Vlogging And Storytelling
I'm very, very excited today because I have a guest presenter that's gonna come up and talk about storytelling. Someone who has been an incredible student of vlogging, and that is my creative director at Aftermarq, Jason Yarborough. He's had quite a bit of experience, but I would call him a video storytelling expert at this point, because he's done his homework, and he really gets what it means to share something but dress it up, so that it's something people want to watch, not just something they want to get. Does that make sense? Wonderful. He's worked with a lot of amazing brands, and I love him to pieces, and he's getting married the weekend after me, so we have all these things in common. Jason Yarborough, would you mind joining us? (applause)
Take it away.
We're gonna talk about storytelling, I'll save you the details of what I've done. We are visual storytellers, that's why we're here, that's what you want to learn about, so let's talk a ...
little bit about visual storytelling and how we shape those stories and what that begins to look like, so for me, as a visual storyteller, my job, your job, is to make your audience, your viewer, think to themselves, what does it feel like to be in this video? What does it feel like for me to put myself in this vlog, in this video? Or in some cases, what does it feel like to put my life in this scenario this person is presenting through this video? So if you watch a lot of motivational speakers, a lot of talkers, they'll start talking about this life that you can create, and so you start to think to yourself, what does it look like for me to put myself in that situation? What does it feel like? So we want to begin to evoke emotion, and get some investment from your audience, and the storytellers begin to put themselves in that place. And really, if you think about it, every story has a structure. So as you begin to take your audience down this path, down this road of what it feels like to be in this story, think about the structure of story that we all know. It's very basic, really, it's a beginning, it's a middle, and it's an end. And really, I like the way that Casey Neistat recently put it, he said it's like Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill went up the hill, the beginning. To fetch a pail of water, the middle. Jack fell down, broke his crown, Jill came tumbling after, the end. That's basic storytelling structure right there. You know, and if you think about it in those terms, it's a little bit easier to begin to take people down that path. So let's look at what that looks like from a storytelling standpoint, and kind of how I look at storytelling, using just a bare basic storytelling approach. And honestly, if you think about a storytelling approach, like for me, sometimes they set it up, the beginning is the opening. You know, it's the setup. Most storytellers and most writers say, act one is your setup. You're getting everybody set up, you're bringing them into the story. You know, so for me it could be the teaser, it could be the big question, it could be, you know, where you're gonna take your audience, and how you're gonna set them up emotionally to get there, right? So for me, in my vlogs, what I'll think about is, how do I pull you into the story, you know, visually? I'm gonna share my surroundings. I'm gonna share the motions that are happening around. Maybe I'm in a coffee shop, and I'm gonna, you know, give you some footage of there. Maybe that, I'm gonna reference my last vlog a lot, because it's one that I really put a lot of thought into, and you'll find out why in a little bit, but I thought about, how do I pull you into where I'm getting ready to go? A lot of my vlogs and videos revolve around travel. Travel and where I'm going, what I'm doing. So how do I pull you into that experience that something great's about to happen, but I've got to go somewhere first, I've got to get there first. I'm bringing you into the surroundings. And you know, that could look like anything. Like, I'm outside loading my car, next to my car, talking, telling you what I'm about to do, about the question I'm about to ask. And what I'm doing there is, I'm introducing myself to you. So, you know, a really important part of the opening act, that very first set, is the investment of character. You know, you want to get them invested in you, as the hero of this story. So I might do vlogs on the regular, Amy might do vlogs on the regular, well, Amy does them a lot more regular than I do, but, you know, that's why she's the vlog boss. But every time, she has to set herself up to you as the hero of this story, because we tell a lot of stories. So each story has to be different, and each story requires a new hero. One of my favorite investments of character was "Lost", anybody a fan of "Lost"? JJ Abrams? So the very first opening act was Jack Shephard, saving lives, plane's blowing up, people are dying everywhere, and he's just running around. We're getting invested in him as the hero of the story. He's running around, we know that we have no clue what's going on, but we know there's a hero. We know there's an investment of character taking place right in front of us. So set that up, shape yourselves, shape the story, maybe it's not about you, maybe it's someone that's using your product, or using your brand, your message, shape them as the hero. But when you're doing all this shaping, all this setting up, leave us a little mystery, okay? So the next is, don't over tell. I