TED have set the standard for conferences and they are probably the best examples of how academic talks on cutting edge subjects can reach a broad audience. Online videos have transcended what was originally the privilege of a small group (even if thousands can attend) into a global phenomenon reaching millions. The success of TED and TEDx, however, presents a stark contrast with the online fate of most conferences: there are countless examples of great, well attended conferences that fail to reach a significant audience beyond their live stage.
Although one could argue that the “riveting talks by remarkable people” can’t be matched by “ordinary” conferences, they too, should be able to extend their reach albeit on a different scale.
So what is the secret of TED’s video success and what can be learnt from it for filming other type of conferences? These are some key elements of responses based on TED’s own guidelines:
FILMING: What to do
Speakers are “rockstars”
In the case of TED they often truly are, but even if your speakers aren’t, you should still treat them as such and make sure you make them look as good as possible. That means that you should take extra care at illuminating your speaker.
TED uses 3 to 8 cameras which offers the possibility to take a variety of shots and makes the edit more interesting. Each camera is manned by an experienced professional who is clearly briefed on what type of shots are needed.
Prefer close-ups of speaker
The tighter shot, close-up including head and shoulders should be the default. A tight shot allows a connection to be established with the speaker.
Include the audience
If possible get a camera on the audience, at least take into account their applause or any noise and response in your edit.
FIlMING: What to avoid
The camera should be more or less always facing the speaker, profile shots are prohibited
DESIGN & FORMAT
Talks are typically less than 20min long on one specific subject. If a speaker has many subjects to cover, he will come back and do another talk!
No debate, No questions
TED includes a question and answer session but generally it is not shown on the video. This is a big difference between video and a live stage: debates and questions from the audience typically don’t work that well when you don’t experience them on the spot.
Probably one of the hardest points to implement because conference rooms often have a fixed set up whereas TED’s are often planned specifically for the video. You should nonetheless try to make the best possible use of the background behind the speaker: it should be interesting but not distracting.
Tell us a story, with personal and emotional content
This is one of the rules at TED and a key to the success of the talks, however, is one that may not always be implementable in your typical corporate conference.
The nature of TED is carefully engineered and rehearsed, if the speakers are available there is no harm in doing a full scale rehearsals for the camera.
- Follow the TED commandments:
OPTIMIZATION & TAXONOMY
TED goes further than just producing content, their titles and thumbnails are always carefully thought of.
Having 1000s of top videos TED offers groundbreaking examples of how content can be organised and curated. They use traditional categories such as the topic (Business, Technology, Entertainment…) but also by popularity and more interesting by emotions (persuasive, courageous, ingenious)