LEADING THROUGH VIDEO:An Essential Tool for Remote Working

Chances are you’ve been the “star” of a few corporate videos. It’s a good medium for communicators because it’s short and to the point. Video makes messaging easy to access and available 24/7.

When we became a virtual workforce overnight, many leaders were nudged toward it as the only communication channel. And if your instinct was to leverage it, it was a good instinct.  More than anything you can say to employees over a conference call or in an email, you can express it better if they can see your face. It’s not a time for wordsmithing as much as it is a time for sharing emotion. Employees need to see confidence, calmness and warmth.

So, if you’ve jumped fully into video, it’s the right channel. But it introduces some unique challenges for leaders who aren’t great at it and may now be producing videos without much support.

Here are our best practices to consider.



Frame the Shot: Everyone says the shots should be informal, and leaders should let employees see them at home. My guidance is: yes and no. Yes, be honest and real about working from home. Try to match the culture of your company. But, be mindful that you are still leading, so seeing a bed in the background or chaos in a kitchen distracts from that impression. The shot can be as informal as you want it to be; just be sure it’s intentional.

You can also frame the shot around something personal that helps you build a story or share a little more of yourself. It’s been fun in the last few weeks helping leaders add a little energy to these videos. Some have picked songs that are reflective of their days; others have shared something happening in their households. Depending on the message of your video, a little humanity and little moments can keep someone connected to the team.

Pick the Setting: The best video shot is framed in a setting. It can be any setting, but it should be a setting. You can be framed by a bookcase behind you or a picture behind you. Think about putting yourself in a picture frame and take a few pictures so that you can test the setting before taping.

We’ve seen several videos taken outside as Spring settles in, and yards seem bright and colorful. If cheerful and uplifting is part of your message, the setting can help. Some messages aren’t as light today, and you should be sensitive to settings in your home or surroundings that express more about economic means than you may want to. A video is captured forever, and things you don’t notice because they are a part of your life are quickly noticed by others.

Leverage Equipment: Based on social distancing, many leaders are having to produce the videos themselves. You can do a few simple things to make a video a little more interesting. Great videos are shot with multiple cameras to allow for editing in different views. This keeps movement in a video which keeps the attention of the viewer. You can‘t bring in a camera crew today, but you can produce two different views if you have someone who can edit remotely. We’ve done this with two iPads focused on two different shots: close-up and further away. Keep in mind that all shots are best if aimed straight on shot with a slight down view on the communicator. Avoid a camera shot that is lower or looks up at a communicator.



Plan the Content: Leaders always say they want to be conversational on videos. It’s the right idea, but it’s hard to execute on video. Unscripted tapings which were meant to be conversational usually sound like rambling. The informal approach to talking to a group in a live setting has to be more scripted via video. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s not.

As viewers, we expect videos to be short and to the point. You need a tight outline or a script to get to succinct thoughts that capture a viewer’s attention. Make it easy for viewers to stay with you for two to three minutes. The conversational approach actually comes through more in your tone and expression than your words. And that’s one of the hardest things to do over video.

Plan the Connection: The reason that tone and expression are hard via video is that there’s actually no one on the other side of the conversation. The communicator doesn’t have a listener, and that missing component has tough side effects for a communicator. When you aren’t talking to someone, bad habits creep in. Many communicators will stay in their head thinking about the talk track. The face becomes void of expression and the eyes seem harder as if someone is staring ahead versus talking with someone.

This is one of the hardest skills to develop. You can learn to simulate connection and bring expression into a video with a listener, but it takes work.  In these unprecedented times, the easier approach may be to put a listener on the other side of the camera. Kids can do this; spouses can do this. It helps immensely to have someone listening to you.

Talk to the Camera: The live listener will also help you with focus. When you tape a video, you need to keep your focus toward the camera. It seems counter intuitive because connection usually moves around a room to pull in different listeners. With video, there is only one listener represented by the camera. Your focus and engagement are all toward the camera so that viewers feel that you’re talking to them versus looking away from them.

Stand or Sit: When we produce videos, I prefer to have someone sit on a stool. We coach the concept of forward intent, and it’s harder via video than it is in person. The reason is that video is more two dimensional than three, so the concept of forwardness has to be more exaggerated on video. And it’s easiest to do on a high stool without a back. This prevents leaning back and allows someone to get their feet off the floor and onto the rungs of the stool. This way, you’ll sit back and lean forward.

Video is a different medium for leaders and a very effective way to connect with employees right now. If you’re producing videos, we can help. Call us for a virtual rehearsal, and we’ll help you put the steps above in place.  And if you aren’t producing videos but you’re leveraging video for team meetings and customer calls, we’ll soon be sharing our best practices for video meetings.

We’re here when you need us.

Sally Williamson