think the storytellers and marketers and visual people, we have the tendency to feel like we have to tell you everything, like I am very guilty of that, and I've learned a lot from Amy about how to be a little more concise, because when I first started vlogging, I was like, blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, that's just, I'm talking, I'm talking, I'm talking, and you just kind of get lost. You get bored, you check out. It's fine, it happened in my earlier vlogs, you just check out, you know? So don't feel like you have to over tell. And here's what I want you to take home is, don't disrespect the audience. Don't think they can't put the pieces together to shape the story for themselves. So you don't have to over tell. Don't disrespect the audience by thinking they can't put the pieces together for themselves. This is a little equation. I was never really great at math. Imagination equals mystery, equals creating the story on their own. So when you cut out some of those pieces that you feel like you have to over tell, you begin to let the person shape the story on their own, and where that starts at is their imagination. When you don't over tell, you leave some pieces to the imagination to begin to shape the story, to tell the story themselves, put themselves in the story, where it's going, what I feel like while I'm in the story, and then it begins to leave them a little bit of mystery. You know, I mentioned JJ Abrams a minute ago, he's the king of leaving mystery in his stories. And I'm a big fan of his, a big student of his, he leaves a lot of mystery. It all starts by getting into our imagination of what it's like to be in the story. Then it goes into the mystery. Then from there, it also begins to get into our own minds, we begin to invest in the character in the story, and our emotions get riled. You know, we begin to create the story on our own. That's why we love movies, because we can get invested in these things, and we have no idea what's going on, we're invested, we're like, ugh, this is what it's gonna be like, this is what I'm thinking, and those movies that are predictable, we don't like so much. At least I don't. I'm not a big fan of predictable movies. So, first act of a story, the opening, the setup, the shaping. Second, is the experiential moment. Some storytellers, you know, traditional storytellers will call this your conflict. I have a problem with that, because sometimes my vlogs don't always have conflicts. Sometimes I just, you know, wanna share my journey of what it looks like to go to Jackson Hole, or to stay in this incredible hotel that I got to stay in, so I don't always have a conflict. But I do have an experiential moment that I want you to experience once we get there. I do have that moment of, oh, wow, this is what he's talking about, this is how he gets there. I want you to think about your stories, when you get to that big part, that you want the viewer to really take part in, as an experience. Not so much a conflict, I'm sure there can be a conflict, maybe your brand message who has a, you know, we have this problem, and our product can do this to solve that problem. Or maybe you're just going somewhere, and you're like, this is what I was talking about, this is what I was trying to paint the picture of. Maybe you can call it that aha moment. I'm gonna reference a Snapchat story I did a while back, it was pretty great. I used to do a lot of Snapchat stories, that's kinda how I got started working in video, working with brands, was by Snapchatting the stories that I would put together. And so, there was a story, it was just, it was a, it just happened, alright? So my friend's cat got stuck in a tree, and Savannah, you might remember this story. My friend's cat got stuck up in this tree, and it would not come down. We tried everything, treats, tuna, you know, balls, whatever, it just would not come down. And I felt bad, because my dog ran up the tree, but you know, anyway. So I'm like, oh, this is so, we're trying to figure this out, and my friend Matt, he's just like, he's, I'm just gonna say it, he's a gorgeous Italian man with long hair, great accent, I'm like, I hate you, you know. (laughter) So he's here tying to figure out how to get this thing down, he's like, "Alright, I've got it, I'm gonna build some stuff "to get this cat down," I'm like, "Oh, hold up, we're documenting this." so the whole part, I never showed the cat in the tree, I just start off by us walking outside and looking for things, and gathering pieces, gathering, you know, hammers, nails, drills, wood, anything we can get our hands on. And then, I'm showing Matt talking about what he's building, but not for the point of why he's building it, because Matt's a gorgeous Australian male with long hair and a great accent, I want you to invest in him as a character. And so we keep going through this process, and finally, I get to that aha moment, like we built this probably 26 foot plank to try to get a cat to walk out of a tree, and stick it out of a window, see if he can walk out the window, but it wouldn't, and finally, I reveal to you that we're trying to get a cat out of the window, or out of the tree, sorry. And I never had, I probably ended my Snapchat story, so many people responded to that story who were like, oh my god, I have no idea why I just watched a six minute Snapchat story of you trying to get a cat out of a tree, but I did. Because I followed the story structure, I set you up for something that was about to happen, then