Video blogging, or vlogging, is the 21st century’s incarnation of the essay. Anyone with a webcam, laptop or a smart phone, can capture video of himself or herself holding forth on any topic they choose, singly or in interview. For some observers, this seems like the ultimate in narcissism: the ‘selfie’ taken to the next level.
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For others, it is a liberating force that gives voice to many people with no other way to share their story, their opinion, or their knowledge, with the world. It is doubtless powerful, as is any visual medium. However, it can also be a risky step, requiring judicious and thoughtful consideration. Know what you are getting into before that little blue light flashes on! Consider the following issues carefully.
What do you want to accomplish by producing a vlog?
As with any piece of work involving words, it is crucial to know why you are creating and sharing it. What do you want to say? What do you want to happen as a result of saying this?
If you have not invested the thought to articulate this, your vlog risks sounding like a lame check-in video call with a relative or friend. ‘You just wanted to let them know something or other…but you can’t really remember what it was…and…so, yeah…ok, bye.’ Spare your prospective viewers, please.
Instead, begin by articulating the impact you want to have and on whom. Consider whether you wish to include a call to action (donate to disaster relief, craft candy wrapper bracelets, use better grammar, avoid brands that use slave child labor, or buy your services or product, for example). Write down in detail what you wish to convey, to avoid omitting critical points out and needing to re-record (being able to correct problems is the best feature of vlogging!).
Consider whether your message really fits with the media channel of vlogging. For example, an editor and writer might be better served by text-based promotion.
While too many bloggers display deficient writing skills, it takes at least a few sentences of reading to arrive at this conclusion. Unfortunately, with video, a lack of skill or aptitude is instantly apparent.
Vlogging’s deceptive similarity to a personal conversation via, for example, Skype, makes it seem as simple as talking to a friend. On the contrary, to be effective, video blogging requires clarity, organization, calm confidence, and good fidelity. This visual medium brutally reinforces any tics, speech idiosyncrasies, or hesitancy.
Be honest with yourself about this.
Do you insert ‘um’, ‘er’, or nervous throat clearings throughout your paragraphs? Are you even aware that you need to speak with a paragraph structure in mind?
Does your sound volume trail off at the end of sentences? Do you swallow the terminus of most words? Are consonants optional?
Do you attach the words ‘like’ and ‘so’ to the beginning of most utterances? This irritating habit, infecting otherwise intelligent speakers in a vast array of professions and specialties, has even inspired its own satirical segment on comedian Harry Shearer’s radio program called Le Show.
Hesitation can be charming in small doses, and even endearing when it comes from a toddler; in an adult; on the contrary, it wears on the viewer very swiftly. Do you pause, halt, and release your thoughts in dribbles as though you are fearful of being associated with them?
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If you cannot certify your avoidance of all the above-mentioned speech issues, please wait before exposing yourself to public criticism in a vlog. Spend some time and effort practicing saying what you want to say with no interruptions or loss of volume or clarity before debuting yourself as a vlogger.
The alternative could be painful. No matter how innocuous the content or wording of a web posting, someone will rip it to shreds. This is exacerbated for any video posting. Do you want to expose yourself to this sort of hurtful message?
Consider as well that only those with a compatible device will be able to access your vlog. This may include most of your intended audience, but think about this before committing.
The most important risk to vlogging is your safety. The internet is wonderful because it connects people who might never have even known of each other’s existence. The internet is a potentially terrifying place for the same reason. In text blogging, your identity may, with enough effort and expertise, be discovered eventually.
In video blogging, your identity can be confirmed with even greater precision – visually! If you are vlogging about anything controversial, or even if your appearance or personal demographics trigger someone mentally unbalanced in some way, you could become a target.
Vlogging is a terrific tool for those who may be unable to get their message out to the world in any other way. It has the potential to instruct, bring people together, and mobilize effort on an enormous, in fact, nearly unlimited scale. It has risks, and it requires as much care and forethought as any piece of word craft.
Additionally, it asks of you that you present yourself as well as your ideas, which can take some practice and preparation. Do this, and you will command a powerful launching pad for your great ideas. Fortunately, there are tools to do so available for cheap or free
Good luck with vlogging!