Optimize your video to optimize your impact

To all practitioners in science communication: If you read one paper this year make it this one. It sheds light on a question we face day in, day out: How should we disseminate research findings in a way that lay people understand and then want to know more about?

In an experimental setup Italian psychologists from the Vita­Salute San Raffaele University together with researchers from the San Raffaele Hospital found highly interesting results. They compared the impact of a press release, a »normal« video, and a video »optimized for effective dissemination« on a test audience.

The clear winner among these formats which all reported on the same research  topic was the »optimized« video: It resulted in a better comprehension of the science, a higher perceived pleasantness of the communication, and a stronger manifest interest in learning more about the reported findings, as reflected in participants’ explicit requests to receive supplemental material.

The researchers also observed »that already existing professional communications  – that is, (non­optimized) video and text communications specifically prepared to disseminate ground­breaking scientific results – were not as effective as intended in disseminating those results. This is surprising, because such findings should be of interest – in and of themselves – to almost anyone … This means that sub­optimal communication strategies can even impair the diffusion of such findings among lay persons.«

To optimize a video the authors followed the recommendations they found in the scientific literature: use of non­technical vocabulary, simplified speech structure, stylised images drawn from everyday experience, simple graphic illustrations, narrative structure with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

To better understand how the researchers put them in practice I asked them to share their clips with me. As a filmmaker this is what I took from watching them: An optimized video is well structured, and the scientific content is broken down into comprehensible units. Graphics are not cluttered with information. The language used in the video is easy to understand right away, and the text is spoken in a suitable rhythm. Last but not least, optimized videos waive tootling background music.

The team found impressing differences between the effects of a press release, a non­optimized video and an optimized video. For example the mean number of correct responses to questions concerning the scientific content in the videos was more than 3.5 times higher for those having watched the optimized video rather than the non­optimized version. Engagement was also found to be higher: Viewers of the optimized videos wrote a significantly higher number of emails to the researchers requesting more information about the research in the videos.

Reading fees for the paper, which was published in »Applied Psychology«, start with 7 USD. Not too much for this highly relevant and interesting stuff. (sg)

Full reference:

E. Putortì, S. Sciara, N. Larocca, M. Crippa & G. Pantaleo: Communicating science effectively: When an optimized video communication enhances comprehension, pleasantness, and people’s interest in knowing more about scientific findings. Applied Psychology. 10.1111/apps.12193, 2019.

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