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If your CXO, CEO, CIO or CFO wants to rise above the level of a simple-looking video news release and be seen as the Thought Leader in your industry, technology area, or in the broader world at large, then the next video you make will be critical.

It’ll need something more than an ordinary dry read of a news bulletin, and it’ll probably need a reasonably high budget to achieve this.

As ever, to help you get organized, here are 20 quick tips (23 actually) to make your CXO look like a Thought Leader.

1: Deciding early

Decide early whether you want to film the boss speaking to a teleprompt, or memorizing a prepared speech, or speaking freely, as in an interview.

Each CXO will have their preference, so find out yours, and work from there.

2: Eliminating the ums & ahs

In a news release video, a certain amount of ums &ahs when your CXO speaks is inevitable and normally acceptable.

But not for your Thought Leader project.

You’ll need a video editor who can very finely edit out the ums &ahs, and cover the many gaps with background footage, maintaining a consistent natural flow to the speech.

3: Planning for background footage

You’ll make a more impactful watchable video by having lots of background footage & graphics to show while the CXO narrates the storyline.

The actual CXO’s face doesn’t need to onscreen all the time, just occasionally for the big nuggets.

Estimate you’ll need around a dozen background clips for every couple of minutes of runtime. 12 background images (or cutaways in the trade) will require careful pre-shoot planning. These background images are often called B Roll by video producers.

You might also need background music in the form a couple of short jingles for links.

4: Using background footage

Background images & footage are of 2 types – generic and specific.

Generic is where the audience see your CXO in action, such as them conferring with colleagues, using a tablet or cell on the job, hard at work, or sharing a joke, or perhaps a mighty steadicam shot of them walking through an office like they’re on television, or even getting out of their car. It’s all nonspecific, situationally relevant stuff.

Specific background footage is where the footage or graphic images exactly show what the CXO is talking about. So if it’s a new technology plant under discussion, film and show it. Or if it’s a process revolution, then use an animated graphic schematic to explain it, and so on.

Be as specific as you can.

If you’re talking product then show product – or show the use & pleasure of the product.

5: Deciding the overall style

You may prefer a style where the CXO is speaking in only one place, to camera, with a succession of overdubbed background or support images that visually depict the topic under discussion.

But it can be more powerful to show the CXO in a number of locations, changing the background set for each segment in the video. Many presenter-led TV documentaries do this. Or you can do it with green screen and dub everything.

So when talking about Process Improvements, show your CXO in a factory or outside a plant. Or if the CXO is talking Finance then film them with Wall St or The City of London, or the Paris Bourse, in the background.

Put the CXO in the context of what’s being said.

Decide how flamboyant or conservative you want to be, how digital, how natural.

6: Planning your stock footage

You may not be able to film all you want and have to buy-in stock footage to fill some of the gaps.

Plan this carefully. Be prepared to change your mind a few times until you identify the best possible background video clips.

Shutterstock and Fotolia are good places to start from.

7: Allowing enough time

CXOs are busy people who often resent the intrusion of video-making taking up a chunk of their working day, even if they’re mad keen to tell their terrific story on camera.

So it’s important to impress on them that they need to be generous with their time as you’ll not only need them for the actual interview filming (about 30-60 minutes), but also to film background material and cutaways. So allow an extra 60-90 minutes for this.

This adds up to anything from 90 minutes to 2½ hours.

8: Getting the graphic look right

Your CXO will probably need some animated graphics to help explain their ideas, show performance improvements, explain technology leaps, or describe people behaviour patterns.

Aim for TV quality graphics, titling & captions here. This is not the time to spoil it all with a cheap-looking PowerPoint bar chart.

Work with your video designer to get the overall post-production graphic look right, and agree an illustrated visual storyboard in advance of filming.

9: Checking the video crew & equipment

This is a technical area, but you’ll need to ask your video director if Kool Lights will be available so your CXO doesn’t fry under the spotlight.

