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How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?

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juan carlos medina
How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:08:09 am


I have been doing corporate video for about 6 months now but I'm having trouble pitching my ideas to my clients. I dont have problem with coming up with a concept but I dont know how to effectively present my idea. The problem is that most clients want to see the final the product without signing a contract first or paying any money. They basically want me to write a script and a story board. This is a very long and stressful process and mostly when they don't use my service. I don't do the script writing since I'm not a good writer but I know what I want for a script. So I usually pay a writer $100 to put a script together and doing a story board takes a while. I have a lot of other work to take care of and I can't spend 2-3 day try to convince a client or be spending money if they don't hire me.

I shown videos I have do and tell them I would do similar work but they want to see a script/story board.

What is you the best/effective way the present an idea without spending too much time or money?


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Bob Roberts
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:42:33 pm

Most businesses that do not do much video (or much electronic media for that matter) usually view it as a luxury item. Like a motorcycle or boat. Cool to have and show off but not really necessary for the bottom line. That is why they want to see a script and story board. They are wanting you to commit while they sit back and enjoy your boat or motorcycle. Instead, show them the conversion rate for products purchased online with and without video. Talk to them about the cost savings for distribution of electronic media vs print. Make them feel old and out of touch while the "new kids" are using new toys like yours to steal their customers. Frame that conversation before you ever walk into the room. A business needs money to survive, not a cool video. If you cant demonstrate how you are going to save or make them money (with numbers and math) then your going to have a hard time closing.

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Mark Suszko
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Mar 30, 2016 at 2:38:30 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Mar 30, 2016 at 2:41:10 pm

That's a common problem. Some clients have zero ability to imagine or visualize something, and that's frankly why you are hired, to imagine it FOR them. But you don't want to make this a guessing game, figuring out what they want by trial and error.

As to how to get across your ideas, your writing partner can help with this.

You don't have to submit a finished script every time, just to pitch your ideas. What you should ask your writer for next time is to create a "Treatment" first. A "treatment" is not a script; it is an outline of what the script will talk about and descriptions of the visuals, as well as short explanatory notes, where needed, about why you're doing something the way you're doing it. A treatment doesn't have any actual dialog lines in it, but a good writer can easily write the dialog, based on the information in the treatment. So, the treatment is like a blueprint of the house, without having to go all the way thru building the house, just to show what it will look like. A Treatment doesn't require storyboards: it does the storyboarding using words alone.

Treatments are also useful planning tools in terms of budgeting: from them, you can determine number of shooting days, number and type of locations, information about the casting, information about special effects or props required, etc. and thus, you can start to put together an effective and relatively accurate budget estimate, all based on this piece of paper. Moreover, if the client sees something they don't like at this stage, this is where you can make easy changes and avoid wasted time and costs, before you commit to actual production.

When the clients sign off on the Treatment, only then do you commission the script writing, because now, they are on record as approving the direction of everything you're trying to do. You can point back to this reference document and explain every move you made, and show it was approved. Their expectations are also aligned with yours by this process, so that you never hear the dreaded phrase:

"That's what we asked you for, but it's not what we WANTED".

(Abbreviated) Sample first page of a Treatment:

The problem we will solve: New customer service operators need a standardized method of handling three kinds of caller complaints in the most efficient way, which also makes the customer satisfied and wanting to use our services/products again. These three issues are (list 1,2,3)

The objective measure of our success: We will compare the number of escalated complaint calls from the week before this training is given, to the week after the training was given. Success is defined as at least a 25 percent reduction in escalated calls involving specific issues A,B,and C.

The audience of this video is: A detailed description of the age, gender, educational level, socio-economic status and experience level of the trainees who will watch this. The language and idiom we use will be tailored to this audience, and our actor will be cast and dressed to reflect this audience and be relate-able to them.

How this will be seen: The final product is a streaming video available for trainees to watch at their cubicle computer, in Windows Media format.

Locations we will use: Phone bank room, an individual phone cubicle, with two headsets and computer terminal, an employee break room.

Casting: Two main parts are the Trainee and the Supervisor. Three additional cast members are "extras" playing other phone operators. They have little dialog, and will be getting their handful of lines from reading off a computer screen or hearing them in a headset. These extras will also read the parts of off-camera voices of angry customers during the training scenes. A voice-over narration off-screen will be done by the Producer.

