Making Video for Virtual Events: A Conversation with Kate Bradley Chernis, CEO of Lately

Video has become more important than ever in the time of COVID-19. But the question is… what makes for good video?

In this second conversation between Kate Bradley Chernis (CEO of Lately) and Michael Hoffman (CEO of Gather Voices), we explore key questions like: "What kind of video do you need for a virtual conference?" and, "How do you get the most out of the efforts you’re making to create video?"

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Michael Hoffman:

My name is Michael Hoffman, I'm the CEO at Gather Voices and welcome to Making Video for Virtual Events, the conversation with me and Kate Bradley Chernis from Lately. And we often refer to Kate as Kately from Lately, which means you will never forget Kate.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Is that why?

Michael Hoffman:

So Kate, before we jump in, would you just give a little bit of your background and how did you get here? And I will say this, it is so awesome to be speaking to a woman, founder and CEO, which I don't get a chance to do enough. So, I want to just say, we need more women in these positions and I'm glad you're here.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Thanks. Someone reminded me of something, which is, in order to move up ladders, you have to have the people above lift you up, right? In a lot of cases, that happens to be white guys, so you're doing your part. It's important, you got to just look around wherever that is in the world, like look around and lift someone up, however that is every day. So, it's important to do.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, thanks for saying so. And we've been lucky enough to be in some environments together where that happens.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes I feel, I mean, now more than ever, we're all getting smacked in the face with how important that is. But you do forget because you get insulated into your own bubble thing, so. But I come from radio, my background was Rock And Roll radio, so, my last gig was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day for XM. And then, somehow I had a marketing agency and I built the little spreadsheet for Walmart that got 130% ROI year over year for three years.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

And then someone else came along who was like a tech guy, now my cofounder and was like, "Hey, if only you had $25,000, we could build some wire frames and automate your spreadsheets." And I was like, I don't know what those words mean, right? Don't touch my spreadsheets too, they're awesome. And that was my co founder, Steve. And basically, I like to say it's all his fault. So especially on bad days, which there are just plenty of those.

Michael Hoffman:

So, you took a spreadsheet that was tracking social media engagement or other things, or posts, things like that and you built a tool that became Lately. Will you just give us the one minute on what Lately is and what Lately does?

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah, for sure. What's up Danielle? So, Lately uses artificial intelligence to automatically transform blogs, videos, podcasts into dozens and dozens, like 60 social posts just by clicking a button. And the posts themselves are automatically tested to find the best words that resonate and phrases that resonate with your audience. So, it is very smart. So like for example, Gary V., gets 12000% increase in engagement with our content versus the content he was using previously.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

So it is really, really smart, but it's designed to also make you be everywhere all at once, which is like, that's the challenge, right? In order to make a dent, you have to be not just doing it, you got to be doing it like bananas, right?

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. So, there's a quality and a quantity issue, right? And we're going to talk more about that, especially how it connects to video and in particular video for events. So I want to, before we jump into that conversation in a minute, I want to, we have a bunch of folks here, over 100 registrants today, which is really phenomenal. And I think it's a testament to you, Kate, as well as our topic. And I want to just take a poll just so we have a sense of who's with us.

Michael Hoffman:

So, I'm going to launch the poll, which is, you should all see that there. I don't think you're going to see it Kate, because I think it's just to the participants and hopefully everybody can see it. It is a poll to see whether the folks here are from nonprofits, from companies, from associations, agencies and also to get a sense of the level of those folks and are they in large or small organizations? Because we know that you just can't operate exactly the same way if you're in a tiny organization or a large organization, which is actually partly what Lately solves for, right?

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah.

Michael Hoffman:

That you're able to do more than one person can do.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

I mean, right. So, thanks for the soft ball. So with the Walmart project, which is the spreadsheets 10 years ago, it was actually Walmart and the IRS and Bank of America and AT&T, National Disability Institute. So I had government for profit and nonprofit, and all of their respective franchises and the marketers there and tens of thousands of small, medium businesses and nonprofits. So it was a whole lot of different people and I built this system for all these different kinds of skillsets and budgets to work together and do marketing.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

So, Lately was actually built with that in mind. But more importantly, we just thought about humans, right? Which, is some of the stuff we're going to talk about a little bit today. We just thought, well, let's build a tool where a human can do what they need to be doing. And the reason that Lately's been successful with smaller and larger companies is because that's all we thought about, right? Because guess what? Humans work at enterprise companies.

