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11 Pro Tips for Unmissable Talking Head Videos

This guest post is by Marco Montemagno of Presenter Impossible.

Anyone can create a video and upload it to their blog or onto YouTube. But so many of the videos out there are boring, and viewers shut them off after a few seconds.

In my six years presenting my own TV show on Sky News on Italian television, I saw many great clips from the web—and an equal number of really horrible ones.

So how do you create a really great video?

The trick is to make a video clip that is not only inspiring and entertaining, but also interesting to watch. This can be achieved with good technique and knowledge—and it can be surprisingly simple.

Here are 11 tips to help you create better talking-head videos.

1. Use tools and other objects

This is very, very simple, but tools and props will keep the viewer interested.

A good example of this is the above video, which won the Davos YouTube video awards 2009. In it, a guy talks whilst showing cups—an instant attention getter. Or you can watch this Hans Rosling video where boxes and toys are used live to attract audience’s attention.

It’s simple, but it works!

2. Use a whiteboard with a countdown

If you think that a whiteboard is old-style, think again. Watch how Brendon Burchard uses it effectively.

His presentation may sound a little austere because he explains his topic using only a whiteboard, but the information he provides is interesting and worth paying attention to.

Plus, he uses countdowns. One easy way to create a countdown is to video a wall to which you’ve stuck pieces of paper showing the numbers one to ten. Remove or lift up a piece of paper as you count down through the items and show what’s underneath. Who doesn’t want to know what you’ve got hidden under number 1?

3. The “super-zoom”

Ze Frank is another good person to watch on video—he’s funny, but more importantly his editing is spot-on, fast, and unique. He has perfected the art of mixing images and profiles into powerful presentations using the “super-zoom. Check it out.

4. Use text and images

Text and images can give rhythm to your clip. Try to insert something every 60/90 seconds to break up the monotony of your direct-to-camera video, and keep the visual interest of the viewers piqued.

The audience will also find the video easier to follow, because you’ve made distinct breaks between sections. At the most basic level you can simply add a countdown or a slide with a phrase taht you add during editing.

5. Be active and pay attention to your body language

Don’t stare at the camera like a stunned animal caught in the headlights! Allow your eyes to move naturally, the way you would if you were talking to someone face to face. Use your eyes to give rhythm to your speech—let them move around as you think of something or when you collect your ideas and then look back to the camera.

This approach is natural and super-effective. Check Gary in the above video for some ideas about how you can be active in front of a camera!

6. Partner up

Think Batman and Robin, and consider tag-teaming with a partner. Everything sounds more interesting when discussed between two people. The topic of conversation is easier to follow, because the viewer’s attention is recaptured whenever the other person talks.

A good example of partners in presenting is given by Diggnation with Kevin Rose.

7. Use your voice creatively

Don’t speak in a monotone—that’s guaranteed to make the subject matter boring and dull. Change the volume according to where the emphasis is in your script. Slow down when talking about important things, and speed up when the content is not so important.

Watch in the video above to see how many voice variations Robin Williams can perform. For the average blogger, I think 1% of them will be more than enough!

8. Nail down the format

This should be done before you start recording. If you want to talk about your niche, think before starting about the best format to use. How long should the clip be? Where should it be filmed? I would suggest writing down exactly how long each block of content will be (for example: the opening jingle four seconds, introduction 20 seconds, chapter 1 topic four seconds, chapter 2 topic 40 seconds, etc.).

Timing is very important and will depend on the topic and the host. Work on your format and keep improving it. How about trying a video that explains your topic in 60 seconds, like the above video?

9. Use subtitles

I’m not a native English speaker. Yet I cannot tell you the number of videos that are presented in English which I have quit after few seconds because the audio is not good, or the accent is very difficult to understand. Like me, plenty of other non-native English speakers around the world are doing the same thing.

Subtitles are a great tool because they draw attention and make the video more understandable. They also boosts the SEO of the video. Still not convinced? All TED videos come with subtitles. English subtitles on a video that’s presented in another language (or vice versa) can also expand your video’s audience.