Special effects or props: Some limited computer graphics effects work will be done on the computer screens to simulate real callers without showing actual personal private data, to satisfy legal department issues. Also, a chart or prompt card will be created that will hang on the wall of the cube, next to the computer. This chart will be a copy of the actual chart soon to be published and distributed to all operators.

Opening shot establishes location as a telemarketing "cube farm" or "Boiler room", where phone operators handle customer complaint calls. We are introduced to a young trainee operator, starting their first day.

The trainee is greeted by a supervisor and we follow along as the supervisor gives a tour and orientation to the trainee while walking past a few of the cubicles, saying hello to some of the other operators or listening to them as they are working with customers.

The next scene is set in an employee break room, where the supervisor and trainee sit together and go over some basic ground rules of the job. Some graphics will be superimposed in this scene as key concepts are mentioned. This is where we formally lay out the three new methods we have for handling our most common "problem" callers.

The third scene is in an unoccupied cubicle that will be our trainee's work space. The supervisor demonstrates taking several calls, with the trainee listening in. Here, we will simulate the three most typical troublesome customer situations that arise, and show the steps and procedures for how to solve or "escalate" a call to a supervisor.

The scene continues with the trainee and supervisor trading seats and the trainee trying their first call. The call begins badly, and the trainee stumbles a little in handling the caller, until the supervisor points out some prompts on the reminder card posted by the side of the computer. We see the trainee gaining confidence as they try two more calls. The Supervisor then lets the trainee take a call "solo", without any assistance. It starts a little bit shaky, but concludes well, and we again superimpose graphics reinforcing the key phrases and concepts as the action is happening on-screen.

Our last scene shows the supervisor and trainee back in the break room, going over how the shift went, what was done well, and what will need additional practice to reach the desired level of performance. The supervisor encourages the trainee and assures them they will soon be up to speed with the rest of the workers in the company. A narration and graphics wrap-up the video.

So, you can see from the above that it's relatively easy to understand the locations and action, and to deduce how much time will be needed to shoot each scene, and what resources are required. If they want to add something, it's easy. If they need to cut something, that's simple at this stage. A decent budget estimate can be made from this, based on time, materials, and rate cards of the people you need, and the script is easy to write with this and a copy of the "three rules" and their background to work from.

It is often suggested that you read this aloud to the clients in a meeting, before you hand out hard copies. You are story-telling here, and how you use your voice will have a great influence on the presentation and how the clients interpret the information. If you want to add a few key frames of storyboards, it will help, but the point is to make them see it in their HEADS and understand your vision.

You didn't shoot a frame of video, you didn't pay for an unapproved script or any script changes, just the treatment, which can be knocked out in an hour or so, if you know the problem and how you want to solve it.

That's really what we do: we are not billing ourselves as video makers, we are billing ourselves as communications problem-solvers, and videos are just one way we might use to solve those problems.

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juan carlos medina
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Mar 30, 2016 at 7:29:59 pm

Thanks a lot! This is what i was looking for, this basically avoid most of the problem I was encountering. Thank you for taking you time to explain this to me. I'm still learning since this is a lot more different than doing events.

Really appreciate the help!

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Mark Suszko
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Mar 30, 2016 at 10:08:20 pm

De nada. :-)

In the example, the proposal was to shoot something more or less like a dramatic presentation. Of course, the client may disagree and say they want something more... "simple", (code for "cheaper"), like a screen captured power point slide show with some voice-over narration.

You may or may not agree with that approach: it's a common shortcut method to a "training" video. I call that: "radio, with pictures". (ugh)

And it would be a much cheaper option. It's SO cheap, in fact, there's little sense in hiring you to do it at all that way, as that kind of thing is often done internally by anybody who is even slightly technically handy. The end product of that stuff often lacks "production value" such as quality sound, the pictures may be low-resolution, or the worst crime of all: it may be boring and something the audience will not sit through or retain, because they can't relate or connect to it. And the client may not even care. It lets them tick off a box somewhere that says they did "training".

I'd say that if that's your metric, (being able to say it's "done", and done cheap), you may as well skip a video altogether, save the PowerPoint show as a .PDF file, e-mail it to the employees and require they respond formally to prove they "read" it. :-)

I would ask: would you cut that many corners if the video was to be seen by your CUSTOMERS? No, you try to make it the best product you can afford, so it gets the right results. Why then, would you go cut-rate for an INTERNAL audience, just because they are not "customers"? They can bring money into the company by doing their jobs better, or they can cost the company by doing their jobs poorly. Training makes the difference between making and losing money, so, why would you decide to sabotage your efforts by doing a cheap and lazy job for the internal audience? Don't they deserve the same respect and attention as your customers? If they don't get it, how do they in turn then present you to the world outside? Do you really want to "step over dollars, to pick up dimes?

