How to make great video clips for YouTube – 11 examples of the best and worst

15 April 2014 By Northern Lights

How to make great video clips for YouTube – 11 examples of the best and worst image

Last week I spotted a great post by Lloyd Pearson on the PM Forum LinkedIn group (Professional Marketing) saying ‘A plea to Legal Marketers – please don’t do this’.   He linked to the video clip below, which he says ‘parodies the modern corporate advert: laden with clichés, stock images, buzzwords, and emptiness’. 

If you cannot see the video please click this link

We happen to be helping a number of clients look at what they could do in the way of YouTube clips as part of their thought leadership campaigns – demonstrating their expertise through blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.  So I decided to go online and find the best – and worst – of clips that professionals can learn from.  I am thinking here of lawyers, accountants, bankers, investment advisers, consultants etc where few of us have the luxury of great images or easily explained content.  In contrast, showing how to make cupcakes is more visual, video-friendly and easier in every sense!

Here are the clips I found, my thoughts on them and then at the end my conclusion for what makes a good clip that you can produce in an affordable and time-realistic way.

1.       Grant Thornton VAT Club

Grant Thornton has produced a series of ‘professional’ clips on VAT issues with a number of their advisers doing clips of around four to six minutes on tax topics such as

  • Top five VAT saving tips for not for profit organisations
  • International:  Top five customs tips
  • International: significant VAT changes

What is good about these?  (Click on the images below to go to the actual video clips and you can decide for yourself if you agree with these!)

    • They are pretty good titles for anyone interested in these topics, they should be found on Google searches (see our blog on Think Like a Search Engine to see why these points are important)
    • There is a paragraph or two of explanation below each blog, again with keywords that people might search on such asthe benefits of warehousing and Authorised Economic Operator authorisation’
    • They are involving a lot of their experts, spreading the load and demonstrating breadth of expertise
    • They say at the beginning what the clip is about eg five tips and then structure the content around that
    • They have superimposed bullet points to the side of the clip and a few images, which helps to take in the key points
    • They have kept it simple in terms of giving advice – they say they will give it and they do

If you cannot see the video please click this link

Bits that aren’t as appealing

    • On these clips, do you really need all the branding, music and introduction?  It’s 12 seconds before you get to the start of any clip and if you are watching three or four clips the music starts to drive you mad
    • I think they are quite long – they are full of meaty content so you might disagree with this?
    • This is not a criticism as such, but their advisers are not natural performers.  They are accountants.  They are quite wooden and have been asked to talk either to a slide with the points or an interviewer.  If the latter, the interviewer has not helped to get them to be natural

If you cannot see the video please click this link

2.       Cambridge University – Law in Focus

I found Jo Miles on Legal Aid Reform – a 7.36 minute clip.  As an academic site, it seems OK to have longer pieces and Jo Miles has an interesting voice that holds you.  However, it is still quite wooden and as someone comments below the clip, she is reading from a script – the eyes go back and forward which can become distracting.  There is a quick slide to introduce the subject, no music or gimmicks which feel good.

Below, I have pasted in a screengrab taken from the longer piece about the video description– again, this is good for Google searches.  There will be lots of keywords in here – and I’ve also included one of the comments.  Clearly this video was good for getting debate going.

If you cannot see the video please click this link

the effect of legal aid
















 Legal aid






3.       10 excellent YouTube videos to learn about long-term investing

As you might guess from this heading, these video clips are in a different league.  The biggest distinguisher is that from the clips I looked at, these presenters are all great communicators – as well as having great track records in investing, that you want to learn from.

This is the site with the 10 excellent clips on long-term investing.

I have chosen two of them, because they make the point that the best videos do not have to be slick and glossy, with long-winded intros and graphics/music or in smart studios.  Actually I think they are the more interesting because they feel natural in their offices?  (OK, you are going to say that Mary Buffett’s is done by Fora.TV and has an 18 second intro, but her clip would have worked without and the second clip gets straight into Robert Desmond’s chat).

The first clip is by Mary Buffett, Warren’s former daughter-in-law.  I guess you are interested even before clicking because you have the build-up of the ’10 excellent YouTube videos’ heading and then the Buffett connection.  But it is the content that is so good.  She doesn’t even look to camera to start, she is looking at documents on her desk and flicking through while she talks, but

–          She has a colourful voice, she speaks naturally with rise and fall, pauses and pace

–          She uses real-life examples, in this case Wrigley’s chewing gum ‘I don’t think the internet is going to change how anyone chews gum’.  This clip was in 2007 (see how much longevity these things can have) so she is comparing the specific returns that you could have got from the tech bubble at that time

–          Mary starts by saying ‘I look for companies that I can predict what they look like in ten or 15 years’ time’.  Wow.  Simple and a great insight and, to use the jargon, take-away

–          It is her knowledge, skills and ability to explain in a way that a teenager can understand, that makes this so compelling

–          She is also colourful – her suit, the office (actually my colleague has just said he thinks it is a book-signing!  No matter).  It almost feels messy but I think it makes it visually interesting without being distracting

–          She uses her hands.  It is so not wooden.  She is passionate and that comes through – and passion is fantastic on TV and video

–          Mary is bringing her subject to life – and that is what a video should do.  It should add colour and ‘chat’ in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in an article (though you might in a blog!)

