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How to use video to improve your leadership presence

A video clip can be an effective addition to your speech–but you need to make sure that it’s relevant to your audience.

How to use video to improve your leadership presence
[Photo: NEONBRAND/Unsplash]

You probably know the benefits of using video in your presentation–a powerful clip can strengthen an argument because it allows the audience to see that idea in action, even if it’s just on the big screen. But how do you incorporate it so that it enhances your presentation, rather than distracting your attendees from it?

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One of my clients commissioned Taylor Swift to produce a video for their big, national meeting. The opening showed Swift with glitz and glamour before she turns into a zombie with ghoulish makeup. It shocked the audience. “Definitely got everyone off their cell phones, into the moment,” he said. “What should I do? I’m up next.” He found himself as the follow-up speaker to a high-gloss, high-glitz, high-intensity video.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that his presentation (and leadership presence) is doomed. In fact, with intention, there are ways to use a compelling video to boost your credibility as a speaker. If you ever find yourself in this situation, start by taking the following steps:

Step one: Watch the video, and take note of your reaction

When you watch a video, you see something old and new simultaneously (even if it’s one that you’ve never seen). Most of you have probably watched hundreds of videos–so that part is the “old.” But you might not have seen the actual footage. Think about what jumps out at you before you start thinking about how to incorporate it in your presentation. For example, when I first saw Michael Jackson’s video of “Black and White,” I was immediately struck by its multidimensional nature. As one person morphed into another in the same space, I thought, “Wow–what an amazing integration of idea and technology. So many dimensions.”

You’ll be able to capitalize on the video for your speech when you understand your reaction. You’ll identify its relevance to your presentation (and when you should play the clip), and you can also predict how the audience might react. Use your initial impression as a starting point. This allows you to present it in the most authentic way possible.

Step two: Set the expectation

Alfred Hitchcock once said in an interview, “To build suspense, you have to tell your audience everything. If your audience is not anticipating, you are not building suspense. You are creating surprise.”

It’s not a bad thing to surprise an audience–but it’s a risky and uncertain strategy. Without guidance, your listeners might not know what to make of the video. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should tell them how they should feel. Ask questions like, “What are you expecting? What are you getting?” This way, they know what to look for and they won’t forget about you while they watch the video. Your speech will remain at the forefront of their thinking.

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Step three: Make the connection between the video and your point clear to the audience

Now that your audience has digested the video from the perspective you introduced, you need to spell out the connection. They might be mesmerized by the footage, but they might not immediately recognize how it’s related to what you’re saying.

Going back to the Taylor Swift example–I encouraged my client to articulate the connection. This is what he said, “Not what you’d expect. Now, think about our customers. Are we giving them what they expect in terms of service, what they expect in terms of quality, what they expect in terms of price?”

That question made a striking video even more compelling, but what’s more, it allowed my client to be the central storyteller. He was the one in charge of the narrative, not the clip.

Step four: Play the video again at the end

At the end of your presentation, play your video again. We like to see videos over and over again because we crave the familiar. The first time, your audience might feel the suspense, and the second time, the clip serves as a powerful reminder of your message. When they remember the ending, they’re more likely to engage with your message long after your talk ends.

Crafting (and controlling) your own narrative can go a long way in bolstering your reputation as a leader. Incorporating videos can help you with telling that story. Just remember to guide your audience. They’ll get more out of it (and out of your speech) that way.

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About the author

Anett Grant is the CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc. and the author of the new e-book, CEO Speaking: The 6-Minute Guide. Since 1979, Executive Speaking has pioneered breakthrough approaches to helping leaders from all over the world--including leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies--develop leadership presence, communicate complexity, and speak with precision and power

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