And will there be a steadicam for moving shots of your CXO-in-action? And will the teleprompt have a professional operator who’s familiar with timing the prompt’s readspeed with the CXO’s natural speech? Do you need a small crane for an impactful overhead shot, or even a drone? Will there be a sound recordist to ensure perfect audio recording?

Many interviews benefit from using 2 camera operators, one for front, and one for oblique and side shots (or even from a nearby flat roof or window). Do you need GoPro cameras to support an in-car interview while driving? Remote mics should be a given.

You need to decide how much crew & equipment you’ll need on the day. Your video director should be able to explain this to you (secretly they’ll be delighted you asked).

10: Filming multiple CXOs

Sometimes you’ll need several different board members or trustees to appear in the same video, each highlighting an area of your Thought Leadership.

This may well need extra organizing to accommodate busy diaries that don’t match off for filming days easily.

Be prepared to film your VIPs on separate days if necessary, and accept the increased video crew travel and subsistence costs.

As an example of how difficult diaries can be, I once had to fly a video crew to the Adriatic coast of Italy via Rome to film an international CEO at 7.30am on a factory shop floor, with exactly 45 minutes of filming availability, and not a second more.

Needless to say, we held a dummy dress rehearsal the night before. It’s all about results, not risk.

11: Organizing a timetable

As well as an overall schedule for project management purposes, you’ll need careful timetabling on the filming day.

For example, the video crew will need 45 minutes to set up, then your CXO will need to be available for filming their speech for 30-60 minutes, and probably another hour or more needed for background shots. Then you have to dovetail these arrangements with the availability of supporting cast, such as colleagues for your CXO will confer with, other CXOs etc.

This can be tricky and needs planning in precise detail.

12: Checking locations

It’s a mistake to not physically check all the filming locations yourself in person.

Don’t go on your memory or you might get an unwanted surprise when you arrive for filming (dustbins open, untidy areas, toilet breakdown, anything unsightly or inappropriate). Don’t go on memory. Physically check yourself, because only then will you be certain.

13: Deciding the post production style

Post production style is the overall look the video editor adds to the edited footage.

For example, some shots may need a strong, contrasting dramatic look, while other shots need to look softer or more/less colourful. And what if your CXO has wrinkles or dull teeth in closeups? These will need cosmeticizing too, especially if you’re filming in 4k for your new boardroom Ultra LED curved mega screen, to complement your regular HD1080 mp4 video.

If you’re filming in a busy area, or in a noisy plant, or by an aircon, you’ll need professional audio de-noising as well.

Ask your interview video producer in advance what’s to be done, and what your post production options are.

14: Sanitizing the speech

Actually, the danger here is that the teleprompt script or prepared speech is over-sanitized, and comes out dry and full of “wheretofores”.

This can happen after your legal department has edited the script (which lawyers have to check), and also possibly when your marketing, sales or communications departments don’t agree on how to edit the script.

However it starts, you can end up with a speech that looks & sounds too safe, or plain sucks in parts (think: Kim il Yung saying how much he cares 🙂

To be a Thought Leader you have to be seen saying & doing things that are cut above the common way of thinking, so don’t accidentally come out looking cagey, or antiseptically corporate.

Strike a balance between polish and overpolish. Don’t be afraid to be quirky.

15: Considering different versions

It’s often the case that you need a 30-60 second soundbite for Facebook, a 2 minute quick presentation for YouTube, and a 5 minute full version for captive audiences.

Perhaps even a spread of segments for a cable or tv station.

It’s wise to plan for different runtime versions.

There’ll always be people who think the speech is too long and needs to be shortened, losing valuable content. While others may think it should be even longer to include some additional important points, or real word examples/case studies.

Plan ahead for all these possibilities by planning for different versions, in advance with your video studio.

16: VIP coaching

A few VIPs and CXOs don’t need any coaching for camera.

But more often they do need some coaching help, especially younger companies where the CXO hasn’t been on a series of professional media training courses.

The secret here is to pick a video director/interviewer who’s a natural coach, and can guide your CXO, keeping them cheerful & relaxed, giving them confidence, explaining posture, gesture & manners on camera, and generally ensuring your CXO looks right and gets it right.

