Video Essentials

What ‘The Apprentice’ Can Teach You About Making Business Videos

In the new world of online video, everyone who runs a business is now potentially a video producer. You may not make the videos yourself, but you might need to come up with ideas and oversee production.

Luckily, inspiration for making business videos is never far away. Analyzing what works in popular TV shows is one way to find it. After all, by attracting millions of diehard fans who return week after week and earning millions of dollars in advertising, TV professionals must be doing something right!

Having recently watched an episode of the business person’s favorite show The Apprentice, here are five lessons you can apply to your business videos.

1.The Big Opening

Spend time and money on the opening title sequence. In the U.K. Apprentice, the show begins with beautiful aerials of the London city skyline, car shots, and the contestants pushing along their suitcases. A combination of killer sound bites, music, and visuals all grab the viewer. These opening scenes are crucial and are where you win or lose your viewer’s attention. In TV, so-called “Pre-titles’ are worked on and analyzed over and over.

I’m not suggesting you go and hire a helicopter for your videos, but If you can infuse quality up front it sets the tone for the whole video and can make up for varying visual quality later on.

In a Web video, spending some cash on a glossy opening title sequence that you can reuse is a good investment. This could be animation or real life shots and sound bites. Have a think what can grab your viewer from the start and make him or her want to stick with your video.

2. What’s Your Soundtrack?

I bet if you think for a minute you can hear the distinctive Apprentice soundtrack in your head. In the U.K. you’ll be aware of the classically-inspired piano and strings combined with the tense boardroom music by composer Dru Masters.

Having familiar and powerful music draws viewers in and gives brand recognition. It’s worth creating a soundtrack that fits the style of your business and establishing it as a theme.

3. Make it Visual

One of the trickiest issues for some businesses is how to make their niche come across visually. If you run an SEO company or are an accountant, you’ll know what I mean! But notice how The Apprentice’s producers work hard to find tasks that will translate to TV.

The producer’s task is to convey themes like buying and selling, teamwork, and leadership in a visual way and engage a mainstream TV audience.

The contestants end up working in fruit and vegetable stands, making TV ads, and creating a new brand of sausages, all to make the show dynamic. Shots of people at computer screens or in offices, and back-to-back talking heads are avoided.

Try to identify how you can symbolize your business on video. If it’s SEO services, for example, you could symbolize Web traffic with a timelapse of hundreds of people entering and leaving a shop. If you are an accountant, you could create a giant mountain of paperwork to show the mess people might find themselves in if they don’t hire you. You get the idea: try to think outside the box.

4. Lose the Fluff

Although The Apprentice runs at an hour of TV time and your Web videos will no be a lot shorter, there is still a comparison to be made. The show is a combination of many different shorter scenes: the wake up call, the briefing, preparing for the challenge, and so on. Look at the show scene-by-scene: each is cut tight, every sound bite and voiceover is there for a reason. It all pushes the story along and adds drama. Dull moments are removed altogether.

Start the process of cutting to the chase early. When your videos are in the editing process you need to have the same mindset: Is this quote, this shot, this line of dialogue needed? Would your video be better, easier to watch, or more efficient without it? Ask the hard questions. Nothing is too precious to lose, so don’t get attached. If the flow doesn’t work or it gets boring, trash it!

5. Takeaway Content

The Apprentice may be reality television, but there are always useful nuggets in each episode for people in business to learn from. It could be an aside from one of the assistants or a story dropped into the boardroom by the Donald Trump/Sir Alan Sugar figure. You get an insight into the mindset of a millionaire businessman and some tips to use in your own business.

What can you add to your videos that teaches something to your audience? It’s easy to simply promote who you are and how good you are, but what’s in it for the viewer. What kind of takeaway knowledge will make them come back for more?

The next time you watch your favorite TV show, try to watch it with a producer’s eye rather than a viewer’s, and see what ideas you can take for your own videos.


Guest post by Jules Watkins. Watkins has produced and directed many top TV shows in the U.K. for the BBC, Channel 4, MTV, and Sky. His credits include The Biggest Loser, Pimp My Ride, Don’t Tell the Bride, and The Business Inspector.

To learn more about making better videos, check out his video-making training course for business at


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. That’s all fine & good…
    but, what about the COMBOVER??
    (er…it’s workin’ for me 😉

    Posted by ralf | August 9, 2011, 2:19 pm
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