The Definitive Guide To Testimonials In The Digital Age
The term I.T. usually refers to “Information Technology,” but it has a new meaning for Pointe Profile® users. For this article, I.T. defines a methodology for implementing video-based testimonials in your Pointe Profile® submissions that we call “Ignite Testimonials.” Testimonials are a form of word-of-mouth and can be quite useful for personal branding and self-promotion.
Here are a few quick facts about testimonials:
1- Testimonials as a form of product or service validation are not new. We see them on TV or hear them on the radio daily. We also find them in print and online advertisements of all kinds.
2 – The idea of customers or users giving testimonials is also not new.
3 – The idea of regularly submitting multimedia testimonials with your resume is new. There aren’t a lot of people currently doing or knowledgeable about how to do it effectively. Notice I said “multimedia” and not “video.” This is because there are several ways you can create excellent testimonials that incorporate other presentation elements.
After reading this post, you’ll be an expert on creating testimonials that give you an edge over the competition. The good news is the hardest part of the work may already be done! If you’ve done some excellent work for some folks on your network, they may be willing to go “on the record” and talk about it. Pointe Profile® is an excellent tool for aggregating and sharing your testimonials with prospective organizations. The next part is learning how to capture, create, and curate excellent testimonial content that will stand the test of time. It’s not that difficult, but it takes effort, standards, and a plan. You’re in luck because I’m going to map it out for you here completely!
First, remember this SAGE advice:
Having standards means No cutting corners!!!
Your effort here is an investment in yourself so treat yourself to the best that you can do!
Having standards means having a plan before you start! Understanding what makes a great testimonial is critical, along with your ability to guide your “narrator” (the person giving the testimonial) on delivering a good one for you. I like remembering this with an acronym which is also the name of this methodology – “IGNITE.”
Here is the “IGNITE” acronym defined:
Instruction and Guidance will Net Impressive Testimonials that Elevate.
Having an infinite shelf-life is a prime feature of a well-produced testimonial. Your key contacts’ ongoing accomplishments can lend ongoing credibility to your efforts whether you’re still working together or not. As long as they’re great, you’re great. Their successes become bona fides for you and elevate you by association. As your testimonials age, they become a verification of your long-running standard of excellence. Let’s get started with the essential components needed for excellent testimonials.
- A medium for recording multimedia testimonials. A smartphone with a camera and video capability, laptop (such as a MacBook with a built-in camera) with video/audio recording ability, or similar device. I use an iPhone®, so the examples in this article are from that perspective. At least 32GB of onboard storage is recommended.
- iCloud storage, Dropbox or other web-based data storage account.
- Private email account.
- Video editing application. I use iMovie for iOS. MovieMaker is a widely available and free PC option. When editing video or audio with photo files, you can add titles with the narrator’s name, title, and email address.
- An alternative to the video editing application is a presentation application of your choice like Prezi, Keynote or PowerPoint.
Availability, geographic constraints or any number of obstacles may have an impact on the final format your testimonials. In my experience, I find there three formats that are adaptable to the vast majority of the situations and don’t negatively impact the delivery of the content.
1. Live Video: If your subject feels comfortable on camera, this is the preferred option and will have the maximum impact. Record a video live and on location with the person providing the testimonial. I can’t stress this enough, make sure your subject feels comfortable! I’ve shared several of the testimonials I’ve used over the years. These examples should illustrate your videos do not have to be perfect, but also that effort is required to make testimonials an active part of your Pointe Profile®.
The downside of live video testimonials is that you’re vulnerable to the environment, noise, and photobombing. The testimonial above is from a popular Latin vocalist named Marc Anthony after our rehearsal in Los Angeles. As you can hear there is plenty of distracting noise in the background, but the opportunity to get another recording was almost sure never to happen. I used iMovie to edit in some live performance video of us together on stage, a photo, and Mr. Anthony’s name.
This live video is from an Artist named Sheila E. The conditions for this live video were excellent. I was able to record on my iPhone in the hallway of a cruise ship after a show. I used the iOS version of iMovie to add her name to the video.
Sometimes your contact may surprise you by making their own video testimonial for you. Here, I was expecting a voice mail or a voice recording from Mr. Elizondo, and he sent this excellent video testimonial. The lighting is excellent, and colors are rich and vibrant. We added the subtitled translations later, which made this bi-lingual message a fantastic verification for my global recording business.
2. Live Audio with Photo: If your contact doesn’t feel comfortable on video, you can record an audio testimonial and add a professional photo of the person in a multimedia software program later. Preferably, you want to use a professional portrait. In this case, you can ask your subject for a professional photo, or find one online on their LinkedIn profile or company website. Do your research and get a good photograph which best represents your contact. Remember, you want to make them look great!
If your contact is relatively inaccessible, you may give them the option of recording their voice using the “Voice Memos” app (or something similar) and then transmitting the file to you via email or Dropbox. These tools are prevalent now, and they have a low learning curve. For this testimonial, Ms. Knight sent the recording to me via US mail. Her voice is the narration, and I used iMovie to add her photo and some live performance footage.
