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12 Tips For Recording a Talking Head Video


I recently recorded a Talking Head Video encouraging people to sign up to my newsletter.  You don’t need specialist equipment to record a video like this.  It’s also incredibly easy – nowadays you can can shoot, edit and upload a video using a smartphone.

Talking head videos are a great feature on websites yet they are somewhat underused.  They are memorable and give your audience something to connect with more than they could with words and static images.  Having recorded this talking head video I thought I would list a few tips for anyone else who is considering creating their own.

1. Write a Script Beforehand

Get everything you want to say down on paper beforehand and rehearse it a few times

For maximum impact you need to be clear and concise with your message.  Nobody talks like this naturally.  Normal conversations are full of little noises like “erm” between sentences and people often waffle (some more than others!).  It’s also natural to have pauses in conversation.  None of these factors translate well to video, so to minimise impurities, get everything you want to say down on paper beforehand and rehearse it a few times.

2. Be Personal

Eye contact is key and your shot should be positioned straight on (as opposed to looking slightly up or down at the camera).  Also, in the first few takes of my video I was using the sentence “I hope people find this video useful” which isn’t best practice. so I changed this to say “I hope you find this video useful”.  As I said earlier it’s important to connect with people on an emotional level.  As such, you should always refer to them in the first person.

3. Use Aids (Carefully!)

A memory jogger can be really useful when recording a video.  When I created my talking head video I used a couple of bullet points which I taped underneath my camera.  Don’t read a script word for word off a bit of paper.  Use bullet points with just enough reminders to keep you flowing.

4. Consider Your Background

You want to get your message across with the least clutter possible.  There is a common consensus that a plain background like a white wall is least distracting, although you also need to consider your subject matter.  If you have a website about a particular subject then it’s also natural to have backdrop which reflects this.  In my case I stood in front of my company’s business plan to reflect the fact that I run my own business (and for that extra little bit of publicity!).

5. Consider Your Lighting

It’s advisable to shoot near a window where some natural light can come in (but be wary of direct sunlight though because it can be too bright).  Natural lighting is free, however, it’s not always available which makes it unreliable.  You can also use interior lighting, as I did, but I did this more through necessity than choice (I wanted to use my business plan as a backdrop).  Under different circumstances I would have shot this next to a window.  Professional options include lights and lights reflectors.  You can reflect light with a whiteboard if you don’t want to invest in a proper light reflector.

Microphone Isolated on White

6. Use a Tripod

In my view a tripod is essential.  If you’re shooting your video inside then you don’t need an expensive one.  While it is possible to use no tripod at all, they are so useful and so cheap that it’s really worth the investment, particularly if you plan on shooting other videos in the future.

7. Use a Microphone

Sound quality is enhanced dramatically if you use a microphone or a clip-on microphone (often called a ‘lapel mic‘).  You are normally pretty close to the camera in a talking head video so you can probably use a wired microphone and hide the unsightly wires underneath your clothing.  If you’re feeling flush you can spend a bit more on a wireless mic.  Also, if you’re using an advanced camera, it may be worth setting audio levels manually before you start filming.

Incidentally, I learned the hard way about the importance of using a microphone.  Here’s another video I did in 2012 – you can hear my printer start calibrating itself 37 seconds in then an email arrives around 52 seconds!  Still, you live and learn.

8. Use a Decent Camera (If You Can, Although It Isn’t Vital)

While it isn’t essential, if you are able to use a camera with a fast lens it will allow you to create a shallower depth of field, giving you a ‘blurry’ background.  A blurry background can give videos a ‘professional’ feel to them.   Remember to ensure your video is in focus – you wouldn’t want to shoot everything then find everything is slightly out of focus.  There is no need for the camera to be refocusing in a talking head video, so if you’re using an advanced camera, pre-focus with autofocus then switch the camera to manual focus so it doesn’t change while you are filming.

9. Eliminate Disturbances

Before you start filming check your battery is fully charged and turn your phone off.  It’s very irritating to nail a video then get interrupted in the last few seconds.  If you’re at home or at work, ask people not to disturb you and put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door to deter anyone from bothering you.

10. Shoot As Many Takes As You Need

Over time your video could get thousands of views.  Nobody likes websites with glitches; the same is true of video.  It may require a fair few takes but don’t be afraid to do as many as you need until you’re really happy with the result.  Also, you may want to nail a few takes so you have  a selection to pick from.  In my case I recorded 3 videos which were good enough to use and I selected my favourite.

11. Consider Having Someone Else With You

Not everyone will feel the same about this but I have found it helps having someone with me when I’m filming the video.  It keeps me focussed.  I don’t know why.  It’s also easier to crack a (genuine) smile with someone else in the room.  I guess it takes the edge off.  Or it does for me at least.

12. Don’t Sacrifice Production

Finally, after you’ve shot your talking head video make sure you spend some time tweaking it with software.  There are a load of software solutions out there like Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premier and iMovie.  My colleague very kindly edited my video with a faded intro and outro.  Another option is to create a brand logo or a few seconds of introduction.  If you struggle with any of this you can often find someone on Fiverr to do it this for you at a very reasonable cost.

Hope this helps!