July 29, 2015

How to Include Video in Your Next Presentation

Meryl Ayres


Video in live presentations. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t.

At Wistia, many of us have had ample opportunities to integrate video into talks, both internally at company-wide meetings and externally at larger conferences. Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot from our wins and our flops.

The following are some lessons we’ve gathered on why and how to utilize video for presentations, along with some personal anecdotes from Wistians who present with video on the regular.

The benefits of video

There are a number of reasons why using video in a talk can be effective. Video can raise the energy level in a quiet room, or break up an otherwise dry section of a talk. Plus, as a presenter, playing a video gives you a chance to breath, take a sip of water, and collect your thoughts.

Kristen Craft

“Energy is the most important ingredient in a speaking engagement, so anything to raise the energy and endorphins in the room is good. Huge bonus points for laughter!”

Chris Savage

“Video lets me bring other people and ideas onto the stage in an edited way. It also helps me show off the expertise on our team, which helps us gain credibility as a company.”

Elise Ramsay

“When I’m presenting, I want to feel like I’m having a conversation with the audience. It always feels more natural to relate to someone after having a shared experience, and I find that watching a video together can provide that shared experience in the room. After a short video, if you play your cards right, you’re all on common ground.”

Phil Nottingham

“Video can provide concrete examples, and a layer of counterpoint and subtext that you can’t otherwise just ’say.’ It’s also a good way of showing, rather than telling, in order to make a point.”

Relevancy is key

Like images in a blog post, videos in talks should support or illustrate the narrative, not muddle it. Please do not use video in your next presentation just for the sake of using video. In fact, if your videos are not directly related to the content of your talk, you’re better off without them.

Given that videos can offer so much energy and momentum, it’s especially important that they’re relevant to your message, so they don’t distract from your talk.

Elise Ramsay

“It’s obvious when a video has been chosen for the novelty factor alone, without any value. I’ve been guilty of this myself in past presentations, as I have over-used silent background videos in title slides merely because I thought they looked cool. Too much video can distract your audience and dilute your message. Video should support the takeaways of your talk, not be the main event. It’s not (usually) a film festival!”

Prepare for takeoff (and landing)

Transitioning into and out of a video during a presentation is somewhat of an art form. We’ve all endured the awkward, silent precursor to a video. The presenter concludes a point, advances the slide, and stares at the screen with hopeful (sometimes desperate) anticipation. No introduction, no segue. Both audience and presenter are left waiting.

In silence.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With some practice and forethought, you can make video a seamless part of your presentation’s flow.

Phil Nottingham

“I think you need to carefully rehearse your introduction and make it clear to the audience what the video you will be showing them is. When coming back in after a video, you need to reflect the emotional narrative the video has provided. So, if it’s a sad and somber piece, come in reflecting that feeling. If it’s a fun and amusing piece, it’s necessary to come back in with high energy.”

Kristen Craft

“I generally say something like, ’To set the context for this next video, it’s coming to us from a company called X. They do Y, and they made this video to accomplish Z.’ After the video, I like to say something like, ’So, what did we see there? Well, so-and-so explained to us why X and she taught us about Z.’”

Chris Savage

“Video is always seen in context when it’s on a page, so providing context in your presentation helps people get ready for what is about to happen. After a video is over, I like to express out loud how I feel about that video (especially when it’s not a video we made at Wistia). It allows the audience to feel comfortable emoting with others, which can be a hard thing to do in a big group.”

Elise Ramsay

“I’ve found it useful to do a couple things to avoid the black hole of energy that surrounds a video. One: appropriately set up a video with some context about what it is and why you’re showing it. Two: if your video ends on an anticlimactic logo or ’outro,’ edit that part out.”

How much is too much?

People have varying opinions on this topic, but the general consensus is keep it short, so you don’t risk losing your audience’s attention. When considering videos for presentations, always keep the length in mind, and remember that using a part of a video to demonstrate a point is perfectly acceptable.

Chris Savage

“I find that if you have a group of videos and move quickly in between them, you can maintain momentum, but when a single video is too long, it kills a presentation. The audience loses energy unless the video is truly incredible.”

Elise Ramsay

“Most videos in this setting start to get awkward after just 20 seconds. If I have one tip for using video in presentations, it’s this: Please feel comfortable clipping a video instead of showing the entire thing. It’s painfully awkward for everyone involved to watch a 2-minute video in the middle of a presentation.”

Kristen Craft

“I think videos longer than 1 minute feel a little awkward. Even that length can be tough unless it’s really high energy.”

Have you ever used video in a talk? Got any useful tips to share? What’s the coolest way you’ve seen video incorporated into someone else’s presentation?

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