This testimonial was delivered to me via US mail. Ms. Day offers an excellent explanation of her business and how my hiring came about. This testimonial was instrumental during my time in LA and also serves as one of the primary reasons for my developing an “outline” for spoken testimonials. I used iMovie to create this video and edit in small clips from the shows I worked on. Ms. Day was very gracious and granted permission to use her professional photos.
3. Voicemail with Added Photo: If the person providing the testimonial is not available for a live video or audio version, this is an alternative option. In this case, the person is open or willing to provide a voicemail-recorded testimonial for you. You can easily take the recorded testimonial, import it into a presentation or video-editing program with a professional portrait of the person speaking and export a video testimonial.
Wayman Tisdale, Victor Wooten and Brian Bromberg
Similar to Gladys Knight, Wayman Tisdale, Victor Wooten, and Brian Bromberg had busy schedules making it difficult to find the right opportunity for a live video testimonial. Here, each of these gentlemen left a voicemail, and I used an existing photo to add a visual. iPhones allow users to email any voice message – making this method of capture fast, easy and convenient. These three testimonials also highlight the effectiveness of having leaders in your field vouch for your skills, reputation, and ongoing professional affiliation. I used iMovie and similar title styles to keep a uniform professional look.
“Production Standards” are the “minimum requirements” for your testimonials. Meeting or exceeding these requirements will ensure that you get the most out of your testimonials. In addition to the environment being professional, well-lit, well-organized, and uncluttered, here are some considerations in order from easiest to more involved standards:
Comfortable & Convenient: Make the locale an easy and convenient place to arrive. A beautiful office or reception area at work is ideal. Filming a testimonial in a bathroom or bedroom (especially with a messy or unmade bed in the background) is not professional or flattering. Avoid these locales at all costs. Keep in mind; this doesn’t have to be a major production; it just has to be nice. Do a test shot of the background before you record to make sure it is uncluttered and looks good on camera.
Next Level – A well-lit furniture store, hotel conference room or model home where the rooms are nicely decorated and very well staged for business.
Go Deep – you can set up a room in your house with “prosumer” level cameras, green screen, lighting, the latest video editing gear or hire someone with these things. You can schedule your contacts and produce it like a TV show. You can go as far down this rabbit hole as you like, but keep in mind that for testimonials this may be overkill and may hinder the process. The law of diminishing returns applies here!
Whenever and wherever possible, choose your locale and scope it out before you arrange to meet someone to shoot. You want to minimize background chatter, dogs barking, machinery, kids playing, or video bombers trying to get their few seconds of fame on your time. An office is always a great choice! Consider connecting with your contact before or after business hours to minimize extraneous noises or interruptions during your testimonial. Most importantly it should be someplace where your contact feels comfortable and can speak and behave naturally. Ultimately, this will contribute to making an authentic and sincere testimonial – which is going to work best in establishing credibility.
Info to Include in Video Testimonials
There are some core pieces of information that you might want to get from them during the recording:
Who are they? They should clearly state their full name.
What do they do? The can state their position title and/or role in the project where they worked with you.
What job, task, event, project, or other encounter have they had with you?
How long have they worked with you?
How did that situation come about?
What was the result of your working relationship?
You can easily provide them a printed copy of these questions before recording, so they are prepared to answer. Once the person describes who they are, what they do, how they know you, and the result of working with you, they can explicitly state the kind of activities or projects for which they would recommend you. This will vary from person to person. One person may recommend you for Activity A, and another for Activity B. Allow them to recommend you for what they feel is your strength. Below are two different testimonials, in different formats, from two artists (Mr. Chuck Loeb from New York and Mr. Eric Marienthal from LA). Both focused on preparedness and organization as essential success factors.
Consider Providing a Script
Consider providing a script for your subject. You don’t want to dictate what anyone says about you, but they may appreciate an acceptable framework to encapsulate their comments. Whenever someone speaking is going to be recorded, having a script is highly advised. Here is an example script you can have your narrator follow:
“Hello. My name is [THEIR NAME]
and I’m currently
[TITLE AND DESCRIPTION OF THEIR CURRENT OR FORMER POSITION].
[DESCRIPTION OF THEIR COMPANY]
I handle [RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE POSITION]
I’ve known [YOUR NAME] for [HOW LONG HAVE THEY KNOWN YOU]. My experience with [YOUR FIRST NAME] has been [DESCRIBE WORKING WITH YOU] Having [YOUR FIRST NAME] on the team is great because [YOUR FIRST NAME] really knows how to [DESCRIBE SKILL] which is essential in this job because [SUPPORTING DETAILS]. [YOUR FIRST NAME] also understands [DESCRIBE SKILL] which is a real plus because [SUPPORTING DETAIL]. Throughout our relationship [YOUR FIRST NAME] has demonstrated [DESCRIBE SKILL] and it’s been my pleasure to work with him/her. I’d recommend [YOUR FIRST NAME] and am I’m available to answer your questions. Feel free to email me, and we’ll arrange a call to discuss further.”
