June 27, 2019 \ Geoff Birmingham
Case study: UMass Lowell, Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace

The Objective

UMass Lowell wanted to create a series of instructional videos, both informative and engaging for their audience.

The Challenge

As part of a toolkit for creating a healthy workplace, The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) at UMass Lowell wanted a series of videos to help team leaders facilitate meetings more effectively. Their initial idea was to have an expert on camera explaining facilitation skills, with cutaways to slides that highlighted important points. A video PowerPoint, in other words.

CPH-NEW acknowledged that while the audience for the videos would have an inherent interest in the subject, they still had the freedom to click away if they didn’t find the videos sufficiently engaging. In other words, the videos were not going to be part of a continuing education credit with a “captive” audience, for example. Unless viewers were really interested in the subject of meeting facilitation, the risk of losing their engagement with a video PowerPoint was reasonably high.

CPH-NEW had a lot of great information that they wanted to share, but as initially conceived, each video would likely have been at least 6-7 minutes or even longer. All of us agreed that we would be asking a lot from viewers to linger that long.

With this information in hand, we came to a couple of conclusions:

  1. The format needed to be adjusted
  2. The scripts need to be shortened

The Solution

To help CPH-NEW envision the videos better, we suggested that they think of them as individual blog posts. The goal should be to keep things short and sweet, highlighting just two or three takeaways that the viewer could quickly digest. For additional information, there was always the toolkit.

Though it couldn’t have been easy for them to delete content, CPH-NEW put on a brave face.  They returned to their scripts, identifying the most important points, whittling the scripts down, reading them aloud, and timing themselves, all with the goal of creating nine videos, each approximately three minutes long.

To help enhance video engagement further, we suggested that CPH-NEW keep some of the expert-on-camera material, but illustrate the points with short re-enactments. For budgetary reasons, they couldn’t hire professional actors, and we expressed some concerns about recruiting in-house for their actors.

Again, however, they passed with flying colors. After arriving at a good place with their scripts, they were diligent about rehearsing multiple times, on their own, with their actors. This advance preparation was critical, and allowed us to film nine videos for them all in one day, without a minute of crew overtime!

Takeaways

In many cases, video is better suited for the 10,000-foot view rather than a deep dive. Think of it as a teaser. If your audience wants more, they can always seek out other resources you offer. (Or even speak to you directly!)

Creating videos like this does require discipline. CPH-NEW deserves a lot of credit for thinking hard about what their “essentials” should be – what were the real nuggets they wanted to share with their viewers. And, when they decided to pursue the idea of filming short scenes with actors, they did the advance work to be fully prepared for filming day.


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