Video Invitations: Everything You Need to Know to Make One

By Martha C. White September 13, 2012, 8:36 AM EDT

XA created a video invite for Vital Bridges’ “Chefs and the City” fund-raiser at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton in July.

Photo: Courtesy of XA

Hollywood has it figured out: Give viewers a sneak peek at the next big blockbuster with a trailer that grabs their attention and leaves them wanting more. It’s a tactic movie studios have used for decades, and now a growing number of event producers are using teaser-style videos as all or part of their invitations. Here’s what you need to know if you think a video invite is the ticket to piquing interest for your next event.

Choose a Concept
“We wanted to create this buzz, so we knew we wanted almost an indie feel to the video,” says Robin Mazur, digital and social media coordinator at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The invite for “Pin-spiration at the Ritz,” a Pinterest-themed bridal show, used color and sepia-toned footage of interviews with the hotel’s catering team and partner vendors. Other event producers may go for more of a music-video look with special effects, or create the feel of a movie trailer with a voiceover, says Jeff Goldstein, creative director of Xpress Video Productions in Chicago. The concept—live actors, animation, photomontage—should dictate what type of provider you’ll want to seek out. A videographer is going to bring different skills than a video editor used to working primarily with animation or text. 

What It Costs
This varies depending on the look you’re going for, Goldstein says, and whether or not you choose to use a professional video-production company. “Assuming there’s at least 100 invites going out, at the low end, figure $8 an invite,” he says. “The ones that are green-screen heavy, with a lot of special effects, are going to be more around $15 or $16 per invite.”

Meg Gleason, design director at marketing and event production company MKG in New York, says it’s possible to put together a well-produced video for less than $10,000, thanks to technology that makes shooting and editing videos more streamlined. Two years ago, the company used a graphic animated video invitation for a New Balance event introducing its new line to magazine editors. Text describing the products appeared as if it were written in chalk, then got erased.

Lead Time
This also depends on the style. If you need to have a script written and actors cast, give yourself two months before you plan to send the invitation, Goldstein says. If you want to film people, plan for a full day so the videographer can get enough footage. Mazur says it took eight hours worth of shooting people in 20-minute blocks to get four hours’ worth of footage for the “Pin-spiration” invite, which was edited into a four-minute video featuring documentary-style interviews with staffers.

The Length
“I think we have between 30 seconds and a minute of people’s attention spans. Keep them wanting more but give them enough information to inspire them,” says Richard Cassis, executive board member at the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Chicago, who created a video invitation for the group’s annual “Garden Gala” fund-raiser in June.

Others say you can go as long as three or four minutes, but avoid loading the video with text. “We kept copy to a minimum by only highlighting key event details,” says Amanda Puck, executive vice president at XA, the Experiential Agency, in Chicago. XA created a video invite for Vital Bridges’ “Chefs and the City” fund-raiser at the Chicago Ritz-Carlton in July. Puck says most of the event details should instead go in the accompanying email.

Share It
When sending the invite via email, embed the video and include a link to YouTube, Vimeo, or a page on the host organization’s Web site, Gleason says. “We cover our bases, because some companies’ firewalls will block an embedded video.” If you hope the video will go viral, make it publicly available and distribute it via social media channels and via QR codes, which Cassis used to promote Diffa’s invite. For the invite to have staying power beyond the event itself, leave off details like the event’s date.

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