You probably already know that video can be an excellent medium for training. But before you get started building your video, you need to decide what type of training video to create to get the best results.
Whether you are tasked to make a training video or you initiated the project yourself, you probably have customers (internal or external) who have expectations of what the training should be and how it should be delivered. With that in mind, one crucial step before you choose what type of video to make is to consider your customers’ expectations. Be prepared to get buy-in from your stakeholders (and possibly from viewers) if you’re diverting from what they expect. This can be subliminally through framing, or explicitly by explaining your approach.
So, you need to think about how you’re going to handle customer expectations, but you should also consider your learning objectives. What do you hope to achieve with this training? Is the goal to inspire, persuade, remind, or demonstrate? While there are many types of videos you can employ to execute your tactic, there are four big genres that lend themselves well to video learning.
A screencast is a video recording of your computer screen. It’s ideal when you need to demonstrate a process or teach a computer-related function or task. Screencasts can include music, voice narration, and animated text, or they can be simpler and show only the on-screen action and result. When the learning objective is competency in a technical task, it may be best to make a screencast.
Once you’ve decided to make a screencast, you may want to also consider other types of video that complement a screen recording. For example, trainers often use camera or webcam video to introduce themselves and set expectations before switching to the screen video that provides the demonstration.
Best Practices for Creating Engaging Screencasts
A few things to keep in mind when making a screencast for training purposes:
- Be conscientious of how many things you have going on at once. If you use music, voice narration, screen video and animated callouts, you can overload your viewer with information. The term for this is cognitive overload. As a general rule of thumb, stick to one audio channel and one visual for optimal learning.
- If you are creating a video series, style your videos similarly. For example, will your videos highlight the cursor? Should your videos all be the same size? Have the same narrator?
- Practice, practice, practice. Overall, how much and how often you practice will be the key to creating professional videos. It takes practice to learn how to correctly move the cursor or open applications so they appear in the recording area. You will need to practice to get the positioning of browser windows and other applications the way you want them.
- Perform several “takes,” replaying them after production to see ways of improving the video. By viewing glitches and correcting them in succeeding takes, you will eventually come up with a professional-looking video sequence.
- Be patient. Even a one-minute video can take a while to set up and record. A beginner might need 30 minutes or longer to get it right. Leave plenty of time for extra takes.
- Applications like Camtasia and Snagit record anything on your screen. To ensure you get the best looking videos, clean up your browser and desktop by closing or removing all nonessential applications, browser toolbars, and desktop icons. Also, a plain background on your desktop is better than a busy wallpaper image. Keep in mind that a cluttered work space can draw attention away from what you are actually trying to show.
- Normal cursor movements can appear jerky, hesitant, or too fast in a recording. To eliminate some of these problems, practice directing the mouse around the screen in a slow, fluid motion. Also, when showing cursor movement, pause a fraction of a second over buttons and menu items before you click. This will allow cursor position to be established in the video before the next action takes place.
When you think of animations, your mind may immediately jump to cartoon characters, but there are several types of animated video that can effectively support learning. You can use programs like GoAnimate or iClone to quickly put together character-based scenarios, but this not the most effective use of animation when it comes to learning content. Character-based scenarios are more impactful when played out by real actors in real environments. However, if you don’t have the actors or the time to assemble a video shoot, these drag-and-drop programs make it easy to put together an animated scenario.
In addition to character-based animation, there are two other types of animation that are pretty popular in training: whiteboard animation and animated infographics. A whiteboard animation is the recording of an artist drawing a creative storyboard on a whiteboard, and it’s often paired with an audio lecture or speech as a form of visual aid. If you’ve been asked to turn an audio recording into a video, you may want to consider creating a whiteboard animation. You can use programs like VideoScribe to automate the drawing, or you can hire an artist to create custom drawings for you.
If your training involves logistics, reporting, or data, you may want to consider using animated infographics. In the same way that infographics can stand alone or support text, an animated infographic video may be able to stand on its own, but may benefit from being accompanied by narration. If you’re having a hard time visualizing this type of video in your mind, check out this example:
Can’t see the embedded video? Watch the Innovating For Success video on YouTube here
Sometimes trainers work with a subject-matter expert (SME) to gather information about a topic before incorporating that knowledge into a training video. However, rather than presenting second-hand information to trainees, it may be more valuable to have it come straight from the expert. The added benefit you get from having the SME on camera is both psychological and emotional. When executed well, an interview can capture sincerity, expertise, passion, and motive–not just information. So if you’re trying to explain corporate values or a vision statement in an employee onboarding training, who can present that better than the committee members or leader behind it?
A crucial part of a video interview is establishing an emotional bond with your interviewee to bring out their passion and honest interest in the topic you’re exploring. That makes this type of video more difficult to execute successfully, but the results can be powerful. Use an interview when the objective is to share strategic and vision-related developments to create shared understanding or establish an emotional tie with a high-level idea.
The role a trainer takes in this type of video is that of facilitating the interview. That doesn’t necessarily mean the the trainer is on-camera or even asking the interview questions. It’s up to the trainer to determine where they want the conversation to go. Then, identify an expert who demonstrates passion and knowledge about your topic. Finally, identify an interviewer who can move the conversation and draw out the passion and expertise from your expert. There’s a lot involved in conducting remarkable videos. If you think this is a video genre you’d like to invest in, check out this phenomenal course by the Muse Storytelling group: https://musestorytelling.org/interviews
Storytelling is a hot topic lately, and for good reason! People love stories. When you can draw people into a story, you get the opportunity to speak into their lives. When a training topic is something people naturally are disinterested or bored with, story is an opportunity to re-engage them in a way that changes their mind about the topic. The following is a great example of how a team took the topic of workplace safety and re-framed it using story. Instead of showing everything you need to do to comply with safety standards, they told the story of a happy, respected man who, because of his thoughtfulness and attention to safety, was able to build a reputable career in a very dangerous field. Check it out.
Can’t see the embedded video? Watch the Jim Bassett Story on YouTube here
Wasn’t that moving? If you can take a topic like safety in the workplace and make it relevant, personal, and inspiring by sharing a story, why wouldn’t you lead with that? The practical and logistical parts of the training can follow in a separate video, or be incorporated into the story, but you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to manage the mindset of your trainees. It’ll set the tone for how your learners treat the subject matter, and inspire them to learn.
Know Your Tendencies
There’s always a temptation to build the type of video we feel most comfortable making, but put a challenge to yourself to consider up front which type of video is best for your goals and your audience. Your video solution might be in a genre that wasn’t covered in this post, or maybe it’s a combination of two or more types. If you’re branching out into new video territory, set reasonable expectations and mark your progress. And if you’re worried you won’t branch out, tell a colleague about this post and ask them to hold you accountable for making conscientious decisions when you choose the type of video you make.
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