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5 Lessons on Creating Video Like a Pro

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5 Lessons on Creating Video Like a Pro

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If getting better at working with video is on your content marketing to-do list for this year, you’re in good company. CMI’s most recent Video and Visual Storytelling Research finds 88% of marketers use videos for content marketing, and 60% anticipate spending more on video this year than they did a year ago. Yet, nearly half indicate they weren’t using video to its full potential (48%).

What’s holding them back? Concerns about budget, lack of in-house technical skills, and limited management support sit at the top of the barriers. Once you clear those operational hurdles, there’s still the matter of how to plan, position, and promote your video stories to achieve optimal marketing performance.

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 In a recent Ask the CMWorld Community chat, Andrew Davis, best-selling author and internationally acclaimed speaker, shared the expertise acquired throughout his career, which spans the entertainment, marketing, and media industries.

Andrew believes with the right upfront preparation, attention to a few critical details, and some expert tips, any business can deliver high-quality, highly engaging video stories – no matter how much or little they invest in developing it.

The right preparation, attention to critical details, and adherence to some expert tips can deliver highly engaging #video stories, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Watch the video below for the full conversation, and then read on for some expert tips and shortcuts to streamline your technical processes, sharpen your creative focus, and improve the marketing results from your video content.

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Note: Andrew references a video throughout the conversation, which is included below to provide the necessary context for readers:

Lesson 1: Make sure you have a good writer

Unless you livestream, you need a good writer to craft the stories before you film them. A skilled scriptwriter can help ensure the visual imagery aligns with and reinforces the key points.

Andrew points to another reason high-quality writing is instrumental: It can help you set realistic expectations around your technical capabilities, making production more efficient.

A good writer should craft the stories before you film them, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

He explains the writer’s creative choices set the stage for many filming requirements, such as:

  • Equipment – Will you need a wide-angle lens? Will filming with your phone be an option? Would you need to rent a drone for aerial shots?
  • Production work – Will you need someone who can scout locations and handle permit applications?
  • Specialized editing skills – Will you need someone with animation experience? Special effects expertise?

An experienced writer also can point to areas that may be challenging to execute (creatively or financially) and come up with viable workarounds. For example, if the initial idea requires aerial camera work or expensive props, the writer can think about ways to script the story to avoid those costly concepts. “Don’t worry about technical stuff until you have a script you’re happy with,” Andrew says.

Lesson 2: Map out your words and images in advance

Like most content marketing assets, videos start as ideas – they likely will get refined, revised, and reworked numerous times before deployment.

Yet, video workflows are more complex than most text-based content. You need to take steps in advance, such as establishing your filming locations and scenery, managing production tasks, such as text overlays, interstitial graphics, and B-roll), and securing technical equipment and expertise, such as editing software and a skilled editor who can turn the raw footage into a cohesive story.

Unlike a blog article or email campaign where you can make small changes and republish almost in an instant, fixing an error or updating a scene in a video can create a ripple effect of time-consuming and costly tasks.

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Fixing an error in a #video can create a ripple effect of time-consuming and costly tasks, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

To avoid those late-game budget busters, Andrew suggests mapping everything – from the copy for the vocal track and the imagery and actions in each scene to the props and anything else your team might need to bring your story to life on video.

Andrew uses a simple, two-column template Word document. He lists each shot he plans to capture. In the left column, he details the audio features, including the spoken script and background sounds or music. On the right, he notes the visual features, including camera angles, B-roll footage, on-camera actions, props, and captions or other effects. He refers to this outline as “a recipe for creating the best possible video for his purpose.”

Here’s what Andrew’s template looks like:

However, if videos are an ongoing focal point of your content marketing, you may invest in a dedicated screenwriting app (like Scrivener or WriterDuet), which provides more scripting templates.

Screenwriting apps such as @ScrivenerApp or @WriterDuet provide more scripting templates, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The key is to match up all your audio and video details before filming each shot. As Andrew explains: “When I first started out, I didn’t do this. Then I would realize I didn’t have the shots I needed to make the video really good or that I forgot to say something and would have to reshoot or figure out how to sandwich it in.”

Identifying potential problems and addressing them before committing them to video also prevents editing costs from skyrocketing due to revisions.  

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Once you have your “recipe” mapped, print and share it with both on-camera talent and video editors, Andrew says. It gives everyone the clarity they need before it’s time for them to do their work, which will make for a better product.

