Creatively shooting the CEO on video

Q: We would like our CEO to address the whole of our workforce on video on a twice yearly basis. My concern is that I’ve seen some poor videos of CEOs where they look wooden before a teleprompt, and then get dubbed over a poor quality Powerpoint type of background.

Perhaps he could be treated more creatively or made to look more natural, such as in a conversation? Or maybe be shot on location, or in an everyday setting?

How do we make the best CEO DVD?

PR Executive

A: There are many different ways to shoot the top person in a company.

However it’s done, what really matters is that when they see the finished video production they:

> Never stammer, stutter or swallow

> Look and sound natural

> Look reasonably attractive

Of course, they have to deliver the message well, too.

Exploring this, let’s list the creative possibilities and see how they deliver the above requirement.

Creative Possibilities

> To use teleprompt against green screen for later dubbing over a graphic background

> To shoot in conversation with a relevant colleague or other VIP

> To memorise a script to speak on location (or multi-locations)

> Other creative treatments such as steadicam (moving camera) in a studio

Looking at these in reverse order:

Steadicam and Studio
With carefully setup multi-cameras, some of them moving, in the studio background of your choice you can make your CEO look like the Prime Minister, a statesman, a wise friend at the top, or anything you choose. Creativity has no limits.

The downsides are the cost which is high, and the time taken, maybe the best part of a day for your CEO including travel.

Your CEO may neither want to pay the higher cost, or give up a whole day for a video.

In addition, if you make these regularly, as you suggest, then it’ll be a twice yearly major expedition for the PR department.

Add together lots of planning and organising, and you’ll see that it’s not a quick easy answer.

But an excellent answer if it’s done right.

Memorising a script to speak on locations
CEOs rarely memorise scripts properly. They’re too busy.

And on the day of the shoot, they keep changing what they want to say.

This makes editing very difficult. An editor can cut and paste all the best bits together to form a broadly well-delivered message.

But what you find is that on the clean takes, where they say everything properly, they’re less convincing. While on the poor takes where they forget their lines, they actually give the best delivery!

It can be a Catch 22.

We’ve had CEOs come back after viewing edits saying “can we remove a small gulp?”

We’re talking about a tiny gulp here where they inwardly are trying to remember their lines while on camera. And it’s almost impossible to edit out without ruining the timing and flow.

People aren’t flawless and the camera catches this.

In addition, you get wind noise outdoors, or wind blowing hair inappropriately, or you get people watching and sniggering when the boss gets his lines wrong.

Memorising lines is a risky business, but often chosen because it’s cheap, which is usually because the video company haven’t done CEOs much before and don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for, and so price the job cheap, guv.

But if it does come off well, you can have your CEO shot in a number of interesting multi-locations, which adds a lot of value to the whole production.

In conversation with a colleague or other VIP
It’s very difficult to control the message in these situations. People in conversation often wander off topic, or tend to tell stories when stories aren’t required, or deliver high quality information points in a slightly rambly conversational manner.

Add to this the chemistry between the two conversationalists.

One character may have an interrupting sort of manner, or a manner that doesn’t encourage the other. Often they end up making stilted speeches to each other. Or the “wrong person” looks the best.

You’ll need a two camera shoot to pull this off properly, one camera for each speaker. This means you’ll need a fair amount of room for the shoot, so location will be important.

But a structured well-briefed conversation with 2 cameras will look good, and make the CEO look like the nice wise man at the top

To teleprompt against green screen
This last option is obviously the one I’ve been saving up for last.

All the CEO has to do is sit before camera, against a portable green screen in almost any room, and read the teleprompt.

Lots of different takes are recorded, at different speeds with different emphasis on each. The best bits are selected from all the takes by the video editor, and turned into a DVD.

The advantages are:

> Reasonable cost

> Guaranteed results with teleprompt

> Fairly easy to produce

> Doesn’t require more than 1 or 2 hours of the CEO’s time

> It’s shot in private, so the “mistakes” are never seen

A formula like this is ideally suited to situations where you would like to shoot the CEO (and other important company VIPs) on a regular basis, with no fuss or mess or high cost

With good direction on the day, your CEO can give a great performance using this route.

Creative Graphics
It’s a given that charts or data will need to be presented during the course of the CEO presentation.

So whoever you use, make sure they’re good at this sort of thing.

Likewise for the green screen dubbed background. You mentioned backgrounds that look like awful powerpoints. This is down to the skills of your video production company. There’s no reason why the background can’t look great, and completely in keeping with the message.

Just pick a company that is strong on graphics.

Foreign Languages
Don’t use subtitles. People hate them.

People want to hear their own language.

So arrange for a professional voiceover to dub over foreignspeak voice after the shoot. Listen-not-look where foreign languages are concerned.

There’s more information on shooting your CEO here

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