5 Tips to Win a Video Contest for Cash, Prizes... and Maybe a Little Fame?

Yep, you just might smile like this if you win a video contest...

We've noticed more companies large and small are hosting video contests. It's gotten so popular, there are even video contest sites that help you find and track competitions. There are video contest apps that help sponsors set up and run their contests via Facebook and other social media.

But the big question is... What does it take for someone just getting started to win a video contest?

Boost Your Odds and Win a Video Contest

Tip # 1: Choose your contest carefully. It's tempting to enter only the contests with the biggest cash awards and best prizes. After all, who wouldn't want to win $20,000 (or more), a new car or a vacation to an exotic destination? 

However, these large cash prizes attract attention and the most entrants. These entrants are frequently willing to make every effort to impress—including creating animations and special effects—to win the big prizes.  

A strategy for increasing your odds of winning is to enter smaller contests that will likely attract fewer participants. Look for grand prizes of $2,000 or lower. Online Video Contests has a useful search bar that lets you sort by prize amount for these smaller competitions. 

Many of these smaller contests have simple rules and are easier for amateurs to enter. Sponsors aren't necessarily looking for whiz-bang special effects in the winning video. Look for contests you can enter with your current skill level and video making tools. 

For examples of what we're talking about, go to Project ED. This site hosts ongoing educational video contests for smaller prizes. The contest rules are easy to follow. There are several examples on the site of winning videos that use simple videography techniques combined with great content.

Tip # 2: Pay attention to the rules AND the judges. Once you've chosen your contest, make sure you follow the rules to the letter. Ignore the contest rules and you could be disqualified even before the judges get a chance to view your work.

You'll need to follow the rules for the contest deadline, video format, length, and file size. Judges will be looking for a specific kind of content in your video.

For example, the contest instructions might ask you to promote a product, so you'll need to highlight that product in your video. They might specify original content only (i.e., no copyrighted material) or they might ask you to create a music video for a song they provide.

You'll also want to take into consideration who will judge your video. Your judges might be marketing executives from the company sponsoring the contest. Or, the winner might be selected through open voting (meaning anyone online can vote for your video). Keep in mind who your judges are and create a video that appeals to their interests and tastes.

Tip # 3:  Come up with a compelling story. Before you shoot any footage, you must take some time to script out (yes, that means write it down!) the key points of your video's story. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Start out strong: You may only have a minute to present your entire story, so start your video with a hook that grabs your audience's attention immediately.

  • Use emotions to your advantage: Tug at the heart strings or make 'em laugh out loud. Either way, strike a positive chord with your audience with emotional content.

  • Include an interesting character or two: Early on establish a memorable hero or a dastardly protagonist that keeps your audience glued to your story.

  • Don't confuse your audience: Be clear and direct. You should be able to summarize your video in one or two short sentences. If you can't, then your concept isn't clear to you and it won't be clear to your audience.

  • Keep the pacing fast: After you've grabbed your audience with your strong hook, you need to keep the momentum going. Each scene should propel the video to its logical conclusion. You don't have time for fluff in a one or two minute video.

Tip # 4:  Take care of those technical issues. Before sending in your submission, make sure you've reviewed your video for technical problems. How's your audio? Does your background music drown out your dialogue? Look for proper exposure, sharp focus and logical cuts. 

Have some folks with a critical eye review your video for both content and technical issues. Don't wait until you're up against the deadline before getting feedback, otherwise you won't have time to make adjustments.  

Tip # 5:  End with a satisfying conclusion. Everything you've presented in your video should culminate in a resolution that makes sense and elicits your desired response from your audience. Your ending should be clear and direct. Don't leave your audience hanging with unanswered questions. 

If the purpose of your video is to promote a product, then you'd better make sure the audience feels positive toward the product after watching your video. If the video contest rules say to educate your audience on a specific concept, make sure your conclusion precisely summarizes that concept.

The best endings are the ones that delight, charm, excite or somehow resonate with the audience. These emotions will endear your video to the contest judges and will go a long way to help you win a video contest!

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