10. Use super editing

Are you a video editing god? Great! Cool video editing will pump up the number of views your video gets, so if you have access to video editing software, learn how to use it. Slick editing keeps the audience on its toes and surprises them. In Italy, a user called Zoro uses a selfmade fast editing format where the same person acts in multiple roles. His editing makes the video very exciting.

11. Be the next Tony Robbins

Tony is a motivational expert and storytelling guru—and he’s generating great content.

His web video clips normally just feature him in front of a white background. Sometimes he inserts a short sentence into the video to break the rythm, but that’s it.

Only if your content is great and you have his passion and charisma can you go “naked” the way Tony does!

Which techniques do you use?

So there you have some simple tips and tricks to make your YouTube video clip stand out and get your message across.

Let me know which tips you’ve tried—or plan to use—in your videos in the comments below.

Marco Montemagno is a tech entrepreneur and founder of “Presenter Impossible, lessons from a decade of unconventional presentations“, where he shares ideas and tips to create inspiring presentations.

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Comments

  1. Ritesh says:

    first of all thanks for such a wonderful post.
    You have covered almost all points.
    I usually dont think much while making videos, I just make then casually.
    But now onwards I will keep all the above points in my mind :)

    Regards
    Ritesh Warke@PSE

  2. Murtaza Ali says:

    Truly entertainment resources for making our week-end productive!…Of course it will take a long way to digest…

    Thank You very much Marco….

    To Our Success..

  3. Cece says:

    Absolutely. Thanks for the tips! Another good idea is to check out the techniques that mainstream television uses. You’ll notice that they also tend to use props, multiple people talking together, images, split screen shots, and, of course, special effects. Using these techniques in a more authentic way for online vids should work well.

  4. Samantha says:

    It seems that my comment on an earlier post today asking for a “how-to” on making videos look polished was a bit premature. Excellent tips!

  5. One of the best articles I read here on problogger in a long time!
    Great advice! Really useful! Thanks!

    Like “Ritesh” said before, I too make my videos without really thinking about details. And I will defenitely work on many things. My next video is planed for next week :)

  6. Chris says:

    I have been using screencasts quite a bit lately. I have been trying to do a “welcome video” for my blog so I can personally welcome first time readers. I have already tried several times but every time I find something I dont like about sitting in front of the camera! I either move too much, or do the scared animal approach. Still have not found that comfort zone!

    Chris

  7. Bob Angus says:

    Fantastic advice for anyone who wants to vlog or just spice up their site with video.

    #8 – “Nail down the format” is the most critical tip. No matter if you’re in front of a whiteboard, using props or trying to be Gary V, you have to be focused and succinct. Mapping your the intro, script elements, transitions and outro will help you produce a better quality video. Less chances to ramble. Less adlib. Less time editing.

    Which leads me to an extra tip – Practice. Do at least 2 or 3 practice runs.

  8. FUn insight. I’ve seen one of these before (The whiteboard guy) – loved it. Interesting advice. I’ve been incorporating some v-logging into my personal blog. I think keeping them brief is also important. I recently used a team effort but I played both parts to share a very funny experience I had at the bank drive-thru. I’ll be sure to incorporate some more of these suggestions!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoBGVKiY3ks&feature=g-upl&context=G2de54b8AUAAAAAAAAAA

  9. trailsnet says:

    Thanks for the great tips!!
    I create videos of bike trails and realize they can be a bit tedious to non-trail-fanatics. I’ve been looking for ways to add a little pizazz to the trail videos. Some of your suggestions should work nicely. I would appreciate any other suggestions provided by your readers, also.

  10. Thanks for the excellent video tips!

  11. Tom Treanor says:

    Marco,

    This is a great post and very educational. Who thought there were so many ways to make talking head videos look great. I know I’ve tried the basic ones and I always hate how they turn out. Maybe taking one of these ideas and trying it is the way to go. Thanks for pulling it together!

  12. Troy says:

    Awesome tips and great example videos – there are so many things to go try out. Thanks.

    BTW, Marco I had to find you on G+ and share this post. Excellent stuff.

  13. Alice Kirby says:

    This is one of the best posts i’ve seen on practical tips for making a video. Full of detail and good old common sense – thank you.Making videos has always seemed daunting and you’ve just made me realise that I should stop avoiding it and grasp the nettle!