This probably sounds obvious to many people, “Of course you should have a video reel!” But the reality is the video reels I’ve seen in my time suffer from a mixed bag of problems such as:
- Not existing
- Being too long
- Music is too depressing or downbeat
- Not high quality footage
- Feeling repetitive
- Being out-of-date
- Showing things but not visually explaining them
And that’s just the stuff I thought of off the top of my head. So in this post I’m going quickly tell you why you need a 1 minute video reel and a few key things you should focus on in yours.
But why do I need a reel?
Guess what? Most people don’t like reading words anymore. We live in a YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, tiktac (whatever it’s called), society that loves watching videos. It’s plain and simple. How we got here is complicated. Why I spend so much time writing a blog instead of making a podcast is also complicated, but I digress. The simple fact is if you don’t have a video you can show people that highlights your skills, abilities, and work, chances are most people will just pass on reading your site or bio.
If you’ve read my previous posts about narrative and creating advocates I always talk about making yourself easy for other people to sell. Videos help do that in spades. When you meet someone and tell them everything about yourself, that’s great. Then they usually have to relay that to a bunch of other people. What’s easier and more exciting to relay: a bio and a bunch of text and a pdf about you and your work, or a short 1 minute video full of great visuals and good upbeat music? I swear, if you say the former, you’re out of control and need to check yourself:
When someone is trying to write an article about you, what will they be more inspired to write about: words + pdf, or a visually compelling 1 minute video? Yup, video. If you’re sharing your work on social media, what is going to get more likes and shares and notice: words + pdf, or short and sweet 1 minute video with good music? Oh boy, I’m seeing a trend…
Tip 1: Short + Sweet
One of the most common mistakes I see with video reels is that they’re too long. We feel like we need to explain every single aspect of all the installations we worked on. We put shot after shot after angle after different angle of the same install hoping that by visually explaining the whole thing, we really get people to understand. But that’s the problem. You reel isn’t an educational video. It’s a teaser. It’s an excitement generator. It’s a proof-of-ability. It’s a LEAD GENERATOR. Big important term there. The goal of your reel isn’t to give people enough info about what you do so they don’t talk to you. It’s to give them just enough info and assurance that they WILL WANT TO TALK TO YOU. If you approach your reel development like that, then of course you 1 minute will suffice. You just put 1-2 best shots from all your installations. Maybe only a few seconds on each even! Just enough to say “look what I can do, if you want some of this, reach out!”
The more you put, the less likely people are to finish the video, they’ll get bored, the file size will be big and hard to share, and more and more negative side effects of making your long. Just make it short. Use the best shots, create intrigue, get people excited, then tell them how to contact you and then you start a conversation and you can tell them more about whatever they’re interested in.
Tip 2: Upbeat music
This isn’t a hard or fast rule, or even a very complicated one, but it’s a good rule of thumb: use upbeat music. A lot of our work is ethereal and mysterious and experimental. But a lot of the kind of music that might best suit our work in the installation setting would make for a pretty slow and lethargic video reel. Maybe this is a sales tool and we’re making a sales reel to get people excited to buy our talents. I’m not saying you should use the latest top 10 EDM banger, but just have some pulse and drive to the music. As much as I love listening to Alva Noto Xerrox Isola in my personal time, I would not find that a good track for any type of sales material.
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Tip 3: Watermark and labels
This might feel very corporate to you, but you should watermark your video. Just a subtle stamp in the bottom left corner or top left or similar with your logo and name. The internet is a crazyyyyyyyy place and all kinds of things happen and who knows where your video will end up in what pieces and configurations. It’s nice to just have your name on there so people can find you if they want you. Even more corporate is labeling your footage in the video. This has a number of benefits. People can look up the project if they want to learn more about it in particular. When people email you to chat further they can directly reference the project easily by name instead of sending you timestamps. And it’s just an easy way to name drop some of the stuff you worked on. In the context of a lead generator and sales tool, this is really really valuable. Here’s an example from one of my old reels of subtle yet effective labeling:
You know? Nothing hectic, nice clean font, small in the corner and easy to ignore if you want to watch pretty visuals, but very clear and easy to read if you want to figure out what it is you’re looking at. And when things fly by quick, it’s nice to have it clear.
Key takeaways here? Make a reel. Make it 1 minute long. Use the best possible footage you have. Use some upbeat music. Label and watermark the footage. And let people know how to contact you. These things sounds like common sense but I can guarantee you’re probably not doing most of them. I would be willing to gamble on the fact that if you do these things to your reel (or just make a reel) and start sending it to as many people as you know, you’ll get gigs. Plain and simple. Hit the easy button!