Video Tactics for Toastmasters

At Club Awesome, we use video mostly as a teaching tool. Many members want to be able to see the video of their own performance without it being public – they just want to see what they did right and wrong, so they can do it better next time. However, when a member gives a speech they’re proud of and want to share, we will make it public at their request or sometimes ask their permission to make it public. This can be a real asset when we’re trying to promote ourselves (for example, in the run up to an open house).

Here’s an example of a Facebook post featuring the video of an educational speech one of our members gave on better use of body language:

Facebook promo with an embedded YouTube video
Facebook promo with an embedded YouTube video

A few notes on how we manage this program:

  • When we upload videos into YouTube, we put them into the system as “unlisted” by default (as opposed to public or private). This is an in-between status where the video will not show up in searches or listings on the YouTube website. However, we can send out a list of links to these videos to our email list. If a member wants to share the link with a friend or relative, they can do so. This is not iron-clad security, but it’s good enough for most members.
  • I always include a reminder about our video policy in the email, reassuring members that we will not publish the video to the world without their permission.
  • Members can request we turn the camera off if they prefer not to be video recorded at all.
  • When we do get permission to make a video public, we can share it on Facebook just by pasting the web address from YouTube into the message box. Facebook automatically creates a preview image of the video, and Facebook users can view it either within the Facebook feed or by clicking through to
  • Facebook will only generate a preview for one link. To create the promo shown above I first pasted in the link to the YouTube video, adding it to the body of the post. Once the preview of the video is generated (something Facebook does automatically), you don’t really need the text of the link to be in the body of the post, so I edited it out. I then added the link to our Open House event listing, leaving that one in the body of the post. In this case, I linked to the event page on Facebook, but I could just have easily have linked to our club’s website.
  • Facebook displays videos a little more prominently if you upload your video directly into Facebook, rather than pasting in a YouTube link. But pasting in the YouTube link is less work if you’ve already uploaded the video to YouTube. So weigh the trade-off.

Again, the primary use of video in our club is as a teaching tool. If your evaluator told you not to do some awkward thing with body language, you can go back and see how that looked, or whether you had the vocal variety you were aiming for. Sooner or later, you’ll start going back to the video and being proud of what you see.

Sharing vs. Publicizing

The technique that has worked well for me is to upload videos to YouTube, but tag them as “unlisted” rather than “public.” There is also a “private” status, but it’s more difficult to work with in the mode I’m describing. An unlisted video does not show up in searches and people browsing YouTube will not just stumble across it — you have to have the link.

Setting a YouTube video to "unlisted"
Setting a YouTube video to “unlisted”

I send a listing of the links to all the videos to the club, with an explanation that it’s our policy not to share the videos more widely without permission. I have done something similar for area and district contests, although in that case I use a more formal video release form.

Recording Good Video

The biggest pitfall of recording a speech video is audio, not video — if you have the camera too far away from the speaker, viewers of the video will not be able to hear what the speakers are saying. A speech video without the speech part is not very useful. Unless you are working with a professional camera equipped with a sensitive directional antenna, you will have to arrange to have your camera close to the stage or speaking area.

You do not need an expensive camera. In fact, the camera in your phone will do in a pinch if you can manage to hold the camera steady. Remember to hold the camera horizontally for a TV-like aspect ratio. Smartphone cameras have gotten good enough that you might consider buying a tripod adapter for phones, rather than investing in a video camera. Either way, a tripod makes it much easier to get a steady image.

Here is a tripod adapter I got for less than $8 on Amazon. It’s just a spring-loaded clip that holds onto your phone, with a mount on the bottom that screws into a standard tripod.

Tripod adapter for smart phones.

Pan the camera back and forth just enough to keep the speaker in the frame. I usually leave the camera’s zoom control zoomed to the widest view to minimize the need to pan.

Editing and Uploading Videos

Even when recording video from my phone, I usually copy the video file to a PC and upload it to YouTube (or sometimes directly to Facebook) from there. Check the documentation for your phone or camera, or search the web, for tips on how to do that.

You may or may not need to edit the video before uploading it. You may wind up with a recording that includes content that’s not really part of the speech, such as moments a contestant spent shaking the contest master’s hand and getting in position. Trimming that material will give you a stronger video. There are free video editors available for both Macs and Windows that will let you select a few seconds of video to shave off the beginning and the end of your video clip.

Computer software may also help you upload the speeches more efficiently than if you just went through the web interface on YouTube. YouTube also allows you to specify a speech title and a description. Be sure to provide the context: that this speech is from a Toastmasters speech contest, at what level, and where. In the description, I suggest also including the name of the club, along with the club’s website address.

Video is a great way to show people what Toastmasters is all about. Make the most of it.