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Video Content Planning for Events: 5 Hard-Won Lessons

Event marketing can bring huge returns for an organization’s bottom line. In fact, according to research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 69 percent of B2B marketers and 63 percent of B2C marketers in North America use in-person events as a content marketing tactic.

But developing valuable content from an event requires a ton of  content planning — especially when it comes to producing video content. Yet, it’s worth the extra effort because video footage can result in lasting, memorable, and easily shareable takeaways for event attendees.

Great video content is damn hard to create — particularly for those who don’t have much production experience. Hiring an expert is often the best way to produce high quality content without having to wrestle with the technical details on your own. But even if your video content plan involves outsourcing the work, it helps to have an approach in mind for your event-based video content before you (or your selected vendor) jump in.

I recently spoke with Eric Leslie, President of OnScene Productions and the man behind the lens at events like Content Marketing World. He shared the five most powerful lessons that he’s learned through his years of experience in video production.

Lesson 1: To extend the value of your footage, make your content evergreen

It’s easy to fall into a timing trap when you’re filming an event. Maybe you want to showcase the fun that attendees had in order to attract more audience members to next year’s event. Or maybe you feel the videos you produce will need context from the event in order to provide value (e.g., “Here’s what happened at this event on this date”).

“For many organizations, that first instinct is to do an event recap video,” Eric explains. “If you take that approach, you time-stamp your content. You give your audience the details, including when the video was created. The problem is that the web moves so fast your videos are dated in a matter of months.”

Your audience is eager to learn about the things that are happening next. So even if your content still provides value five years down the road, your audience will likely dismiss it as being too old to still be relevant. So, how do you create video content from event footage that people will still talk about and get value from two or three years down the road?

The solution: Create a content plan for your videos that eliminates the need to time-stamp your footage yet still extends the shelf life of your footage online:

“We’ll do things like asking a keynote speaker to summarize her presentation, talking directly to the camera,” Eric says. “You condense the presentation into this two-minute video, overlaying visuals of the actual conference speech. The piece is no longer just about the event — it’s about the valuable, longer lasting content that came out of the event.”

Example: Eric interviewed a few marketers and created this video about influencer marketing, which is an evergreen topic in content marketing.

Lesson 2: Don’t miss a prime opportunity to tell a story

Does your event video content plan center on collecting raw footage from presentations or networking sessions? If so, you may be missing the point: The most successful videos tell compelling stories.

Sure, how-to videos have their place. That talk that got a standing ovation? It makes sense to share it with audience members who weren’t lucky enough to attend. But the real bang for your buck — the truly powerful content — lies in video that shows, rather than telling.

So how do you make your event footage tell a story?

The solution: Sit your customers down, and let them talk to the camera.

“You have all your customers in one place, convened to talk about your products and industry trends,” Eric says. “We’re talking about a prime opportunity to collect testimonials. Sit them down in front of the camera, and ask them how your products help them do their jobs better.”

Everyone has a story. It’s your job to take the opportunity to collect those stories and add them to your content arsenal.

Example: One challenge content marketers have is managing the entire process. CMI invited a few brand marketers to participate in a roundtable, in which they discussed what’s working — and where they are still being challenged.

Lesson 3: Put great minds together and they’ll repay you with great footage

Candid participants make the best subjects for event video. But without a more specific context, how do you find strong themes to tie candid footage together into segments?

Eric elaborates: “Event marketers often ask, ‘How do we create content that has more purpose to it?’ It helps to have a plan going in so you can manufacture an environment with the potential to catch lightning in a bottle.”

How do you ensure that candid footage has a clear purpose?

The solution: Put customers and experts together for a roundtable, throw in a moderator, and watch your video come to life.

