The Welcome Video is gaining more and more ground and has become a bit of a controversial topic within video circles. This is because most proponents of the Welcome Video are also proponents of Talking Head Videos, which are also controversial.
On the one side we have the haters of talking head videos. They are the ones who think that such a video negates the power of video and is an indication of lack of creativity and laziness on the part of video-makers.
Then there are the lovers of the talking head video who see it as simple, effective and welcoming. People who like talking head videos think that they work because the speaker is doing a direct address and thus reaching the viewer in an immediate way.
I'm in the middle on this one. Talking head videos are neither innately good nor bad. Neither are welcome videos. What it comes down to is knowing who your audience is, knowing who responds to the different styles of welcome videos and also knowing whether you need/want to be conventional or unconventional, which again comes back to knowing your audience.
There are eight points I want to make about conventional talking head welcome videos i.e. videos where the speaker is the only image the viewer sees, and they are speaking directly into the camera lens, not interview style and not with cut aways to other images.
1. Anything that a talking head draws your attention to on the website, such as an e-book, or some amazing white papers, or a report, et al, must be amazing. A video is the online version of a megaphone. Just having a link to something on your website is pretty low key. So if your report is good but not great, it's fine. People might click, or they might not. You aren't selling them on it, you're just making it available. But if you draw your viewers attention to a crappy e-book that you just cobbled together, and your viewer downloads it and realizes it's crappy, they will not trust you anymore. You have gone out of your way, in a video, to get them to take an action, which they have done, and then you have not delivered. Only draw attention to the spectacular, not the the kind of useful.
2. Understand that if you're doing a long talking head video you need props or movement if you want people to stay engaged with the video. People like to watch movement and any physicality on a video adds interest. If you talk with your hands, keep it up in the video. Make sure the video frame starts at your waist and ends right at the top of your head, so we can see your hand movements. Regardless, people's eyes will wander. If you pay attention to where your eye goes during a talking head video - or you check out a heat map - then you will notice that your eyes start to wander. Your eyes will go to things outside the video that are next to the video screen, they will go to objects in the background. So this brings us to the next point.
3. Make sure your background gives useful information that builds the message you are trying to convey. So if you're business coach, then your background should convey authority in business. Perhaps you are sitting in your study. We see in the background shelves of books and your MBA on the wall. Or maybe you're a life coach, and we see a beautiful window with trees just beyond the glass, and on your desk is a bouquet of flowers. You've got to set the scene to convey your message, because people are not going to just be staring into your eyes for two minutes.
4. To continue with the previous point, make sure that whatever is around the video player on the website is in harmony with the video, either reenforcing the message of the video or taking it a step further. If you have a video, and right under it you have a Get In Touch button, this could reinforce the message you put at the end of the video to get in touch. Whereas if you are speaking about Business Coaching and right next to the video is a list of other services, this creates confusion. So make sure whatever is around your video on your web page, serves the video and its content.
5. Rehearse what you're going to say and work on timing and creating emphasis in your speech as well as clarity of message. An off-the-cuff monologue does not work for a welcome video. It makes you seem unprepared and flakey. An off-the-cuff monologue is perfect for a series of educational web videos (published via YouTube) where you share your knowledge because people's expectations are not set high. But for a welcome video people are expecting there to be clarity and professionalism. If you don't know how to create emphasis in your speech then work with an acting coach or voice/speech coach before filming your video. This is a simple fix that will help a lot with your video and in general as you present yourself publicly.
6. Think about your audience and what they would find useful and interesting. If you're doing a welcome video targeted at CEOs this will be different than a welcome video targeted at classical musicians. I recently spoke to a client who is a performance coach about a welcome video she is going to do for her website. The video is targeted at musicians looking to take their art to the next level. We discussed the fact that there would be no purpose in drawing her clients' attention to articles or reports or white papers because that is not what they are looking for when they come on her website. In fact, though she might want an article or two on her website, or even a music blog, there is no reason to have white papers or reports. Musicians are looking to see if they like her, if she seems like an authority, and if they can trust her, and they don't want to be directed to a report. CEOs on the other hand might like to be given a pdf with some truly useful and brilliantly laid out information. Never ever forget the first rule of comedy: Know Your Audience.
7. Keep it short. It's a welcome video, not a chance to explain the intricacies of everything you do, and not a chance to sell people your products and services. That's a sales video, not a welcome video. They aren't the same thing, and they should not be used in the same way. With a welcome video you are selling the idea that you are an authority, that you know what you're doing, and that you have solutions for the people watching your video. But you aren't doing a hard sell of the products and services that you offer. You aren't mentioning price. You aren't listing off your credentials. Think of it as a slightly more formal and more action oriented version of a first meeting at a cocktail party or networking event. Somebody asks you what you do, and you respond. 2 to 3 minutes max. 1 to 2 minutes is a great target range. Even 30 seconds will work in some cases.
8. Finally, and this is the most controversial, you don't need a call to action for every welcome video. If the people visiting your website are coming from a demographic that has seen it all, that doesn't want to be told what to do (I'm talking generation X & Y) then a blatant call to action might not work...it might even be counterproductive. You might want to make the call to action text-based rather than verbal, so it doesn't come off as cheesy to your target market. Or you might not want everyone taking action. You might only want serious enquiries. If you are a service-based business, and you're looking to filter out low-quality prospects, you don't want everybody signing up for your newsletter or asking for a free quote. So don't feel like you have to do what everybody else does just because everybody else is doing it. You are unique. Your business is unique. Do what makes sense based on your clients, your goals, and your unique offerings.
In summary, when creating a welcome video make sure you map out every single aspect of the video, from where it will be placed on the website, to what you want to communicate and how, to who you are targeting. Being clear about your welcome video and what you want to achieve with it will make your video stand out from the crowd, and not look like yet another half hearted and formulaic attempt. And if there is one thing you can do to help your clients/customers it is to show how you are different, so they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want what you have.
-Colette Nichol, Vancouver