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Imagine the scene: your technology marketing video requires the appearance of an articulate product expert, a credible senior level spokesperson or possibly an evangelical customer.

You know who you can or should call upon to do the job and, before you know it, they are in front of a camera staring down the barrel of a lens. The combination of their availability and a tight production schedule means you have only a short time to capture a convincing performance.

Very quickly, it becomes obvious that the performance is destined for the digital equivalent of the cutting room floor. Your ‘star talent’ is either struggling with the autocue or deviating wildly from the script; their discomfort causes them to pause or hesitate constantly; they alternate between a trance-like state to simply looking downright shifty; they ham it up or simply throw in the towel that’s removing the sweat from their brow. Finally, you, the crew, the writer and your ‘talent’ admit defeat.

So, what went wrong? How could that person, that Powerpoint presentation legend, be so unconvincing; how could that suave spokesperson suddenly seem so out of their comfort zone?

Video contributors need preparation and collaboration

The preparation should ideally include a meeting (even if it’s virtual) with the person who’s appearing on camera (let’s call them the ‘contributor’). This will allow the writer for the video to establish the comfort zone for that person and whether for example it would be best to ask questions off-camera to allow them to give answers as if they were in a one-to-one conversation. By combining this Q&A method with side-view, close-up and medium shot filming, the contributor doesn’t have to stare down the lens or look distracted if they prefer to use an autocue.

It’s unrealistic to expect a contributor to put on a performance by using scripted lines – unless they are simply short key statements. By using the Q&A method, the writer can collaborate with the performer (and client) to agree the general content and key points that need to be part of an answer. The delivery of the answer is entirely down to the style, character and personality of the contributor.

It’s also unrealistic of the contributor to believe they don’t need to collaborate in the preparation – unless they have a role which has already afforded them training in media presentation. So, when production schedules are being drafted, be sure to check diaries and build in enough time to accommodate at least one meeting with the contributor that’s followed up with guidance notes from the writer (and video director if relevant).

Of course, there are occasions when you may only have one choice for your contributor. If you’re uncertain about their on-camera ability there are other safety measures which can be employed to achieve an acceptable result. These can include combining minimal on-screen presence with the rest of the contributor’s audio recording being used as a voice-over supported by relevant imagery, footage or even infographics.

To paraphrase a quote by the legendary film director Sidney Lumet: ‘All great work is preparing yourself for the accident waiting to happen…and using the power of editing to control it’.

The Rubicon Agency is an experienced advocate of video for technology marketing. We’ve categorised examples of our work into the seven most common formats, covering a range of subjects. What they share in common is the advantage of our tech sector expertise and market insight combined with our creative but pragmatic approach to production. Each of these videos has created measurable impact and return on marketing investment for our clients.

Watch a video (featuring on-screen contributors) from The Rubicon Agency Video Gallery now.

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