I invested you into this gorgeous Australian man with long hair and a great accent, building this plank to get a cat out of a tree. Then I revealed to it, and by that time, we've got treats on the plank to get him to walk out, we've got all these things going on, and so you're invested into the story, and you're watching it, and you're trying to figure out if the cat's gonna come out of the tree. The cat eventually did come out of the tree, like six hours later. The next one is, "Sam, will you marry me?" My most recent vlog is this, this topic. This is another one of those stories that I set up. I got you set up for what's about to happen. We had to go somewhere, and I had a question to ask. So I set you up for that. In the beginning, I was like, we're loading up our cars, I'm a huge fan of tree houses. My vlog starts out that way, I get the chance to go stay in this tree house, and I'm talking about traveling and the things on my bucket list, and then I get to when I'm like, but here's the thing. I have a question to ask Sam, but she doesn't know about it yet, and neither did you. All I said was, I have a question to ask her. And so we travel, I show you all the clips of us getting there, and pulling into the tree house, and then you guys all know that I'm about to ask her a question. She has no clue, and then I'm not gonna play the audio of this, because I don't really wanna kill the vibe of the room, because I'll probably cry, you'll probably cry, it's really a sweet, tender moment. I'm just going to give you the play by play. So this is the moment where I have a question to ask Sam, and you know, I'm crying, she's "holy beep", I've got you set up for this one moment. And this is where I say, everything that you say when you're asking your best friend, your girlfriend, to marry you. And she's, you know, freaking out. And you're getting emotional, like really, oh my god, what's about to happen, what's gonna happen? This is the moment you've been waiting for, this is what I'm setting you up for, and then all of a sudden, I cut to this. There's great music behind it, that really matches our personality, if you know us, if you follow my vlog, it's kind of really fun and exciting. This is a clip of all the adventures we've been on in the last two years. So you were expecting me to say, "Sam, will you marry me?" You just kinda had an idea, because if you know me and Sam, no surprise. But what you didn't expect was to be hit with this, and to be emotionally charged even more. I'm crying in the beginning, then all of a sudden, will you marry me, and you're like, is he gonna say it, and then this happens. You're not exactly expecting this, you know, really cheesy, goofy, nice montage to hit. But I give you that, because I want you more emotionally invested into the story. Into what's happening, into what's going on. Of course, it ends, she says yes, we all cry, we all celebrate. But what I did after this montage, if you're watching, there's music playing. I kept that music playing. Once this part's going, that same music is still playing, she's freaking out, I'm crying, the music's still playing, you're still in that moment from when I cut to that montage, because I've kept you emotionally there with just one simple tool, as a song, as a sound. You kinda get the point. And that sound, that song, that's just one piece of what I like to call the in between spaces. And that's where your goal, with your magic, your life begins to happen, is those in-between spaces. The things that we most often overlook, or maybe even call B-roll. You know, there's all sorts of ways to weave a story together in these in between spaces. So don't disregard those in between spaces. Think about how you can weave the story together in those in between spaces of, you know, when we were traveling to this tree house in Chattanooga, I'm talking to her, we're having this conversation in the car, I'm asking what she thinks about the tree house. In your mind you're thinking, oh girl, if you only knew. But that's an in between space. I'm building you into that story even more, emotionally charging you. Third is the close, the end. So one, the opening, two, the middle, three, the close, the end. And this is kind of that moment you've been building up to the entire time. You know, that moment that you want to say, this is what I want you to think about when you leave here. You know, if it's that proposal video, just thinking that, these guys finally got engaged. This is a happy ending. You know, there's all sorts of endings and closes, we'll get to in a second, but that one in particular was the happy ending. You know, it's the resolution, it's the summary, it's the finale, it's how you wrap it all up. You know, when you close, you kind of want people to think you know, one thing or another, whether for me it's a lot of happy endings, or for me it could be, I want you to get out and explore your experiences. I want you to get out and explore, I want you to experience some adventure, to travel. That's kind of what I'm getting you in that mindset and model to do, is you know, one of my videos that has the most traction is a video about a hotel, and I'm just encouraging you to stay in a hotel, and it's a beautiful place. You know, this tree house, it'll be the next video I post, and at the end of it is like, listen, get out and explore these places, get out and do these things. You know, thank you to Dove for allowing me to be in this house, and it's, you know, it's giving praise, it's repping