If you’re making a corporate video, you’ll probably face the question of whom to use as the on-screen spokesperson. Your in-house colleagues know the subject, but will they come off well on screen? A professional actor will look great on camera, but will the audience perceive the actor’s lack of knowledge in your field? Will your boss approve your budget if it includes fees for actors? I can offer some guidelines that will help you decide whether to select a colleague, or whether to “go pro.”
This entry describes times when, no, you don’t want an actor – your fellow employees might be a better choice! Then watch for Part 2, when I’ll outline times that a professional actor might provide better results.

Best Times to Use an Amateur Spokesperson

Using an in-house colleague on camera might play to your advantage when:
• The point is to show off your team. If the purpose of your video is to support the idea that “we’re better than our competitors because of our outstanding staff,” using an actor who is not from your staff contradicts your message. A skeptical viewer might wonder, “If your team is so smart [or friendly, or knowledgeable, or dedicated] why aren’t you showing them?”

• You want to show “heart” and it’s okay if the result is less polished.
There is such a thing as “too polished.” In some contexts, a gorgeous professional spokesperson can come off as slick or insincere. If your tone is intentionally folksy and you want to convey a subtext such as, “humans: we’re all in this together!” use real people on camera.

• The video is about an individual’s real-life experience.
No brainer. You’d better use that person!

• Your company’s brand is strongly identified with a particular person or face. If a big strength in your brand is your super-star subject matter expert, that’s who your audience wants to see – regardless of whether that person is beautiful, golden-voiced, or not.

• You need low price and simplicity. I’ll explain in my next entry why hiring an actor can actually reduce your overall video budget. But sometimes you just don’t have the cash to hire a professional spokesperson. Plus, sometimes hiring an actor introduces complexities such as deciding what rights your company has for using the actor’s likeness (in which countries? On TV, or just the Internet? At live events? In what languages?) A “name” actor may even have requirements such as traveling first class or staying in a five-star hotel. If you can’t afford the cash and the headaches, forge on with your in-house talent.

• Your timeline allows lots of re-takes. A video shoot offers tons of distractions, stops and starts, unusual environments, and other ways to break a novice’s concentration. Add a strong dose of nerves, and it’s a rare amateur who can nail a take on camera. It is not unusual for a novice to require 20 (or even more) takes to speak a segment flawlessly. But if you’re made of time, a novice is fine.

• Your employees have on-screen acting talent and experience. The average employee is afraid of public speaking and doubly petrified by speaking to a camera. But sometimes, hidden among your staff, are people with talent and valid, applicable acting experience, perhaps from a previous position. If you’ve got ‘em…use ‘em!
At GoodSide, we have years of experience coaching amateur and inexperienced staff members into successful video presentations. We know it can work, because we’ve done it.
But sometimes, pro is the way to go. When? Watch for Part 2 next week!

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