Notice how the script establishes the credibility of the narrator before extolling the value of having you on the team. Your narrator doesn’t need to be a “superstar” themselves (although it helps). They only need to be a credible professional in their field with experience working with you. For example – as a musician, I was hired by a major touring Artist because the leader of a prominent local wedding band spoke about how well I learned a lot of songs in a very short amount of time. This insight gave the Artist confidence that I’d be a good choice since they had to make a decision quickly for their upcoming 27-city tour, which included 72 songs.
High Definition Video
When shooting video on your phone, it’s important to know the difference between “landscape” and “portrait” orientation. Holding your phone upright is called “portrait.” “Portrait” is not the orientation to use when you’re filming a testimonial because the portrait-oriented video will not fill the entire screen when your viewers watch it. For the best results, turn your phone on its side as illustrated in the photo. This is called “landscape.” Landscape video looks better on most devices, and the overall result will appear more polished, professional and less “home-movie-ish.”
The lighting for the testimonial narrator should be flattering for the camera. If you have a professional lighting kit, great! Use it! However, if you’re like most folks who don’t have one readily accessible to you, then you can use these “quick and dirty” tips.
This is your best bet. You have a light placed just off-center (key light) of the subject, a light on the side of the subject (fill light), and behind the subject, there should be a light (backlight) to make sure there is a nice rim light around the back of the subject. See the
diagram below for a general idea of 3-point lighting placement.
The best natural light happens during “golden hour” early in the morning about one hour after the sun rises or early evening, about one hour before sunset. However, there are plenty of natural light hours in between that can serve your purposes.
If you’re filming outside at high noon and the sun is directly above, you may get ugly shadows under the subject’s eyes. You can use a white bed sheet or shower curtain underneath the subject to reflect and diffuse the light.
Use What You’ve Got:
Of course, you can always just make the best of what you’ve got indoors or outdoors. Reality T.V. has made real-life video perfectly acceptable for just about everything. Try to make sure the subject is lit up as best as possible. People should be able to see their face clearly, at the very least.
If you are fortunate enough to get live video, you’re in great shape. If needed, then use Windows MovieMaker or Apple’s iMovie to make any quick edits such as cutting out filler words or long pauses. Both of these options are inexpensive, easy to use and well-documented by their creators for a lower learning curve.
If you are only able to get an audio recording, then use an excellent photo and put those elements together to create a video with a still picture. You might consider using the Ken Burns effect to give the illusion of motion on any still image. If you have a MacBook and multiple excellent photos of the subject, you can use iPhoto to create a slideshow video with the audio soundtrack of the subject narrating their testimonial. Use simple effects such as the fade-in and out to make the visual representation more interesting, but I recommend avoiding fancy transitions altogether.
If you are only able to obtain an audio recording of the person with no professional portrait, you can ask them if they would approve of you taking a photo of them with your smartphone – and take the picture in landscape mode. A visual representation of the subject is a minimum requirement.
1. Testimonials should remain “professionally private.” In other words, if you get a great testimonial from a key person on your network don’t EVER share it with all your friends or post it online for public consumption. There may be some that disagree with the testimonial, and if that video footage is made public, people with less than good intentions might employ technology to edit or vandalize it to suit their purpose. This, in turn, leads to others being skeptical or fearful of giving multimedia testimonials. Testimonials should only be shared with those that are interested in forging a professional relationship with you and have a clear track record of professional recruiting discretion. Again, the videos should NEVER be freely available or easily accessible by the general public.
2. Next, testimonials should always show your narrator in the best light. “Bloopers”, as they’re known in the entertainment industry, should be promptly deleted and NEVER shared under any circumstances. This is particularly important! Don’t be a JERK! Consider how someone would feel if their bloopers were unexpectedly shared on YouTube and their professional trust in you was broken. Handle your testimonials with integrity and people will be enthusiastic about doing them for you.
3. You should only seek testimonials from those with whom you have a significant history. I’ve been asked in the past to give a testimonial to someone that I never worked with, that I never had any experience with or that I barely knew. I don’t need to go in depth about the inherent risks of vouching for someone you don’t know. Likewise, I’ve also had complete strangers on LinkedIn “endorse” me for skills they haven’t seen me perform or experienced first-hand, and expected me to follow suit on their behalf. This devalues the impact of endorsements and should be avoided at all costs.
4. NEVER edit or manipulate a testimonial to misrepresent what was actually said or the intention behind saying it.
A great rule of thumb overall is making sure someone has indeed gone the distance to earn your trust before giving them a testimonial and going the distance to keep others’ confidence when they provide testimonials for you.
Seem like a lot of work?
But consider the alternative – waiting and hoping a hiring manager gets this kind of info from your one-page resume, a cursory Google search, a short tour through your Facebook posts and tweets, then calls you in the middle of your worst day and says “Oh my God! Where have you been all my life? You’re everything our organization needs and so much more! We’ll double your previous salary! When can you start?”
Yeah. Good luck with that.
You’re a Rock Star, so act it. Ignite testimonials in your self-promotion and networking, so the full impact of your excellent reputation resonates at first contact. I hope the examples here inspire you to do more in presenting yourself, your value, and most of all your positive impact on professionals around you!