Video is becoming the new document for business, and executives are increasingly using it to communicate to employees.  But not every executive is Steve Jobs incarnate, naturally gifted at communicating in front of a camera.

How do you direct these productions and deliver quality results when your “talent” is your boss?

Don’t push a rope

Video is a powerful communication tool, but it takes commitment from your leader.  For most people, it’s awkward at first and takes time to get it right. If your boss isn’t committed, you risk a one-time, mediocre result.  If he’s not on board, video may not be the right approach for you, despite the potential. Making sure you have a committed executive is key.

Agree on the goal

“Filming a video” means different things to different people.  Make sure you understand what your executive has in mind before you start planning the event or recording session.  Will it be live? Will it be in a studio, or from his desk? How long will it be? What results does he expect to achieve? Who is your audience? How broadly will it be distributed?

Set expectations

Your boss may be committed to the project, but as an executive he is overcommitted as a rule.  Without clear agreement on how much time is needed for preparing for and shooting the video, it could get squeezed out of his schedule.  Figure out what’s needed from your executive and get agreements ahead of time that this will work. Try to be flexible and understand that your video might not be your executive’s highest priority.

Be prepared

That said, success comes from minimizing the time and effort required from your boss.  Plan the shoot in detail.  Use stand-ins to pre-set the lighting and sound, with a quick re-check when your boss arrives. Walk through everything that will happen in the shoot and look for ways to make it easier on him.

Know their limitations

If your executive hasn’t been on camera before, see if you can pilot the experience before the important shoot occurs.  That way both you and he will have a better understanding of how to adjust the shoot/script/set to get the best from your executive. You can position this as a camera test or a quick run-through; maybe shoot a quick introduction prior to your main event.

Provide constructive criticism

If you have a budding Steve Jobs, consider yourself lucky!  It’s more likely that there will be a need for you to ask for yet another take, as your executive looks at his watch. Criticism is easier to deliver when it’s framed around what the executive cares about (see “Agree on the goal” above).  He wants this to be successful and will take the time needed if you make the case that it is achieving those goals.

Have a plan B 

Despite your best efforts, there will be times when things don’t go as planned. The executive wears a green shirt to a green screen shoot; he comes to the shoot without knowing what he is going to say. By thinking through what could go wrong ahead of time and preparing options, you can overcome a lot.  If that doesn’t work, you may have to rely on what magic your editing team can provide.

Video is an amazing tool for employee, customer and partner engagement.  With the right approach, you can help your boss use it successfully.