Organizing a roundtable of experts or customers is a great way to capture explosive content. Focus the discussion around a thought leadership topic (such as “the future of the industry” or “your daily challenges”). Encourage roundtable participants to share stories and experience, but appoint a moderator to make sure the conversation stays on track, and your result will be valuable, evergreen video content. An added bonus is that at an industry or customer event, you already have plenty of potential participants on hand all in one place, so you don’t need to spend additional budget on flying them across the country to take part in your videos — an advantage that you can’t afford to pass up.

Example: CMI works with several consultants. At last year’s Content Marketing World conference, CMI filmed those consultants as they gathered to discuss recent CMI research on content marketing trends. The ensuing roundtable discussion on B2B content marketing research was broken into five segments (and posts), each focusing on a specific topic.

Lesson 4: Produce video content for the event — not just from it

People love fresh content. We’re always looking for that new video to share with friends and contacts. And if you can debut that content exclusively, your audience will be more compelled to share it.

So how do you create ultra-fresh, exclusive content related to your event?

The solution: Create video content in advance for use during the event, and incorporate some on-site footage or B-roll to add the fresh factor.

“We’ll create a ‘thank you’ video from tech support because they couldn’t make it to the conference, for example,” Eric explains. “We’ll run that the first day. We’ll also get some footage of a CEO talking about the state of the industry and his vision for the future. Overlay visuals of people interacting at the conference, and you have a timely piece of content.”

The real-time turnaround helps with the event experience, giving attendees the opportunity to see themselves on the big screen. This approach also takes the need to stay evergreen into account. You can also repurpose your footage across various online channels by using the visuals you filmed at of the event in a new context.

Example: Below is a video Eric created with some highlights from Content Marketing World 2012, which was included in a CMI blog post as a wrap-up that posted during the event.

Lesson 5: If you want high-quality video content, be prepared to go the extra mile

Today, everyone’s a critic. Your audience consumes so much video that, in a way, they’re experts on video quality.

The truth is that your audience can tell the difference between half-assed content and video that goes all the way. Done poorly, your video can even have the opposite of your intended effect, alienating your audience by seeming lazy.

Low-quality video usually derives from an overloaded video team — or in some cases, an individual.

“When I got started, it was a one-man show,” Eric says. “Of course you’re going to make mistakes filming an entire event by yourself — I’ve worked from 7 a.m. until 3 a.m. I’ve missed footage… and you don’t get any do-overs.”

How do you make sure you get your event videos right?

The solution: Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

One of the biggest mistakes event marketers make is skimping on the budget. If you don’t pay for quality, then you won’t get it.

“If you want to do it right, make the investment,” Eric says. And he’s right: You get what you pay for. Why would you accept anything less than the highest quality content?

Bonus lesson: Experiment, but have a plan

I also talked with Michele Linn, who oversees the content at CMI, including the videos they capture at CMW. She has been working with Eric since the first CMW event in 2011, and they are currently making plans for this year’s Content Marketing World event in September. One of the recommendations she has is to be as detailed with your planning as possible. “Last year, my goal was to capture a lot of video footage at CMW so we could use it throughout the year. While this seemed like a good idea in theory, it proved to be very difficult to manage. So, this year we are being very specific about what types of video we will capture and are placing specific deadlines for each piece. This helps both Eric and me plan much better.”

The solution: Have a plan, but be flexible. Even though plans are crucial, Michele stresses that it’s an evolving process. “It’s been enjoyable working with Eric because he’s been open to trying different formats. While the first year we captured short videos, we expanded into roundtables last year, which were longer-form pieces. These pieces performed well, and we’ll be focused on that format, as well as some new possibilities, this year.”

In addition to having a specific content plan about what videos to create and when they will be delivered, Michele also suggests transcribing all of the video footage so it can easily be edited. Even if you do not use all footage in video form, you can use it in text format or read it to be inspired with other ideas.

Share your story

Have success or horror stories from recording video at an event? We would love to hear about them in the comments.

Looking for a great opportunity to create event-based video content using the ideas in this post? Register today to attend Content Marketing World 2013