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Too many shoes in the closet

Dear Early Light,

I need to capture an intellectual activity. We have developed a model for doing analysis in small groups and I'd like to demonstrate the protocol without needing to explain what the protocol actually is.  I wouldn’t shoot the video myself (so glad you folks are around to do it), but I am trying to think my way through possibilities. One of our colleagues has expressed an interest in funding this video, but how do I develop a vision of what it might be to persuade him to put up the funds?


OK DL - 

We’ve all seen videos that rely on obvious visual material to demonstrate an idea - like our paper quilt artist: start with paper, show the quilts, then put it together. But what to do when you’re challenged with video content that’s an intellectual idea and without an obvious visual hook? Big challenge.

I’m going to assume you don’t want the conventional video (tape a person giving a lecture) or the clichéd (a narrator explains your protocol in a voice-over while we see shots of people working in small groups). For a more engaging approach – by no means the ONLY approach – start by paring down your ideas to a couple of key points. This can be hard, I know, especially when you are closely familiar with the background, context and details of your protocol. Consider this image. Too many shoes in the closet. If you introduce every shoe and give it equal importance, you quickly overload your audience. They’re lulled into a shoe-stupor. By the end of the video, all they remember is a closet and shoes. Lots and lots of shoes.

To facilitate the simplifying process, ask someone to interview you, then transcribe your answers and highlight the best lines and phrases. Eliminate the redundancies and chose what is most clear and succinct. These are your key points.

Now for the visuals. Think about the people who most need to adopt your idea.  Are they commuters in freeway traffic? Do they hold their meetings at Starbucks, at the water cooler or in a boardroom? Choose a diverse assortment of potential users and go to them, the real people, not actors. Ask them a set of directed questions designed to elicit, in their own words and spontaneously, the precise and indispensable need in their lives that your protocol can solve. 

Now you have two strong elements: the need, articulated by relatable people with real problems, and the answer to that need, the key points of your idea. By marrying them together, you create an engaging video that is far more dynamic than a lecture. Most importantly, you send an implicit message that your protocol is not simply a concept. It has a practical usefulness. It’s designed to solve common, frequent and real-world problems.

Again, this is just one approach to an idea-based video, and not necessarily the best for your idea. Think of it as an example. A path to wade into the challenge.

Have you produced a video that started with an idea? Have you seen one that works, or does not? Post it here. Send us your comments.  

Related blogs: Videotaping a Submission to Speak at TED and Try Video, You'll Want More

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Reader Comments (2)

This helps a lot, Now I'll always think of shoes when I haven't fine-tuned my message.

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterES

Thanks ES. If I tie ideas to images, I remember them better too.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKD

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