Michael Hoffman:

Right and that's a really good point. Just because you're in a large company doesn't mean you necessarily have a large clone army of yourself to be able to do things. So, just to give you some insights from this poll, about half of our folks here today are from nonprofit organizations. And I think what I see from that world is they're under pressure like everybody else, they have to operate in a way that's a profitable in the sense that they have to have more money coming in than is going out, and they need to share their messages with the world.

Michael Hoffman:

And I've always said, and I think Lately is a tool that could help just have said that, nonprofits have the best stories in the world, the best stories about people doing incredible things. And you think, well, if some shoe company or some deodorant company can tell these stories to get attention, what could the nonprofits do if they have some tools that enable them to be able to do that. So, I think, I'm really excited that's a world that I've been in a lot.

Michael Hoffman:

So, I know we only have, this whole thing is 30 minutes, which means it's all 20 minutes and I want to just kick off. You've been talking about, I found this here, you've been talking about virtual events and virtual meetings and things like that, not just with me. And so, is this on the radar in your world, this whole thing about virtual events? Just give me a little bit of your impressions about what you're seeing here.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

It's funny, because this is something we've been doing for a while. This mindset of, after the fact marketing with events, which was before they were totally virtual was the way that I thought with Walmart 10 years ago, actually, because there's just so much more you can get out of it, right? So that always was obvious to me, but somehow now the market is actually getting it in a much more poignant way and we're having the word virtual just sets off a thing for everybody.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

And so it's given us an avenue that we didn't expect before, right? So people are willing to embrace. Because the mindset is a hard thing to change, right? But now, everyone's really open to that because we have to, right, so that's what the mother of invention [crosstalk 00:08:34]-

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, that's interesting, because if I'm at an in person event and we record a session, let's say with video, afterwards, it's just video online just as if you had a virtual event and then you have video, right? So in a way that moment, that really short period of time that you're in this synchronous place, we're on this thing together is different, but all of what that content can do for you is the same really.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Exactly. Yeah, I mean my team ... So I work with my designer, Jason, our favorite phrase together is it's always right in front of you, whenever we're trying to create content. Because I'm like, we've done this before somewhere, where is it, right? And I find that's the case when I was an agency owner as well for my clients, it's like people are banging their heads against the wall, looking for content and usually they have it in droves. They're just not thinking of how to use it differently.

Michael Hoffman:

So, it's really that re-purposing stuff. So I want to get to video because we need to talk about video. So one of the things we've been talking about, I think people are very comfortable with the Zoom thing and some people are like, we're going to have a virtual event. It's going to be Zoom and it's going to be three days on Zoom. It's hard because people are on Zoom all day. And so, unless you create something that feels like a different experience, you're going to bore a lot of people or they're just going to feel burned out from that.

Michael Hoffman:

What we've been doing and what our clients have been doing with Gather Voices, which enables you to collect lots of video from lots of different people, is being able to put that video inside those virtual events. And so, you have a live event and you have this prerecorded content, which you can use in two different ways. Most do use in two different ways. One is you play it during the live event, and that's why it's often called simulated live content because for the viewer, I don't know if it's live or not. What people are watching right now could be recorded, right?

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Right.

Michael Hoffman:

If you're in the audience, you don't necessarily experience that, especially with short form video, whether that's live or not live, it doesn't really matter it's live to you because you're experiencing it. But to that organizer, you're able to get a lot more voices in the mix. You're able to do it in advance so you can sleep at night and you can set up better content. And then, you have all this stuff that's already perfectly cut up for using afterwards.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah, exactly. By the way, so my teammate, Brian, we were having our team Zoom meeting, which we've been doing for years, not just recently. And so, Brady Brunch screen is up and I caught him take a screenshot of himself and then put it as his wallpaper and then get up. And I was like, what are you doing? That's amazing. And so, it was hilarious because he took a picture of himself like this, like he's really paying attention hard. Simulated live, right there it was an action.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, I've somebody do that with a video background, where they actually, the video is then walking in on their conversation. So, they're like ...

Kate Bradley Chernis:

It's incredible.

Michael Hoffman:

And they walk out and you're like ...

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Are they there? But what you're talking about by the way, and Brian, It was Brian Fanzo who was in the screenshot you just shot. So, and he was talking about how he does this as well is you're also just changed ... This is a TV trick, right? So when you watch TV, they change the shot, right? There's a point for that. And so by just changing up what's happening on the screen, that helps people keep engaged or give them a break, which they need as well, right?

