Crafting the Video Holiday Greeting

Let’s be honest — sending out individual greeting cards all on your own can be a hassle. I always run out of steam after card number five, and most of my cards end up going out a few days late. Luckily, there are a lot of great alternatives now to paper cards, but one option you can use instead of (or in addition to) paper cards is the video greeting.

If you’re looking for a creative way to reach family, friends, connections, clients and customers during the holiday, a video greeting can be a great option. All you have to do is post it to the web or email it out in a newsletter. And while it may not seem as personal, if you put a lot of yourself or your company into the video, you’ll be sure to get a few laughs or smiles. Good videos get attention — and it will keep your audience talking. Think of it as an opportunity to tell the story of your past year, or share what is coming in the new year.

So what kinds of video greetings can you create? Here’s a few suggestions and examples:

Family Holiday Greeting — You can send out your own family greeting on video. You can either do a slideshow of still images, or actually shoot a holiday-themed video, complete with script. I found this great example from a company called Moving Portraits in San Francisco: http://vimeo.com/53998653. You can easily find a local company that does this.

Personal Holiday Greeting — A lot of individuals building a personal brand or blog like to send these out, but you can also send one out for fun. Again, you can use stills or shoot a video yourself. Let people know what you’ve been up to, and thank them for being a friend, customer, reader, etc.

Small Business/Non-Profit/Corporate Greeting — For businesses and organizations, you can use video greetings in a few ways:

  • To say happy holidays to your employees or customers
  • To say thank you to customers you’ve worked with
  • To greet potential new customers, and boost those end-of-year sales numbers
  • To ask for an end-of-year donation, if you’re a non-profit
  • To give your employees/coworkers a laugh at the holiday party

For the video, you can get as technical or involved as you want — you use still images collected throughout the year, or shoot a video with your whole office. Here’s a few things you can try in a video:

  • Sing a song
  • Write a brief sketch
  • Give a communal greeting from the lobby
  • Have individuals speak their message or give their appeal

And finally, here are a few real life examples. These are a few good holiday greetings from businesses and a nonprofit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjFg5M_KPxQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xsf2A9Y5eY

http://vimeo.com/8043373

You have a lot of great options when it comes to creating a holiday video, and if you’re trying to do it yourself, finding templates or images online is fairly easy. You can create simple slideshows without doing a whole video shoot. Here’s one option: http://animoto.com.

If you do want to shoot a video and don’t have the proper equipment, look for small production companies or freelance videographers in your area. I shot a corporate holiday greeting last year, and am hoping to take on new clients this holiday season — particularly nonprofits and small businesses/entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in shooting a video and are in the Chicago area, send me an e-mail, and I can send you some samples of my work. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about holiday video greetings.

Happy Holidays!

Single in the Suburbs: Must Love Books

It has been awhile since I last updated my Single in the Suburbs series, but I assure you it’s because I’ve been busy networking, meeting new friends, and attending plenty of singles events and mixers. And I’ve learned one thing during this time: the next guy I date must love books.

A couple of months ago, I was set up on a blind date. I figured I might as well give it a shot. Besides, what else would I be doing? Likely sitting at home and watching a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress. So, I put on one of my best date outfits and headed to the city.

Within the first hour of the date, my love for writing and books had come up as a topic of conversation. My date’s response was, admittedly, disappointing: “I haven’t read a book since college,” he said.

Having just completed a graduate degree in writing, the idea of not having read a single book in four to six years was completely foreign to me. How would one spend their free time, how would one pass the hours on a airplane, on a train? In that moment, I realized my date and I likely had little to nothing in common. My life seems to revolve around and be consumed with stories, and here was a man who didn’t really make time for it. Sure, he probably watched movies and received stories in other ways, but clearly the passion for it just wasn’t there. How would he understand how I chose to spend my time?

I’ve learned since then to look for men who not only appreciate literary culture, but who have stories of their own. At a speed dating event, I was talking with a man who, once he heard I was a writer, asked, “So do you tend to like men who have a good story?”

After taking a moment to think, I admitted that actually yes, I like a man with a good story behind him. In fact, the story might be what first attracts me to someone. I’ve developed crushes on men simply from reading their writing, reading their stories.

But let’s be clear on one thing: I’m not talking about the kinds of stories some men tell me — the time he got super drunk, got super high on a drug, got caught in the middle of a knife fight or spent the night in jail. I’m talking about the stories that require taking real risks that matter, stories that show some vulnerability and are worthy of admiration: starting his own company, writing his first book, changing careers. What is his story — or does he just go to work from nine to five and go home to the TV and a beer?

My love for good stories consumes more of my life than I realized. It isn’t just in my work and my hobbies — it’s what I look for in relationships. It may seem like strange or harsh criteria, but it could be the key to me finding someone with whom I’m truly compatible. What can I say? I love a good man with a good story.

What a Storyteller is Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope all of you are relaxing and enjoying this time with family and friends. If you’re like me and working in a little personal writing and editing projects today, enjoy! For some reason, ever since I was a kid, I found holidays a great time to sneak in a little writing or reading that I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t yet. So if you’re sneaking off after all that food to read or write a little, I’m with you!

I’ve had a lot to be thankful for this past year — all the new, fantastic and passion-filled projects I’ve had a chance to work on; all the great organizations, clubs and small businesses I’ve engaged with; all the new friends and connections I’ve met — but I want to turn my focus today on what a storyteller is thankful for (or for what a storyteller is thankful, but seriously, no one would say that in daily speech). As writers, filmmakers and editors, it’s important to take time and recognize the people and groups who help our projects come to life. The following list is from my perspective, but I hope my fellow writers and storytellers will agree on some of these:

  • Our God-given talent and passion. Obviously, we wouldn’t be who we are without our love for stories and our ability to communicate them to our audience. This is something nobody can take away from us, unless we get in our own way. Remember that!
  • Mentors. I am certainly thankful for my family, friends, bosses and professors who encouraged me along the way, and who, to this day, continue to support my endeavors.
  • Our community and peers (including all writing programs). Our community of writers and storytellers is vital to our success, whether we found them on our own or through formal writing programs. Regardless of which types of stories we tell, we all understand each other and what it’s like to hit a rough patch. We are also the first to support each other — the Chicago writing scene is proof of that. I am certainly thankful for the writing community that has sprung up in Chicago and which hosts many great events to support local writers.
  • Independent presses and other independent groups. Independent, small businesses are a great home for us. Gone are the days when you could only see success with a big, corporate entity. Small and independent is the way to go, and it will help ensure your project is seen and heard in a way that makes you proud.
  • Our critics. Yeah, they suck and they make us angry, but we wouldn’t be where we are without our critics. Maybe we learned a valuable lesson from them, or maybe they are just excellent motivators. If all people did was praise us, would we keep going? Or would we just get bored and have nothing to say?
  • People who have ridiculously loud public conversations or act ridiculous in public. Seriously, you get so many great ideas from these people! You can form a whole character based on something you heard on the street — or you end up with a great idea for a documentary.
  • The Legends. Let’s not forget the ones who came before us and who continue to inspire to us. They are likely the people whose work you go to when you need a lift, and they are probably the ones who wrote the book of advice you’ve come to rely on. (Anyone else a huge fan of Bird by Bird?)
  • Our subjects and our audience. Nonfiction storytellers are always grateful for those who took the time to share their stories with us, so that we might share them with others. And of course, don’t forget the people who listen to all of our stories — they are the ones who keep us going, and who we also hope to help in some way.

So, storytellers, what did I miss? I hope you all enjoy your holiday, and that it leaves you with many stories to tell!