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How to convey your ideas so your clients 'get it'

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If there's one problem that new producers run into all the time, it's how to convey ideas so their clients 'get it'. Managing two key parts of the process can make all the difference when it comes to establishing a shared understanding for new video projects.

Nail the inital meeting

This is the most crucial part of the process. Aim to draw as much information from your clients as possible at the briefing - questions back and forth later can be like pulling teeth and wastes time.

Recording the meeting on your phone is a great tip, as having a way to re-visit the relevant details is gold.

Do your due diligence before the meeting – if, for example, the client is having you make a commercial about their latest electronic device, make sure you understand what it does beforehand.

Clients will often have a draft press release or feature set they will share with you, and your interest will make a good impression.

Complete this checklist
At the end of the meeting you should have the following questions answered:

  • What are we producing? TV commercial, corporate video, etc.
  • Who is the target audience? This is particularly important to know as it will directly influence the type of video you are making (hip and edgy for younger demographic, “proper” and straightforward for older generation).
  • What are we promoting about this new product, and why would people want to buy / update / upgrade to it?
  • Do you have a script?

With these questions answered, it’s time to put your ideas together.

Nail the Storyboard (with a little help)

Taking the brief and translating your ideas to the client can be tricky to maneuver. I’ve worked in the commercial world for a few years, and for this part of the process I can’t understate the value of an art director and a copywriter. They are invaluable and if you can budget for them, do it.

Your copywriter will come up with the script for client approval, before you move ahead. Once you have this under your belt you can pitch your ideas in way that your client will understand: visually. Enter your art director. They will sketch out storyboards for your piece. This is the best way to give your client a clear idea of what you want to shoot. One approach is to edit their entire piece with the approved script, music and storyboards, so they can sign off on that version before you go and shoot the final piece. This is common practice in Hollywood, but can still be applied to any project, no matter what the size.

The good news for those of us working with non-Hollywood budgets? You can still give your clients art direction - most budgets can stretch for the couple-hundred dollars to write the script (assuming we’re talking about a corporate piece, or a piece longer than 60 seconds). There are also some great storyboard apps out there that you can use to help you along the way.

Go Animate is a clever online app that lets you create complicated storyboards and animations quickly. It also allows you to add animated charts, use the infamous ‘whiteboard’ animation (makes your video look like someone has drawn it on a whiteboard) and upload dialogue tracks for characters to lip-sync. Basically, it lets you create your own animated version of the client’s end-product, before you shoot one frame of video. Depending on how many videos you do, you can easily set all of this up for less than $50 per month.

Storyboard That is perfect if you’re taking a static traditional storyboard. The website offers a library of 325 characters, 225 scenes, and over 45,000 images, as well as the ability to upload your own images. The best part is that if you’re just starting out, they have a free version to get you going.

Whatever the size of your budget, communication is the key. Absorb everything you can in that initial meeting (and record it if possible!) then use a storyboard to pitch your ideas for their sign off. No surprises, no mixed messages, just a happy client every time you deliver your projects!

Kevin P McAuliffe is a three-time North American ProMax award-winning editor and has been a media composer editor for over 18 years. He is a senior editor at Extreme Reach Toronto, whose current clients include Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and E1 Entertainment. Kevin can also be found helping out on Avid Community in the Media Composer and Symphony Get Started Fast forums.

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