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. So, when we talk about video, one of the biggest things we're trying to do at Gather Voices is retrain people to think differently when they hear video. And that's because until 10 years ago, video meant television, video meant big budgets, video meant ... And so, most organizations just never really had video capacity capabilities, people, anything, because there was no video for them to use. There was no place to put it.

Michael Hoffman:

The internet has obviously become an incredible distribution place for video. Your phones are a distribution place, there's video everywhere. But in the mindset of people, it's still like they're still in the old days where they think, oh, if we need video, then we have to hire this camera crew and we have to do this thing and it's going to take three weeks and it's going to be all that.

Michael Hoffman:

So part of our education is that, but there's another piece of it that I want you to comment on because the other piece is when we get video in Gather Voices, that's made on somebody's cell phone and the Gather Voices product coaches people through making the video that you want. So, it checks their lighting and sound and makes that content better, but it's still user generated content. It's still different than you would get if you had a camera crew there, but it's authentic in a certain way, right? It feels like that's a regular person having a regular conversation. Nobody's putting them up to it. It's not in some perfectly lit room, and it's not some manufactured marketing stuff that we're all sick of.

Michael Hoffman:

And so, there's an authenticity piece. And what I want to ask you about is, what I've been saying is not only do you need more video content and the only way to do that is to get other people in your community making it, but it's also that you need stuff that feels more authentic, that tells real stories, that gives real insights from people. And that, that stuff actually performs better out in the world than the manufactured stuff, is that right? What are you seeing, because you're working to take that content and be able to create many, many, many iterations of it and put it out on social. Are we in the age of the winning of the humanness and the authenticity, are we there?

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah. It's funny, I think we have to be careful because authenticity is going to become a word that we kill like we killed awesome. I killed that word, right, so authenticity. And I think, it means engaging, it means being real. I mean, there was, I noticed last year especially, suddenly everyone was doing selfie videos all over Facebook, for example, about their intimate feelings, frankly, there was all this stuff. And I was like, wow, this is too much for my Facebook Feed. I'm old enough, so I still have Facebook account, which I thought was interesting.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

And then there's TikTok of course, so it can get overdone. The difference though is, I mean, so what we're all trying to communicate here and in fact, Brian Fanzo said this, is, I was like, I asked him, what are we missing? What's this thing we're missing here in virtual land the most? What can't we replicate? And he said the hug, right? And that's true.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Although, my team has been working on replicating the virtual hug for five years now. So we're actually pretty good at that. But of course I was trained to talk in a box to the dark to 20 million people in radio for years as well. But that authenticity that is not boring is also the trick. Nobody wants to see me make a sandwich, I mean, unless it's one hell of a sandwich, I guess.

Michael Hoffman:

Right, right.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

But, what you do want to see is something that you can connect with, right? So, I'm doing things here. I've got my money sign up there, I put that up there a couple of days ago. I got it at a flea market. It's awesome actually, it came with fame, which is over here and power, which I didn't buy, because I'm like, I got power. I'm cool with that. And they were signed for, I guess there was some church play and they were the three sins. I was like, oh, this is awesome. I got to have this. But, so, there's authenticity right there, right, I just stopped. I zagged, I told you a quick story. I got a little prop here and I'm not polished also, which is all part of the thing, right? The authenticity.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah, I think that in the world that we work a lot in, in trade and professional associations, for example, the members are the source of the intelligence and content. So, one of our clients is the Emergency Nurses Association. Well, it's the emergency nurses that really know their profession, right? Not the staff necessarily in the same way. So, lifting up those voices is not just about their unique story, it's really about their lived experience around their work.

Michael Hoffman:

I think in the nonprofit world, because we have a lot of nonprofits here today also, I think that's true around donors and donor stories. So when we ask people, why do you support this organization? They're going to connect dots that you could never make up. They're going to say, when I was growing up, my grandma did this and taught me that. And I went here and I had some incredible experience and that's why this is the most important cause for me in the world and here's how it enriched my life. And you just couldn't write that stuff, right? And that's where people connect to each other. It's creating those people to people connections.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah. I mean, so, and that's by the way, so authenticity can be found in many ways, we just touched on some of them. One is through common ground. So the weather is the most boring topic ever, but it's the one thing that always works and it can level any conversation. We all start our meetings with that when we meet people for the first time, or what town do you live in is one we use a lot because it gives that instant human reference.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

And so, whatever that common ground is, I mean, the reason that a nonprofit story usually resonates is because other people have the experience and from a lot of them that hasn't been talked about publicly before, right? That's a huge thing. I was thinking about the ice bucket challenge, right? So, not a lot of people have experienced family or friends with ALS or maybe even know what it is, but they did know what a cold bucket of water was like. And so, that's why it was able to move quickly, right? And there was a different entertainment value that came out of that whole component, which was maybe not as true to the meaning of the original thing, but it didn't matter in the end, right?

