Today I am going to plagiarize my own work. Or as we used to say in Silicon Valley marketing meetings, I’ll be “repurposing content.”
Brainshark published a guest post I wrote for them with tips for creating better quality Brainshark recordings (a technology I use on client projects and for my own promotional/informational recordings). Some of my tips were specific to that platform, but I realized that many of the guidelines applied to any recorded presentation. So here are a few pointers for you if you create on-demand presentations for a web audience.
1) Shorter Is Better. I aim for five or six minutes per recording. If you are producing 30, 40, or 50 minute productions, you are scaring off potential viewers. People want to know they can get valuable information quickly and concisely.
2) Link Your Recordings. You can still cover your full 30 or 40 minutes’ worth of content… Just break it into individual topics and then use a menu system to let each viewer decide what they want to watch next. Of course if your material absolutely must be presented in sequence, you can limit the choices to: Advance to the next topic or Exit the presentation. A simple set of hyperlinks on a web page can usually suffice as a table of contents.
3) Keep Your Slides Moving. If your recording consists of narration over slides, you want to keep each slide visible for no more than one minute. Your audience is used to YouTube videos. They want visual change. Use animations if your software allows it, otherwise use a series of slides to recreate builds.
4) Use Your Best Speaker. It is tempting to sign up speakers based on their title or knowledge. But there is an art to sounding clear, enthusiastic, and compelling on an audio track, and the experts may not have that training. If you must put your mush-mouthed CEO in the recording, give him an introductory slide with a paragraph or two and have him play up the value of the content to follow. This trick also works with subject experts who can introduce a topic, giving it their implied authority before turning the main presentation over to a better speaker.
5) Audio Quality Is Crucial. If you must record your presenters over the telephone, here are two absolutes: No cell phones and no speaker phones… EVER! If your presenter has a bad telephone connection or a low quality phone, cancel the session and do the recording later from a different line. You cannot make up for bad source audio. If at all possible, work with your speaker on-site with a good quality desk microphone and a pop filter (they are cheap and easy to find online).
6) Save Music For Intros/Outros. Don’t run a constant stream of music underneath your vocal track. Music under your vocals gets annoying, repetitive, and distracting after a very short time. Pick about 5-10 seconds of instrumental music that suits the tone of your material and use it on your opening and closing slide to welcome viewers and to signal that the content is over. There are stock music sites available for you to select and purchase music clips very cheaply. Check the Audio category in www.istockphoto.com as one example.
7) Script Your Presentation. I will not record a presenter who doesn’t have a script. They will argue all day long that they know the material backwards and have given the speech 100 times. Then on the recording they will ummm and ahhh and fumble for the right words. If you are the “production engineer” and have their script in front of you during the recording session, you can highlight phrases where you hear little fumbles, or background noises, or volume changes. Then at the end of the session you just go back and re-record those bits so you can splice them into your recording with audio editing software. Or if your software allows slide-at-a-time vocal recording, you can have the speaker re-record the slide in question.
8) Re-Record The First Slide. Record the entire presentation, then go back and re-record the first slide. It will now sound more natural and more consistent with the rest of the slides. When a speaker starts out doing this unfamiliar recording process, they are always stiff and unnatural at the start. Just plan to throw away the opening and use the retake.
9) Learn To Use An Audio Editing Tool. If you do many recordings, it is worth the frustration and time necessary to learn how to work with digital audio editing software. Two of the most popular programs for PCs are Audacity and GoldWave. Audacity is free and easier to use. GoldWave costs a small amount and is much more complicated, but offers incredible power and flexibility. It took me quite a while to master GoldWave, but I can now filter recordings, splice in short retakes, match volumes, and generally clean up audio tracks to get the best possible sound for my recordings.
You don’t have to do all of these things at once, but each piece of advice you can incorporate will give you a small incremental improvement and make your recordings more engaging and popular with your audiences. If you would like to see how I applied these guidelines in my own lead generation Brainsharks, you can start with the short presentation below and see how it allows the viewer to select an action path. If you are reading this in an email or in a limited functionality feed reader, you might not see the embedded clip. In that case you can put this link into your web browser: http://www.brainshark.com/wsuccess/audience