How Online Leadership is Changing in Higher Education

online leadership hero

The following session was presented at Educause 2019 by Eric Fredericksen, Associate Vice President, University of Rochester; Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer, Eduventures, National Research Center for College & University Admissions; and Ron Legon, Executive Director Emeritus, Quality Matters.

Who manages online programs at most universities? What does a chief online officer (COO) do, and how does that overlap with the head of IT?  

The most recent survey from Quality Matters and Eduventures Research of online officers across all sectors of US higher education answers these questions. In its fourth year, CHLOE – an acronym for changing landscapes in online education – gathered feedback from 367 respondents, up from 104 in 2016 ﹘ the largest response yet. 

“We’re quite happy with how the survey has taken hold, ” said Ron Legon, Executive Director Emeritus at Quality Matters.

COO on the rise

More institutions now have a COO than ever before. While only 15% of higher education institutions surveyed had a COO pre-2001, now almost all have one, even if the title varies. 

“In most cases, this position is situated on the academic side of the house,” Ron explained, although some report to the president of the institution.  

Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer, Eduventures, National Research Center for College and University Admissions, at the podium giving a session at Educause 2019 about the latest CHLOE 3 survey results.
Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer, Eduventures, National Research Center for College and University Admissions, explains how the relationship between the CIO and COO may be linked with enrollment.

What COOs actually do

How exactly do COOs help oversee online teaching and learning?

At least half of all COOs in the study oversees an array of responsibilities including instructional design and course development, quality assurance, LMS support/administration, online budgeting, online policy-making, and student/faculty training. In addition to technical knowledge, COOs need excellent collaboration skills as well. 

“One of the top duties of the COO is coordination between the academic units,” Ron said.

Relationships evolve

Considering the growing presence of COOs and the potential overlap in duties with IT, what is the relationship between those two senior officer positions? 

“This year, for the first time, we asked them how they relate to other senior officers at the institution,” Ron said. “Specifically, we wanted to find out the relationship between two top officers ﹘ the COO and Chief Information Officer (CIO).” 

Eric Fredericksen, Associate Vice President at the University of Rochester, echoed the mindset of many administrators. 

“The common question that comes up is: ‘What are our peer institutions doing?’” Eric asked. “We need the anecdotal experience of working faculty and administrators to find out what the working relationship is between the CIO and COO.  Is it collaborative? Are they separate parallel tracks that seldom intersect? Or is one person wearing both hats?”

In the majority of institutions surveyed, the COO and CIO collaborate as peers, from 56% of the time at community colleges to 77% in larger universities. The two roles tend to collaborate more in institutions that have restructured to maximize the benefits of online and distance learning. Looking at Carnegie classifications, Research and Masters institutions have a high incidence of collaborating roles as well.  

“It sends a message that as online learning grows, it benefits from a closer collaboration between these two officers and their organizations,” Ron said.

While the teamwork mindset is highly beneficial at that level of leadership, sometimes it can also be tough for faculty and staff. When duties overlap between CIO and COO, students and faculty don’t know who to ask questions, or where to get help. 

Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer at Eduventures, sees the emergence of this strong relationship as reason to ask more questions about how it will mature in the future. 

“What is the optimal relationship here?” Richard asked. “Should it be a collaboration of these roles, where the COO focuses on remote students and the CIO on campus students? Or do the two roles need to merge?”

Two senior online officers collaborate and discuss strategies while pointing to two large computer screens.

Centralize or not? 

Given the amount of emerging technology for online and blended programs, it’s no wonder colleges grapple with the best way to introduce new solutions. New e-learning technology can come from the CIO, the COO, or from both offices. Sometimes departments choose their own internal systems. In past decades, universities have trended from decentralized to centralized and back again. 

“Does everybody get a sense that this is the wild west, or are we going towards a more centralized structure?,” asked Ron. 

Vendors frequently offer tools directly to faculty and departments, with cloud options that make a department-only pilot feasible. With the best of intentions, sometimes faculty groups roll out new tools without letting IT or even their department heads know ahead of time. With so many shiny new systems in the cloud, it can be difficult to stem rogue rollouts when vendors have turn-key systems. There can also be a fuzzy line about IT approval when programs are used first at home, off premise, and then slowly brought into the institution. 

