When “talking head” videos actually work

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

You’ve probably heard me blab about how  “talking head” videos are often not the most engaging way to tell authentic stories or share information. 

Here are some reasons why that’s often the case. The speaker:

  • is too stiff and formal.
  • is reading a TelePrompTer and you can see their eyes move with the text. 
  • appears inauthentic.
  • seems nervous. 
  • isn’t telling an interesting story. 
  • is using too many buzzwords or jargon. 

Related: Talking head videos on Periscope are usually OK

Now, I know why we do “talking head” videos. They are much easier and quicker to produce than videos that tell and show a story. Shooting relevant b-roll takes time. Shooting an interview does, too, but not quite as much. 

But there’s a way to set-up to make some “talking head” videos work – sometimes even in their entirety. Typically these two items need to align:

  • The speaker needs to be engaging, which translates to people wanting to listen to them.
  • The story needs to be worth listening to. If it’s not a meaningful and relevant story the presentation doesn’t matter. 

When these two align and when the story isn’t too filled with marketing buzz phrases, “talking head” videos can work. 

The viewer should feel like they are sitting across the table from the speaker and they are having a conversation. 

Ideas on how to get there: 

  • Ask the speaker broad and open ended questions: “Tell me what happened?” is a good example. 
  • Let the speaker tell their story. No interrupting. Or leading them toward a different story angle right away. Follow-up questions can happen at the end. Jot them down as the story is being told. 

I’ve gotten the best stories from just asking one question and letting people talk. One interview took over an hour and I only asked one question. The story doesn’t get better by the amount of questions we ask – but actually does by the quality of question, judged on how much it prompted the other person to share. 


Listening unveils stories 

Video editing software for storytellers

If, as the interviewer, just listening keeps you engaged and interested you might be onto a candidate for a “talking head” video – especially if that’s all you can produce from a video standpoint right now. If you can produce more of a video story, I would always consider that. 

In general, most “talking head” videos I see out there aren’t telling great stories but there are ways to make some of them work.

Hardly anything is an absolute in storytelling and content marketing. Some “talking head” videos work. Most don’t. What tells the best story, across the most relevant channels and in the most efficient way – do that!

More reading: Don’t forget about the channels you don’t use