Videos are great promotion tools for meetings, especially incentive programs. Here are some tips for creating on-time, on-budget, and on-target videos.

1. Establish your objectives. What do you want the viewing audience to think, know, or do after they see your video? This could be simple: "I want them to feel excited about the conference destination." Or it could be performance based: "I want them to go out and increase production by 20 percent." You can have several objectives for any one video.

2. Set your budget. Budget is closely related to your objectives; more important objectives should justify a more expensive video. Access to in-house production equipment and personnel saves money. We typically use an in-house producer, but often will use an outside scriptwriter. Other budget factors: length of the video, total number of copies, whether you are shooting original footage or purchasing stock footage, professional versus amateur talent, and what format you are shooting. Typically, I expect to spend $3,000 for every minute of finished video. So, an eight-minute video will cost about $24,000. This is an average figure based on middle-of-the-road production values.

3. Calculate your lead time. My rule of thumb: one week per minute of finished video. An eight-minute video needs eight weeks of lead time. Get on your production department's schedule as soon as possible. For our incentive video, we typically begin brainstorming in June for a November completion date. Note that lead time is different than actual production time. That eight-minute video might take one week to research and script, one week to shoot, and one week to edit.

4. Determine your video length. The length of the video goes back to your objectives. We have had incentive videos that have been up to 30 minutes long, but the more typical length has been 12 to 15 minutes. The trend is for even shorter ones. This year's video promoted two different conference destinations in seven minutes.

5. Find some footage. The first place to look for footage is from the free sources--your meeting hotel and the area CVB. Another alternative is to find a local video production company that has footage that you can purchase. A third choice is to purchase footage from a stock footage company. If all else fails, you can arrange to send a video crew to the destination, or hire a local crew to shoot the video footage you need. This is usually not ideal as it can be pretty expensive and you often are at the mercy of the weather since you are trying to get your shooting done quickly.

6. Find a crew. If you need to hire a local crew, check the yellow pages or ask the hotel or a local DMC for local production companies. Another good idea is to check for International Television Association members, who are production personnel involved in corporate TV production. In addition to being good sources for labor, they are also good sources for finding footage.

7. Make your video stand out. Because you're promoting a destination and a hotel, your videos probably look a lot like travel promos. Here are some things you can do to spice them up. Make use of graphics and animation. Many special effects are available for minimal expense. Include some live interview testimonials from real agents. They add more weight than having your CEO talk about what a good time qualifiers will have. Conduct a few interviews at this year's conference to use in the next video, or plan to catch some key agents when they travel to your home office throughout the year.

Don't forget that once your video is done, your launch meeting is just one place it can be used. How about putting some streaming video on your company Web site, or distributing it on CD or DVD? See you at the movies!