neil@neilben.com
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I'm sorry, what did you say?

Business jargon, what's the point?

I only ever watch one episode of each series of The Apprentice... The one when the contestants have the interviews and get ripped to shreds because most of them are full of BS.

Yes, I'm calling them contestants as it's a game show in my opinion and not a serious business programme

All this business lingo just drives me crazy, why can't they just talk properly. I can just imagine what a business meeting would look like with one of the apprentices. Possibly a bit like this?

Thank you joining me for this pow-wow, as you’ve all been on my radar for a while.

I just wanted to touch base and run something up the flagpole. We’ve been flogging a dead horse and need to think outside the box because as a team we’ve not been singing from the same hymn sheet.

I’m not suggesting reinventing the wheel but with some blue sky thinking we can get that low hanging fruit.

Now I appreciate we can’t boil the ocean, but a quick look under the bonnet and I’m sure we can find an idea with legs.

At the end of the day we need to hit the ground running because this is a game changer.

OK... so I’ve moved the goalposts but I am giving you the heads up that we need some joined up thinking.

When push comes to shove it’s important to get all our ducks in a row, peel back the layers of the onion and square the circle.

It’s not rocket science, so I’m reaching out to you to pick it up and run with it.

Comprendey? Great.

Action that!

You don't get anything done speaking like that

When I was directing multi-camera studios, there would often be 30 or more people waiting for my instructions before they would do anything, so my instructions had to be clear, to the point and understandable.

If I started the day saying "Good morning studio, lets hit the ground running" I'd get laughed at and ignored for the rest of the day. However, if I started the day (as I did) saying "Good morning studio, I'd like to start by rehearsing scene 3 from shot 49... Geoff (the floor manager), please get artists in and ready... Cameras you get in position and we can block through the shots while lighting finish their adjustments."

I'm giving clear instructions that everyone understands and we have hit the ground running though I never needed to say so.

Speaking in front of camera can be normal too

Most people think they need to do something special when they appear in front of camera... Talk in a particular way... Use more "polite" language, or slow down (or speed up). Well that's not necessary.

I find the most engaging business videos are when the person in front of camera is talking just how they do every day of the year, naturally and normally.

So if you think you need to do something special to make a video then you are wrong... You are already special, just be yourself and your videos will be great.

Talk like I have written above, using business lingo and I will add the Benny Hill theme or similar comedy music track to your video... You have been warned.

In the mid 90s I left the BBC and became a freelance director. Over the next 15 or so years I was fortunate enough to direct many different programmes, for many different television broadcasters, including:

Every programme I worked on developed me as a director, taught me new things and helped me hone my craft.

It was what I learnt directing Teletubbies that has helped me the most when directing business videos

No, do not worry... If you hire me to make videos for you, I'm not going to expect you to dress up in a brightly coloured suit and dance over a grassy field covered with flowers and bunny rabbits going "eh-oh"!

But it was what I learnt from Anne Wood, creator of Teletubbies, that I still use when I direct today.

In early 2001, I was a location director on the show. I used to direct the little films that popped out of the Teletubbies tummys, the ones featuring little children doing fun and interesting things.

As a location director I had to come up with the ideas for the sequences, find the locations, cast the children, direct the sequences, record the voice-over and supervise the edit. But before I could start I had to be fully briefed on the Ragdoll Productions way of directing.

The wisdom Anne Wood shared in the training has stayed with me ever since:

It is not possible to direct the young children who appear in these films so don't try. Just create a safe space for them to play in and then capture the magic

OK. I don't get to work with many child business owners, that said, I'm not going to try and direct you. Unless, that is, you have be trained as a presenter or performer.

What I am going to do is...

Create a safe space..

How many business owners are confident being in front of camera? Not many.

Having a camera stuck in your face, a microphone dangled over your head and having "action" shouted at you can be most nerve wracking. Video production is unfamiliar and scary for many people, so my first job as a director is to make you feel safe, because when you feel safe you are more likely to come across naturally on camera.

How do I do that? The truth is, I don't really know, I just do... I guess I have a knack of making filming feel kind of everyday and nothing special. Having directed for over 30 years there's very little that phases me, so when I arrive at a new location, I walk in with confidence, which helps put my contributor at ease.

for them to play in...

OK, you're not going to be getting the Scalextric or your My Little Ponies out during filming... Actually, if having a toy car race before a shoot, or plaitting a pony's rainbow-coloured hair makes you feel calm and helps you in front of camera then yes, have them in your office.

For me playing means having fun in the shoot and getting you to do what you are most comfortable doing. So if you are confident delivering a 1-minute elevator pitch, I'll make the filming feel like an elevator pitch. If you are comfortable answering client's questions, I'll pretend to be a client and ask you questions... I'll just stand behind the camera so it captures the answers you are giving me.

The idea is to make the process as fun and normal as possible.

then capture the magic

Filming the video needs to be the easiest and least intrusive part of the process.