TIP: Do a little online research to learn standard film terminology – like B-roll (background footage), transitions (elements that create smooth segues between scenes), and SFX (sound effects). Use that lingo in your script. “If you can learn the shorthand, you’ll get much more efficient at communicating your vision to your editors,” Andrew says.


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Lesson 3: Gear up for the gig

Filming on the fly using your phone camera might be sufficient for livestreaming or publishing spontaneous conversations. However, this isn’t ideal for producing more detailed or polished stories.

For a higher-quality standard, use specialized filming equipment. Andrew stresses that investing in the right gear is more important than investing in the best gear – especially when you’re starting out.

Investing in the right gear is more important than investing in the best gear, especially when you’re starting out, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. #Video Click To Tweet

Though some video tech will be determined by whether you record solo or with a team, Andrew recommends everybody have these tools (in addition to a camera) available when recording:

  • Prompter and stand: You can use an iPad or other tablet to display your script. Use a stand to hold it steady and at eye level so your talent can see it clearly. If no one can scroll the script for the on-camera person, get a small Bluetooth connection remote control device that can be hidden in your hand.
  • Headphones: Earbuds – the kind you might use for a Zoom call – work great for this, as they’ll block out some of the background noise that might distract you without making it obvious you’re wearing them.
  • Tripod: Like your prompter stand, a tripod ensures your camera is steady during still shots and can swivel smoothly when the subject moves. It can prevent bouncy or jarring motions that interfere with the viewing experience.
  • Wireless microphone. Your camera might have an internal microphone, but if you’re filming outside a controlled studio environment, you want to minimize background noise and make sure the voices are as clear as possible. The best bet is a small lavalier mic that can clip to the subject’s collar.
  • External camera monitor. To see what the camera sees, use a monitor. You can make sure you aren’t moving outside the shot or wasting battery life on some clown who walks by and decides they want to insert themselves into your scene. Though your camera might have a flip-down screen for this purpose, a large, battery-operated monitor that attaches to the camera will make your life easier.
  • Cords and extra batteries – for all your gear. You never want to get to your filming location and realize you forgot an essential cable or dongle or discover a dead battery with no way to recharge it.

Lesson 4: Check yourself before you wreck your video

Dead batteries aren’t the only thing that can ruin your filming plans. In fact, Andrew says you need to check a lot of small but important details before the cameras roll. “I cannot tell you how many times I have realized after filming, like, for 20 minutes that the microphone is not working or that I’m out of focus,” he says.

Time is money on a video shoot. So, while a seasoned pro like Andrew has developed a mental checklist, he runs through as he sets up each new shot, he suggests having a written reference when you’re starting out.

If you’re filming at an in-home or -office studio, Andrew offers a few more questions for the checklist:

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  • Did you close the doors to the room in which you’re recording?
  • Did you yell, “Quiet on the set,” so everyone in the house/studio knows you’re recording?
  • Did you notify people who may enter the building after the recording starts by text or sign about the video production?
  • Did you remember to silence your phone (and any other devices in the room)?
  • Did you crank the air conditioning? Between the lights and nerves, things can really heat up when you’re on camera. You won’t want to make everyone stop in the middle of a scene so you can wipe off your sweat or turn the thermostat down a few degrees.
  • Did you yell, “That’s a wrap,” so everyone knows they can go back to normal?

Lesson 5: Make strategic, data-driven creative choices

Andrew estimates he and his team put in about 40 hours to create a video. That might seem like a lot of time, especially in an era where livestream videos can go from idea to on-air in minutes.

Most of those spots run between 30 seconds and six minutes. Andrew’s videos typically run between seven and 10 minutes. Why doesn’t he produce shorter pieces? It’s all about his strategic goals. Andrew says:

The real core of my audience doesn’t want a superficial marketing tip and trick because they can get a million of those elsewhere online. I’m trying to help people think strategically about the marketing they’re doing and how to deliver a better customer experience. To me, that [requires lengthier videos]. I think it also helps to take people on a real journey.

