How to Play Video At Your Trade Show
Hopefully by now, you’ve figured out that video and trade shows go together like peanut butter and jelly. We’ve written entire articles gushing about the benefits of a video display at your booth – but we haven’t dived deeper into the best way to set that up – in detail, with instructions and options to choose from.
Which begs the the question: what is the best way to display your video at a trade show?
1. Prepare Some Captions
If you have a collection of corporate videos to choose from, part of your selection process should be determined by which videos rely heavily on audio.
Trade shows tend to be loud, and even if your video isn’t silent, there is no guarantee that your visitors will be able to hear any of it.
In this case, it’s best to use a video that can still capture viewers even when it runs on ‘mute.’ There are two ways to do that: one is to have a video specially prepared with trade show display in mind; the other is to use a video you already have. Remember last month’s client spotlight featuring CSI? Well, we made two versions of that video for them: one with sound for general use, and one trade show version without sound with special graphics and open captions built right in! Take a look.
But don’t panic if motion graphics and months of preparation weren’t part of your plan. Standard captions with one of your audio-heavy videos can still be very effective.
We recommend using a video with open captions, as opposed to closed captions.
Closed captions, usually found as .srt files, are more of an extra document that layers over your video and syncs with it. On the other hand, open captions are essentially burned straight into your video file and become part of it. That way, once the open captions are complete, you don’t have to worry about an extra file or proper syncing anymore (more on that in a minute). But where do you even get that text to begin with?
There are a few different ways you can get captions, depending on your budget.
One of your best options is to reconnect with the production agency or editing house that created your video, and pay them to generate a copy of your video with open captions. But let’s say you’re using a video that was made a few years ago, by a company that isn’t around anymore. What then?
Just off the bat, there are professional services like Cielo24 that generate accurate transcripts in a professional manner, and you can download an .srt file directly from them. They’re great for getting correct captions quickly, not to mention foreign subtitles if you want to translate your video into multiple languages. On the other hand, if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you can upload your video to YouTube and select the “automatic captions” option to get a… shall we say ‘rough draft’ of closed captions?
As we discussed at the end of 2016, YouTube automatic captions can range from almost-decent to downright horrendous, so you will be doing a lot of editing yourself. That won’t be too bad if your video is only a minute or so in length – but if your video is fairly long, you may want to save yourself hours of agony and send out to a professional service. Either way, you’ll walk away with an .srt file of closed captions, so you’ll still need a video editor to burn them into your video file.
2. Make It Big and Tall
Displaying a video is like displaying a sign or banner at your booth: it needs to be large, and it needs to be high enough to catch the eye of passersby.
Does that mean it’s wrong to have the video playing on a tablet or computer down on the table? Of course not. That’s a great way to make your video mobile, so someone (or even multiple people at once) can pick it up and engage on a deeper level.
However, trade shows are also about drawing attention from a distance. That means using a big HD screen that can show off the incredible quality of your video. And that also means raising said screen to eye-level or above, so the crowds aren’t blocking the view or the captions. Some companies even go above and beyond in employing nine-screen displays or high-tech projectors.
But don’t be afraid of the hassle that’s usually associated with setting up a big-screen TV; it’s not like you’re not installing a satellite connection, or possibly even audio speakers.
If you’re just playing one video on a loop, your monitor won’t require a tangled nightmare of cables. Besides the power cable, there might be one or two extra cords – and even that depends on one last thing…
3. Use a Reliable Video Format.
When it comes to displaying your video, there are a lot of options you could choose from: a USB, an HDMI connection, or the old-fasioned DVD (more on each of those in a moment)… but there is one format you must never rely on.
Bring your own copy of the video, and do not rely on YouTube or any other wifi-reliant video player.
This is nothing against online video hosting in general – we encourage putting videos on your website as a valuable business asset. But don’t use that copy for your trade show display. Internet access is not a constant given at every conference or corporate event.
Even if everything seems fine during set-up, the sheer number of attendees on the floor all using the wi-fi could affect the quality of your display. The last thing you want is for your thousand-dollar HD video to start freezing or glitching out after months of preparation and hard work. So what are some other display options with less factors and chances for disaster?
Simply copy the file (usually an .mpeg, .mp4, or .mov) onto a portable drive, and plug that into the television. Easy-peasy. But we realize that not every TV model out there has a USB port, so there are other methods.
Most televisions and laptops out there have some way to connect with an HDMI cable nowadays (some older models may require a special adaptor on the end of the cable). If you plug in your computer and select “Input > HDMI 1” on your television, your computer screen should appear on the monitor. From there, you can open the video file and play it on full-screen – and you can program QuickTime or Windows Media Player to put the video on a loop so you don’t keep having to hit “play” over and over. In QuickTime, just select “View > Loop.” In Windows Media Player, just hit the “Repeat” button (it looks like an arrow going in a circle).
First of all, unless you have the ability to create a BluRay disc, that expensive video burned to your DVD isn’t going to be in High-Definition anymore. DVDs don’t have the best format, they can’t play at a the high frame rate your video was made for, and they mess up graphics because of pixel sizing. In short, they’re getting to be about as obsolete as VHS tapes (but without the accompanying nostalgia). So they really shouldn’t be your first or second choice; but if you’re looking for a tangible backup plan, you could bring a DVD along. You can get one from your production agency, or from a DVD-burning service. Once you have a DVD, there are a few ways to play it.
Some TVs have a disc player directly embedded in their frame, which would be especially easy. You could also use an HDMI connection with your computer, as described above, and play the DVD on your laptop… though to be honest, if you’re going to plug in the computer, just have the HD video file ready on your desktop instead of on a separate disc so that your video is the best quality possible. If you really want to, you could plug a DVD player into the TV for a more traditional display system – but that will involve a lot more cables and prayer.
Just try to eliminate as many independent elements to your process as possible, so you can eliminate extra chances for things to go wrong.
Setting up a trade show booth, even without video, is a good exercise in understanding Murphy’s Law. That’s why we recommend open captions over closed captions; why we suggest you avoid using sound; and why we insist that you don’t rely on an internet-based video player.
Whether you’re a tech-savvy wizard of the big-screen, or whether computers and cables are a necessary evil in your life, bringing a video to your tradeshow doesn’t have to be a torturous milestone in the quarter.
There are enough options for you to choose from that you can avoid any unknowns that you find unfamiliar or unpredictable. And if you still feel shaky about the idea, don’t be afraid to check in with an expert to get a few more details or ideas about how to optimize your own display.