mouthsI know. You’re bursting with ideas for your online marketing campaign and you’re really excited about what videos can do for you. You just can’t wait to get started. However, pause and take a deep breath. While it’s tempting to cram as much as possible into a video as you can, especially if you’re just new to the concept of making and using videos as a marketing tool, you also need to remember the old KISS principle. You know: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.


At this point, you could be raising your eyebrows. Why on earth do you need help making a video look good if the idea is to keep it simple? Can’t you keep it simple by shooting your own videos with a GoPro or even your phone? Well, as any minimalist architect, clothes designer or “natural looking makeup” expert will tell you, it often takes quite a lot of hard work to make something that’s both simple and effective. Just think of works of classical architecture or art, such as the Parthenon or Michaelangelo’s David. It looks simple, clean and pure, but you can bet your bottom dollar that a heap of hard work went into making it look that good. So don’t be fooled. Even if you’re doing something very simple in your video, you’re still going to need a fair dollop of expertise in the area of video editing, lighting, sound and even just plain old good ideas. It’s like the old saying about a swan – serene, calm and unruffled on the surface but paddling like mad underneath.


There are some areas in particular where it can be tempting to get too complicated and to overlook when it comes to making – and keeping – things simple.


Special Effects, Backgrounds, Etc.

There’s no denying that computers have made it a lot easier to make terrific videos. Clever editing programs, green screens and other gadgets make it possible for you to look like you’re shooting your video anywhere at all, even in some sort of fantasy land. Like the Piano Guys did in this video, where video magic makes it possible for the cellist to play a duet (duel?) with himself using light sabres inside the Death Star:


OK, the Piano Guys managed to pull that off – and get plenty of attraction from the geeky crowd.  However, if you want to get your message across, having too much going on in the background and having too many special effects can be distracting. It can leave your viewers thinking “Hey, cool effects in that video!” instead of thinking “That presenter had some great ideas.”  So yes, you can use green screen magic to make it look like you’re discussing your ideas on home construction from the middle of the Sahara Desert without all the fuss and bother of travelling there with a camera crew, etc. etc. But if this doesn’t actually add anything to your message and what you’re trying to say, then just going with a very plain background – even plain black – can be just as effective:



Well, it’s effective as long as what’s in the main picture (i.e. you and what you’re doing) is well lit and the sound quality is nice and clear.


Video Length

Some videos out there on YouTube are very long – some are several hours long and they still have plenty of views and likes.  Some may even be watched all the way through AND liked. However, hour-long videos are the exception, rather than the rule. Even if you have run a webinar and you have had some great expert speaker giving a great presentation that did last an hour, it’s possible to break this presentation up into shorter chunks, which means that (a) you have more videos out there, (b) your viewers are more likely to watch them all the way through and (c) you will pick up more viewers.


However, the golden window of time seems to be two minutes long, with the silver window of time being between three and six minutes long.  This is still heaps of time to say what you need to say, be funny, inform people and connect with your viewers.  This one, for example, is just a shade over two minutes but still manages to tell a good story, raise awareness of online dangers and get people laughing:



(Also notice the use of very simple backgrounds again, except when doing the TV lottery parody. I challenge you to watch a few good videos online and see how many presentations and talks have very basic backgrounds.)


Words, Words, Words


You’ve got a lot to say – we know. However, there’s more to just doing a good talk than just getting up and talking off the cuff. For one thing, even if you are a great public speaker, it’s easy to fall into one of two traps: (1) Going on and on and on and on, making the same point over and over.  This is a sure-fire method of making your viewers switch off – literally. (2) Getting off topic and discussing a side-issue. If you’re not so much of a speaker, you can fall into the um-ah trap.  Good video editing will clean up a lot of pauses and ums (and maybe cut out that side topic that you got off on – although this could make a good mini-clip in its own right). You may have to do a little scripting to make sure that you use the right words at the right time, where you give enough explanation but not too much.


You would be surprised at how little explanation is actually needed, even in a DIY video… as long as the video quality is good enough.  It’s possible to do a cooking demonstration without using any words at all and still inform your viewers:


If pure silence isn’t your thing, you can also convey quite a lot with just body language – and maybe a little bit of background music to set the scene:



What if you have a combination of a simple background, a clip lasting between two and five minutes and well-chosen words that get your message across clearly and crisply? Well, you’ve got a winner, especially if your content really engages your audience.