Andrew doesn’t take his creative cues from industry standards, assumptions, or rules of thumb about audience content preferences. Rather, he creates videos based on what his audience tells him resonates directly or through metrics. Here are a few ways he gathers that feedback:

  • Audience retention rates: He compares the retention rates for each video on his YouTube channel. For example, one popular video showed a retention rate of 50% – meaning half of those who viewed the video watched until its completion. For videos that don’t reach that retention rate, he does a deeper dive into their creative and technical details, such as length, topic, title, and tags, to learn what might not have worked as well.
  • Subscriber responses: Andrew includes links to his videos in Loyalty Loop, a weekly email newsletter. He tracks direct replies to those emails: “Lots of people click, open, and watch it, but the people who respond – especially when it’s about something that really hit a chord – help me understand what’s working because it tells me what they’re liking, what’s challenging them, and what are they learning,” he says.
  • Comments: Andrew also mines the comments viewers leave on the YouTube page and below his LinkedIn posts where he shares the link.

Create winning videos – without losing your mind

A little extra efficiency in your video creation processes can add up to big marketing gains – in content quality, audience engagement, and video performance. Follow Andrew’s pro tips and let us know how it goes. If you have some video planning and preparation tips to share, why not pop them into the comments below?

All tools are identified by the author or sources. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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8 Best Tactics to Lead a Team with Zero Experience

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8 Best Tactics to Lead a Team with Zero Experience

‘How to lead a team?’

This is a burning question for team leads, especially first-time managers.

The ultimate purpose of team leads is to encourage and help their team deliver peak performance while nurturing their skills. They need to establish clear expectations and supervise their team to achieve business goals efficiently.

However, developing effective leadership skills requires considerable experience. To lead a team with zero experience can be thus daunting and overwhelming.

If you are a first-time manager, you should embark on your journey by understanding your role and responsibilities. Taking small yet thoughtful steps will help you develop essential leadership skills.

In this post, we will share the eight best tactics that will help you lead a team with zero experience.

Key Tips to Lead a Team with No Experience

Here’s the comprehensive list of best tips and practices to help you lead a team successfully.

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#1: Admit Experience Limitations to Your Team

Helen Hayes once quoted –

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.”

These words accurately describe the fact that one cannot earn expertise overnight. It takes determination, time, and hard work to sail through the process.

So, if you want your team to thrive, you need to be honest with your team. Don’t conceal the fact that you lack leadership experience. Admitting experience limitations to your team will make them considerate of your situation. This will create a bond of understanding between you and your teammates.

Here are a few tips that’ll help you overcome your experience limitations.

  • Stay Focused: Unless you understand the client’s requirements, you won’t be able to guide your team. So, keep a sharp focus on everyday tasks.
  • Be Proactive: Participate actively in all the tasks to keep your team engaged and motivated.
  • Embrace Humility: Be open to listening to your team’s perspective. Embracing different viewpoints will help you deal with tricky situations with ease.

#2: Have the Confidence to Lead a Team

According to Gallup, managers that lead a team successfully have the following traits.

  • Ability to motivate and engage their team
  • Assertiveness to drive outcomes
  • Confidence to overcome adversity
  • Ability to build transparent relationships

Out of these traits, confidence is the most pivotal.

The reason? A leader’s confidence impacts their team’s confidence.

While it’s true that you lack experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t lead a team and make it big.

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Don’t let your experience impact your confidence.

Develop a constructive mindset to empower your team. Focus on improving your problem-solving skills and get involved with your team in the projects. Understand your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses to gauge their potential, thereby delegating tasks to the right people.

Show your human side and stay honest about everything to be approachable. If you commit a mistake, accept it openly in front of everyone. This will make your teammates comfortable working with you.

The key is to lead by example. This will help you stay confident and increase your chances of achieving desired business outcomes.

#3: Create Open Door Communication Policy

An open-door policy signifies a set of protocols encouraging employees to discuss their queries, challenges, or suggestions with their senior-level managers.

Since communication is a key to building efficient teams, an open-door policy can be a game-changer for you. It can help create and maintain a transparent and unbiased work environment by improving the communication between you and your team.

No wonder, leading companies like IBM follow an open-door policy to promote effective communication at the workplace.

Here are a few tips to consider.

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  • Communicate Expectations: Create a brief outline stating the communication rules. Further, educate your team about how it works and its benefits.
  • Set Boundaries: Providing a solid communication ground to your team is good, but without boundaries, it can lead to the loss of valuable time.

For instance, you can allow your employees to walk in the cabin at any instant. If this doesn’t seem feasible, you can standardize the process. Ask your team to book an appointment for the discussion.