It’s worth noting that I’ve seen CXOs arrive for a shoot only to be surrounded a swarm anxious execs, each secretly terrified if something should go wrong, and unwittingly winding each other up into the bargain. It happens. The filming is best done with the minimum of attendees.

If asked, most CXOs will say they prefer to have a coach present.

Empathetic, intelligent & alert coaching is what delivers the high quality result you’re looking for because, at the end of the day, the video is all about how well your VIP looks & performs for those vital few minutes on camera.

17: Scheduling multiple interviews

A good way to start dividing up your filming day is in blocks, such as early am, late am, early pm, late pm.

You can refine this further of course, but it’s a good starting point to begin organizing your all-important shoot.

18: Filming after lunch

Never let a CXO be filmed speaking after they’ve had lunch.

I’ve seen it many times when after lunch, the speaker loses excitement & pizazz, when the same speaker was a hub of vitality before lunch.

Keep post lunch filming to the background shots where the CXO is not required to speak.

19: Reducing the runtime

If your Thought Leader video involves filming a live interview, or a mix of multiple short interviews, in different locations, then the resulting video will probably come out too long after the first edit.

It always does, for too many reasons to explain here. However, this will leave you with the task of converting a 5 minute speech (what you got) into the 3 minutes you originally planned (what you wanted).

Reducing the runtime of interviews is a common situation to find yourself in, so be prepared to be ruthless and make quick decisions as to which content can stay, and which content has to be cut out, in order to make the video fit the desired runtime slot. Don’t expect the video company to get it all right.

It’s easier to make a rambling 5 minutes than that crisp punchy 2 minutes. There’s the challenge.

20: Offering guidance notes

Unless your CXO is a media expert, they’ll probably appreciate a page of guidance notes on how to stand, what to wear, and a host of tiny items that may privately worry them.

Your video production company should provide these guidance notes, hopefully as a matter of course.

Either way you’ll need them in order to properly prepare your CXO.

21: Developing an effective questionnaire

If you’re filming an interview, you’ll need a comprehensive questionnaire.

The secret here is to ask normal questions in normal language, in a casual real world manner. Questions that are too wordy, too long, or overly specific tend to get boring self-conscious responses.

In a similar way, you need 2 versions of each question.

One question version is framed for the Mind (I think this ….), and another version is framed for the Heart (I feel this ….). These will give you fallback positions on the day if any of your CXO’s responses sound too artificial or too careful.

Having an alternative question, a different way of asking the same thing, is what will save the day when you need it.

22: Planning for nuggets

Every delivered response or line, whether using a teleprompt or interviewing, should contain a massive nugget of sparkling information.

This is exactly what audiences want. Anything less and they’ll switch off, yawn, nod.

To achieve this, avoid general chat & anecdotes/examples, and stick to delivering pithy, crisp soundbites that tell a lot in a short time. Route One works best.

Soundbites or nuggets are 15-25 seconds long each, so you can calculate your overall runtime by figuring out in advance how many soundbites your video will contain.

It’s a good rule: 25 seconds max per point. The BBC uses it. CNN go even shorter, with only 15 seconds per soundbite.

So if your CXO has 8 points to make, then estimate 2 minutes runtime minimum if you want to keep it tight. And maybe 4 minutes runtime if you need to expand on each point.

23: Sticking with your corporate style

Of course you’ll do this, use your corporate colours on graphics and titles, or have logos appearing subtly or tastefully in the background.

Think glass etched doors, signage, awards, foyer receptions, anything iconic.

Everything should look & feel like it’s your company or organization, and no other.


With Thought Leadership, you aren’t selling any more, but leading the way for others to follow, while buying from you in the process.

The above Quick Tips will help your VIPs look like the industry leaders of the future, appearing as Thought Leaders voicing & directing the thoughts & needs of their audience.

So plan something special for your CXO Thought Leadership video.

These tips are all about the little things that many people just assume will be taken care of. But if you do enough little things, then you get a BIG THING from it.

I hope these tips will help you get your thinking organized, and make a brilliant job of your CXO on camera.