Why should we be sending more video emails? Because humans have been speaking to each other face-to-face for more than 150,000 years! In today’s digital age we are sending more and more emails, and speaking to each other less and less.

The skills of reading and writing only began spreading into the population at large about 500 years ago. Speech and nonverbal communication are much more natural to us than trying to communicate through written language. 

And yet, every day we entrust some of our most important and most valuable messages to faceless, digital communication. Is it enough?

We rely on plain black text on a plain white screen in our attempts to communicate, connect, and convert. 

We employ a medium that doesn’t differentiate us, doesn’t build rapport, and doesn’t provide clarity nearly as well as if we just looked at people in the eye (or through the camera lens) and simply spoke to them as we have for millennia.

Think about the emails, text messages, and social messages you’ve sent today: 

  • How many of them included elements of emotion, subtlety, nuance, complexity, or detail?
  • Did you capture and deliver the tone and meaning you intended in your typed-out words?
  • Did you try to punch in an emoji to try to make your idea / feeling / thoughts more clear?

Some hard facts for you:

Here’s the good news: Your emails can be much more personal, human, and effective than they are today. How? By recording and sending videos in place of some of your faceless, typed-out messages. Recorded videos are no substitute for in-person meetings or even live video chats, but …

I think video in email is the next best thing.

Why You Should Be Sending Video Emails

As a Science of People reader, you already appreciate the importance of human connection and nonverbal communication. If you’ve read my book Captivate, you’ve already developed awareness and sensitivity to the art and science of working effectively with your fellow humans. It’s time to extend this level of thought and care to your day-to-day messages. It’s time to learn why you should be sending more video emails … and how to record them. But first, why video?

Connect with people in a disconnected world 

Over the past couple of decades, time and distance has increasingly driven us apart. 

Our smartphones and social networks give us the illusion that we’re still connecting, but we feel more disconnected than ever. 

Even in our email inboxes, we hide behind faceless text and hold tightly to the control it provides. Meanwhile, our customers, team members, partners, and other stakeholders in our success need to feel trust and confidence that our requests will provide them value.

In-person meetings significantly increase your chance of success. How much you ask? A lot:

Harvard Business Review determined that that “face-to-face requests were 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails.”

You are better in person, because the message you’re delivering isn’t just about your words. It’s also about tone, microexpressions, and all the wonderfully subtle, intricate, and innate ways to communicate as social creatures. 

Through video, people are able to:

  • Read your body language
  • Hear your tone of voice
  • Experience additional layers to your message
  • Better determine what it would be like to potentially work with you
  • Get a better sense of what exactly you’re trying to say
  • Accurately see your level of sincerity or conviction about that message 

Stop relying on a dispensable, broken tool

For more than a decade, I’ve heard the argument email is dead. But it’s not true. A survey of more than 1,000 white-collar American workers found that:

  • 27% of us check work email while having coffee, eating breakfast, or getting ready in the morning. 
  • *23% keep checking work email while still in bed! 
  • In total, we open 77% of work email and 59% of personal email.

Nearly everyone has an email account; most of us have more than one account. And no matter how we feel about it, the vast majority of us use email every single day.

So how can your email stand out from all the rest?

With the sheer volume of messages we send and receive, you need to stand out, be different, and save time. You need to be authentic, provide value, and build deeper relationships. And to do that, you need simple video.

Video Email Guide

1)  Know When to Send a Video Email

Any time you’ve got a message that would be best communicated in person, but you can’t stop by their office or don’t want to bother them with a full meeting, you’ve got an opportunity to use a video to be more effective. Here are the top times to send video in place of text:

  • Thank you messages (one of the easiest and best ways to use video!)
  • Greetings on holidays and special occasions
  • Intros before appointments and follow-ups after appointments
  • Apology notes
  • Project or process updates
  • Meeting summaries and next steps
  • Complicated explanations that are difficult to write out
  • A demonstration of something that is better seen than heard
  • Bonus Tip: If you work in an industry that requires heavy paperwork or a highly complex system then I highly recommend filming one video that you can reuse over and over again.

Each of these examples gives you an opportunity to deliver through video your tone, intent, body language, and more. From enthusiasm and gratitude to empathy and concern, the subtleties lost when you type these messages out are significant. 

2) Build Your Confidence

One of the biggest hurdles to filming videos is your fear of judgment, rejection, or a dislike of how you look or sound.

If you see yourself on camera or hear your voice on playback and feel uncomfortable, congratulations … you’re normal

You are your own harshest critic. 

