With Econ Films, I made a short video with five tips for better videos (about economics). Here I outline the tips in a bit more detail.
But, if you just want the tips, here’s the video in under two minutes.
- Benefits not features. This idea is borrowed from sales techniques. Most people’s favourite radio station is WII FM – What’s In It For Me? So, when talking about your research, people need to know how it might benefit them. Of course, you still need to convince people that your key message is based on research but that shouldn’t stray from the key message. Too often economists will start by talking about their method – which is understandable given that they have spent years on it – but most outsiders want to know the benefits (the findings) not the features (how you found them). This is especially the case for policymakers but even researchers are pushed for time and need you to get to the point.
- English – not Economics – and definitely no Latin. Most jargon is obvious when pointed out but it’s impressive how much sneaks into the everyday language of economists. Keep checking to ask if you are using the simplest everyday language – as this is often the most powerful. (We even have some specific tips on language coming soon.)
- SHOW rather than tell. Video is an audio-visual medium – so make the most of it. Economic research requires hard, careful thinking – whereas when we communicate economics we want to make it as easy as we can for the audience. One powerful way to take something difficult and make it easy is to show it. Economists will have a good mind for the data but most mortals will find it much easier to see nine out of ten icons rather than visualise 90%. Can an image show the issue you are talking about? Can you use a graph to show the change? Can you use text and a simple flow diagram to get across the logical point you are making? All these are relatively simple to do on video.
- Production values matter. Borrowing again from sales techniques: ‘everything counts’. Audiences can tell almost instantly if the sound or image is off – and this will influence their entire view on the message you are trying to get across. With so many other distractions, it may be quite literally a turn-off and your message doesn’t get past the opening 10 seconds. This would be such a waste after years of research. Luckily there is no need for poor production values – the kit and knowhow has never been more easily available.
- Film with two cameras. Two cameras allows you to smooth out mistakes by cutting from one camera to the other. This is part of a wider point about editing. A lot of YouTubers use jump cuts where they cut on the same angle but cut out a mistake or just a pause to keep up the speed. It pays to play around with a free video editor to see what’s possible: text is easy to add, cutting to images that show the key point is easy, as is changing the order of an interview – and so on.
Finally, the video finishes on a crude sales pitch for Econ Films. But the point isn’t that you should go with Econ Films but that you can bring in specialists to do a lot of these tasks – and there are lots of companies and freelancers available.
There is an impressive amount of self-reliance in the research world but video is a more complicated production process than writing and once you move away from one camera and one person, it requires a team of people. Often the best way to get this team is to bring in specialists – allowing you to specialise in what you do best: economics.