For founders and business owners, video marketing is exploding now more than ever. Consider the following statistics:
- The average number of mobile YouTube video views per day is 1,000,000,000.
- Native videos on Facebook have 10 times higher reach compared to YouTube links.
- An initial email with a video receives an increase click-through rate by 96%.
And yet, only 9% of U.S small businesses use YouTube, according to one study. By not having a video marketing strategy, companies are depriving themselves of massive marketing returns.
I get frustrated every time I try to make a video. It’s a lot of work. It takes forever. And if you’re like a lot of people, being on camera can be uncomfortable and fraying.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to feel confident and discover your best self on camera, from one of the best expert video makers in the world.
Meet Adam Lisagor
You might not recognize his name, but chances are you’ve seen his black mangy beard. Adam Lisagor is the founder of Sandwich Video, a Los Angeles-based film production company known for its dry, witty video commercials that explain how startup products like Slack, Square, and Coin work. Hundreds of millions of viewers have watched his videos and larger companies like Facebook and Starbucks have caught the Sandwich Video bug, too. A quick scroll down the company’s clients webpage sends the message that everybody who’s anybody in the tech world has a Sandwich video, especially if you’re in Silicon Valley.
What’s different about Lisagor’s videos? Compared to the typical loud, fast, and flashy TV commercial or Logan Paul vlog, the portly hipster’s sedated acting presence can almost be boring. Which is probably why Sandwich videos don’t feel like commercials at all. Viewers don’t feel like their being sold to. Each video mixes a relatable story with dry facts and a splash of humor, with inklings of a Wes Anderson film. Companies are willing to shell out a minimum of $150,000 to partner with Sandwich Video on a project (and it’s not uncommon for projects to hit multimillion-dollar budgets), according to the website.
Below, Adam Lisagor shares what he’s learned about how to find your truest communication style on camera and create a smart company video.
The most important goal of any startup video is understanding.
“The ultimate goal [of a video] is to make someone understand why something exists,” says Lisagor. “The path is always different to understanding. Sometimes it’s revealing a problem and then solving it, sometimes it’s showing a magic trick. Often a magic trick needs no introduction. Just show it.”
Of all Sandwich’s videos, Coin was the most viral with over 10 million views on YouTube. Why did it work? Because people “got” the vision.
“People were astounded by the product,” reflects Lisagor. “The vision came together and the video was simple and straightforward. People wanted to share it with friends. It gave them a sense of ‘I understand this and you will too.'”
While there’s no formula to accomplishing this sense of understanding, Lisagor stands by the crucial importance of making sure it’s authentic. “The only reason you should be doing this is that you’re being authentic.”
Authenticity comes from a deep sense of knowing who you are… and who you’re not
It’s no secret humor works for videos. Geico commercials, Superbowl commercials, Dollar Shave Club–the list goes on. But can anybody be funny? Lisagor says no.
“Everybody likes funny stuff, but not everyone can do funny stuff. If people have been letting you know you’re funny for most of your life, be funny. If you’re not funny or known as being funny, don’t force it. There’s not a lot you can do miraculously for a video. Be realistic. What value can you add? If you force humor, it can cause misalignment and an audience will pick up on that immediately.”
Authenticity begins with answering this question: Why do you want to put yourself on camera?
Lisagor says not every founder is supposed to be on camera.
“I bet they’re good at other things like raising money and making technology, but communicating on video is not necessarily one of those. It’s like an engineering-focused founder thinking they need to do UX.”
“I’ve had this discussion with a lot of founders, especially with Kickstarter and crowdfunding videos. They’ve seen the founder video style so many times, there’s an assumption that it has to be done that way. But [doing the same thing everyone else does] can actually be less authentic and less compelling.”
His recommendation: Take a good look at how you explain the value of your company and find someone in the company who is a natural star.
5 tips for making an awesome company video
We’ve learned that understanding is the goal and authenticity is the key, but now you’re going to hear Lisagor’s more practical tips for creating a brilliant video.
1. Don’t be an actor. Like many of you, Lisagor is not a trained actor. Authenticity is rarely the result of acting. “Actors are most successful when they’re actually feeling what the character is feeling.”
This feeling is what allows Lisagor to not get nervous. “I take pleasure in communicating something new that I just discovered to my friends,” says Lisagor. And this is exactly what he does in his videos.
“The second you’re just memorizing and reading words is a big red flag,” he says.
2. Speak as if you’re sharing an idea with your friends. The camera makes people do unnatural things. We speak louder, smile incessantly, and do wild things with our hands in the air. I.e., we perform. And this distracts the viewer’s understanding and undermines our authenticity.
Lisagor says he found his dry deadpan delivery style on camera by speaking naturally as if to a group of friends. “Culturally, we’re trained to speak with a high-pitched excited tone when we’re passionate, but if we’re paying attention to how we actually communicate, that’s not real.”
3. After you record, watch yourself and be honest. Do you like you? In today’s social media world, it’s often hard to know when you’re being authentic. Lisagor’s advice here is simple: self-reflection. “Be honest with yourself and ask, is this how I talk? Does it feel unnatural and fake? If you see it that way, others will too.”
“There’s a wide chasm between what you think you’re delivering and what you’re actually delivering. For me, I might think I’m operating at a 10/10 energy level, when it might be 5/10.”
Dialing in the truest version of yourself can be a struggle. But Lisagor says you’ll know it when it happens. “You’ll say as you watch the playback: ‘I like that person I’m watching. I like me.'”
4. Get started: Don’t worry about setup and equipment. Instead, find a video style that speaks to you. On a scale from one to ten, Lisagor rates the importance of having professional filming equipment a two. “It’s a common mistake to buy the best gear and software and it’s usually a waste of resources,” he says. To create a high-quality video, he recommends working with one of the many artists who have their own equipment you can rent or try out if you need good lenses.
More importantly, “If you’re a founder that’s never made a video, step one is to watch a bunch of stuff you respond to,” says Lisagor. He’s working with a founder right now who sent him a list of a hundred videos he collected for a project. “If you can find videos that speak to you, it’s useful for shaping your own communication style.”
But, he warns, be honest with yourself and identify the ones you can do or should do. If you want to be the Dollar Shave Club guy, “You probably missed the step of figuring out if that would come as natural to you,” he says. “It will likely come out as a clumsy attempt.”
5. Nobody gets the words right the first time. “Only the super duper pros in the entertainment industry can nail a performance the first time,” says Lisagor. “Most of us will get our words wrong at the beginning.”
The key is to let the words evolve and adapt. Good videos are both efficient and authentic. For Sandwich, it’s a huge priority to be respectful of people’s time. “Someone needs to do the hard work of condensing down the core essentials,” the founder says.
But how short? On the ideal length for a video, Lisagor says, “I like 90 seconds.”
In the 21st century, every company should have a video presence. If you’re a new company, the responsibility will likely fall to the founder. You might struggle in front of the camera, but if you follow Adam Lisagor’s tips, you may discover a “you” that you like. Step down off the standup stage. Speak as if to friends. Focus on communicating why your company exists. Don’t worry about equipment or messing up the words. And keep it to 90 seconds. Do this, and video #2 will only be easier.