There is no point in having beautifully crafted shots if the person talking on camera is sweating profusely and stuttering their lines. Many production companies spend way too much time setting up the lights, creating the perfect framing, getting the location to look beautiful, but forget that all this preparation can add to the tension and affect the performance of the business owner.

For me, all the technical stuff needs to be kept as simple as possible, or better still, handled well before the business owner appears. That way all the focus can be put on the performance.

This is why I often film on my smartphone. If you know how, the quality can be as good as using bigger, more "professional" kit, but it doesn't feel such a big thing. This helps make the whole filming process less threatening and much easier.

Oh, and I don't worry about scripts or autocue either, because unless you have been trained to deliver a script or use autoecue, you will not come across as naturally as you can.

Business video production with me will feel safe, fun and I'll capture a performance you never thought was possible

"I don't want to be on video!"

... is the biggest excuse I hear from people who avoid using video as part of their business marketing.

The first thing is to look at the real reasons why people avoid video. These are the most common excuses I hear:

 - I don't like the way I look or sound on video
- I'm not going to be good enough

Lets deal with the first one first.

I don't like the way I look or sound on video

When you watch yourself on camera for the first time, you're experiencing yourself like you've never experienced yourself before - exactly how you look and sound!

Eh? Let me explain... Unless you are prone to out of body experiences, the only way to see yourself moving around is in a reflection... Looking in a mirror, in a puddle, in the reflection of a shop window, so the image of you you're most comfortable with is your reflection.

That means, when you see yourself in video for the first time (not as a reflection), the immediate response is "that's not me". But it is you and it is exactly how everyone else who knows (and loves) you, sees you.

What about how you sound on video? We all hear when our ear drum vibrates, but there are two ways to get it vibrating.

  1. when sound waves enter our ear hole then hits the drum
  2. when sounds vibrate through the bones of your skull and vibrates your drum

You hear your voice through your skull, and as the sound travels through your bones they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. When you hear your voice on video, it sounds higher and unfamiliar to you.

See what the BBC says about why we hate hearing our own voice

So when you first watch yourself on video you are seeing and hearing yourself as everyone else sees and hears you, but not how you have ever experienced yourself before. This "new" you is going to take a little time to get used to. But this is no excuse to avoid making videos.

I'm not going to be good enough

When I was nine I started learning the clarinet. It was difficult to begin with and the noise coming out the end of it didn't sound a bit like the sound my cousin was able to get out of her clarinet. "I just wasn't good enough..."

Or maybe, I just hadn't had enough time to learn how to play it properly and practice.

This is true of every new thing we try... It is unlikely that we will be great at it at our first attempt. But this is no excuse to avoid making videos.

You need to practice, get a great teacher, coach, mentor, trainer, director and let me help you though those early uncomfortable moments and support you in becoming confident in front of camera.

And just to let you know, in the nearly 30 years I've been working in television and video production, there's not been a single person who I haven't managed to get over their initial fear and helped them look great.

I had to overcome my fears too

Yes... When I first saw myself on video I didn't like the way I looked or sounded. I also had to get over seeing my disability which was tough... But do you know what got me through?

My passion

When you talk with passion and enthusiasm the camera loves you, and all those doubts and worries about how you look and sound disappear. Which I talk about in this video below.

So come on... No more excuses, no more avoiding doing what I know you want to do. Just give it a go, get yourself started, practice and get a mentor / director to help you in your journey.

 

Do you freeze in front of camera?

Or don't know what to say when the director says "action". Maybe you are suffering from presenter's block.

First of all, I have no idea if presenter's block is a real term or not, so I am going to define it just in case

WRITER'S BLOCK - the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing

PRESENTER'S BLOCK - the condition of being unable to think of what to say or freezing in front of camera

So what do you do when you freeze in front of camera
and don't know what to say?

Having worked for the BBC for many years and shot lots and lots of people, the number one reason for freezing in front of camera is - making it a "big thing"

When I worked for BBC Schools Television I'd often have to interview head teachers, class teachers and other school staff and there were times when the contributor would be so nervous they wouldn't be able to answer a question coherently. So this is what I did.

I'd get them to forget they were being interviewed

"How did you do that Neil?"

Funny you should ask

As we set up for filming (the crew putting up the lights, getting the camera ready and clipping on the radio mic) I'd chat with the contributor naturally, asking them things like "do you eat the school dinners here?" or "how was your sports day?" Questions that were easy to answer and felt  like a part of a pleasant, natural conversation.

I'd then have a secret signal that the crew would look out for, like scratching my nose, which would tell them I wanted them to start recording. I'd carry on, chatting away with the contributor, asking them open questions and then I'd scratch my nose and slip in one of the questions I needed the answer to, with exactly the same tone as all the other questions.

9 times out of 10 they'd give me a great, relaxed answer and I would say to them "that was an amazing answer, [to the cameraman] I really wish you had been recording it", to which the cameraman would say "I was".

I would then compliment the contributor, thanking them for their answer and that they were a natural in front of camera. That would make the rest of the interview run smoothly.

"That's all very well Neil, but I'm not an interviewee,
I'm trying to present my own content to camera
and still struggle, what do I do?"

