September 8, 2011

The Creative Discovery Call

Jeff Vincent

Operations

We recently launched 50 Grove, a online directory of the best video producers, where folks who need video can see portfolios and browse sample projects by video type and budget. This is the first in a series of 50 Grove contributor posts, which will tackle an important element of the video production process. Our first is written by Amber Harloff, principle of Illuminate This.

A new project has come through the pipeline, and you’re ready to get to work. Before you pour all your energy into the assignment, you have to make sure you and your client are on the same page. That’s why your initial meeting, or creative discovery call, is the first – and most important – step to collaborating on a creative project. This meeting lays the groundwork for you and your client’s working relationship, outlines your process, and establishes the direction your video will take. So how do you make sure that first meeting accomplishes all it needs to? Follow these tips to have a successful creative discovery call.

Nail The Core Message

Your initial call brings a lot of minds together. With too many cooks in a kitchen, things can easily go awry. It’s likely your client will be enthusiastic, energetic, and eager to share their many ideas with you – many more than can be covered in only a two-minute video. With the barrage of ideas being spit-balled, it’s necessary to stay focused. Your first step is to identify the core message that needs to be conveyed in the project. What are they trying to say? If you and your client don’t understand each other, it will be pretty hard to deliver a cohesive message to your audience.

The best way to figure out this message is for you to really listen to what your client is saying. Don’t just wait for them to stop talking so that you can pitch your ideas. This first call is their chance to tell you what is important to them. If they haven’t quite identified that yet, you can help them. Even if they’re just shooting out a ton of ideas, if you really listen (not just “hear”), you can use your outside perspective to identify an overall theme that you can anchor the project to. Once you’ve identified that message, you can move on.

Get Creative

Now that you have your message, you can work with the client to think of the best way to deliver that. Nothing bothers a creative producer more than having every idea shot down. But if you listened to your client’s needs and desired message, you can pitch your ideas within that framework.

This is the step where you discuss the creative ways to deliver that message (animation, characters, voice over, etc.). This is an exciting part of the process, and one that both client and producer tend to enjoy most. Be open to your client’s ideas at this stage, too. This will help strengthen your working relationship by showing you welcome and value communication.

Lay Out Your Expectations

This next step offers you the chance to detail the way things are going to go from here on out. This is a crucial stage that will prevent any miscommunication that might hamper your process, saving both you and your client time and energy. Clients like to know what is going to happen: what is expected of them, what they need to do to help the process go smoother, and what you can realistically deliver. This is the time to outline the process going forward.

The devil is in the details, so make sure you have them all straightened out. Discuss timeline, process, format, deadline, etc. Designate point people and methods of communication so that you can efficiently solve problems if you hit a snag. After this, both sides should feel like they know exactly what to expect.

Don’t Forget: Communication

This kick-off meeting is an opportunity to set the tone for your working relationship. One of the best ways to do this is to be open at all times. Consider the sage advice "Never overlook the opportunity to say nothing." You may be excited to share your creative ideas, but you don’t want to dominate or overwhelm your client. Communication is a two-way street. The better your communication, the more likely you’ll end up with a final product is something you and your client can be proud of.

About Amber Harloff: My background is in science, but I've always had a passion for art. Forming Illuminate This has given me the opportunity to blend the two in a way I love. As Principle/Die Hard Entrepreneur, I've had the pleasure of collaborating worldwide with amazing artists and entrepreneurs. I get to work with a great team and clients that keeps me fueled to keep doing what we love to do, which is listening, condensing the garble of information, forming the video, and delivering it in a memorable and fun way!

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Amber Harloff of Illuminatethis.ca "Bringing Clarity to Your Brand"

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