The 6 Dos and Don’ts of Video Training Content

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I like to cook. But I’m not someone who reads cookbooks. I don’t want to say they bore me to tears… but they absolutely bore me to tears.

The Dos and Donts of Video Training Content

I don’t read cookbooks, I don’t print off online recipes, I don’t trawl through file boxes for old family recipes on index cards. My Pinterest is strictly nerf gun modifications only.

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And I certainly don’t go looking for Grandma Tollhouse’s secret cookie recipes.

But you know what I love? Those little one minute cooking videos that Buzzfeed produces.

They’re called Tasty on Buzzfeed and I am completely and hopelessly addicted to them. I can and will waste hours watching dozens of fifty-second cooking clips.

(Come on! They have pizza tater tots. Look me in the eye and tell me that’s not the most genius thing you’ve ever seen.)

Why do those things engross me when I’d probably turn down a handwritten recipe from Julia Child herself?

It’s because of the video.

Video is engaging and exciting in a way that plain text simply isn’t. We can argue all day about why.

Some people think that it’s a generational thing. Those who grew up with computers and television allegedly prefer video over text because of shorter attention spans. Some people even blame Sesame Street.

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I personally believe that Elmo can do no wrong, but that’s just me.

There’s a lot of evidence that it’s about learning styles. Some people retain information best by reading information on a page or screen and then copying it down or taking notes. Other people need to draw it out or see some kind of visual representation, or hear the information out loud in order to hold onto it.

Maybe it’s an issue of blended learning. There’s an idea called the “picture superiority effect” that shows how we learn better when we use multiple ways of gaining information.

Whatever the reason, there’s a mountain of evidence that incorporating multimedia into your eLearning is going to make it more impactful for your learners. Video is a strong and surprisingly easy way to achieve this.

But if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right. Think back to every Schoolhouse Rock knockoff or dreadful educational video that was ever played for you in high school. You want to make sure your content is memorable for how engaging it is, not because it’s unintentionally funny.

I can’t magically make your scripts sparkle, so instead, here’s a few Dos and Don’ts to help you get the best finished video training product you can.

Do: Make a connection

Which is more personal: a wall of text or the face of a real human speaking directly to you?

Human beings love faces, so much so that we look for them everywhere (even in places they don’t exist). So here’s an insider tip: use people in your videos. It’s a secret that marketers already know. Human faces make people pay attention. They don’t even need to be real, cartoons will do the trick.

Just don’t put a glorified PowerPoint presentation on screen, it’s as good as having no video at all.

Don’t: Skimp on production

You could have the best content in the universe, but if your production quality is low you’re going to lose viewers. There’s no reason why you should fight yourself to produce meaningful eLessons. Make it as easy as possible with better equipment. We have tools for this. Not unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, we have the technology.

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Assuming you’re opting for real world video clips (though don’t feel like you have to; like I said in the point above, cartoons work just as well as real human faces to capture attention), you’ll need solid editing software to make your content flow instead of drag.

One free option is Filmora. It’s very simple and straightforward, and has a lot of really nifty looking transitions and word overlays. I’ve used it myself, and the free version is as comprehensive as you need for most projects, though it does come with a watermark.

If you’re ready for a more complicated system, another free option is Lightworks. It’s a more complex interface, but that comes with more options if you’re willing to dive in. It’s also set up to work across operating systems, so if you’re more of a Mac (or Linux) user than a PC, they’ve got you covered.

If you need to capture your screen to illustrate a lesson (a popular move, very Khan Academy), there’s great free software for that, too. FlashBack Express is one, and comes with webcam tech and the ability to schedule your recording, which means more control and, hopefully, less editing. Screencast-O-Matic is another screencasting software. The free version allows recordings up to 15 minutes long,

Do: Diversify your platforms

If I find a video I want to watch, I save it and watch it on my phone. I even prefer to watch Netflix on my phone. I appreciate the ease of watching during my metro commute or the comfort of lying on my side on the couch. Since my computer vent gets cranky when I turn it on its side, my phone is the best streaming option.

That might sound extreme, but in 2014, more than half of all mobile data usage was from video streaming. And as of 2015, 48% of millennials reported that they only stream video on mobile.

You absolutely need a video host that will allow your content to appear on mobile. YouTube is the most obvious option, with its mobile integration. You could also consider using an LMS with mobile capabilities and host your video content directly through that.

Don’t: Disregard load times

You already know it’s hard to get your learners to be enthusiastic about completing eLearning lessons. You don’t want to give them any reason not to finish the video you worked so hard to produce. So don’t have a long video that takes forever to load or requires a download.

Four out of five users will click away if the video they’re streaming stalls. A good way to avoid this is to keep your videos short, which will help them load and buffer more quickly. That’s good advice in general, given that 60% of users will ditch any video longer than two minutes.

Do: Invite feedback

So you’ve put your video content on your eLearning platform. It has the necessary information, and you’re pretty sure your learners will watch it. All done, right?

Not quite. If you don’t get feedback, you can’t know how much of an impact your content had. There are two ways to go about this. The first is to give a quiz on the content. I’m sure you’re already doing that as part of your lesson, so I’m going to suggest another method.

A reasonable time after your learners have completed the course, set up an automatic email asking them to complete a follow up survey. You have tons of options in terms of hosting, designing, and formatting your survey, so focus on what you’ll ask them. You need to know what they enjoyed, what they disliked, what they remember, and how to make the content better.

Some questions you might ask:

  • Was the video easy to access?
  • Did the video load quickly?
  • What was the most memorable part of the video?
  • What made it memorable for you?

By slipping in questions that probe at the content itself, you’ll see how much the videos helped with retention, which should give you all the data you need if you’re on the fence about them.

Don’t: Let your content stagnate

I’m going to show you something magical. This is a video that MTV made in the 1990s about the internet. Go on, watch it, absorb what you’re seeing. Pretty hilarious now, right? It’s an extreme (and, given that we’re using the internet to watch it, kind of meta) example, which is what makes it the perfect cautionary tale. You don’t want your content to be old and irrelevant, even if it’s hysterical.

In particular, if training is annual, you should update your videos so that people rewatching will remain engaged. And be aware of your audience. What’s important to know in one department or at one location may be completely irrelevant elsewhere. Regurgitating the same information is a surefire way for your learners to tune you out.

Wrapping it up

If you can follow these tips and avoid the big, shiny, awful Don’ts, you will have a headstart on video content production for your eLearning.
Have you integrated video into your lessons? How did it go? Let me know in the comments.

Do you use a software for your video production? Review it here.

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

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