Michael Hoffman:

Right, and that was a moment that was really authentic in people's experience. And the worst thing was somebody who ran an agency for nonprofits was going into a meeting afterwards and people saying, we want to do our ice bucket challenge, and it's like, it's got to come from a real place or [crosstalk 00:19:36] thing.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah, Lauren has just been saying that there's also fake authenticity, which there is. So there's also by the way, I don't know even how to describe this, but, so I have different levels of authenticity that I use. So the person I'm going to be with you here right now is a little bit different than the person I'm going to be with my husband downstairs when we're cooking dinner later, or my mom who's next door in my guest room when we're out watering the garden.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

It's also different than when I was on a sales call earlier today with a client, I'm going to put on a different voice. It's different than when I'm going to call the bank to see where the hell that letter is that they said was coming last week, right? So, there are different forms of authenticity that aren't necessarily fake, but to be clear, I'm controlling how much I'm giving you and how much I'm not, right?

Michael Hoffman:

Right, right, that makes sense. We have a couple questions that came in via video, so I want to go back to my screen and share the first one here.

Linan Zhang:

Hello, this is Linan Zhang from Supporting Strategies, Southwest of Houston. Appreciate it if you can recommend us some software to make video, thank you.

Michael Hoffman:

I will say I did not put her up to that at all.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

That's our customer.

Michael Hoffman:

I think what's interesting about that question for me is that people often really focus on the tools and sometimes there's a paralysis because there's, what tools do I use? And for a long time, when I first started my career around video, it was what kind of camera and that might've mattered then, really. Today, you have a 4K camera in your pocket, I mean, it's ridiculous. The equipment's all over the place. We don't have to worry as much about that.

Michael Hoffman:

So I would say, well, first let me give the required plug of Gather Voices. What we do is allow you to do video at scale, so that's different, right? Which is, if you want to get a lot of video content from many different people, all over the world or all over your city or wherever, you can do that with Gather Voices, you can include it into existing workflows and collect video from a form, from when somebody donates or when they sign up or whatever it is, all of that.

Michael Hoffman:

But, somebody should not wait till they have Gather Voices to make video. They should be using their iPhone, they should be using the iMovie or whatever using their Photo Booth app or whatever it is. Don't not be doing things because you're waiting for some miracle of the tools.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah. I mean, so certainly, I love making mistakes, they are the best way to learn, you have to be afraid not to make them. And so, the tool won't matter because you're going to be bad at it at first, you will. I mean, come on, like just most things, they take a little bit of a learning curve. Now, technology has really flattened that curve quite a lot, obviously. But, you just made me think of with my husband.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

So David is very particular about having the right tools for the right job where I am definitely the kind of person that's like, give me that crappy hammer. I don't care that it's half broken. I'm just going to ... Or something, a rock I'm happy to use the rock. And he's like, "Why are you using that? I've got a perfectly good hammer over here." So, there might also be not to disagree with you, but there might also be just something about just the confidence or you're making me think of ways that we could reposition our own tool to let people who have those issues know that. And by the way-

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. I mean, I think people need to optimize their flow and do the things that they have to do the right way. But I also think they have to be thinking about what would you do? It's like the idea of doing something on a spreadsheet before you then organize your fancy tool around it, because you've actually taken the time to think about what it is you actually want to do first. And you didn't let the tool be leading you by the nose.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah, exactly. And I mean, whether it's being authentic or whether it's figuring out just functionally how things work. You guys all hear people say this again and again, all over the place, Brian Fanzo said, push the damn button. Guy Kawasaki said, just get started, don't make a plan, right? It's sort of thing, just jump. But I think the one thing I wanted to touch on there with back to the authenticity piece is one way to keep yourself grounded, people can get really lost quickly and go all over the place. I'm guilty of it. I do it all the time, is to come up with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

You don't want to map it out word for word, because it will sound inauthentic. And there's a caveat to that, which I'm going to disagree with myself in a second. But for most people that is the case. So beginning, middle end, and you can just write yourself a note, what that's going to be, right? So, I paused doing this, but I used to do these videos, day in the life of an entrepreneur, I would start it the same way every time. And I basically ended the same way and I would have some nugget how long it was going to be, it was going to be 60 seconds or shorter. Then, I was going to try to share in the middle of that thing.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

So, that's a great way to get started and to give yourself some guidelines, not only functionally, but of what the authenticity is going to be around. And then the other thing to disagree with myself on that is when we do pitches, of course. So, when you and I are pitching venture capitalists in a room in front of a bunch of people.

