Getting Real With Research

You know what I’m talking about. Those pictures of super smart students (#alliteration) next to their research posters at symposiums. Researchers at Colorado State are so incredibly amazing, talented and passionate. But conveying that on social can be difficult.

Each year, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences holds Research Day, a symposium showcasing cutting-edge student research and innovative research approaches. And each year, we take pictures of students next to their research posters to post to social. Not quite doing it justice.

Instead of displaying our students’ cutting and gluing talents, this year we wanted to create a video that went deeper. Here’s what we did.

Going beyond the “what”

A couple weeks before the event, the CVMBS team and I brainstormed a video concept that would capture what research means to our students and faculty. Asking WHAT they research is great, but we really wanted to know WHY they research.

In the video, CSU epidemiology researcher Sheryl Magzamen describes a memory from her days as a high school long-distance runner. She remembers the feeling of not being able to breathe, and how nothing else mattered when she couldn’t breathe. It inspired her to go into research. THAT is what we wanted. And that is what we got. Learning how much her research means to her is far more compelling than just hearing what she investigates.

How we did it

We knew we wanted the video to be simple, to focus on our researchers rather than wonder off into a busy display of scenes showing them smiling in lab coats as they examine a beaker.

Beyond a simple background, we also wanted the cuts and content to be simple. At the beginning of the video, each researcher shares his/her name, but that’s it. No chunky lower thirds. No wordy explanations of their experimentations. And no scripted lines (other than “I am a Colorado State University researcher,” of course).

We wanted the video to feel social, natural, genuine and not overly produced. This did take quite a bit of strategy, however. We didn’t tell any of the researchers what we were going to ask them so they didn’t over-prepare. Scientists like to feel prepared, ready, but we didn’t want them to sound rehearsed.

Instead, we tailored each interview for each interviewee. We asked them different questions until we felt like we had what we were looking for. There were a lot of themes that came out in the interviews. The challenging part was not including each beautiful moment we captured on video. If we had it our way, the video would have been about 10 minutes long, but we managed to cut it down to 2.


The video performed great on social media.

{Tip: Add captions to every video you post to social. Facebook and YouTube make it pretty simple. Many social users don’t blare their volume and often scroll through their newsfeeds in public places. Adding captions will encourage your audience to continue watching, even if they can’t hear the video. This is also incredibly important to hearing-impaired viewers. Don’t forget it!}

One of our researchers suggested we show the video at Research Day (#duh. Such a great suggestion. Very thankful for her). This put our video in front of the exact audience we wanted to see it. Luckily, they seemed to love it.

Shout outs

Teamwork makes the dream work. But really. A big thanks to videographer Jason Russell and the always amazing Kris Browning-Blas. Without you two, these videos would never see the light of day. So much ❤

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