It's been said that Great Content is the best SEO. When it comes to business videos there's another way to say it: "Entertain or Die."  It seems like only yesterday that streaming video was new. People would watch anything. Now "Wow! I can watch video on my iPhone!" has given way to "Isn't there anything good on?" Time for business videos to catch up.

Simply put, nobody watches business videos that suck. Not your customers, even though you want them to. Not your employees, even though you order them to. When faced with the prospect of watching bad video, your target audience will run, not walk to the mouse or button that gets them out of there fast. Why watch your bad video when in 10 seconds they can find something funny on YouTube, catch up on this week's Glee or search for some of the millions of videos better than yours?

Bottom line: Bad video gets turned off so fast that it would be smarter to spend your time and money on something else. While making truly great video requires practice, skill and, yes, art, it's easy enough to make video that doesn't suck.

10 Things to Know to Avoid Making Business Videos that Suck

1.) Video Shines at Communicating Motion and Emotion.

Facts and figures? Not so much. It's a human thing—as animals, we're wired to pay attention to things that move (Food! Danger!) and the communications of the tribe (Is he going to hit me? Does she want sex?) If what you have to say is best said with charts and lists, it may just not be good video material.

2.) The Audience Comes First.

Think about your video in terms of the experience it's going to provide for them. If it isn't going to take them on a fun, emotional ride, maybe your project should be a memo instead. Give the audience a good time and they'll love you. And vice versa.

3.) A Good Video can be Summed Up in a Single Sentence.

That sentence should consist of a noun, a verb, and a result. "The company employees" is not a video. "The company employees sing and dance our web address so you remember it" is.

4.) "Viral" is Not a Kind of Business Video.

it's a response by an audience that's so excited by your video that they urgently and quickly share it with everyone they know. A Viral Video is, in other words, a hit. Hits take skill, vision, artistry, marketing savvy and a huge amount of luck. You can hire all but the luck—but it's expensive and still may not work. Best not to base your strategy on going "viral." You can still be good, though.

5.) Keep Your Video Short.

That movie trailer you hated because it showed you the whole movie? Two minutes and thirty seconds long. Your favorite Superbowl TV spot: 30 seconds. Average time spent looking at a web page? 15 seconds. A sales video longer than 3 minutes? Unless it's for Victoria's Secret and directed by Martin Scorcese, don't even think about it. Take the length you intuitively think your video should be, and cut by 2 thirds. That makes your ten minutes sales video about 3 minutes. Which will still be too long if it isn't great.

ALSO ►  Quick Tip: How To Grab YouTube Thumbnail Images

6.) Think in Shots.

You won't see a lot of long, rambling shots on TV. That's because when a video needs detail and action to hold our attention. Don't run your camera non-stop. Instead, find something interesting. Aim. Shoot-- and when it stops being interesting, stop shooting and point somewhere else. Your short shots will add up to a shorter, more professional video.

7.) Bad Sound, Bad Lighting, and Bad Photography Will Kill You.

It's disrespectful to ask your audience to suffer through dark scenes, hollow, echoey audio, or brain-hurting camera bounces. Worse: they're instant tune-outs. If it looks bad on camera's little screen, it won't get better when you look at it later. Cut it from the finished video.

8.) You Know When What You're Shooting SUCKS.

Your brain will try to convince yourself it's okay. This is normal. Nobody wants to throw away a shot that took time to shoot or money to pay for. Trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it's wrong. Stop. Think. Fix it. Re-light, re-write, or re-shoot--whatever it takes.

9.) Humor and Music, Done Well, Always Works.

Humor is the crystal meth of emotions. People will kill to experience it. Nobody ever said about a video "It's too funny. I hate it." Yet businesses especially shy away from humor. Don't.

The right music can be just as visceral, which is why you almost never see an un-scored movie. Always try music when you edit. It's easy enough to take out if it doesn't work. More often than not, it will be the magic ingredient that pulls your video together.

10.) If You Don't Love Video, Don't Shoot it!

You wouldn't have people who suck at sales run your sales department. You don't want the guy who's bored with brain surgery cutting into your head. Add your own metaphor here…and then apply it to video.

But don't worry! You may already have other experts in house: For every 50 people in your organization, I'm guessing there are 2 with a knack for video. Since you didn't hire them for that, you're going to have to figure out who they are. Easiest way: Just ask! If your company is too small to have a video hobbyist, or they're too busy with their real jobs, hire pros. For big important projects, call the big expensive pros. But for day-to-day stuff, you may be able to make do with a talented recent graduate or intern from the film department of a local college. If you have a very video-centric business, you can even train your entire staff to do videos for fun and (think Zappos) profit.

Tips for Business Videos: How to Shoot Business Video that Doesnt Suck How to Shoot Video Want to know more? Pick up a copy of my new book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn't Suck” wherever you buy or download books. The book is all about the language of video and how to think like a director, regardless of equipment (amateurs think about the camera, pros think about communication).  Learn how best to how to tell a story and entertain your audience.

  • Robby Petersen

    I really agree with this, especially about the importance of good music. Even mass-produced web ads can benefit greatly from high-quality music. If it sounds like cheesy, generic stock tunes, everyone is going to notice.

  • United By Photography

    Great useful tips about shot sequencing and storyboard style planning.

  • gorgepeterson

    It is such a nice information about how to shoot a business video. I think you must shoot the best video. This video is useful for increasingly your business. 

  • Diego Pineda

    I can't find the kindle version on Amazon... too bad!

    • Steve Stockman

  • Annemarie Mayo

    Really informative, entertaining and useful post... thanks so much! Ordering my copy!

  • Steve Stockman

    @grantcrowell:disqus There will be more versions in the future. Kindle and Nook for now.

    No storyboard software recommendations in the book-- things change too fast, and most people don't need them.  The storyboards in the book are drawn by an actual human.  

    And last-- video IS going up on just takes Amazon some time, and we just finished it last week.  Glad you liked it, though!

    • Grant Crowell

      I agree on the storyboards. I've been doing fine with just using photoshop, or sketching and scanning them. Although I think it could be good for finding storyboard templates in photoshop or other illustration programs that people can use for their own benefit (with common graphics on their own layers). Lots of storyboard software out there I find is rather expensive and not really a time saver. 

  • Ronnie Bincer

    Good tips on shooting videos and nice job on your promo video explaining 5 of your tips.

  • Hani Mourra

    Fantastic video tips Steve! Very informative and enjoyable. "Thinking in Shots" is my favorite tip. People have VERY short attention spans, so you absolutely need to keep the camera shots changing every few seconds. If you are recording a head shot type video, you can get away with this on editing by zooming the shot in or out.


  • Grant Crowell

    Thanks for the tips and the informationally-entertaining video, Steve. I'll order my copy online. (Do you have an iPad version available?)

    Also, is there any storyboarding software you recommend? Or project management software (web-based or desktop) for your video shoots? I wasn't sure if that was in your book after I looked at it in the preview area on Amazon.

    Lastly, I would think you'd want to feature your video here on your Amazon book page as well! :)