Michael Hoffman:

Completely scripted, completely scripted.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

That's completely scripted, but I practice making it look like it's not scripted, right? So, that's the other thing to practice make it fake authenticity, by the way.

Michael Hoffman:

Well, and it's also a little bit of knowing your material so well that you can flex a little this way or that way, depending on reading the room or questions or those kinds of things, which you and I had to do when we were hanging out in Silicon Valley. But, what you were saying also about that authenticity, but having some guidance, that's why at Gather Voices, you have talking points. The organization can say, tell us your story, or first tell us who you are, but not like a teleprompter, right? Not like, hello, my name is Michael and I'm reading this thing and it looks exactly like I'm reading this thing. It's going to be really boring and you're going to know it's not really authentic because I'm reading.

Michael Hoffman:

So, that's why people ask us, if you have a teleprompter mode in there, and we're like, we tried it and that's not the content you want. But, you want to be able to give people prompts around their content, so it is both authentic and not. We have one-

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yeah, and ...

Michael Hoffman:

Well, go ahead.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Well, okay, I want to go, sorry. [inaudible 00:26:52].

Michael Hoffman:

That's fine.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

People also, we were talking about being boring, right, and not being boring. And people, I think don't sometimes see what is interesting even about their own personal stories or their stories in general, and I'm going to pick on Lauren because she's here. So, we'll be in a meeting together often, Lauren's my right hand woman of all things and we'll go to a meeting and I'm a bulldozer, I know that's right. So I start, "Hey, I'm Katelyn from Lately, Rock And Roll DJ, blah, blah, blah." It's hard to come up after me.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

And then she's like, "Hey, I'm Lauren." And she had said a couple of times, my background is not as interesting as Kate's. And then I stopped her and I said, "Actually, I think your background is amazing." She has a master's degree in psychology data analysis, right? And here she is, this is why she killed it in customer service and sales, by the way. And she is the Tie Dye extraordinaire, not just like some handy-dandy camp thing, the woman can work some magic, stuff that they're selling in stores for megabucks now, among other things, right? So, these are the kinds of things when you're sharing your own story, pick it apart and try to find the components that are interesting because they exist.

Michael Hoffman:

Yeah. Our time is up already, which is ridiculous.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

I'm sorry. Well, keep going.

Michael Hoffman:

We'll keep going. Let's keep going a little bit. But what you're saying though, is I think is that everybody has their story and their story is interesting and it'll be interesting to different people and that it's okay to tell it in a way that you don't have to worry as much. I think that's also a thing about the web today, that's different in people's mindset, it was, everything's got to be perfect. We've got to get it all lined up to go. And we don't want to make any mistakes. And now it's like tell a story and it'll resonate sometimes and it won't resonate other times.

Michael Hoffman:

And sometimes you might make a mistake and there might be something that you shouldn't have put out there. And then you say, I'm sorry that we put it out there and you're forgiven if you're open and direct about it, right? That's different, and that is not how most marketing people or organizational people, CEO's have been trained to operate. So, that's a new kind of muscle that makes your video content much better.

Kate Bradley Chernis:

Yes, because the audience has changed. The world is much more forgiving. They were before this global crisis, but now people are very, very forgiving. So now, is the great time to make a mistake because anything goes, and you'll find that people want you to succeed. We've all heard this before, nobody wants you to fail. Nobody wants me and you to get up here today and screw it up. They don't want that, right? They want to help you, and they really genuinely do. And you should let them, you should ask them for help, let them get their feedback. And really, I think also just have the confidence to know that your story is worth sharing. I think people don't think that.

Michael Hoffman:

Right. No, that's a great point. And your story is worth sharing and so are the stories of all the people out there, your customers, your fans, your donors, your members, and all of those people that enrich your community. So with that, Kate, I'm going to say till next time, this was terrific. It is so great to have you, and your insight and the approach that you take is just really refreshing, and I appreciate it.


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