In 2014 Annual Conference, 2014 Conference - Tuesday

Dan_FarkasBy Alayna Curry

It was standing room only at Dan Farkas’ session on digital storytelling. His career as both a reporter and a university professor has made him quite the expert on how to tell an effective story for the right audience. Dan says too often we think about the process first, and the content second. However, content is much more important. If you have that, the process will take care of itself.

Take note of his simple storytelling suggestions:

• Eyes – The human eye works very simply. Film video similar to the way your eyes move naturally. Focus on wide, medium, tight and really tight. Don’t use pans and zooms. Lighting is important, but don’t overthink it.

• Pace – Planning is key! Set the pace of the video ahead of time. You should probably edit every 3-5 seconds, adding in sound and images to keep things moving. Ideally, the person who’s shooting the video should also be the one editing it.

• Natural Sound – Audio helps drive the story. The point of a video is to take people (visually and audibly) someplace they’ve never been. Invest in a wireless microphone.

• Reaction – Life is about reaction, not action. Anticipate those moments. Capturing them means writing less. Let the image and the sound speak for themselves.

• Going Home – Look for stories that have values we can all resonate with. Focus on people and emotions.

In this age of Vine videos and ADD, we overthink time. We worry that people won’t watch our videos if they’re longer than 15 seconds. However, the key to good writing is brevity. Be concise, but thorough and remember that completion is more valuable than views. Anyone can watch 30 seconds of a video, but if they don’t finish it, what’s the point? And despite what your CEO says, “going viral” isn’t a strategy.

Great stories reach the right audience and they’re not necessarily for everyone. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Dan shared a clip of a local news story on a young girl who asked Santa to bring her dad home from Iraq. Watch this great example of a truly effective story.

Dan broke down his bottom line in what he calls “The Farkas 5:”

1) Storyboard your vision. What should the video look like in theory?
2) The better the moment, the more wiggle room for imperfect technology.
3) If you don’t know if you have a wow moment, you don’t have a wow moment.
4) Quality audio isn’t optional.
5) If the moment isn’t great, invest in people and technology to make it great.

View Dan’s presentation here.


Dan Farkas is an instructor of strategic communication at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Farkas teaches writing, social media, multimedia, strategy and campaign classes. Farkas also owns Dan Farkas Interactive, which does everything listed above, along with podcasting and video production. Farkas spent more than a decade working as a reporter in Iowa, Michigan and Tennessee. His work on air and online earned nearly two dozen awards and appeared on CNN,, TVTalk and other forums.

Farkas lives in Dublin, Ohio, with his wife Melanie, children Leah and Will, and the family’s somewhat annoying cat Noah. He hopes you‘ll connect with him @danfarkas on Twitter or through LinkedIn.


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