Most people don’t love how they look on camera, and that’s normal. But the only person worrying about how you look is YOU. Everyone else is busy worrying about how THEY look. 

There’s nothing worse than hearing the sound of your voice for the first time in a recording. This is because how we hear our voice is actually extremely different than the way we actually sound to everyone else. Of course thinking your voice sounds one way your entire life and then hearing it sound another way would impact you. But the fact of the matter is, the way you sound on camera is the way you sound to everyone else. And people aren’t worried about the way you sound – just like you’re not worried about it when you’re on the phone, in a meeting, or having lunch with someone. Why should video be any different?

This logic extends to the way you look. You get ready in the morning, head out for your day, check your look when you park your car, and check your teeth after eating lunch. But you don’t dwell on it. You don’t skip meetings or cancel appointments over it. Why re-record, stop recording, or never start recording a video over it? People will be happy to see you and they’re far more concerned with their own appearance than yours.

When we get on camera and send video emails exactly as we are – untouched and unfinished – we are showing vulnerability. And in many cases, that vulnerable feeling makes us extremely uncomfortable. We want to avoid it. We don’t want to look foolish. We don’t want to mess up. We don’t want to be judged, or worse, rejected. Disconnection is our greatest fear.

Instead, we want to control and predict. We hide behind that cloak of digital anonymity. We hide behind black text on a white screen that we typed, then retyped, then deleted, then rewrote. We are afraid to send video because we are afraid of feeling vulnerable. But guess what…

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness… If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.” –Brene Brown

Essentially, that vulnerability you feel makes you more relatable, normal, and easier to connect with. Embrace your authenticity! The confidence it requires is deeply attractive. And honesty is, sadly, so rare. People will appreciate you for it.

Action Steps:

3) Get Your Gear (way less than you think)

Another hurdle people *think* they have with video is a lack of familiarity with cameras, lights, tools, and equipment. Most of us don’t have the time or a deep enough interest to learn about all the new video gear coming out – and there’s A LOT of it. It can seem complicated, time consuming, and expensive.

Good news: you don’t need anything new or fancy to get started. 

This style of video isn’t about marketing as much as it’s about relationships. These video emails are meant to be simple – a real person behind a smartphone or webcam in a no-nonsense video message. People connect with people they can relate to! You needn’t try to look or act like a movie star or a social media “influencer”. The point of reference or comparison isn’t a television commercial, movie trailer, or homepage video – it’s that typed-out message your video’s replacing. Are you more clear or more convincing than a couple of paragraphs of text? Almost always!

An incredible video marketing setup with lights, green screens, and other special equipment can come in handy when you’re producing a high volume of videos for large audiences and/or long shelf lives. But it’s not necessary for video emails. In fact, many video influencers have revealed that they got started and still get the best responses with stripped-down, authentic videos. 

You probably own a webcam or a smartphone. That’s all you need! 

To illustrate this point and others in this post, here’s a breakdown of the difference between scripted, produced videos and simple, personal videos for email:

4) Nail Your First Impression

The most important part of your video is your first 2 seconds. Always start (and continue) your video with the following body language tips:

  • Eye Contact: Look into the camera lens. For most of us, our automatic reaction is to look directly at the screen while recording a video. Understandably, some people even have a hard enough time looking at the screen itself, and instead look off into other corners of the room. But you need to look into the lens so when that video is replayed by your recipient, they’ll feel that direct eye contact with you, which increases personal connection and message receptivity. 
  • Hand Gestures: Push the camera back. We love to see people’s hands. We also like to see more than just your face. So try to push your camera back or scoot your chair back so your torso and hands are showing. I also like to start off every video with a wave hello to show my hands first. If you’re not sure what to be doing with your hands in a video, check out 20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using.
  • Smile before and during the video. There are so many benefits to smiling in your conversations, presentations, and even your videos. A study from Penn State University found that people who smile appear to be more likeable, courteous, and even competent. Smiling at the beginning of your videos can drastically improve your chances of having your recipients opening the video. The video email service BombBomb, automatically creates an animated preview of the first 3 seconds of your video that plays in loop. If you’re waving, smiling, or even holding a whiteboard with the recipient’s name on it, you’ll drastically increase your chances of it being opened. Make sure to be authentic with your videos and your smiles throughout the video. According to the Guardian, the general public can distinguish between fake and real smiles about 60% of the time. And there’s nothing people dislike more than inauthenticity. 

5) Don’t use a script!