This increased multi-level array of options may not always be a bad thing. 

“Today’s student, traditional or not, increasingly values the convenience of online learning, whether it makes up an entire program or just a portion. COOs and CIOs need to work together to ensure the student experience is as flexible and integrated as possible,” Richard said. “The CHLOE project will continue to explore this and many other online learning issues.”  

Next steps

The next iteration of the survey ﹘ CHLOE 5 ﹘ will launch next year with a focus on the online learning market. Moving forward, the survey will continue to look at changing landscapes in online education, after its namesake acronym.  

See the Quality Matters website for more information including full CHLOE survey results.  

Do your video tools give faculty an easy way to record, share, edit, and caption videos for online and blended learning? 

TechSmith Knowmia Pro provides industry-leading quizzing and analytics, mobile teaching and learning, and flexible accessibility options.

Learning Online 101: How to Teach Online Course Skills that Improve Student Success

teach online course skills

Can you teach students how to learn online?

A mid-size college without an official online program, CSU Channel Islands was going through a transition.

They knew their large segment of transfer students wanted online courses, so administrators introduced one or two sections of select e-courses — around 12% of total offerings — to provide a few online options.

But instructors initially had reservations. They wanted to make sure students still had a great learning experience, and that faculty wouldn’t be inundated with technical issues.

Jill Leafstedt, Ph.D Associate Vice Provost, Innovation and Faculty Development, explained the sentiment around campus. “Faculty wanted to teach online. But they didn’t want all the student questions that come along with it.”

Imagine what’s possible for e-course skills

Jill Leafstedt, Ph.D Associate Vice Provost, Innovation and Faculty Development, CSU Channel Islands

The learning design team started to brainstorm solutions, searching for a preemptive one that would prevent issues before they even started. What if they could teach students how to learn online, to make the entire process smoother for both faculty and students?

They liked the idea, but still had questions. Can a “how to learn online” student orientation reduces the technical support concerns of faculty? If so, what is the best way to prep students across all departments for online learning? According to research by Britto & Rush (2013), students who participate in an orientation have higher retention rates. That was inspiring in and of itself. 

It was definitely worth a try. The learning design team began to create an interactive course that orients students to the online environment.

Building a human-centered course

Working together to establish overall goals, administrators knew that the orientation should cover much more than just technical know-how. “We want students to feel more confident, more connected to the institution and each other,” explained Jamie Hoffman, design consultant.

The course also needed to prepare students for academic success, and of course, introduce and immerse students in the technology they’ll use in online courses.

Administrators started the program slowly. They recruited a student test group for feedback, which gave them a critical recommendation — include videos of students. After this first phase, a small group of faculty ran a pilot with their own students. After that, a larger pilot with 10 faculty gave feedback, and designers made changes from there. 

A self-paced one-to-three hour online course, “Learning Online 101” consists of five modules, including sections on how to have a positive mindset as well as how to navigate the online classroom, with details such as where to find assignments and how to use the LMS and find their instructor’s office hours. There is also an emphasis on time management and how to use the broader campus support system, including e-resources at the library. 

Going beyond tech

Initially unsure of the ideal course length, they instead made sure to cover the most important topics. “This was a little bit of a test because we figured students were going to orientation to learn technical skills,” said Jamie, “but they really appreciated the other sections, too.” Students liked the hands-on nature of navigating the course itself. “They were given the opportunity throughout the course to use the technology,” said Jamie, and they even got an overview of soft technical skills such as netiquette.

“I really wanted to get the technical stuff out of the way,” said Jill. “Going beyond the technical support and thinking about the larger issues — how do I manage my time, how do I connect, are essential.” Since self-guidance is an important skill for independent online learners, administrators knew it was important to include that as well. “We actually contemplated an entirely separate section about time management,” said Jamie. 