Funny you ask, actually it's a similar issue. You're making your filming "way too important" which is causing you to freeze. Making a video is NO BIG DEAL

If you are making a business video, where you are sharing your expertise, then you should have no problem talking to camera. Here's why I think that?

Which means talking about your expertise is easy and being filmed on a phone is not alien, you're just combing the two.

"Logically Neil I know that, but I still get stuck"

Ok... Ok... You're being stubborn here. So let me tell you a couple of tricks I've been using for years to help people through.

  1. Practice, practice, practice... The more you do it the easier it gets
  2. Imaging a client is standing just behind the camera and talk to them
  3. If that doesn't work, get a photo of your favourite client, cut a small hole out the middle of the picture and stick it on the back of the phone so the hole is over the lens. Then just talk to the picture.
  4. Get it wrong, get it wrong again, get it wrong lots of times, laugh at yourself and think "this isn't a problem, after all, I can always shoot it again". Eventually you'll get it
  5. Learn how to edit. That way you don't need to capture the whole of your video in one shot, you can do several different takes and edit the best bits together. I teach you how to do that in my coaching programmes

This one is from the archives, with a few more
tips on presenting to camera

The camera's set, the lights are on, you press the record button or the director shouts "Action!" and then what?

Where do you look? How do you talk? What do you do with your hands?

So check out this film and the next time you're in front of camera won't seems so scary.

 

What's the best camera to film with?

I often get calls from people who want videos made and the first question they ask is "what camera do you use?"

If you want to work with me that is not a question you need to ask, because if you are worried about the technical stuff; what camera I'm using, what microphones I'm using, what lights I'm going to set up, then you're not interested in the content. It is just about how good your video is going to look.

What I am interested in is:

So if you pick up the phone to me and say "Neil, I know my stuff and I want to touch more people with what I know, with my message"... My ears will prick up, my eyes will brighten and I will say "you're the kind of person that I want to work with".

If you have an expertise that makes a difference, maybe you've worked with a dozen people, maybe a few hundred people and you've made a difference in their lives, then you can make a difference in thousands of people's lives, tens of thousands, even millions, if you get it right.

It has nothing to do with what camera I use to film you with

Get the content right and let me worry about the technology

And do you know what? The above video was shot on my iPhone, using a little cable mic, an LED light, all sat on to of a £40 tripod. The whole kit cost me about a third of what the phone cost. Does it matter that I wasn't using a £20,000 camera? No, because what I was saying in the video was more important then the technology I was using.... I hope!

You let me know what you think.

What's better?

Being perfect in front of camera or being passionate in front of camera?

My belief is that being perfect is not achievable, so it's simple for me, it's much better to be passionate.

If you're perfect, well, where can you go from there? And, if you make a mistake what's going to happen? Is your whole world going to collapse?

On the other hand, if you are passionate about what you do and you make a mistake, there's great opportunity to learn, to grow and to get better. It also makes you more authentic and believable.

In this video I give a real life example of when being passionate was much better than being perfect. It landed the passionate individual a lead role in a musical.

 

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5M2jM3mhok[/embedyt]

 

So if you want to make videos don't expect to make them perfect first time and don't worry about it either. With passion, energy and enthusiasm you will grow into being a great presenter in front of camera. Yes, you'll make mistakes, but your personality will shine through and over time your technique will improve, and you will be awesome.

 

How do you get people to watch your YouTube video all the way to the end?

There are a few things you can do in your video to keep your audience engaged and watch all the way to the final frame.

Watch the video... All the way to the end... To see what you can do to keep people watching.

 

Tip #1: Headline your video

Right at the start of your video, tell your viewers what the video is about, not who you are. If someone has stumbled across your video it's because they are looking for an answer to a question not to see you. Yes, it is important that they know who you are and why you are qualified to share your ideas eventually, but first you have to share what your video is all about.

Tip #2: Stay focused on your content

Going off on tangents is fine for a personal vlog, but if you're planning to raise your profile by sharing your knowledge and experience, staying on track is a must.

For example, if your video is all about how to tie your shoe laces, don't start talking about where you bought your last pair of trainers from, it's not relevant. And... if someone is interested in where you got your trainers, they will ask in the comments.

Staying on topic will also help to keep your videos short, and this will make it less likely that your viewers get distracted before your video has finished. There's nothing worse than a long, rambling, unfocussed video to send people surfing off to other people's YouTube Channels.

Tip #3: Entertain as well as inform

Ok, people have come to your video because they want to learn from you. Sadly expertise is not enough, you need to entertain, or at least, engage your views too. So add some humorous stories, some quick asides, or silly hats to keep people interested.

Tip #4: Outtakes

People love seeing experts make mistakes, it shows we are human. So if you make the odd mistake, get your lines wrong, or have to fight off a fly during filming, save those shots for the end and cut a little compilation of outtakes together. As people get to know you put your mistakes at the end, they will stay around more often to see them...

 

So did you watch my video all the end to see my outtakes? No? Click Here to watch it again.

 

Please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear what you think of these vlogs.

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