How to Keep Your Audience Engaged


In Episodes 10 and 11, we looked at the essential tools needed to create effective videos and how to present yourself in front of the camera. This is the final part of the trilogy which looks at how to keep your audience engaged. Using these three strategies together will help you to build a loyal audience and set the foundations for a profitable online business.

First, I’ll share with you some background information which will help us to understand how we instinctively focus our attention.

Vision is our dominant sense and that is why video our dominant media. Eighty-five percent of our perception, learning and cognition are mediated through our sense of sight. An incredible one third of our brain is dedicated to the processing of visual information. That’s because we see with our brain, not just our eyes.

Our brain creates models of the world and compares incoming information to those models.
When things that we observe fit these expectations, we don’t have to think about them and they become unconscious. Our conscious minds work on a need-to-know basis as we can process only a limited amount of information from the environment. Just imagine if we were conscious of every little thing that our eyes laid on – we would be incapable to think at any deeper level.

The best way we can learn anything is through focused attention. This happens naturally when something different or unexpected interrupts our anticipated pattern of perception. This sets off a neurobiological process that commands our notice.

The brain is built to ignore the old and focus on the new. For example if you drive to work every day, you would be able to perform all the necessary driving skills such as stopping at red lights, indicating to change lanes and sticking to the speed limit (of course). But whilst driving, you would probably be thinking about other things such as completing reports and meetings for work or what you’ll be doing on the weekend. That is until – a rabbit races across the road forcing you to brake abruptly. Now all of your focus is in the present and as you drive off again, you are fully aware of your driving as you look out for other critters lurking about.

Neurobiologists have found that novelty activates a part of the brain that exerts a major influence on learning, memory and emotion. When we make a prediction and it comes true, we are rewarded with the secretion of dopamine in the brain.

One of the most successful videos campaigns in recent times is the Old Spice ads that feature a series of seamless transitional pattern interrupts as the audience attention is focused from scene to scene. Our brains are captivated and delighted with the reward of dopamine.

The result was the complete transformation of the Old Spice brand from its old-fashioned image to a much cooler and contemporary image.

Novelty can also help brands that constantly repeat their ads by avoiding “media wear-out” simply by introducing minor variations to keep viewers engaged.

So here are six video techniques that will introduce novelty to keep your audience attention fully focused on your video.

1. This first technique is actually ‘anti-novelty’ as it removes potential distractions from the presenter. Try to use a simple plain background so that the focus stays on the presenter. You don’t want your background to compete against you.

I remember watching a talking head video and unfortunately, just behind the presenter was an open window with the breeze quietly blowing the curtains. Beside the window was a table with flowers in the glass vase. It all looked very pretty, however I spent the entire video contemplating whether the curtain was going to knock the vase off the table. Talk about a ‘scene-stealer’. So do yourself a favour and look at the frame without you in it and get rid of your competition.

Personally I like to use a blank wall with light placed strategically to create some shadows
or I use a green scene and select an appropriate background.

Alternatively, you can use a DSLR camera that allows you to use a shallow depth of field so that only the presenter is in focus.

2. Use the Rule of Thirds to create more interesting shots. Look at your frame and imagine three horizontal lines equally spaced horizontally across the frame. Now imagine another three lines equally spaced vertically across the frame. You main subject should be placed along these lines with the main focus, such as the face of the presenter at one of the intersections. This creates a more dynamic image and keeps your audience interested and focused.

3. Use animated Graphics and Text to highlight your key points. If you want your audience to remember your key points, use animated text or graphics that capture their attention and reinforce your spoken words.

4. Alternate your shots between Medium (waist up shots) and Close Ups (top of the shoulder and face shots.) This adds variety to a talking head video and is simple to accomplish either whilst shooting your video or after when editing.

If you use a script or an outline for you video presentation, break it down to smaller paragraphs so that when you shoot your video, you can pause the video camera and alternate your shots between Medium and Close ups.

You can also shoot the whole video using a Medium Shot and when editing, increase the scale the frame to create a close up and alternate your shots that way.

5. A more obvious change is to use an angle shot. Whilst the Presenter speaks directly to the camera in front of them, use a second camera on a 45 degree angle. The angle shot can be edited as an alternative shot. The second camera can simply be your smartphone.

Now if you don’t have the luxury of having a someone to shoot you from an angle, you can always fake it. Simply turn your body at an angle from your video camera and look ahead off camera and it will have the same effect.

You can create more novelty by using an Extreme Close Up for the angle shot and even make it Black and White. That will certainly grab the audience’s attention.

6. The one thing that I love most about film-making is the use of the moving camera and you can do this even without moving the camera. Typically you can use a slider mounted on a tripod. The camera can then smoothly slide left and right, front and back, or up and down. The movement can be quite subtle and still attract the viewer’s attention.

Now if you don’t have a camera operator or even a slider – not a problem, you can simulate in the editing stage. Simply shoot a Medium Shot and while editing it, scale it up so that it becomes a Close Up. At the start of the clip, drag the video frame to the right and set a key point. Now go to the end of the clip and drag the frame to the left. And that’s it. When you play the clip, it will show the presenter moving across the screen much like using a slider.

Of course there are endless ways to create novelty and disrupt your audience into focusing their attention to your video. Try these tips and experiment with a few of your own and you will find that not only will your videos be more fun to make, but your audience will appreciate them more.

Gerry Tacovsky
Video Marketing Strategist