Your Website Videos – Appreciating the Primal – Part 7 – Testimonials

It’s obvious.

A written testimonial, no matter how laudatory, can never match a website video with a client looking into the camera and sincerely extolling your virtues.  There are several things standing between you and that lovely outcome, however.

The first concern I usually hear is, interestingly enough, the one which is the least problematic.  “What if I can’t get them to come in and do it?”  Well, think about it.  To even be considered, the potential testimonial subject must be someone who is a happy, longtime client, or who has had a truly exceptional shorter experience with you.  How else could they give you the testimonial you want?  And, in either of those cases, they’re usually very positive about coming in to help you out.

The biggest obstacles have to do with time and nerves.  Most clients, no matter how kindly disposed to you, have very little time.  Flexibility and empathy in scheduling are the keys.  You’ll almost certainly want to shoot all of your website videos in one day, so try to fit your testimonial subjects in first.  Plan on those doing the filming (your crew, whether professional or inhouse) to arrive early, say 7:30.  This applies equally to a weekday or a weekend day shoot.  Then offer early time slots to your testimonial subjects.  Most working people are used to starting early and will want to be finished before their day really gets going.  Make the time concrete and limited, ideally a half an hour for each, comprised of 15 minutes for makeup (an absolute must, especially on HD with lights) and 15 minutes on-camera.  That way, you can schedule your testimonial subjects every quarter hour starting at, say, 8:00 a.m., and be finished with all of them by 9:00 (even with glitches, it shouldn’t extend beyond 9:30).  That will leave you the rest of the morning to film your main videos.  If a subject requests a later time, say 11:00, then start on your other items earlier, knowing you’ll be shooting that testimonial at 11:15 when the subject is out of makeup.

In other words, do what you would do anyway – pay attention to whatever will make it easiest for your clients to help you.

You’ve got them scheduled and ready to come in.  You’ve told them what to wear (including no white whites and no tight patterns).  Now, what are they going to say?

As much as I believe your lines (or your spokesperson’s) should be scripted and memorized, I believe that testimonial subjects should speak from their hearts, including the occasional hesitation or slight grammatical error.  Don’t forget, they’ll all come in with an idea of what they want to say and how they want to say it.  It’s the job of whomever is directing your marketing videos (and, again, why a pro is by far the best choice) to modulate the pace and content.  It might involve actually re-wording what the subject says on the first pass.  It might be as simple as saying, “Tell me exactly the same thing – in half the time.”  Don’t forget that almost always each pass will improve, and it will be a short road to getting what you want.

The key is not to cut and move on until you’ve got it right.  You’ll have the urge to release the client when the testimonial is getting close, but in the end neither of you will be happy you did it.  It’s always worth another couple of passes, if that’s what it takes.  When it’s just right, you’ll know it, and will be very happy you held your client there for that extra couple minutes.  Also, most often, each take relaxes the subject.  As he gets on top of his breath and in his body, the deeper notes will come out.

Finally, don’t forget that you don’t have to use the entire testimonial.  Listen carefully, be the audience.  The idea is to get approximately :20 seconds for each piece, but if you find there’s a :12 second gem in the center of it, that’s all you really need.  You’ll just edit it out in post.

Now that you’ve got your testimonials handled, the next performance element we’ll discuss for your website videos are those people portraying office workers, clients, and the like.

In the film world, they’re called Background.

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