It used to be the case that if you wanted to play a video during a business meeting, you’d have to subject yourself to a lengthy, bizarre, and in most cases, futile process. First, you’d have to call up your company’s AV technician and book a TV and VCR. If no TVs were available that day, you’d be completely out of luck. During the VCR-era, an embarrassing number of business presentations featured the sentence, “I had originally planned to show a video clip now, but the VCR wasn’t available, so I guess I’m just going to have to describe the clip to you guys instead.”
If you got lucky and a TV happened to be available, the AV guy would wheel it in from the AV room on a dolly. In order to prevent the TV from falling over and crushing the AV guy to death, it was usually held in place with three enormous strips of velcro. If the TV and AV guy both arrived unharmed, you then had to confront the challenge of actually getting the VHS tape to play.
Back then, your choice of clips was limited to what was commercially available at video stores, what you’d recorded off broadcast TV, and what you had recorded yourself on a camcorder. The resolution was 333×480 (significantly lower than the 1920×1080 or 3840 × 2160 resolution that we are now used to) and a good portion of those pixels were obscured with fuzzy white lines known as tracking marks. In most cases, the video was only decipherable to those sitting within 15 feet of the TV. Ironically, the people who ended up describing their clips verbally due to AV room scheduling conflicts were often better able to convey the meaning of their clips than those who were actually able to get their cassettes to play.
Nowadays the situation has improved: Thanks to YouTube and YouTube ripping programs, there are billions of hours of footage that you can download and use to your liking (not all of it cat footage). By simply taking your phone out of your pocket and pressing a few buttons, you can shoot HD footage that in 2005 would have required the purchase or rental of a $10,000 camera. To edit all that footage, you no longer have to enroll in film school and learn intricate programs like Avid or Premiere; all you have to do is open WeVideo. And thanks to wireless presentation solutions like Ubiq, you can send your presentation to a screen within 3 seconds of opening your laptop.
Even though the tools for including video in business presentations are available to everyone, many business professionals are reluctant to do so. Photos and graphs have dominated the presentation scene for so long that most people don’t even know where to begin with video. Well, here are a few starting points.
- Incorporate Clips From the News or Pop Culture
In her TED talk on body language, Amy Cuddy showed news footage of various world leaders greeting each other and analyzed their posture. In his Inconvenient Truth Keynote address, Al Gore showed a clip from Futurama to illustrate his points. The enduring popularity of these two presentations is likely due to factors other than the clips that were chosen, but the clips certainly didn't hurt.
If you’re having a hard time finding news or pop culture clips that are relevant to your subject, you can always end your presentation by using the “I’m finished” clip from There Will Be Blood. That one works every time regardless of the subject matter.
- Shoot Your Own Footage
If the filmmakers of the Sundance hit Tangerine can shoot a feature-length film on the iPhone 5, surely you can get at least a few minutes of decent footage on the iPhone 6.
By simply taking a 10-minute-long shot of the outside of your building on a cloudy day and speeding it up by 9000% on your computer, you can create an arresting time-lapse that would work perfectly as an opening image. Or, if your presentation goes off on a tangent, you can recover from it nicely by using that time-lapse and adding the text “Meanwhile, back at…”
- Instead of Using Static Stills, Try the Ken Burns Effect
Most presenters who use still images are perfectly fine showing their stills one after the other in quick succession without modifying or altering them in any way. This can very boring very quickly. By adding a subtle zoom made famous by filmmaker Ken Burns, you can make your presentation look like an acclaimed PBS documentary.
- Use Voice-Over and Music
Why stop at the zoom when you can add other tricks from Ken Burns’ arsenal like music and voice-over? If you’re nervous about presenting (and who isn’t?), knowing that you’ve nailed a pre-recorded photo-montage segment can do wonders to set your mind at ease. If at any point you begin stumbling during your presentation, all you have to do is say, “And now I’d like to show a brief documentary that I’ve made specifically for this occasion.” While the video is playing, you can consult your notes, sip some water, and just take a moment to collect your thoughts. Once your video is over, you’ll be in a much better place to continue on with the rest of the presentation.
About the Author
David Humphreys is a content creator at GoUbiq.com. Ubiq produces a wireless presentation solution that allows you to begin a business presentation within three seconds of opening a laptop.