Style tips for nailing the MIT Sloan "Video Statement"

MIT Sloan is one of the top MBA programs in the country and has caused a decent amount of anxiety among its applicants for the Video Statement required in its application. The instructions are as follows:

Please introduce yourself to your future classmates via a brief 60 second video statement.  (This video will be used for application purposes only and will not be shared.) Videos should be a single take (no editing) lasting no more than one minute and consisting of you speaking directly to the camera. We recommend using an application such as QuickTime or iMovie to record yourself. 

Upload the video file according to the detailed instructions within the application.  We support the following file formats: .avi, .flv, .m1v, .m2v, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .mp4, .webm, .wmv

Should you experience difficulties uploading your file, please ensure that you're using a modern web browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) on the fastest wired Internet connection available. An intermittent or slow Internet connection can cause uploads to timeout. 

So how can you ensure that you nail this submission, given that you only have one take? Take a page out of the political campaign manual and study how political candidates sit for TV interviews. Here are a few stylistic tips:

obamaspeech.jpg

Set-up 

  1. Choose a plain background -- one in which no movement will occur. Ideally, your background would subtly connote a part of the personal narrative you will discuss in the video. 
  2. Raise your the camera up to eye level. You can do this by putting books under your laptop or using a portable camera. You don't want to be looking up or down at the camera.
  3. Make sure you have a soft light source aimed at your face (e.g. a lamp with a shade centered a couple feet behind your laptop). You don't want to be darkened or have sharp shadows over your body.

Posture 

  1. Lose any Apple earbuds, but ensure that whatever microphone you have can clearly pick up your voice and no ambient noise.
  2. It's fine to use hand gestures. If you do, make sure that they are visible on camera; you might need to bring your hands up a little higher than feels normal to accomplish this. What is critical is that in between gestures, you return your hands to your "resting position". We have the research on what focus groups say the best resting positions are and coach our clients to execute them flawlessly.
  3. Don't sit in a swivel chair. If you must, make sure to keep both feet planted on the ground and resist the urge to swivel.

Delivery 

  1. Speak clearly by annunciating every syllable, and speak a little slower than you think is just too slow. You'll be amped up and will naturally talk faster than you think. Practice inserting pauses between sentences and remember to wait a beat after you click record to ensure that the video will not cut off the beginning of your opening introduction.
  2. Write in short sentences. John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address was written so that he could look down at his script, pick up six words at a time, and deliver them. This simplicity and clarity of his speech earned it rave reviews.
  3. Memorize the script and deliver it looking directly into the camera. This will feel awkward but it will help maintain connection with your viewer.  Maintain your gaze with the pinhole of the camera and don't break it except to blink. Practice this a few times in advance.

Use these tips and you should be able the make the most of your content by establishing an authentic connection with the viewer.