By Thomas Clifford published March 1, 2011

5 Engaging Video Ingredients: Deconstructing a TEDTalk Mini-Documentary

It goes by many names.

A marketing video.

A branding documentary.

A corporate video.

Call it what you will, every once in a while, I’ll bump into one of these short videos and I’ll be amazed at what I’m watching.

Enter: “Behind the TEDTalk 2010” video

Behind the TEDTalk 2010 from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.

Let’s just say that when I finished watching the latest “behind-the-scenes” mini-documentary of a TEDTalk, I had to share it with you. Why? Three reasons:

  1. It’s simple. It follows two people appearing at an event.
  2. It’s emotional. It’s packed with emotional ups and downs.
  3. It’s intriguing. We’re kept in suspense through a compelling storyline.

If there’s an event (small or large) coming up and you’re not capturing it on video, you might be missing a great marketing opportunity.

An excellent starting point

If you are looking for a model for a “behind-the-scenes” video (or other marketing videos), this is a great model to learn from.

Let’s go behind the scenes of a “behind-the-scenes” video and discover how you can incorporate the same ingredients that TEDTalks uses in your videos.

5 main ingredients:

  1. Music
  2. Interviews
  3. Live event: before
  4. Live event: during
  5. Live event: after

1) Music

I listed music first for a reason: it’s absolutely perfect!

Sometimes you notice it. Sometimes you don’t. That’s why it’s so powerful. When you tune in to the narrative, the music almost disappears. When the narrative disappears, the music is there to keep the story moving along. Sometimes there are moments without any music. Notice this musical rhythm throughout the video: music, no music; music; no music.

ACTION ITEM: When it comes to selecting music for your company’s video, consider seeking out music under the “documentary” category in music libraries. You’ll find a variety of music that won’t compete with your narrative but will complement it naturally. If you have resources for a musician to score your video, that’s a great way to go, too.


2) Interviews

Ah, the interview. The interview is the bread and butter of documentaries and many company videos. Listen carefully to these TEDTalk interviews – they’re emotional and personal.

ACTION ITEM: When you’re interviewing, capture answers that reflect what the event means to people and ignore the corporate line. What do they feel? What do they think? Why is this important to them? What do they hope to learn from this? And so on.

3) Live event: before

Before the main TEDTalk presentation begins, notice all the footage that was captured as the two guests arrive. It’s tempting to think that audiences won’t care about the set-up or prep work for the main gig. This video proves otherwise. As we watch the prep work, we hear what’s going through the minds of the characters. What are they thinking? What are they nervous about? How do they prepare their talks?

(Tip: Use wireless microphones, if possible. Wireless microphones picks up natural conversations while allowing your guests to wander around freely.)

ACTION ITEM: At your event, capture as much set-up action as you can. With the right few sound bites from your interviewee(s), you’ll have a knockout and slightly mysterious beginning to your video. This is a great opportunity to build up to your main event.

4) Live event: during

This is where you want to capture some of the main presentation. TEDTalks captures the entire event with multiple cameras. You don’t need to go that far.

ACTION ITEM: Get a tripod and capture a few minutes from different angles. If you’re creating a marketing/branding film, don’t focus on capturing the whole event. You’ll most likely use the narrative of your interviews to drive the story; the main presentation footage simply supports this narrative.


5) Live event: after

Can’t you just feel the relief and joy of the Sir Ken and Raghava as they share their moments with us after their presentations?

ACTION ITEM: Immediately after the event, capture your interviewee’s thoughts. Just two or three questions are all you need to put a nice finishing touch on the video. Consider capturing the comments of a few attendees. Ask: 1) What were they were expecting before the event began? 2) How do they feel now, after the event?

Hey, you’re not as big or as popular as TEDTalks, right?

You don’t have two video crews like they did.

Heck, you might not even have one video crew.

Maybe all you have is your Flip camera.

Or, if you’re lucky, a videographer.

That’s fine. All five ingredients can still be captured to some degree; just reduce the amount of time you spend on each ingredient.

Is eight minutes too long for your marketing purposes? No problem. All five ingredients can fit nicely into a two-minute video, as well.

What if you don’t have a big event?

Besides presentations, where else can you use this formula?

Even if there aren’t any speaking events lined up, consider using this formula in several ways: trade shows, “a day in the life” portrait of a team, a “day in the life” portrait of a leader, or product demonstrations.

Key take-away

Business events hold invisible marketing opportunities beyond the event itself. Think about your upcoming events. What can be captured on video that your customers would love to see? Are there opportunities for you to tap into exceptional and engaging video content?

Over to you

What did I miss?

Do you have any tips to share when it comes to turning events into marketing videos?

What ideas have you used in the past that worked out well?

Author: Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. He's produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers.

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  • alison Noni richards

    Thanks Tom for another fabulous lesson.

    • Thomas Clifford

      Hi Alison,

      Thank you. It was fun for me, too! Glad you enjoyed it. =)

  • Dane

    Hi Thomas, Thank you for this post. You make some really great points and as a content producer, I agree it’s low hanging fruit to shoot and post existing events, and makes sense for many reasons. One word of caution though, I’ve learned from experience that ‘event coverage’ video has some pitfalls. One of which is that ‘dual-purpose events’ by their nature require 2 teams to adequately cover, if you try and shoot them on your phone, you will miss a long as you are moving around- or, you are stuck in one place, which is really boring to watch unless the content is absolutely captivating. The real answer is to leave partner with companies like mine that have years of experience making engaging marketing video. Most marketers just don’t have the years of shooting or editing experience to make video content that truly stands out in the increasingly crowded marketplace.

    My company Digital Accomplice specializes in helping marketers shape and deliver their message to their audience with video, interactive and games. Because of the technical and creative challenges, video is one of those things that can really be disappointing if not done right, and it’s our experience that allows us to work with any budget to shape a message and deliver.

    We’re always happy to help answer any questions or participate in webinars, interviews and project proposals.


    • Thomas Clifford

      Hi Dane,

      Thanks for sharing these insights. While two crews is certainly ideal, some companies won’t have those resources available. In these situations, the five ingredients can act as a guide or rough map to capture a story for an audience that they otherwise might miss.

  • Bob

    Hi Tom, this is another great and helpful article. This article is also timely for me as I will be shooting a few trade show events at the end of this month for a client. You are the professor – helping me a lot as I develop my videography business!

    – Bob B.

    • Thomas Clifford

      Hi Bob,

      Glad you found the article helpful and best wishes on capturing some remarkable moments! =)

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  • video production san francisco

    I always enjoy a good break down, and TED being the most prolific name in Presentations, you couldn’t have picked a better subject. I enjoyed reading your POV 🙂

    • Thomas Clifford

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