Relatable and personable

A key part of making the online course relatable was to include the voices and faces of people from the university. “Anywhere and everywhere we put human faces,” said Jamie. “We included a video with faculty talking about their experiences with students, to make it feel as human as possible.” Specifically, the course involved: 

  • A welcome video from the university president 
  • Faculty and student advice videos
  • Images from the Channel Islands community, including photos and images of campus

The humanization of the course was very important. “Students recognize some of their faculty or peers in these videos,” said Jill.  “It makes students feel like it’s their place.” The course also pointed to a real person students can contact for support. “They’re not on campus to create that connection,” explained Jill. “Any way we can help them create that connection online is wonderful.”

Students like the module on ‘Navigating the Online Classroom’ the best, followed by ‘Having a Positive Mindset’. “We thought that was an important start, but we weren’t sure how students would like that,” said Jamie. It was good to see that it resonated. After each course module, students were prompted to earn learning badges, which was a convenient way to track completion. “It also provides us with great data,” said Jill. “It’s useful on the faculty end, and also on our administrative end to know what’s going on in the class.”

By design, the course included interactive elements, which many students completed voluntarily. “It was really reassuring to see that,” said Jamie. Since there’s no way their single learning designer could grade interactive responses from everyone on campus, the course pilot tried several tools, such as AnswerGarden. “Students really enjoyed seeing their peers’ responses,” said Jill.

Rollout, results, and student response

The course, which launched in the fall of 2018, saw 961 out of 8,000 students (about 12% of campus) complete all modules, of which 87% earned a badge. The majority took the course (56%) to prepare for taking a fully online course. Interestingly, quite a few students decided to take the course to enhance existing skills — 68% completed the course even though they had already taken an online course before.

Students had a lot to say about how the course helped them, echoed in this self-reported feedback: “The Online 101 course I believe was very helpful. This is my Senior year at CSUCI and I wish I would have had this course earlier on to help me with past online courses. Although I have taken an online course before, I learned a lot about how to be successful and stay on top of online classwork. It also gave great tips on study skills and how to stay on track! I think it should be mandatory because of how useful it was for me!”

After completion, 63% of students said they felt very prepared to take an online course. 92% of students earned 80% or better on the knowledge checks throughout the modules. Only five students reached out for help on how to complete the course.

Collaboration during the pilot phases led to faculty buy-in, while word of mouth helped spread excitement about the course. “We rolled it out to faculty in a very individual way,” said Jill. Faculty were encouraged to add it to their own courses within the first week of class. “Canvas Commons makes it very easy to share resources across classes,” said Jill. Administrators used screenshots to show faculty how to add it within the LMS. “We really took all the challenges out of it for faculty,” said Jill. Since knowledge checks are automated in the Canvas quizzing feature, it’s easy for faculty to see when students submit their ‘complete’ badge. 

Next steps

Faculty and students like it explained Jill, “but we now have new questions. Is it actually helping student performance in classes?”  Is the impact the same across disciplines? Do students need something extra in different disciplines? “Are faculty receiving fewer technical questions? Does it increase retention in online classes, especially prior to that three-week mark?”  

Now, another CSU campus location wants to adopt this, and place it into their own LMS, BlackBoard. At Channel Islands, Teaching and Learning Innovations offers a voluntary online course meant for professors about humanizing online instruction. They also offer a working group to encourage pedagogical technical skills. While these are both voluntary, the goal is that these offerings will increase digital course skills across campus. 

The above session was presented by the following at Educause: Jamie Hoffman, Independent Learning Consultant, Noodle Partners; Jill Leafstedt, Ph.D Associate Vice Provost, Innovation and Faculty Development, CSU Channel Islands

Ready to create visuals that teach students to learn online?

With Snagit and Camtasia you can easily capture what’s on your screen as compelling screenshots and video lessons. Record, organize, and share videos and images with TechSmith Knowmia Pro along with interactive quizzing and analytics. 

The Top 9 Screen Recording Tips That Will Make You a Better Creator (With Video)

tips for screen recording

Screen recording is a powerful way to share any information that you have on your screen with your viewers.

Before you make your first screencast, these nine essential tips will help you create a quality screen recording that you’ll want to share.

Watch the video, read the post, or do both! Either way, you’ll be well on your way to creating better screen recording videos.

1. You can record anything on your screen

One of the benefits of screen recording is that if you can see it, you can capture it. Anything is fair game – PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, webpages, and everything else that shows up.

