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One of the more intriguing instructional questions we see on the horizon is how (or perhaps whether) to address video in the business communication curriculum.

Now that video is cheap to produce and often free to distribute, more and more companies are using video to supplement or replace written messages. Of course, video has been used for years, but it was usually concentrated in a few functional areas as marketing and training or reserved for special occasions. Significantly, video was often the domain of trained videographers who were comfortable making the many aesthetic and technical choices that quality video requires.

In much the same way that basic desktop publishing went mainstream, video is now a common media choice for many business professionals. The benefits for senders and receivers can be huge, whether it's an engineer posting a how-to video to the customer support blog or the CEO issuing an important public statement. The wild growth of YouTube and other video-sharing sites—even for clips that don't involve piano-playing kittens—is evidence of how readily professionals and consumers alike embrace content in video form.

Unfortunately, just as it was easy for the untrained to make hideous brochures and posters when they first got their hands on desktop publishing capabilities, making awkward or ineffective videos is easy, too.

Imagine a public, negative-news message from a CEO, such as the announcement of a facility closure or a product recall. A print form of this message would be challenging enough to write, given the multiple stakeholders in the audience and the level of emotional involvement. However, with a lean medium such as a news release or a blog posting, the number of nonverbal signals associated with the message is small, so the communicator can focus his or her energies on the words themselves and not have to worry too much about whether the packaging of the words will send unwanted messages.

In contrast, using video to send this message introduces a wide array of nonverbal variables. For instance, a CEO sporting a $200 haircut and $2,000 suit while sitting comfortably in a mahogany-paneled office won't be a very sympathetic character for delivering news of a major company layoff. At the other extreme, surviving employees who worry if they're next and community members who count on the company's economic activity might not be too comforted by a poorly lit CEO standing stiffly in front of a blank wall with a look of gloom and doom on her face. The same message delivered in two starkly different visual settings could trigger profoundly different reactions from the viewing audience.

Even for less dramatic messages, the communicator has to consider a significant number of variables: setting, lighting, props, camera angles, clothing, speech patterns, body language, vocal characteristics, whether to add musical cues on the fade in or fade out, and more.

With many instructors still trying to fit blogging and other new media into an already overloaded syllabus, we realize the thought of adding video might be enough to make one scream. However, as video continues to go mainstream as a business communication medium, how can today's and tomorrow's business professionals learn the nuances of good video production?

Video clearly falls outside the scope of a focused business writing classes, but what about broader business communication courses? Do you address video as a business medium now? If not, do you anticipate doing so in the future?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: Andrew Rennie


  • 5 Responses to “Is Video in Your Teaching Plans?”

    1. Lauri Smedley Says:

      It’s interesting that you have written an article about creating and using videos in business. Two weeks ago, I started using videos in my online business technology and computer applications courses as a means of connecting with my students. The feedback has been very positive and it wasn’t hard to make the videos. I’ve been experimenting with various tools for shooting the videos including a digital camera that also shoots videos, a camcorder, and a webcam. I purchased some green fabric from a fabric store and a green screen software program that I use to add interesting backgrounds to the videos. I also use Camtasia for editing.

      This spring, I will be using video orientations for the majority of my online classes. This will eliminate the need for online students to come to campus to hear me say things that I can say through video and they can watch the videos at their leisure during the first two days of the semester. Students won’t have to take time off from work or leave other classes to attend my orientations. They will take an orientation quiz to prove that they have watched the videos. For the first time in over 20 years, I should not be suffering from a sore throat at the end of the first week of the semester due to all of those face-to-face orientations. Video just makes good sense for everyone concerned.

      Thank you for bringing up this important and timely topic.

      Professor Smedley

    2. Professor McCawley Says:

      This semester I am using a video assignment for my Advanced Business Writing students. We are discussing crisis communication, and first critiqued the 10 CEO apologies posted on the WSJ ( Next, they are to prepare their own short video. Since this assignment is a first for me, I’m curious to see how the videos turn out!

      You raise some great points here that the students picked up from their reviews of the CEO apologies.

    3. Laura Says:

      Professor McCawley:

      How did the video assignment turn out? What guidelines did you provide to your students for making their short videos?

    4. Chen Says:

      I’m teaching business writing for the first time this year and I’m using the TV show “The Office” in my class. I show clips to students almost every class and ask them to analyze it or do in-class writing exercises about them. I also use the plots in the show as scenarios in my writing assignments. My hope has been that it’ll keep them awake for the 8am class. I’m interested to see how it will turn out. It’s certainly a lot fun.

    5. Courtland L. Bovee Says:

      Professor Smedley:

      Thanks for sharing your creative approach. Anything that sparks interest and engagement is sure to help. If you can, please write back at the end of your course and let us know your thoughts after using this method for a full term. We wish you and your class all the best!

      You may be interested in seeing my latest video about teaching business video:

      Court Bovee