#4: Reach Out to Experts for Assistance

Dealing with conflicts, doubts, and distractions may seem draining as you progress in your managerial journey.

Take the help of a mentor to cope with tricky situations.

An experienced mentor can help you develop decision-making skills while gaining a new perspective on leading a team. With their guidance, you can move on an upward trajectory and establish yourself as a strong leader.

Here are a few ways to connect to an experienced mentor for guidance.

  • Professional Network: Reach out to people in your professional network with expertise, experience, and industry knowledge.
  • Social Media: Leverage the power of social media channels like LinkedIn, Reddit, and Quora. These platforms have a plentitude of subject matter experts and industry leaders.
  • Comprehensive Platforms: Count on platforms like GrowthMentor and TheMuse to discover the best leaders from your industry.

Pro Tip: Become a part of the About Leaders community, where industry leaders share valuable advice and tips on positive leadership. Reading researched and well-written blog posts shared by experts on About Leaders will help you develop a leader-like mindset, thereby preparing you for success.

Besides, you can enroll in leadership-building courses by About Leaders, trusted by 30,000 international leaders.

#5: Set Clear and Realistic Expectations

Setting clear and realistic expectations for your team reduces the chances of project failure. It helps the team members understand their responsibilities and create a solid strategy to meet the expectations.

Here are a few tips for setting clear expectations.

  • Emphasize Goals: Define actionable objectives for each member. The goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T).
  • Make Employees Accountable: Set milestones according to your team members’ skills and experiences. Set realistic deadlines to ensure successful project completion.
  • Track Your Team’s Progress: Keep a tab on your team’s progress by implementing productivity tracking tools like Trello and Toggl. These project management platforms can help you monitor your team’s performance, thereby boosting the chances of your success.
  • Share Timely and Honest Feedback: According to ClearCompany, daily feedback improves employees’ engagement by 3x. So, try offering feedback at the end of the day or at least in a week to boost team collaboration.  

#6: Provide Resources to Help Your Team

To be a good leader, you should support your team with a well-constructed tech stack. This will not just simplify and streamline their tasks but also increase their trust in you as a leader.  

For instance, if you are leading a team of sales reps, implementing customer relationship management (CRM) software can help your team collect customers’ data. This can boost their work efficiency and help them achieve their goals.

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The key here is to talk to the team and understand their challenges. Based on pain points, offer resources like task automation tools, communication platforms, and CRMs. This will help your team communicate, collaborate, and stay organized and efficient.

Pro Tip: Create a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing by organizing brainstorming sessions. Allow your team to collaborate once a week and discuss innovative ideas. You can even arrange monthly webinars or seminars by inviting guest speakers. This will foster a happy and productive environment, thereby keeping your team motivated.

#7: Ask For Feedback at the End of the Project

As a first-time manager, you should keep learning and improving your leadership skills.

Your team’s feedback on your leadership can help you lead with high effectiveness.

So, ask your team what went right and wrong during the task.

Here are a few crucial questions to consider:

  • In what ways can I improve team communication and time management?
  • Did I do justice to my role?
  • What skills can help me lead a team efficiently?
  • Do you consider me a fair and unbiased leader?
  • Do you trust me for our upcoming projects?

Encourage them to offer honest feedback on your role as a leader. This can help you understand your team’s perspective on your leadership style.

#8: Reward Your Team for a Good Job

Acknowledge and reward your team for a job well done.

This will let your team know their contribution and effort are highly valued and appreciated.

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What’s more? Appreciation can boost their morale and motivate them to perform even better in the future.

Notice the following screenshot of a survey conducted by O. C. Tanner. As you can see, it reveals that employee recognition is the most vital driver of great work.

Here are a few tips to reward your team.

  • Offer Time-Off: Allow your team to take some time off and unwind. This will promote a healthy work culture.
  • Share Thoughtful Gifts: Give small gifts such as chair massages, movie tickets, and more.
  • Offer Non-Monetary Gifts: Rewards don’t need to be monetary always. You can give them a quick shoutout in an email with kind words. This will make them feel valued.

Summing Up

Team management is a challenging task.

Lack of experience can make it further difficult for first-time team leads to justify their role. They need skills, a learning attitude, and patience to develop a good rapport with their teammates.

The shared tips can boost your confidence and help you establish yourself as a trustworthy leader. So, follow these tactics to find your footing as a manager.

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