When a Story Is Good, You Stop Looking at Your Watch

When we create videos for client websites, events, and social media projects, we get this question a lot, ‘Do we need a 30-, 60-, or 90-second video?’

The simple answer is “the shorter the better.” However, a more helpful question to ask is, “What story do we need to tell?” This allows the message to dictate the length of time you need to deliver it. Content, strategy, resources, demographics, and the platform all help determine the video length so they need to be determined upfront along with what you need to say.

Is there a time threshold? Of course; that is the battle against our attention span.

No matter how you use your video, keep in mind how long your audience will stay tuned. A video has to catch a viewer almost immediately to keep them there for the duration. Starting in the middle of a story is a great way to build curiosity and capture a viewer’s attention.

Now you’ve got our attention. What do you want me to know?

It was estimated in 2015 that the average attention span had dropped to 8.25 seconds. That’s where content and story really have to kick in to keep a viewer focused. It helps to begin with an outline (or “treatment” as we industry folks like to say). Whatever you have in this version, trim it down to be as short as possible while still retaining the essential information. This will lay the foundation for your story.

Just the facts…plus a story.

If you spend any time on crowdfunding websites, you’ll notice that fundraising videos often lead with 6-10 seconds of a logo before they show any actual story or content. By that time they’ve lost a lot of potential funders or customers so it’s crucial to lead with your product or service in the context of a story. Save your list of features and technical specs for your website. Give viewers a story that helps them understand or care about your product. We often ask our clients to explain what they do or sell as if they were telling their grandparents–it helps remove jargon, technical talk, and other extraneous details.

A good story will always sustain.

Wistia is a great way to track analytics for video, and they have found that 50 percent more people will watch a one-minute video all the way through vs. a two-minute video. The same can be said for a 4- to 5-minute video over a 5- to 10-minute video. If you can lock in your viewer for the story, you’re likely to keep them around for the full length (but don’t push the length if it’s not necessary). Take your short window of opportunity with that viewer and dedicate the first 30-90 seconds to really telling your story. Assume they won’t stick around and do whatever it takes to keep them there.

Next posts