Yesterday I was asked on three separate occasions what my thoughts were on a video by colleagues and people around the office. They all knew me as a video producer, some more so than others.
Two of them simply asked, “what are your thoughts?” and the third asked for my thoughts and added her notes. Other than this, I didn’t have much direction.
I watched all the videos blindly- meaning, I had no prior knowledge as to what they were about or how the intended audience would see them or even who the intended audience was. Furthermore, I didn’t know the purpose of each project. Without knowing what the videos were trying to achieve, how was I to give any kind of intelligent feedback?
However, having no idea what the control environment was (or what it was intended to be), or the message I was supposed to finish the video with, I felt like I had a completely unbiased opinion.
I’ve been working in video production and storytelling for 13 years- a long time. I’ve told a lot of stories, worked with numerous brands and verticals, reached millions of people, and sat through tons of client meetings of people sharing their thoughts.
It makes sense why I was asked for my opinion. And I happily oblige these requests. Being that I was able to provide unbiased feedback, I felt I was adding a value to the project.
It seems the more experience you have in a field the more your opinion is requested. The most powerful feedback is based on data and experience, after all.
So I began offering my thoughts and writing email responses back. I found my saying, “I presume this video is intended for…” and “How many videos in this series will your target audience watch?” and a slew of other questions.
I had so many presumptions. My thoughts are unique to myself and are probably affected by my current mood and atmosphere. The next person’s opinion could have been completely different and just as valid.
The one thing I was sure of was that I was not the intended audience, this much was clear. So, in essence, my opinions were just that- opinions, otherwise useless.
Does it matter if I think the color palette should be blue instead of yellow? I was watching these videos in a small conference room and on my computer at my desk. Was this the same setting that everyone else would watch them?
Knowing this, I felt the value of my opinion was less than what it was built up to be.
After 13 years of working in video production, we still rely on feedback everyday.
As a content creator, should you change an edit based on one opinion? Probably not. Going with your gut is going to be more valuable when you create with design, with purpose. (this is why you follow a process).
This will lead to doubt, second guessing and sometimes an end product that is not what it’s potential could be. Knowing your audience and how they’ll watch it will be a huge aspect of how your final presentation will be received.
A two-hour video that you want someone to watch on their way to work or class is a tall order. But if someone is sitting on her couch relaxing without much else going on, two hours is more feasible. If someone is on the bus commuting as they do everyday two minutes might be too long.
Sometimes people give feedback because they think it’s valuable, but could be completely off topic. You may ask for feedback and hoping to hear about different attributes to your video, such as color, and you might receive feedback on sound, pacing or something else that you’re happy with.
So, yesterday, after I began writing my replies with the feedback I had to stop and pause for a moment. I deleted all my comments and then gave general feedback on best practices to make a more refined and polished edit.
Perhaps this is what they were looking for, perhaps they wanted to know what I liked or disliked about the presentation as a whole and was looking for confirmation on their thoughts. I’ll never know either way because they never coached me on the feedback they wanted.
Someone with experience can surely provide a lot of helpful feedback, but ultimately it’s up to the requestor to provide an adequate proposition on intended feedback without compromising or influencing your own thoughts.
Feedback is incredibly important on any project. This is why major Hollywood motion pictures have screening tests for blockbuster movies. In some of our projects, we set aside time and budget for focus groups that provide us with a wide range of feedback.
We never send an edit over to review until we think it’s as best as it can be, even for rough cuts. We take the story as far as we can, we keep in mind our targeted audience and how we’re going to reach them. We make something based on our process and research, and where ever the story takes us.
And yet, even after 13 years of doing this, we still rely on feedback from our clients. Sometimes we assume a plot line is very clear or even expected knowledge by our audience. Sometimes we think a certain shot, or line of dialog, is required. Our clients let us know what’s working and what isn’t working. They guide us as much as we’re guiding them.
Feedback always improves projects, and we’re always happier after a couple conversations back and forth debating edits. Sometimes I reflect on where an edit was when we first delivered and I’m amazed and impressed by where our team can take it.
It’s the sum of little bits of feedback that really make a big difference.
Harvard Business review recently did an entire podcast about giving and receiving feedback. The podcast is interesting because it talks about feedback at a very high level. It isn’t specific to video production, storytelling or even creatives in general. However, the principles can be used for nearly any business, I highly recommend you take a listen.
In short, the more experience you have the more feedback requests you’re likely to receive. I think that feedback is essential, and I’m happy to provide it where I feel I can add value. And if I feel I can’t add value I make these disclosures as well. This separates my opinions from constructive feedback.
We’ve all asked for feedback and received feedback that wasn’t constructive or not what we wanted to hear. While the responsibility is on the requestor, I think those will great experience can read through the lines and provide feedback in most situations.
The following are some questions I would consider when asking for, or when providing, feedback:
What is the purpose of this video/documentary/campaign?
How are you planning on reaching your targeted audience?
Who is your audience? What do you want your audience to do after watching this video? (share, buy product, attend event, etc.)
What will make this campaign successful?
How does this fit into your long-term marketing plan?