a product, it's giving a happy ending. I just found this new vlogger, his name's Kyle, and I'm fascinated with him, just simply fascinated with his storytelling. It's kinda the same mode as I am, it's all travel and it's adventure, and he's outdoors, he's fishing, he's building a house, he's driving his Land Rover. Simple, he's doing voiceover for most of it. But what he does at the end is so brilliant to me. One of the ones I just recently watched is, he had been on this two week trip, and his dog was staying at his parents', and so he was going home to pick up his dog. And he's walking up to the house, and he's like, "Oh, I haven't seen Buster in two weeks, "and man, I can't wait to tell you what happened next." Close, I was like, god, you just came home to a dog, and I just wanna know what happened. You've left me hanging that bad, I just wanna know what happened, all your dog probably did was jump on you, but, "I can't wait to tell you what happened next." He left this sort of cliffhanger. He left us wanting to know more, wanting to be more involved in that story. And that's where you want to leave your viewers, wanting more. You know, for Amy's content, she's always building us into learning, and leading us down this path of learning more. And I want to continue to learn more, as I become hopefully a better storyteller, a better vlogger, a better creator on YouTube. You know, they can take the notion from Glengarry Glen Ross, of "Always Be Closing". There's a really popular tactic in speakers of motivational speaking, evangelists, pastors, preachers, those kinda people is that, when they get to a certain point in their talk, they're like, "We're closing soon, we're closing soon", and they get to the last point, they'll say, "I'm gonna close with this." They wanna bring you in to everything that you just listened to and you just heard, and make it really powerful with one last applicable approach. So there's a reason, there's a factor into why they let you know they're closing. Because they want you to begin to wrap everything up into what they're about to say, and it's more emotionally charged, you're emotionally invested. The character is drawn in, the investment of experience is drawing in, and it's all meaning something. But then there's, you know, my endings. The happy ever afters. You know, get out there and do something great, go have fun, go explore, go adventure, go do this. The point is, always be closing, so think about where you're going with your close, and I'll close with this: My fiancee, that's fun to say, when we were dating, we took a road trip out west to Montana last summer, we lived there for five months, and the point was to document the whole thing. So we vlogged every leg of our trip, five legs, and at the end of it, I kinda knew where I was going with it. Again, I just cued up some music. It kind of had been playing throughout, but you kind of miss out on the music playing, and then at the end, the whole song was one that I still keep playing, and we just are leaving meeting her parents, seeing them for the first time, and then we talked about how it was so great, and it was such a fun trip, you know? However many miles it was, we just had a great time, and then it cuts to me in the backyard of our new house, and I'm like, I really don't know any other way other than to finish the trip off like this. And again, I cut to some great music, with a very quick montage of every fun little moment that happened along the way, and it took about 50 seconds, and it was like (loud exhaling), and again, brought that whole thing back. If you'd watched all those vlogs, it brought that whole experience back, and again, it's one of those that I watched and I cried. I don't know if you haven't got it yet, I'm a very emotional person, very proud of that fact. I cried watching a montage of us traveling cross-country, and it was great, I showed you all those clips that you probably would've remembered if you watched those vlogs, and to that same final point, the call to action, you wanna factor into your formula, as the vlog boss would put it, a call to action. As you're thinking about closing, what are you gonna close with? What is your point here, what are you going towards? You know, for me, it's those happy ever afters. It's those "Stay in these places, go do these things, "drive these cars, try this product." You know, I only work with brands that I'm very passionate about, that I really believe in, that I want you to experience for yourself. So I wanna encourage you to do those things. And maybe you're a marketer, and you're in business, and you know, we are obviously marketers in business that create video. So we have to factor in, you know, what are those happy endings for a business? So let's talk about a few happy endings that you could factor in to both your own personal work, your brand's work, your business work, whatever that might be. And I promise, we are closing with this. And if you're curious, yes, I did used to be a motivational speaker, and yes, I did used to use that tactic. Step one, close the story. Not all happy endings require some sort of great, "Go do this, go buy this product," but if it's a great story, like Blake and I were geeking out the other day over a video that Pedigree put out, about one of the general's dogs had gotten lost on the front line, and they had already surrendered to the other general, but the dog happened to cross enemy lines, the enemy took the dog, and the general that lost said, "No, don't keep