Verbate Guide: How to Create Engaging Video

Anisha Nandi
Anisha Nandi
Co-Founder, CEO


If content is king, video is the kingmaker.

High-quality video can take a viewer to a place, introduce them to a person, or convince them of a cause. But creating video can be intimidating if you haven't done it before.

The good news is, great video isn’t just for those with fancy lenses and expensive cameras anymore. Thanks to the smartphone in most peoples' pocket, just about anyone can make high quality videos.

In this guide, we'll dive into how we created a video about how Mark and Joanna from the Park Slope 5th Ave BID made "Open Streets" a reality for their community. With this video as a reference point, we'll give you some tips and pointers on how to create something like this for your community organization.

The hardest part of video-making isn't finding the equipment, it's finding the story.

What people don’t realize is that the hardest part of video making isn’t finding the equipment, it’s finding the story worth telling. Good news is, community organizations have stories in spades.

During my days as a journalist in newsrooms like CBS and NBC, my favorite stories were born of community organization and activation. (Example: This story on floating food forest atop a repurposed barge.)

Why use video to tell your story?

One simple reason: it's really easy to digest. A great video can show the community how much good you’re doing, and even attract sponsors for your future initiatives.

When you use video, your audience is more likely to understand your message and share it with their network. Social video content generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined. Viewers retain 95% your message in a video, compared to as low as 10% when reading it in text.

Social video content generates 1200% more shares than text or image content

None of this is particularly shocking when you look at where we're heading - online videos now account for 82% of all internet traffic.

How to make a great video from a great story:

1. Choose where the video will be viewed

This comes first because it impacts much of your future decisions. Put yourself in your viewer's shoes - how are they viewing this content?

Will they be on their phone? On their computer? Will they be able to listen with volume, or not?

If they're on their phone, it's likely they'll be holding their phone vertically (vertical videos were found to have 90% higher completion rate than horizontal videos).

If they're in public, they probably won't listen to it with sound on (69% of video with sound off and 80% are more likely to watch an entire video when captions are available). Luckily, platforms like Youtube and Facebook are adding  closed captioning features.

2. Pick a Character

Regardless of where you're posting the video, there is one tried and true method that always works when creating an engaging video:

Find your main character. Follow around someone who can guide the viewer through a process, cause, or something they're passionate about. It always works.

In our Open Streets video, Mark walked us through how they closed down the streets, why they did it, and how it helped local businesses.

The character doesn’t always have to be a person - you can focus on one specific item or event as the "main character" as well.

Tip: Don’t over-script

It’s good to know what you want from the video, but authenticity is key for a community org. Writing questions can help keep the video on track, without having to script it unnaturally.

The numbers back this up: Instagram stories captured using a mobile device actually performed better (63% better to be exact) than content shot on professional equipment. Why? Instagram stories users expect the content to be less polished and more casual. This learning applies to most video posted to social media, so be natural.

For Mark, we stuck to the basics: who, what, when, where, why. This covered what "Open Streets" was, who needed it, who brought it to life, when and where it's happening and why it matters. Community orgs have passionate leaders who deserve to be highlighted - so when given the chance, their stories will easily shine through.

3. Check the basics before getting rolling

Most of us have a high quality smartphone camera in our pocket. An iPhone can take high-quality footage with just the built-in camera app. If you want to get fancy, you can get some add-ons like a hand-held gimbal for steady motion, but I promise you can create amazing content without any additional equipment.

Most importantly, make sure you're able to get good audio.

Audio is something that's important to focus on. Your iPhone's microphone should do the trick, but make sure you test it out before and can hear your character's voice over any background noise.

When you're ready to shoot video, think of it this way - your camera should act like your eyes. Your eyes sometimes look at things closely, or zoom out wide, or focuses on a specific detail. Replicate that behavior in your video.

See below for an example "shot list' for the Open Streets video. You can see how we used a variety of shots, angles, and scenes to immerse the viewer in the story.

4. Edit for the medium

Editing is one of those skills that can be intimidating if you haven't done it before. Luckily, most social media apps are starting to build editing tools right into the content creation process - TikTok and Instagram are great examples of this.

There are plenty of apps that can help you edit video, and many are free or affordable:

Splice is great for mobile editing.

iMovie can get the job done on desktop.

DaVinci is a robust, powerful (and free!) tool if you want a more professional editing experience.

For the Open Streets video, I used DaVinci. However, I used Splice for this video of our Montague Street Holiday that was posted on Instagram. Just like knives in a kitchen, I use different tools for different tasks.


So there you go! High-quality video isn't that hard - you just have to wrap your head around a few key elements.

1) Where will you post it?

2) Who is your main character?

3) Check your basics (video and audio)

4) Edit with where the video will live in mind

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