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Is Video In an Idea-Sharing Meeting Appropriate?

Camera lens

I sat with some friends at lunch yesterday right after our Social Media Mastermind Roundtable meeting. We got on to the topic of videos and live blogging in mixed company.  I voiced an observation to my friend, Eric, that I “missed” him at our last couple of meetings.  Oh, he was there alright. My point was that since he started taking up live blogging at the last couple of events, I’ve noticed that his contributions to the group have dropped off significantly. He has been much quieter lately, I complained.

My thoughts turned to video. (Surprised?)

I suggested how video might be a solution to the “I miss Eric’s contributions” issue because video basically captures all the dialog in such meetings.  Hit the record button and then fuhget-about-it.  He would then be free to participate in the conversation without having to worry about missing a beat in the act of recording the moment.

Video Isn’t Always Welcomed

But, hold on, suggested my friend Stacey. Video carries its own baggage in such meetings.

I saw her point immediately: with video running in the background and capturing everything that’s being said in a forum that I, myself, have billed as a “safe environment in which to fail”, the question is: wouldn’t video actually have the effect of stifling the very uninhibited brainstorming and idea-sharing activities that make such mastermind forums so valuable? If attendees were aware of video hanging on, literally, their every word, then it stands to reason that attendees may not be so forthcoming with their most controversial opinions and fringe ideas. I’d actually feel cheated.

I mean, I get up every Saturday morning to attend these meetings just so I can brainstorm and bounce around new and potentially controversial ideas that I may not otherwise be willing to state publicly in other forums.

It’s a great point Stacey raises; ‘definitely something to consider. I don’t have the definitive answers on this. (Does anyone?)

Get Permission

Off-the-cuff: my inclination is to reconsider my ideas about bringing video into those kinds of forums. (Though my lunch friends didn’t say as much, my thoughts naturally drifted over to the “Any Given Saturday” piece I shot last weekend.) No matter how well-meaning the motivation is to benefit outsiders with visual evidence of the value of our mastermind meetings, the right thing to do is, I would say, to always ask permission.

And, while the group leader did kindly give permission before I shot that piece, in retrospect I’d have to say that if you were to find yourself in a similar scenario, it would probably be appropriate to first seek permission–not just from group leader–but from the meeting participants, themselves.

Should Video Be Banned Entirely For Some Meetings?

In fact, I might even go so far as to say that, because of individual pressure to conform to group norms, and for individuals to not want to come across as a snarky naysayer when someone asks, “can I video the meeting?”, I might go so far as to say that maybe some meetings should probably just not be recorded in any case. No matter what the members might otherwise feel pressure to give with a head-nod.

What do you think? Should video be allowed to run in mastermind-type idea-sharing meetings?

(Photo courtesy: Andy Rennie, flickr, creative commons.)

Testimonial Videos – Simple Equipment, Simple Questions


Above is a testimonials video I created recently for a non-profit professional association. It’s very easy to create one of these.  The equipment I used during the shoot included the following:

  • Camera setup (about $800 a year-and-a-half ago.  But, you can do the same thing using a Flip Camera for a lot less… about $200.)
    –  Canon Vixia HV40
    –  Tripod
  • Microphone setup (Which I purchased from eBay a couple of years ago for about $200.)
    –  Wireless lapel microphone
    –  Wireless microphone transmitter (you see some of the interviewees holding it in their hand)
    –  Wireless receiver (see image below)
  • a square paper napkin (free)

In case you’re wondering about that last bit in the list, the napkin was a quick-and-dirty “people positioner.”   I dropped it on the floor at the spot where I wanted each interviewee to stand.  🙂



In terms of the microphone setup, I use a wireless lapel microphone arrangement.  (The picture on the left shows the receiver plugged into the mic-in port on my camera.  Meanwhile, the other end–meaning the transmitter and mic can be seen in the hands of some of my subjects.  [*sigh…*].  I should’ve clipped it to their belt or something.)

However, you don’t have to go the route I did with the sound setup.  You can accomplish similar sound quality via a $40 wired microphone you can get from Radioshack, Best Buy or some other similar electronics store.  The main thing is to not rely on the camera’s built in microphone to capture your subject’s sound.  In this case, the camera was positioned about 8 feet away from the subject, so you want your subject’s sound to be more pronounced than the ambient room noise.  To get a feel for how my subjects might have otherwise sounded, just listen to my voice as I introduce each interviewee.  Since I wasn’t mic’d-up, I came across as a little more echo-y than my interview subjects.  And, while that may be acceptable to have me sound that way in a short-form Q&A type session, you definitely don’t want you primary subjects sounding like that.  It doesn’t make for compelling video testimonials.  (A quick note:  For longer form interviews–as in a “Larry King” type format–it would be advisable to have both subjects mic’d up.)

Simple Questions – More Compelling Responses

The other thing you’ll notice, too, is that I kept the questions simple.  In this case, there were three primary questions I asked each participant:

  • What is (organization name) about?
  • Why do you attend (organization name)?
  • If someone were to establish a similar organization in their area, what success tips would you give them?

You may discover your own technique.  But generally speaking, I like to keep the questions simple and few when I conduct testimonial videos.  And, keep the questions open-ended.  (Meaning, the response requires a short essay-type response, rather than one that could otherwise satisfy the question with a simple “yes” or “no.”)  The rationale for keeping the questions simple and on-point with a specific, discrete and simple idea is because your subject will fill in the “blank” with his or her own thoughts and words.  If you make the question too complex, they’ll have to think about it more which subsequently creates a longer pause on camera.  (Less compelling.)

The other thing is that, from the viewer’s perspective, by asking each interviewee the same simple question, you make it easy for them, too.  And, by holding one of the variables static (i.e., limiting the variability in the questions asked), you make it easier for anybody watching your video to do a compare/contrast analysis in their head; viewers have less variables to have to wade through and can quickly evaluate the testimonials on the basis of how different people answer the same questions.

Your Thoughts?

Your thoughts?  What are some of your favorite testimonial questions to ask?  What are your thoughts about keeping the questions simple?  Good idea?  Or, do you prefer more complex interactions?