the dog for any purposes, send it back." And so he wrote a note, and sent the dog back to the other general. And the end of the story was, dogs bring us all closer together. Right? I did the same thing. (audience laughter) I was like, mm! Don't cry over a dog food commercial, this is okay! It increased brand awareness. That was the point for me, like, I don't feed my dog Pedigree, but I was like, I wonder if Pedigree's actually a good dog food, because I like this story. It increased brand awareness for me. Ask a question to generate engagement. You know, you do a fantastic job of this. Asking those questions that create engagement. Asking those questions that actually get engagement. You know, your first few times you ask questions may not get engagement. That's fine, you're learning your audience. But continue asking those questions, and getting people engaged. The more you ask those questions, and the more answers you get, the more you understand what types of content your consumers like the most. If they're engaging, they like it. If they're not engaging, they probably don't like it, and you probably don't wanna create that much of that sort of content. Three, encourage audience to view testimonials from real users. You know, Blake and I have done a lot of these things where we put together some testimonials, and you know, it could be us talking about our brand, our message, our product, but then it ends with a real person using the product in real life, and what that looks like. It kind of answers that question like, yeah, sure, okay, great, you're talking about this product, but is it good for me? Oh, there's a real person, at least I think it's a real person, let's see how they're using it. Okay, great. You know, it's great to always bring in third parties, to kind of validate what you're talking about, and especially if they're real users. Send viewers to your website to check out new products or deals. You know, if you've got a viewer, if you've got someone engaged, and they've made it to the end of your video, they're bought into you. They're emotionally invested into you. To you as the character, to you as the hero, and you as the experience. They wanna know more about what you've got here. You know, I kinda wanted to click on Pedigree and see what was going on there, and check out more of what they had, and why they're telling such great, emotionally charged stories. Send viewers to a landing page to perform an action for the purpose of lead generation. So the whole end goal of, you know, most marketers and most businesses, is to capture leads and to create new business, and recurring business. And there's fantastic ways to just ship people over to your site and create these landing pages that allow you just to capture their information really quickly. You know, a real solid tactic for Amy and myself, marketers, other people, are to, you know, talk about the book, or an e-book, or a webinar, or anything, like, Blake and I do a lot of trailers for our blog posts and webinars that we do. You know, we want you to sign up for these things, so we can have your information as marketers. So we're gonna tell you more stories, and to share more stories with you to get you further entrenched in our brand. Offer viewers specific discounts. If you just took, if you're a marketer of your brand, and they're watching your videos, give them specific YouTube discounts. "Hey, this is only available for my YouTube viewers, "my video audience, Facebook videos," whatever it might be. "You're watching these videos, I'm so grateful, "thank you so much, I've got this book, "here's 20 percent off." And to view your big content pieces, a very popular marketing tactic from when I used to run a conference, is we used to put out one huge piece of content. It could have been the conference, it could have been like a massive webinar with big brands, but what we did was we were trying to drive all our traffic to this big piece of content. We would do webinars, we would do podcasts, we would do interviews, everything for the sake of driving people to this big piece of content. So for our conference, we would do all these things. We would do as much as we could to drive people to sign up and pay for our conference, and the whole point of creating all this content was to get them there. It could've been our Snapchat stories, it could've been our live videos on blab, or whatever it was we were doing back then. It could've been just the quick little ads we were putting out. All those things would've drawn people to that one big piece of content that we wanted people to engage and take part in. And so really, you know, we've talked about the opening, the beginning. We talked about the middle, the experiential moment. We talked about the end, the close, and as you begin to leave and go home and start shaping your stories, start your three call to actions, you know, begin to think about the stories that you know and you understand. You know, Jack and Jill went up the hill, or even, Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, that's the beginning. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king's men and all the king's horses, the in between spaces, couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The end. You know, you can think as simple and as basic as that, then begin to structure your stories. You know, my hope, as this section comes to an end, is that you leave telling better stories that create bigger experiences, and that's it. We have questions?
