One of my favourite way of using video with a talk is to illustrate a point. Generally, I don’t want the video do be doing exactly the same thing as what I am doing when I give a talk – I want it to complement me. I’ll come to using video to teach a point in a few posts time, but let me give a disclaimer about it now. I mainly have in mind those videos that feels like a glorified sermon – the video that focuses on a person preaching to the camera. My disclaimer: don’t use these videos with a talk if all you’re going to do is preach the same sermon. You’re just doing the same thing as the video, and you’ll probably be more boring than the video. Instead, use a video that will complement your talk. This is your purpose in using it (remember the principle?). So how do you do that? Back to using a video to illustrate a point…
I love using a video to illustrate a point because it does something that I can’t do. Don’t get me wrong – I think that most illustrations of points should still be told by the speaker, and there’s many good reasons behind that. But what a video can do is engage someone through a different medium. It can involve them in a story that is separate from me (the speaker) but still close to them. They can be swept up in the video, relate to the characters, understand the plot, contemplate the images. Then, as the speaker, I can direct that towards the point I want to make.
A friend of mine uses videos as illustration really well, so I’m going straight to his examples. He often uses simple short videos. The two examples I love from him are from his talks on Ecclesiastes, and he makes two points about what life is like. The first is a rollercoaster – so as he starts this, he shows a one-shot video from the perspective of someone riding a rollercoaster. It’s great fun (especially for youth) because the group can interact with the video, mimicking the screams on the big descents and leaning on the corners. My friend then talks of how life is like a rollercoaster – you get up, do as much as you can through the day, then you ‘get off’ at the end of the day and rest so that you can get back on again as quickly as possible. Here’s an example of what this might look like (you may only need a short segment of this).
The second video he uses to illustrate what life is like is a time-lapse of a banana rotting. It starts all yellow, but so quickly goes black and shrivels up. You feel how quickly it goes. And it resonates with my experience of bananas. And so I can then make the connection with life – it really is so quick, and the reality of the end of life is striking.
This is one of a bowl of fruit which you can download and use:
I like that both of these videos are short and tell small stories and engage our experience. And they make a striking point that helps complement the point my friend is trying to make.
Now there are also many ways you can go wrong with using a video to illustrate a point. Many of these are similar to warnings someone might give about spoken illustrations, but with video it will be even more pronounced because you’ve made a point of showing a video – remember, you don’t have to show it! So, the big warnings…
Using a video with a talk to illustrate a point fails when:
- The video distracts from the point – this often happens when you’re trying to make a point from a small part of the video that gets overshadowed by the big point of the video. Or if the big things that people remember from the video do not evoke the point you are illustrating. If the video is going to distract, leave it out.
- The video doesn’t match the value of the point – in the same way for a spoken illustration, this frequently happens when someone has a great video and they just really want to use it, so they use it at the first opportunity. But if the point it is illustrating is only a side point, or sub point that is only a very small part of the main idea, the video can be too good for the point it is illustrating, and makes too much of the point. Either the point it is illustrating gets lost, or it overtakes the main point, or the video is just seen as a cool video rather than complementing the talk. If it doesn’t match the value of the point, leave the video out.
- The video needs too much explanation – if you’re using the video to illustrate a point, it should do that. You should at the least understand the illustration. The speaker should then only need to connect the illustration to the point. If people couldn’t actually understand the video (or at the least the point that you think the video is making), then there’s no point in using it. Leave it out.
- The illustration from the video doesn’t illustrate the point you’re making – this is the same for a spoken illustration. Make sure it actually illustrates your point well. Make sure it does something. Don’t use the video just because you want to use the video. Know your purpose. If it doesn’t illustrate the point, leave it out.
I’d love to hear more examples of videos that you know of that helpfully illustrate points. Please comment with your favourites.