Archive for February, 2012

CREATING BETTER WEB VIDEOS: 10 Tips from the Family Travel Conference

Posted by at 6 February, 2012, 5:18 pm

One of my favorite workshops at the recent Family Travel Conference was on creating better video blogs. Videos attract visitors to your site, and are great for search engine optimization (SEO).  Kim Orlando, founder of, and Kaleel Sakakeeny, of Travel Video Postcards, shared their best video-making secrets.

1. Gear up. Supplement your video camera/smart phone with a tripod to prevent shaky shots. Kim Orlando likes the Zipshot tripod because it’s lightweight and easy to pack. Also buy an external mike to improve sound quality when interviewing.

2. Dress for success. Solid colors are your best bet. Avoid wearing red or white, and small patterns, like polka dots or houndstooth. Be sure you stand out from your surroundings. No beige on the beach, or green in the forest. And accessorize with care—clanking jewelry can ruin your commentary.

3. Record identifying slates/tags in advance to drop into the beginning and end of your video. Mine would be: “This is Ellen Parlapiano for”

4. Watch your lighting. If you’re outside, you don’t want to be squinting into the sun.

5. Do a sound check to make sure you can be heard. “The wind is your enemy,” says Kim. If you’re shooting scenery or locations in windy conditions, consider adding a voice over later.

6. Powder up. Before going on camera, brush on some powder to reduce shine.

7. Have a hook. Start your video with an interesting lede—something that draws viewers in.  For example, my assignment in our video workshop was to interview the head of the Kidz Korner activities program at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel, where we were staying.  I learned that this children’s program started during Hurricane Irene, when kids and their parents were stranded in the hotel with nothing to do. So my lede was: “How do you keep a hotel full of kids occupied during a hurricane? Omni Kidz Korner showed us how.” I’m still editing the video, but I’ll post it here when it’s ready.

8.  Keep videos short. Somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes is ideal. Think of yours as a short story that entices viewers to visit your site for more details.

9. End with your contact info. Have a text block with your website and other important facts, so viewers can reach you.

10. Store all your videos on a YouTube channel. “A body of work gives you gravitas,” says Kaleel Sakakeeny of Travel Video Postcards.  He also suggests leaving tips on FourSquare, then linking them to your video. For instance, when he’s in the San Francisco airport, he’ll go on FourSquare to offer suggestions of things to do in Yosemite, and then link to his videos of the park. (See an example here.)

Category : Blogging | Websites

Lessons Learned at the Family Travel Conference

Posted by at 5 February, 2012, 4:52 pm

This past weekend I attended the first annual Family Travel Conference at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel in New York City. The event was organized by Kim Orlando of, Kyle McCarthy of,  Eileen Ogintz of, and Joanne Vero of Travel Media Showcase.  The event was extra special for me, because I was able to bring my daughter Amy, who recently graduated from college and has embarked on her own freelance writing career. She and I have traveled on many mother-daughter press trips over the years. But this was the first writing conference that we attended together as professional journalists.

We both learned lots at the awesome workshops, which covered topics like “Writing for the Web,” “Monetizing Your Content,” and “Creating Video for your Site.” We got to network with an amazing group of writers and share tips and strategies. Our favorite part of the weekend was the video workshop, where we were sent to various parts of the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel (Amy and I were assigned to the Kidz Korner kids program) and told to produce a 1-2 minute video. I’m still editing it, but hopefully will have it ready to premiere here soon!


Though the conference focused on travel writing, many of the tips were relevant for any topic you might write about.  For example, in the Better Travel Writing Workshop, we learned these general tips on Writing for the Web:

Use clear headlines. Make sure your title describes what your piece will be about. Don’t get so caught up in optimizing SEO that you lose sight of what will be appealing to your readers.

Use photos to break up the copy.

Have subheads every 2 or 3 paragraphs.

Use bullet points to illustrate important information.

Keep posts short. Instead of trying to cover too much in one piece, do a series of posts. For example, I’ll be doing a separate post on Creating Video for your Site, using tips we learned at the conference.

Link, link, link. Refer to other articles (both on and off your site) that are related to the topic. But no more than 20 links per page.


We ended the conference with a family-style lunch at Virgil’s Real Barbecue restaurant in Times Square. (The pulled pork was to die for!) Then we were all given a New York Pass, which allows free access to over 70 NY attractions. Amy and I used ours to visit Madame Tussauds wax museum. Eli Manning was there to welcome us in the lobby. We hope that was a good omen!

Amy wishes Eli good luck in the big game.

Amy wishes Eli good luck in the big game.

Category : Uncategorized