The downside of capturing your screen is that you can accidentally record unwanted notifications and popups – sometimes even your cluttered desktop.

Before you start recording, clean up the icons on your desktop. Turn off notifications and disable popups, too.

Example of a messy desktop with cluttered icons, next to a clean desktop with no icons
Too many icons on your screen distract viewers. Instead, a clean desktop makes a better background for your recording.

2. Have a plan about what you’re going to say

It’s easy to ramble when you record. Instead, have a plan.

An outline or script will help guide you through your recording, for a better final video. Write down as much as you need to stay focused. This could be as detailed as exact words, a general list of steps, or any other details that help you stay on point and ensure you don’t forget anything important.

Matt Pierce of TechSmith talks into his webcam, with the word "Ramble"
Without a script or some general direction, it’s easy to be too wordy in your recording.
Example of a screen-recording script including columns describing action and narration
Write down general talking points, or even a full script, to keep your narration focused and concise.

3. Length can impact effectiveness

How long is the ideal screencasting video? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer – it depends. Short videos are great, but if you skip important information, viewers will be annoyed and unhappy.

On the other hand, if you make a long video that has way more information than viewers need, they’ll be bored and stop watching. To get the best video length, focus on the content itself. Include just enough relevant information and your video will be as short as it can be.

4. Audio quality matters

Sound can make a big difference in the overall quality of your screencast recording. Let’s face it folks – one thing that turns off viewers faster than almost anything else is bad audio.

The best way to record good audio is to plan for it before you even start recording.

Don’t use the microphone built into your computer

It’s convenient and works in a pinch, but it won’t give you the best results. Use an external microphone to increase the quality of your audio dramatically. Even an inexpensive USB mic will work.

Get rid of background noise

Your microphone can pick up any noise around you, including relatively quiet ones such as fluorescent lighting and HVAC units, as well as louder ones like your neighbor’s barking dog down the street.

Some screencast programs let you ‘clean’ this type of noise out of the recording afterward, but it’s much better to eliminate them in the first place.

Strategically place your microphone

Make sure it’s located where it can pick up your voice easily and your audience can understand you clearly.

5. Record an appropriate size

It’s easy to record everything on your screen, but you can end up with a not-so-great viewing experience. Instead, record only what’s important. Most screen recording programs let you record just a section of your screen so you can focus on details.

📚Recommended Reading: Getting Crisp, Clear Screen Video

Avoid showing areas that distract, get in the way, or that just don’t help your video’s goal.

If you want to only show one window on your screen, then record only that portion. Your viewers would see the rest of your screen as a distraction.

When you record a section of your screen, make sure the dimensions work wherever you’re going to host your video. Stick with standard ranges. Odd sizes – too tall or too wide – can leave your video with dark filler-bars on the sides or top when viewed on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

If you’re not sure which size to record, it’s okay to include everything on your screen. It’s better to capture it all than to miss something important.

6. If you’re using webcam, make sure it looks good

Don’t underestimate the value of eye contact. Webcam footage builds credibility. Your audience can look into your eyes, see who you are, and more easily relate with your message.

Get yourself in a position to look good on camera. Pay attention to what’s behind you. If there’s something in the background you don’t want to be seen, move it or clean it up.

When recording webcam, take time to position it correctly. Make sure it captures your face – not pointed up your nose, at the top of your forehead, inside your ear, or any other distracting angle.

All that said, you don’t have to use a record your webcam. If you aren’t getting a good result, don’t use it. Your screencast recording can work without it.

7. Watch your mouse cursor

One element you’ll use in almost every screencast is the humble mouse cursor. It shows people where to look on the screen. It helps them follow along and see every movement to make sure they know where you are and what you’re talking about. The mouse cursor is important, so make sure you’re it’s as effective as possible.

Don’t circle things

Moving your mouse cursor around and around as if you’re talking with your hands is going to leave your viewers confused and unsure of where they should look. Instead, move your mouse cursor deliberately, and with purpose.

Don’t move at the speed of light

If you’re moving your mouse across the too fast, your audience won’t know where to look, struggle to follow along, and, ultimately, will stop watching your video.

