Toastmasters World Champions and other top speakers will tell you one of the best ways to improve is to record your speeches, watch them, and make adjustments so that you keep getting laughs where you want them and driving your points home more clearly. Watching yourself on video is just as valuable, maybe even more so, for beginning speakers trying to gain control over their body language and their ums and ahs.
One of my biggest contributions to my home club, Club Awesome, has been to make video recording of speeches a routine part of our program. We have videographer as a regular meeting role, and the person serving in it makes a brief speech about the purpose or the recordings (educational first and foremost) and how to opt out if you do not want to be recorded. Because this is now an established part of our club culture, something that guests see when they first visit us, we rarely have anyone opt out.
We publish the videos on YouTube, but tag them as “unlisted” so they don’t show up for strangers browsing or searching the site. We only make them public with the speaker’s permission — usually, if they’re really good and we want to share them as part of our web and social media marketing. But speakers can easily share the videos with family members, even without making them fully public.
One important part of this program has been coming up with a streamlined process for uploading and sharing the videos, which is the focus of my own video tutorial above.
It helps that these days every smartphone is a powerful video recording device. I’m currently using my old phone, with the cell phone plan inactive, and taking advantage of the WiFi available at our meeting location to start uploading the videos before I even leave the meeting room.
I then take of a tool built into WordPress for Toastmasters (newly updated with the latest release) to publish the videos in two ways:
- In blog posts marked members-only (meaning you have to be logged in to see them).
- In an email broadcast that goes out to members. The RSVPMaker plugin for WordPress, which is part of the WordPress for Toastmasters solution, includes an integrated mailing utility.
I’ve set up the software to make it easy to pull in a listing of recent speeches with all the detail that was included on the meeting agenda (such as speech title and project) and associate those with YouTube links.
Here are my tips for recording the video:
- Focus the camera on the person speaking, not their slides (if any). The image the camera captures of slides projected on a screen is not likely to be great. In the few cases where it’s important for the projected images to be shown to the video viewing audience, I’ve spliced them in later. That may be a topic for a future tutorial.
- If you’re using a smartphone or any equipment that is short of a professional setup, positioning the camera as close as practical to the speaker is important for quality audio. Audio is one of the most important elements of any video, but particularly a speech video where you want to be able to hear the speaker clearly. If you’re recording something like a contest, you’ll need a front row seat.
- Fortunately, smartphone audio pickup and audio processing to pick up voices has gotten pretty good.
- A directional microphone could be one way of improving audio quality if you can’t be close to the speaker. Or if there is a sound system and you can either get a feed from the sound system or a recording that you can sync later with the audio track, that might be better yet. I’ve never gotten that fancy.
- When recording contests with a smartphone, I’ve occasionally gotten critiqued by people with more professional video experience about the quality of those productions, particularly the audio. If the critics would volunteer to do the job and do it better, I’d be happy to let them. But in the absence of professional quality video equipment and skills, I still think it’s better to record the speeches — and do the best you can, with the equipment you have available — than to deprive the speakers of the chance of having their videos recorded. Particularly at the district level, where the speakers are serious competitors, the speakers are happy to have access to the recording whether they are celebrating a victory or plotting how they will do better next time.
- To create a public blog post featuring a video, rather than one of these routine members-only posts, just copy and paste the web address for any YouTube video into the WordPress editor. WordPress automatically generates all the code to embed your video in any blog post or web page. This copy-and-paste technique also works with public videos from Facebook and other media sites.
- When trying to reach viewers on Facebook, it’s possible to post the YouTube link and invite viewers to click through. However, for maximum impact — particularly if you are posting speech videos publicly (with the speaker’s permission) — you should upload them directly to Facebook. Facebook will display videos uploaded to its own platform more prominently, and viewers can watch them without leaving Facebook. In fact, Facebook contacts will see the videos start playing (without sound), and motion tends to catch people’s attention.
- Another great way of creating online video is with Facebook Live, if you can get the speaker’s permission in advance. My home club will periodically announce that we’re doing Table Topics on Facebook Live, for example, and let members know they have the option of declining to participate. I’ve also suggested Facebook Live as a great way of publicizing the Table Topics and Humorous Speaking contests.
- Posting club speech videos from your smartphone to a closed group on Facebook would be an alternative for sharing them online, but within a limited circle. The point is not to make anyone famous online before they’re ready to be a video star.
- I always volunteer that I can “destroy the evidence” if a speaker is embarrassed by what was captured on video. We want to make clear that this is a service we offer to members, not something they’re obligated to agree to.
P.S. After seeing this tutorial video, a friend who had been recording a series of Facebook Live videos asked if there was a way of cross-posting them to YouTube.
Answer: Sure, you can download your videos from Facebook, then upload them to YouTube or any other video service.
You can download Facebook videos by going to the corner of the video and clicking on the 3 dots … then choosing Download Video.
From there, you can edit if necessary and then upload to YouTube.