If you cannot see the video please click this link

The next one is another great example of how you don’t have to be sophisticated production to be great!  You could not have it more basic – Robert is in a T-shirt, recording from his desk.  But he is really sharing his knowledge and insights.  There is a real feel of authenticity, wanting to hear what he says next, because of the examples he gives ‘I’ve had a lot of emails in this last week and people want to know ….’.  Well, guess what?  We want to know as well and that makes it so watchable.

Above all, he is talking to you, the viewer.  You aren’t getting puffed-up corporate speak.  He’s talking to you as if you are in the room.  And a point for anyone in the investment market – these videos are clearly time-stamped, important if you are sharing investment thoughts.

If you cannot see the video please click this link

4.       School of Banking and Finance at the Australian School of Business

This is a 35 minute video to introduce undergraduate students to investment banking. It is awful – but that is said with a caveat, it’s had 237k views so it can’t be that bad!  It is bringing traffic to their website.

The introduction is 42 seconds long and you might say, it is for students so you want it to be bright and arty to engage.  But I would think it’s as annoying to them as it was to me?

This is a classic where a video producer has just been too clever and no-one has managed them.  The images and music are terrible and it feels frenetic.  You can just hear the briefing meeting ‘we need lots of action to bring a tough subject to life.’  Well, no.  As the above examples show you need good communicators and not gimmicks.

Actually Emily and Guy are really not bad communicators – but they are swamped by the production.  A bit of coaching with using more real-life examples and these could have been great.

And there is a really clever idea in here.  Go to a big corporate like UBS to explain a subject (all these are interviews with UBS employees) and get it out internally within UBS to score their colleagues (investment bankers are competitive like that) and you could quickly hit your 237,000 hits!!

If you cannot see the video please click this link

5.       7 tips of bad real estate video

Now this video clip is very much about the production side.  I’ve included it just because you might get a few tips.  It’s very much a ‘how to’ and as such has a place – it’s had 4.5k views so that is pretty good.  Do I think it is interesting?  Not really.  And you do feel the presenter has been trained in how to be good on camera – and then isn’t really!

I know our colleague Jonny Ross would say it is good because it has a ‘call to action’ at the end, ie contact us to read a blog or watch further videos or book on a seminar.  We should do this more and don’t.

If you cannot see the video please click this link

 6.       Best of real estate video

This video shouldn’t really work at all, but actually it’s not bad!  You can hardly hear the chap speak because of a fountain in the background, birds tweeting, wind blowing.  But he has quite an interesting voice and engaging manner (he is an estate agent/real estate!) and he is making a very bland topic almost interesting.

If you cannot see the video please click this link

7.       Cartoon and scripting videos

There has been a trend to create cartoons and ‘writing’ the video – see below.  There is no personality in these and they cost a great deal of time and money to organise.  My recommendation is – speak to camera.  Even the most wooden of presenters is more engaging than these faceless screens.

If you cannot see the video please click this link

8.       Checklist for a great video on YouTube

You may disagree, and please leave a comment below if you do, but these are our thoughts on what makes a great video for YouTube

  • Use your best communicators – who may not be the CEO – to bring a subject to life
  • You are better to invest in media skills and training than expensive graphics.  We’ve done a lot of helping senior people to explain complex subjects to a wide audience and the skills can transform their whole leadership style
  • Just go straight to the subject, don’t do lots of music and intros
  • Be clear about who the video is for and why you should watch and then deliver the promise
  • Do use great headings, include keywords and type up the key points of the interview
  • Use real life examples to explain a point – this is how the BBC teach media skills.  The phrase ‘for example’ is magic on TV and videos
  • Keep it short and sweet – five minutes probably maximum but 90 second or 3 minute clips are often best
  • Be colourful – bright tie, red dress, colourful background
  • Imagine a client or colleague in your head – talk to them and explain in language they understand
  • Talk to the camera – or get a colleague to sit just off the camera ahead of you and talk to them, that will hold your eye contact.  A new intern could be ideal?
  • Webcam or ipad recording in your office is fine
  • But for that to work, share your insights, tips and experience.  People are viewing this clip to learn – don’t just summarise the law but say ‘I think the biggest problem for shippers is going to be ….’.  Add value to the basics with your own experience and thoughts.  Use examples and stories about clients – you don’t have to name them if confidentiality is an issue
  • And be passionate

So, having said all that, I tried to do this in a video in my office.  Does it work?  I did this at 8.20am on my iPad in one take of 3.5 minutes just before a meeting.  It cost nothing.  Lots I need to improve (like looking at the ceiling too much!) but does it engage you?  Does it explain a complicated subject without lots of graphics?  Or would it be better with them?  Could you do something like this?

If you cannot see the video please click this link

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Written by Northern Lights