Standing at the free-throw line, you dribble the basketball a few times, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. You imagine yourself crouching and then launching the ball toward the hoop in a perfect arc. You see it effortlessly swish through the net and hear the crowd’s enthusiastic roar. Then you open your eyes and execute what you just imagined.
We’re familiar with the pre-visualiztion exercises that basketball players, golfers, divers, gymnasts, and athletes of every stripe use to mentally imagine the perfect execution of every throw, swing, dive, and backflip. Competition is 80% mental and 20% physical, so the 2-second pause at the free-throw line allows the athlete to cognitively prepare the body to perform the movement they’ve practiced 1,000 times.
Filmmakers also use pre-visualization to think through every camera angle and plot out every beat of a scene. Blockbuster films like Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Iron Man, World War Z, and The Matrix went through years of pre-visualization before producers were satisfied and ready to begin filming.
The same careful attention to pre-planning applies to content creation. If you can imagine what it will feel like to execute the perfect free-throw, you can also imagine the end result of a 90-second TikTok video. How do you want your viewers to feel after watching your content? Pre-visualize that and then reverse-engineer how to bring about that effect.
Too often we treat content creation like a lottery–just add trending video or a hashtag and one of these days your video is bound to go viral. But would you treat any other creative pursuit that way? Hollywood producers would never just throw something against the wall to see if it sticks, cross their fingers, and hope for the best with a $100 million dollar budget.
Relying on trending audio or other lucky tokens reveals a misunderstanding of what really causes content to go viral. It may seem like every video with a pumpkin goes viral in the fall, but we don’t see the hundreds of thousands of videos with pumpkins that flop. The survivorship bias leads us to believe that the select few pieces of content that make it to the top represent the trend, but we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Thankfully, we don’t have to spend years in pre-production like Hollywood filmmakers. But we should invest a healthy percentage of our content creation process in pre-visualizing the entire work of art and its desired effect on the viewer. It might make all the difference in the world.
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