Most explainers and other types of technology business video feature narration, frequently backed by a music track. But there are lots of uses for video where narration may not be desirable or feasible:

  • live presentations
  • video walls in conference rooms
  • trade shows
  • animations repurposed for articles, blog posts, etc.

The power of the unspoken word

I’ve always maintained that a good test of how well a video communicates is to watch it with the sound turned off. If you find yourself wondering what it’s trying to say, it’s probably not saying much you’ll remember. It’s not doing what video is best at: communicating visually.

Holding shorter attention spans

Of course, most of us do follow along with the narration of a short video. Silent films make viewers work harder. That’s why it makes sense to make them shorter.

When we’re asked to create a “silent” version for a trade show or other noisy, distraction-filled environment, we sometimes leave out the “problem statement” that kicks off most technology business videos. At trade shows, especially, people are there to sample what’s new. We figure it’s best to concentrate on the most intriguing features and most salient ideas.

This 2-Minute Explainer overview of the Brocade G620 switch describes the problems it solves, and how it solves them
This silent version of the video skips the “problem setup.” It is used in a video wall and at trade shows.

Capturing cost savings

It’s a good idea to consider repurposing when you plan a video project. Whatever you produce, repurposing adds to its value by reaching more customers at different times and in different contexts.

Producing a new “silent” version—or any other version—is basically just another edit. It’s the same as with messaging strategy documents, which usually contain elevator pitches in 30-second, 60-second, and 90-second versions. Why not use this approach with video? And these edits are most efficiently done when the material is top-of-mind.

Use on-screen text carefully

You’re probably going to need more on-screen text for silent versions of videos. This can take the form of subtitles, crawling text, callouts, or titles (as long as they don’t look like level-1 headlines in PowerPoint).

You definitely want to put compelling text on the opening screen or poster frame, especially if you’re sharing in social media. People are scrolling. You need them to stop.