Making these arguments is up to you, of course. But however you discuss it, remember the bolded-in parts of the sample document, especially the Problem to be solved, and the Objective method to measure if you succeeded or not. Having actual metrics on your side is important when company money and your job is at stake.

So you are not arguing that doing it with a real script, with production values, with actors, is cooler or more fun. Though it is:-) Your argument is that the message is tailored to the audience and that the method you have chosen to convey the message will make a product that will be better absorbed and retained, because you created a character the trainees can relate to; someone like themselves. And to do that kind of relate-able message that gets retained in the brain, and ends up with 25% fewer bad phone calls, you need the money to hire actors, write the script, and perform the material for the cameras.

Or maybe they have given you a figure they are willing to spend, and now you get to think up a method that solves the communications problem, for what they are willing to pay. Now again, the treatment process lets you try variations, as well as new ideas, to see what might work or not work. Working things out on paper now, is always cheaper than trying to fix something in the edit room later.

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grinner hester
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Apr 9, 2016 at 6:56:54 pm

By far the most cost effective way is to just do it and show them. Often, trying to explain something creative to someone who is not is a null. Trust goes a long way. "I have an idea I'd like to try" often yields the final in a few minutes. If your client is driving the boat, the time tested tactic of simply making your ideas their idea bats 1000.

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Mark Suszko
Re: How Do I Present My Video Concept Without Wasting Time or Money?
on Apr 9, 2016 at 10:06:12 pm

This is one of the very, very few times I disagree with my esteemed video brother Grinner. Though he always has my respect :-)

Because it's expensive in time and dollars, as well as in credibility in the organization, to pitch spec work in the corporate/government environment. You don't have the luxury to keep taking many whacks at ideas, like a kid swinging at a piƱata, and investing resources to create demos over and over, until they figure out the difference between what they want, and what they've asked for.

It is rare that your first pitch gets approved right off the bat, no changes, no questions, in my experience. The more execs and managers involved in the decision-making, the tougher it becomes, as you keep trying to hit a moving target because one guy wants an emphasis on so-and-so, while another thinks it needs to go in a different direction, and a third one you haven't even MET yet, but who ranks above both people you have worked with, just wants to imitate the latest thing they saw on Tv or the web, regardless of how it relates to solving the problem at hand. You tend to end up with something that doesn't please OR offend anyone specifically, a bloated mixture of conflicting ideas. If they really know what they needed and how to do it, they wouldn't have needed to bring in your creative mind in the first place, right?

So you tend to only get once chance at this, before they lose faith in your mind-reading ability and move on to somebody else. Do the research homework, and make the presentation based on the Creative Treatment, with facts and figures that connect to and explain every move, before the next step of demoing spec footage. Because you can shoot yourself in the foot, spending a lot on a demo that's incomplete, and showing it to people without imagination, who literally can't conceptualize enough to fill-in the expensive parts of the demo you didn't do yet. You're taking a big risk in self-financing spec demos with no clear or sure approvals.

This really happened to me one time, trying to get an approval to pay for a motion graphics template that was using moving multiple screens with drop zones for your assets. The demo footage for how the effect looked, used stock footage of winter scenes in the moving boxes as filler. I explained to a client that our own footage of (redacted, but let's imagine they were kitchen appliances) would go in each box instead, but the final product would fly around on screen in the same way. And the purchase of the Motion Template got shot down, because the client's boss could not get over the fact that the template images were not footage of (redacted). He said the effect was irrelevant, because winter footage didn't have anything to do with (redacted) images. (arrgh) I would have had to, at that point, gone out and bought the plug-in with my own money, put in ACTUAL images from the client's site, and played that for him, before he could begin to understand what we were trying to achieve. And even then, I couldn't be sure they would go for the project, so I might have had to buy three or four different template packages and populate them all with actual client assets, before the bosses *might* have come to a decision to buy me *one* template. (sigh). I lost this client to another in-house guy who kept it stupid, simple, with a montage of full-frame cuts of the specific client assets, very mechanical, very simple... pretty boring, too.

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