create amazingly entertaining and useful videos at little or no cost, crafting a first-rate video takes editing, skills, and a substantial time investment. It’s not feasible, or economical, to expect salespeople and subject-matter experts to do it consistently.

You may be surprised at how economical it can be to work with video professionals. They can take advantage of lots of experience working with limited budgets to tell stories concisely and visually — even deep “in the weeds.”


Smart budgeting for new video content

If you’re developing your 2021 video budget with a fixed number of productions and a cost estimate for each — there’s a better way. So much of B2B business is conducted via online video today, it makes sense think of the video budget as a resource for boosting your brand by enlivening everything else that you do online — from customer meetings, to social media, to text content like white papers and blog posts.

Cost components of new video content

These costs are common to all B2B sales/marketing videos:

  • Time spent identifying what you want the viewer to take away
  • Time and talent writing, visualizing, and editing the story
  • Time and talent creating, capturing, and editing visuals and sound.

There may also be out-of-pocket expenses like travel, on-screen talent, and production crews, but very effective videos can be made without them.

It’s all in the editing

Did you notice that the cost elements listed above are all editorial? You simply can’t make an effective video without editorial skill and imagination.

If you’re looking for a steady stream of videos to enhance all your online sales and marketing, you need to budget for professional video resources — probably from a combination of internal and external sources. You want people who can translate customer information needs into videos that get the job done, whether the job is clarifying a common misconception, addressing a customer objection, or anything else where speedier sales communication can be a competitive edge.

With today’s video editing software, ‘getting the job done’ may involve nothing more than repurposing video or editing video captured on a mobile device. For an inspiring and fun take on current trends in video editing, watch this explanation by professional video editor Sara Dietschy.

How much do visuals cost?

Of course, there are lots of situations where talking heads and repurposed visuals can’t get the job done. Sometimes you need to shoot on location, which costs what it costs. Sometimes you want to use animation to make unfamiliar ideas look simple and unthreatening. You can get an idea of the relative cost of different animation styles here. The most expensive style costs about four times as much as the least expensive one.

Budget for the opportunity

So when you’re developing next year’s video budget, do so with an eye to supporting sales and marketing opportunistically. You’ll be able to produce more videos, and in return earn their support.


Reaching out with social video

“Social video generates 12 times the shares than text and images combined” has been a favorite stat of video makers since it was mentioned by Forbes in 2017. But what is “social video” anymore, now that socializing with video is an everyday thing for people in business?

What’s not sociable? Commercial interruptions.

Sure, competently produced video marketing messages video stand out compared to text and static images. That’s why “explainer” videos are still around. But customers and prospects who respond to your invitation to a live meeting (or recorded webinar) have almost certainly looked at the top-of-the-funnel overview on your website product page. They don’t want to be marketed to. People watch social video to get detailed information from a knowledgeable human being.

Visuals save time

Lots of things can be said better and faster with pictures — especially moving pictures.  The more jaunty the pace, the better your audience will feel about the investment of their time — especially if their patience has already been tried by an overload of online meetings. As you plan out the meeting, give some thought to different ways of picking up the pace and accommodating short attention spans.

Keep the conversation going with social video

A lot of our business is with enterprise solution providers pitching upgrades, add-ons, and services to IT departments. The purpose of video isn’t to drive orders, it’s to get people to consume more information. Short videos can be very helpful here.

For example, suppose your online meeting is structured around a software demo. And, to vary the pace, you’ve cleverly broken up the demo into interesting stories about how easy it is to accomplish one thing or another (as opposed to a recitation of product features).

This gives your sales team an opportunity to follow up immediately, with

  • a summary of key points in the video
  • responses to any comments or questions raised in the online meeting, and, most important
  • a link to the video that can be shared in the customer’s organization.

It’s a good way to reach out with worthwhile, sociable video that won’t be seen as a commercial interruption.