A frantic cursor is distracting. Instead, keep your mouse humble –  slow it down.

Smooth out cursor motion in screen recordings

The Cursor Smoothing Effect in Camtasia is a great way to add polish to your screen recordings.

The effect takes the movement of the cursor in a screen recording, and turns it into a smooth line, from one point to the next.

8. If you can, cut out mistakes and unneeded content

Mistakes happen to the best of us. You’ll be recording, and your mouse will move to the wrong place, you’ll click on the wrong thing, or another unexpected thing will happen. It’s okay – it’s fixable.

Use a video editor to cut out any problems after the fact. Even if you don’t make any mistakes, there are other reasons to cut out content.

Not only does it help your video be more concise and to the point, it also makes your end result seem more polished and professional.

screen-recording-sharing-tips

9. Know where you’re going to share your video

Where to host your video is a burning question you should answer at the start of your video creation process. Decide where to put your video early-on, so you’ll know:

  • Which file type do you need?
  • What dimensions should your video be?
  • What information makes sense to include along with the video file?
  • How will I upload my video (manually or direct)?

The more you know up-front the better, as it helps you create a better video for your viewers.

Well, now you’ve got the basics! If you need a screen recorder, TechSmith offers solutions to capture any area of your screen, edit, add effects, music, and more.

Why You Need Audio Descriptions to Make Online Course Videos Accessible

caption online video courses

Not only does the ADA Section 504-refresh highlight the need for audio descriptions in higher education videos, but it’s also an accessibility best practice that has the potential to benefit all students.

Learn the different types of audio descriptions, how they work, and how to create them so your institution stays compliant.

Are audio descriptions like captions?

Sort of.  Here’s the difference: captions use text to describe what’s being heard on-screen. Audio descriptions (AD) talk through what’s being seen. Put another way, captions help people who are hard of hearing, while audio descriptions help people who have difficulty seeing.

Audio descriptions are also sometimes called ‘video descriptions’ or ‘descriptive narration tracks.’ They all refer to the same thing – an option that gives you all the information from a video without ever opening your eyes.

You’ve probably watched movies that have embedded audio descriptions, even though you didn’t use them yourself (or even know they were there!). Ever see the AD symbol on a DVD? That means the movie has an audio description track that can be turned on as needed. Many movie theaters offer audio description support, too.

Audio descriptions icon

An example – what they sound like
Although visuals are a core strength of video’s ability to convey information, it can be difficult for people with sight loss to understand what’s going on based on standard audio alone. Audio descriptions bridge the gap by narrating what occurs on screen so everyone can understand the meaning.

Here’s an example that demonstrates how audio descriptions can describe important on-screen action that makes the video easier to understand for sight-challenged viewers.

Audio descriptions icon on a still-frame of a popular movie clip, The Lion King

In higher education, audio descriptions are important and providing them is legally required. This is good news because it makes crucial on-screen visuals in online and blended courses available to every student.

Audio descriptions help many types of learners

Audio descriptions help people with a visual disability (more than seven and a half million adults in the United States alone) as well as students with lesser degrees of vision loss.

They can help other students, too. Some people learn better with both audio and visual inputs or are primarily auditory learners. Non-native speakers may like hearing audio descriptions to better understand the language. Students on the autism spectrum can benefit from hearing social/facial cues read aloud.

Student on a jostling bus, using headphones to listen to a video lesson with audio descriptions

Some students turn on audio descriptions simply because they prefer to hear the video lesson. Whether they’re jogging, reviewing a video lesson at night with headphones while their roommate sleeps, or watching videos on a jostling bus, there are many reasons why having the option to treat the lecture like a podcast makes sense.

How to add audio descriptions

There are two main ways to add audio descriptions:

  • Embedded voice descriptions – In this method, audio descriptions are their own separate digital “track,” behind the scenes. They can be turned on as needed. This is the most advanced and versatile method because all students have the same version of the video, and only listen to audio descriptions if they need them.

The best of today’s accessible video platforms now offer features that make it easy to add audio description tracks to videos. In TechSmith Knowmia, formerly TechSmith Relay, you simply log in, go to your video, click on the ‘Accessibility’ tab, and then ‘Manage Audio Description.’

