When It Comes to Video, Never Forget the Rule of Show, Don’t Tell

There's an old rule in narrative visual storytelling that essentially boils down to "whenever you have the opportunity to, always show and never tell."

There’s an old rule in narrative visual storytelling that essentially boils down to “whenever you have the opportunity to, always show and never tell.

What this means is that if you’re writing a play, a television show, a movie or something of that nature, don’t have the characters explain what they’re doing and why they want to do it. Use any and all available opportunities to show this, instead.

Take the classic film “Star Wars,” for example. While main character Luke Skywalker does talk a bit about how he wants to leave the moisture farm behind and go off and have an adventure, this movie actually features one of the best examples of “show, don’t tell” ever filmed.

Luke Skywalker stands outside as the twin suns of his home planet Tatooine are setting and he just stares at them, longingly, while John Williams’ score plays in the background.

One image tells us absolutely everything that we need to know about who this boy is, what he wants to do and why he wants to do it: he wants to journey out among the stars.

This is the power of “show, don’t tell” on display and its benefits don’t begin and end with $100 million dollar space operas. It’s something that you can also use to start making your marketing collateral even more effective, particularly when it comes to video content.

It just requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

All About Action

Videos are obviously a visual medium, but the true strength of this format can be summed up in a single word: action. Because you’re dealing with a visual communication medium that is full motion, you’ve got a major ally on your side in the form of action and momentum that you need to be making use of as much as possible.

When you sit down to make an Infographic with a tool like Visme (which I happen to have founded), think about the story that you’re actually telling and the natural opportunities for action that have presented themselves.

If you’re using an Infographic as a way to essentially “visualize” all of the many features that your product or service offers, why on Earth would you simply let it end there? Yes, this information presented in the form of an Infographic will carry you far and is already way better off than just a simple blog post… but with the right video, you can go even farther.

It’s what my team did for our intro Video by creating a story around Visme and trying to create an emotional connection at the very beginning. You can check it out here:

Now, imagine that someone can see a bullet point breakdown of your product’s features in the Infographic and then can instantly see a video of a test subject using the product or service in the exact same way to see those exact same features on full display. Think about how much more effective that is than just reading something.

With a tool like Visme, you can do exactly that by inserting videos into the Infographics themselves to share them online with others.

Again: show, don’t tell.

This extends to other visual communication formats like presentations, too. If you’ve created a presentation about the many different types of problems that your product or service sells, consider a multi-tiered approach.

Use one slide in the presentation to outline the problem and why it is such an issue in the first place. Then, use a tool like Visme to insert a video of a real customer experiencing that real problem right alongside the slide, giving your audience a unique opportunity to see how someone actually overcomes that challenge with their own two eyes.


This may sound like inherently basic stuff, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Telling someone something is great, but at the same time people are naturally skeptical. This isn’t something that you can necessarily eliminate entirely, but what you can do is make it work to your advantage.

Instead of simply telling someone something and hoping that they take your word for it, show them that same point in as much detail as possible with the right video content alongside the point you’re trying to make.

Not only will this lead to the creation of much more powerful, more effective marketing collateral, but it’ll go a long way towards getting someone down off the fence and moving towards that sale as much as possible

You don’t even need to be a graphic designer with a lifetime of experience to make this work to your advantage, either. Take a look at this video series about how to create beautiful visual content as a non-designer. With the right tool and a little bit of effort, it really is so much easier than you probably think it is.

In the End

Images, videos and other video formats present a great opportunity for data visualization, yes – but never forget that this is only one small part of a much larger story being told. It simply isn’t good enough to take a product’s technical specifications sheet and “visualize it” or just pair it with relevant images. To really strike the emotional chord with your audience that you’re after, you have to go a fair bit deeper than that.

Always remember the major rule of visual storytelling: show, don’t tell.

Think about it like this: let’s say you’ve got an important point across and you pair it with a stunning, relevant image or video clip in an effort to really underline it and sell it even better. You’ve got text running right alongside that video and you think you’re in great shape.

Now, think about what happens when you remove that text. Does the video stand on its own? Because it should.

Every opportunity you have to make a move like this in your marketing collateral is a move that is well worth making, because the way that you resonate with your audience through beautiful videos is something that you just can’t put a price on.


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