[Woman In Audience] As a visual storyteller, do you always match your headshot? (laughter)
I knew someone was gonna say that. Yes, I try to, so that you kind of get emotionally invested into me as a character from the beginning. Like, this is actually him. I believe him, he has some authority, and this is validating, he is in the same gray Lululemon shirt.
We had a question come up from Matthew, who's watching online, who wants to know, is a website necessary to build your video brand? I mean, you do a lot on YouTube, do you think it's important to have a separate website, or can you keep everything contained on YouTube?
I think it's important. I do have a site that I don't spend as much time on as I do my videos, which, thewildletters.com, and you know, sometimes I'll post those videos there and I'll kind of elaborate more into what the experience was, but you know, especially if you have an end goal, right? So Amy has the end goal of books and speaking, and I have the end goal of doing brand work and creating brand content, so I wanna be able to have a a place to drive people to. So especially if you're thinking about your semi-happy endings, you know, what is your happy ending gonna look like? For me, is it building a bigger audience that I could do some emails to? Is it a bigger audience that I begin to sell product to? What does that look like for you? If you're just, for the sake of having videos, no harm, no foul, there. But if you want to drive people somewhere down the road eventually, then I think you need to have, you know, that main hub. Because, you know, really, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, they're all spokes to a bigger hub, and that bigger hub, should be understood from you what that is.
Hi, my question is, in terms of storytelling, I'm wanting to do more education-based kind of sit down in front of camera on a specific topic. Less traditional vlog style.
But I really like your suggestions for techniques for engagement. Can you give some suggestions for how maybe I could think about it differently, to keep it as engaging but more on education type specific topic?
For me it's like, we used to do a lot of interviews and podcasts, and some of the podcasts I listen to the most now, like, it can be interviews, it can be just talks. And I think some of these podcasters out there, I'm a big fan of Jonathan Fields, I think he's a fantastic storyteller, and he always keeps you just emotionally charged into what he's talking about. You know, if it's an interview, you don't get the feeling that he is just, oh, I got this question, I got this question, I got this question, I gotta get through these questions. No, he's like, he'll start off with just a question, and then he'll let it unfold from there. So you get the feeling that he doesn't even know where this interview or this talk is going to go, and he's just as curious as is anybody, and if you look at Anthony Bourdain, I use him a lot as an example. He's, what makes him so great? If you just break it down, I don't think he's that great of an on-air personality, but he's just so genuinely curious. He's just genuinely curious. And your job as storytellers is to keep us emotionally invested into what you're presenting, what you're telling us. You know, so for him, he keeps us just as curious as him, because he's asking the questions that we're thinking. You know, if you're teaching, then you're teaching us the things that we're wanting to know, but just, you're keeping us emotionally charged as a presenter. So we can only go as far as you can go, as the storyteller. So as far as you can go is where we'll go, if that makes sense.
Thank you, Yarby, we gotta keep things moving, but if people wanna stay in touch with you, is your YouTube channel the best way for them to connect with you?
Yeah, that's great, YouTube, JYarby. Twitter, @Yarby.
Wonderful, well, thank you so much, let's give Yarby a round of applause. (applause)
Thank you, guys.
Awesome, who's excited to tell a story now? Right? You know what I like about this is, Yarby is so good at tapping into that visual imagination. And I like to think I have a little bit of that up my sleeve, but I can't articulate it the same way. What I can do is sort of outline it into a formula, because that's what I like to hack, but everything he just talked about is going to really play into this, so keep in mind those things. And that was a great question from Jody, because you know, we think, oh, we're just gonna get on camera, we're just gonna talk, and it seems very simple, where is the storytelling behind that? But that's where the imagination needs to come into play here, with how we can make this even more fun.