Why You Don’t Need a Persona or Perfection for Good Videos

June 28th, 2018

Have you ever tried to record a video and struggled with who or how to be?
Should you just be your natural self? Should you have a video “persona” that’s based in who you are but has a little something extra? Do you have to put on a “show” to have good videos?

Have you ever recorded a video and wondered if it was good enough to send or to upload?
Should you re-record it? Must you work out each little imperfection? Where’s the bar for “good enough” in good videos?

These are two of the primary hurdles facing people who know they’d be more effective by mixing in some video in place of some of the plain, typed-out text they rely on every day, but struggle to get comfortable on camera and confident about their videos.

I’ve published on these topics many times before (I’ll add some links to the bottom of this post), but listening back on a great episode of a long-time favorite podcast gave me new language and new insights from expert communicators that I think you’ll find helpful.


Hosted by Mitch Joel, Episode 520 of Six Pixels of Separation features guests Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez. And, among many other topics, they talk perfection and persona in presentations.

Both women write, present, consult, and teach about incorporating story into business communication and presenting persuasively. Among their many accomplishments (like Nancy writing the Harvard Business Review Guide to Persuasive Presentations), they co-wrote Illuminate, a book about inspiring people to support and execute your vision. They draw from Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and others to explain communication strategies for change and transformation.

Below is a 12-minute excerpt of the episode (hear the complete recording from June 2016 right here). It’s followed by some key quotes and top takeaways about the superiority of authenticity, passion, and conviction over rehearsal and acting.


Good Presentations and Good Videos


I’ve been listening to Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation podcast for years. He’s been podcasting and blogging longer than nearly everyone in the space, cultivates a great guest list, and produces valuable conversations.

For this post, I edited the full episode down to the portion most relevant to people communicating through video. They’re talking primarily about presenting to an audience on stage, but the themes translate directly to recorded video messages.

You can hear it by playing the video embedded above – and get some takeaways from it below.


Good Videos Lack a Persona

The conversation picks up in the excerpt above as Mitch asks Nancy about speakers and presenters trying to be Steve Jobs, trying to be Apple, trying to be a TED talk, or trying to be all of them. In otherwords: trying to be something they’re not.

“Apple and TED – they really have helped set a bar for how people present,” replies Nancy. That TED won a Peabody Award was “a real tribute to the power of the spoken word and what a great job it can do.”

In trying to record and send more effective videos, we should definitely look to people who are doing it successfully. But just as Apple CEO Tim Cook initially mimicked Steve Jobs before stepping out of Jobs’s shadow and finding his own voice and presence on stage, you need to be yourself.

“When people are trying to mimic someone else, they’re not their true self – and that comes through. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to study great communicators … you should take the findings from them, but not try to be them.”

Patti adds that “not everybody can be that person. TED presentations set a really high bar, but everybody doesn’t have to be able to communicate on that level to be persuasive.” And what makes a video good – especially a simple, personal video sent through email, text, or social – beyond successfully persuading or influencing its viewer?

Storytelling or using a more narrative than informative structure in your videos can help be more emotionally engaging way, but “that doesn’t mean you have to be the showman at the pinnacle of Steve Jobs to be effective as a communicator.”

When you hit record, you needn’t put on a persona or character that’s part you and part someone or something else. You just need to be you.


Good Videos Lack Perfection

Toward the end of the clip embedded above, Mitch and Nancy talk about conviction and overacting.

“Sometimes coaches will give speakers advice about actions they can perform, stances that they can take, while they’re presenting that will give the illusion of confidence or authority,” says Nancy. But without conviction, “the audience can smell that the speaker doesn’t actually believe what they’re saying, so no amount of power gestures is going to make up for that.”

People can your passion and sincerity – or its absence.

If you truly believe in the value you provide through your product or service, talk in your videos from that place. When you share a message you personally connect with, you’re “speaking with more authority about the things you really believe in.” People can feel that difference.

“I think what we’re really talking about is authenticity. It’s a lot more attractive than acting.”

Even among TED Talk presenters, this has become a challenge. “Everything’s so polished and fake. I’m looking for that geeky scientist who looks like they’re about to pee their pants on the stage, but they’re so brilliant. And we’re not trying to shape them into something they’re not … we’re just craving a flawed human to get up and talk about great science.”

What’s attractive about authenticity, then, is the imperfection.


Overacting and Overcrafting

In pursuit of perfection, we overact in ways that detract from effective communication. We do the same thing in typed-out text – also to our detriment.

When Andrew Brodsky, Assistant Professor in the Management Department at the McCombs School of Business (University of Texas at Austin), conducted a study with the BombBomb community. Then a Harvard Business School doctoral candidate, Andrew collected mountains of data about typed-out emails, video emails, time spent, emotional affect, message effectiveness, and more.

In the abstract of the third chapter of his dissertation, he captured the problem of overcrafting in this way:

“In an experience sampling study, which captured email communication in real time, I find that workers will often engage in overcrafting of email, whereby workers spend extra time crafting messages to the detriment of their productivity, message effectiveness, and wellbeing.”

Like overcrafting your emails, over-rehearsing and re-recording your videos is an act of impression management that can waste time, detract from the message, and increase anxiety.


Head and Heart

What we need to do with our videos is simply get out of our own heads. “There’s a moment the presenter has to have a personal breakthrough,” Nancy explains. “You can only rehearse so much and then you have to just throw your cares to the wind and just stand there from a place that’s not in your head but in your heart.”

This language may feel soft to some, but honesty and sincerity work. They’re at the heart (pun intended) of good presentations and good videos.

“There’s this place you speak from that I call conviction … I can actually feel it when I’m using my head or when I’m using my heart … I think we need to learn to do that.”

Not only can you feel when you’re speaking from conviction, your audience can, too.


If you believe in your product or service, you should use video to communicate, connect, and convert.
And should use video even if you’re not perfectly lit, posed, and spoken.
Conviction adds far more to good videos than the pursuit of perfection.


“Don’t Overthink It”

Again, the themes and topics here are familiar in this blog. And they’re familiar in the work and lives of our customers.

They’ve had to fight the pursuit of perfection and embrace imperfection. They’ve had to get out of their own heads and just be themselves. They’ve had to drop the script and speak from the heart.

Here’s a quick take from mortgage loan officer Eric Peltier with Citywide Home Loans in Boulder, Colorado:


In one line from Eric, here’s a great tip for good videos: “The more you overthink it, the more rehearsed it’s going to look and the less genuine.”


Get the Guide

Get more videos and tips from people like Eric to help you overcome your fear and gain confidence on camera.





Related Links

The Shiny/Authenticity Inversion

Vulnerability: The Deeper Reason You’re Not Sending Video

Reducing Image Quality to Build Trust

Unlocking Authority and Winning Influence with Video

Video in Sales: You Are a Pioneer


Try BombBomb Free

Ready to get face to face more often with the people who matter most to your business?

Once you start your two week free trial of BombBomb (no credit card required!), you’ll have everything you need – a webcam, smartphone, your true self, and your conviction!

Click here to get started!


Ethan Beute | About The Author

Marketing, branding, content. Writer, producer, editor. Photos and videos. Building campaigns. Tracking results. Background in local television station marketing and promotion. VP, Content and Communication, BombBomb. BA, University of Michigan. MBA, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.

The Salesperson's Guide to Video Cameras

Eliminate confusion and save time, brain power, and money with our exhaustive guide on how to pick the right video camera for the job.
Best of all, its FREE!