Please, please, please don’t use a script. Why? Because:

  • You’ll break eye contact. 
  • You’ll be focused on the words instead of the person. 
  • We all know no one is ever perfect in normal conversation, presenting on a stage, or even on camera. 
  • It kills your vocal charisma.
  • It’s distracting.

The more naturally you can speak, the more charismatic you will come across to your listener. 

What if you have some stumbles and pauses? So what! In fact, it is your stumbles, pauses, and other imperfections that people will relate to … not your perfectly scripted monologue. 

The more casual and less scripted your videos are, the more natural you’ll come across. Yes, it takes some confidence. Yes, you might outline your video so you know where you’re going with it. But, no, you won’t read a script on camera.

Determine who the video is for, what value you can bring that person, the one or two points you want to hit, and what your call to action is. Create a little cheat-sheet outline if you must. But don’t write or read a script. It won’t be as natural and people will sense that.

6) Talk to one person

When you can, send personal, one-to-one videos – they’re more effective. These types of videos allow you to make your recipient feel special. They will appreciate the time you took to record a video specifically for them (even when it’s faster than typing!). These videos also give you an opportunity to weave in personal details and sparks that elicit positive dopamine responses as well. For example, “I just saw all the photos you uploaded from your Mediterranean cruise. It looks like you put together an amazing vacation for your family!” 

However, I understand that sometimes you need to send videos to more than one person or to record a video once and use it over and over again. When you record those videos, treat them the same way you would treat a one-to-one video (minus the specific personal details). Think about one person in that group, list, or segment. Talk to him or her conversationally, as if you were talking to them over coffee or lunch. It will feel more personal and, by the way, each of them is probably watching it alone. It’s about connecting with each person, so approach it that way. 

7) Lighting: Know where it is

If you’re recording indoors, lighting can dramatically improve the quality of your videos. But you don’t need a “light kit” or anything fancy. The key thing to remember here is that the light is being directed on you, rather than too far from the side, or worse, from behind you. You can achieve this by positioning a lamp in front of you, closing blinds to shut out light from a window directly behind you, orienting yourself toward a window or other light source, or relocating outside where you have natural light around you!

While you can always add lighting to your setup, you can normally get away with the lighting that you already have. If it’s a nice day, sit near a window. If you need a little more light on one side of you, add a lamp. If you’re shooting outside, shoot shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset (typically 7-9am or 5-7pm are pretty good times). A little cloud cover can actually be helpful to filter out and knock down harsh, direct sunlight.

Know where the light is and orient yourself toward it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we do have to see you.

8) Practice, practice, practice to build confidence and success

Your first video is probably going to feel awkward — especially for all of us recovering awkward people. But you can push through. And by “practice,” I don’t mean acting like you’re recording, or recording without sending… I mean record and send ‘practice’ videos, knowing that you’ll get better and better. Remember – practice builds confidence, and confidence builds success.

Don’t feel like you’re ready? For a low-stakes and effective way to practice, send your first 20 videos to your friends, family, or coworkers and just tell them how much you appreciate them. You’ll get more comfortable and they’ll be so excited to see you.

To start feeling more confident in a business sense, think of some of the most practical-use cases where you can see yourself using video. Some examples could be initial outreach, process updates, appointment confirmation, and thank-you videos 

See some example videos here

Pick one or two of these use cases and start creating videos around them. Once you get used to creating one type of video, it will flow naturally. Do actually send these videos, because it’s the responses and positive feedback that will actually fuel you and encourage you to continue sending video. The first time you receive an uplifting response like “that was the best email I’ve ever received,” or “thank you for making my day,” you’ll see the value in video, and you’ll never want to stop.

Bottom line: Your emails will stand out if you try something different. Video emails might be new to you, which makes them exciting and different for your clients, colleagues, and customers.

If you are on our newsletter, you know I send you videos all the time — and people love them. Send some videos and people will love yours too.

I had the pleasure of co-writing this article with Ethan Beute, Chief Evangelist at BombBomb. He is also the host of the Customer Experience Podcast and co-author of Rehumanize Your Business. Thanks, Ethan, for working with me on this! And this is not a sponsored post, I just really enjoy using BombBomb for adding video to email. So if you are interested: 

BombBomb knows that you’re better in person – and that any email you send can be warmer, more personal, and more effective when you restore its missing value … you! Easily record, send, and track video emails from Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, their mobile apps, their web apps, and many other places. They take all the guesswork and effort out of sending videos so you can focus on your recipients, your message, and your results.


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