How To Win Video Contests (Even If You're Not a Pro!)

How to Blow the Competition Away When You Enter Video Contests

Mother filming her family for a video contest
••• Image (c) Simon McComb / Getty Images

Why Bother Taking the Time to Enter Video Contests?

Video contests have many benefits for the companies that run them. They can generate content that can make their customers laugh, cry, and get emotionally involved. Companies can use those videos to spice up their blog posts, add interest to their websites, and even as advertisements on television.

Even better, people love sharing great videos on social media, which can result in more followers and new customers for the sponsoring company.

For entrants, video contests offer a great opportunity as well. Why? Because the prizes can be stunningly large, but few people take the time to enter. Where a regular sweepstake will receive hundreds of thousands of entries, a video contest might receive only 100. Those are amazing odds, making it worthwhile to take your shot at winning video contests.

How to Win Video Contests, Even If You're an Amateur Filmmaker:

Are you worried that your video skills aren't great enough to make it possible to win video contests? Don't let those worries hold you back. Here are some tips that will help you to increase your odds of winning video contests and receiving amazing prizes.

  1. Read the Rules Carefully

    Before you start planning your contest-winning video, read through the rules. You don't want to get your heart set on a video idea, only to realize after you've invested a lot of time in it that it can't win because it doesn't fit the rules. Here are some things to look for in the rules:
    • The Contest Theme: What is the sponsor trying to convey in the video? Are they trying to promote healthy living, a new product, or something else?
    • End Date: How long do you have to put the video together before the contest ends?
    • Movie Length: How much time will you have to convince the judges/voting public that your movie is the greatest?
    • Format: Do you have to submit a tape, post your entry on YouTube, or upload it to the sponsor's site?
    • File Size: Are there restrictions regarding how large the file can be?
    • Other Considerations: Do you have to add music? Include a certain product? Avoid copyrighted material? Can others participate, or are you the only one allowed in the video?
  2. Review the Judging Criteria

    The next important thing to know is how the videos will be judged. Knowing what the judges are looking for can help you tailor your video to meet those expectations. Here is an example of the judging criteria used in a 1-800-Flowers Video Valentine Contest:
    • Emotion: How moving and dramatic a story is told in the Video Submission.
    • How well does the Video Submission illustrate love and romance?
    • How universal is the appeal of the love story being told.
    • Relevance: How well does the Video Submission reflect the theme of the Contest "Video Valentine"
  3. Determine How the Winner Will Be Selected

    One last thing to consider before starting to write your script is who will be doing the actual judging. Will it be a panel of judges hired by the sponsor? Will the video contest winners be determined by a public vote? Knowing this ahead of time can help you create the most appealing video that you can.
  4. Come Up with a Moving Story

    Now, it's time to brainstorm. Try to think of a short but powerful story that fits in with the theme of the contest and really connects with the viewer. Humor is a good bet, since people love to laugh, and a video that makes them feel good will have an advantage. But you could also try to tug on the heart strings with a sad story, or to appeal to the audience's sense of fairness, injustice, courage, or patriotism, to give just a few ideas. Most important is to have a gripping story that people will want to watch from beginning to end.
  5. Start With a Strong Hook

    Once you have your basic storyline, think about a really gripping way to start your video entry. If you can really captivate your audience with a strong hook in the first few seconds, you're well on your way to winning your video contest. Don't be tempted to save your most moving shots for later in the video.
  6. When Possible, Flatter Sponsors

    If it's appropriate, mention the video contest's sponsor in your story, use one of their products as a prop, or even just have it in the background. Especially when the video will be judged by the sponsor, this can be an excellent and easy way to earn some points.
  7. Write Your Script

    Now that you have a basic outline of what you want to talk about, write a script. A script will help prevent you from stumbling over your words when you film your video. Practice reading the script in front of a mirror until you have it down pat - you don't want to read directly from your paper while you're filming your video contest entry or you'll run the risk of sounding stiff and wooden.
  8. Test for Timing

    After you've run through your script often enough that you are familiar with it, test how long it takes you to read through it. Will your script fit into the maximum length of the movie?
  9. Rewrite as Necessary

    At this point, you'll tinker with your script to remove any awkward phrases, and to cut it down to the right length, if necessary. It's a good idea to practice your script in front of friends or family members, to see if they have a good reaction to your story.
  10. Consider Your Setting

    No matter how great your video is, you will hurt your chances of winning contests if your background is messy, unattractive, or otherwise distracting. Choose a plain backdrop like a white wall or a solid-colored door, or consider filming in a pretty location outdoors.
  11. Film Your Video

    After your script is polished and perfect and you've practiced it to the point where you can say your lines in a natural and animated way, it's time to actually do the filming. It's best if you can enlist the help of a friend or family member to do the camera work for you.
    Make sure you have good lighting so that people can see you clearly, but without glare. You might want to try filming several different "takes" and selecting the one you like best to submit to the video contest.
  12. Submit Your Video to the Contest - And Keep Your Fingers Crossed

    Once you've filmed a video that you're happy with, double-checked that you've followed all of the contest guidelines, and are ready to go - upload your video to the contest and hope for the best. 


  1. You don't need an expensive video camera to participate in video contests. Many digital cameras, and even cell phones, have the ability to record perfectly acceptable video.
  2. If you have no way of filming your video, you might still be able to enter the contest by using photographs. Use a video program to make a slideshow of relevant photos and set them to music, or use a voice-over to tell your story.
  3. Do some research. See if the sponsor has run other video contests in the past, and if so, check out the winners' videos. Also, check out the commercials that the sponsors have made to get a feel for their audience and their preferences.
  4. Want some inspiration to help you come up with great stories that are short enough to submit to video contests? Visit YouTube and do a search for "best commercials." Ad agencies are paid big bucks to create short, moving stories, and you can learn a lot by watching the best of the best.

What You Need:

  • Video camera, digital camera, or cell phone with video capability.
  • An idea for an emotionally gripping story.
  • Video contests to enter.
  • Good lighting.
  • A clean and tidy area to use as a backdrop.