Screenshot of how to add audio descriptions in TechSmith Relay. Click on Accessibility and then Manage Audio Descriptions

Then, upload your audio description track, which can be an Mp3 or M4A file type. Once your video has an audio description track, students can easily turn it on by clicking the AD Track button on the video player.

Screenshot of what video looks like once an audio description track is included, with the AD icon
  • Separate video – Usually only used when embedded tracks are not available, this involves creating a duplicate video with audio descriptions permanently part of the audio, or “burned in.” There’s no option to turn on or off the audio description narration with this method. While this is great for students who always use the narration, having two copies of every video can be confusing and double bandwidth and storage costs.

Create audio descriptions yourself, or outsource

The easiest way to create audio descriptions is to outsource it to a company who does this as a service. Many of the same vendors who create captions can also create audio descriptions and usually charge about $15-$30 per minute.

Another option is to create audio descriptions in-house. It’s more affordable, and you retain complete control of the wording and phrasing.

An instructor creating audio descriptions

Before you begin, learn from those who have done this before and can share best practices. There are a number of preferred ways to explain what’s happening on-screen. It’s helpful and will save you time when you understand common practices. One great resource is the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), which has a handy description key and other resources with tips and techniques that will make your audio descriptions easier to create and understand.

When you record your audio descriptions, keep in mind that they don’t need to synch perfectly with the visuals. As long as they are approximately nearby the on-screen action, they will be effective.

Another tip is to time your narration so that it doesn’t interfere with on-screen dialogue or other audio in the original video. Record audio descriptions in the empty spaces in between the existing audio. You don’t need to verbally explain every single thing that happens on the screen, as long as you describe the gist of what’s happening.   

Alternatives to audio descriptions

An annotated transcript is an alternative to audio descriptions. Instead of narrating what’s happening visually, you write it out and provide it separate from the video.

For example, if a complicated chart is shown in a health sciences video, an annotated transcript would include an extra section that describes what the chart looks like, in detail.

One benefit of this method is that deaf and blind students can use assistive devices to ‘read’ these transcripts, whereas audio descriptions are only helpful to those who can hear. Extended transcripts may also help other types of students who want to review material through written words, or struggle to process visual information for other reasons. Cons include extra time creating the transcript and maintaining another resource.

Health sciences instructor explaining a medical skeletal model in a video lesson

A final alternative to audio descriptions is simply to verbally describe all visuals within your original video. This takes the concept of providing an AD track and makes it part of the video itself. This method works particularly well for educational videos and demonstrations where descriptions of on-screen action are a natural addition.

For example, if you’re making a video lesson with a chart, verbally explain the main points. If you’re hand-writing a calculus proof, talk through it as you go. Demonstrating a chemistry experiment? Describe what you’re doing along the way, so students have the audio and visuals.

There’s a lot to understand about audio descriptions. This topic will continue to grow as more video platforms offer this functionality, and more colleges and universities begin including audio descriptions alongside video captions as standard accessibility accommodations.

Learn more about TechSmith Knowmia and its accessibility solutions including Audio Description track support.

Simplified User Interface: The Beginner’s Guide

Mocked-up website with a simplified user interface

It can be difficult to onboard users to new and complex interfaces and workflows. Too much information can easily overwhelm the user and make it difficult to keep the focus on the essential feature or functionality.

Additionally, software updates tend to be frequent. These regular updates, coupled with localization processes, can make documentation work in the software industry quite demanding for technical content creators. How can we face these challenges without having to constantly update supporting content?

What if we designed our visual content in a way that is easy to follow, and is able to withstand future UI tweaks?

Let us introduce a design technique used by TechSmith’s User Assistance team and others – it’s called simplified user interface.

Simplified User Interface: What is it?

A simplified user interface (SUI) is a visual representation of a software interface that removes  unimportant elements and reduces them to simpler shapes.

Simplified User Interface graphic showing PowerPoint UI
An example of SUI (pronounced “sue-ee” by the TechSmith User Assistance team).

The elements that are fundamental to the instructions or for the user to understand are purposefully kept visible and the SUI graphics serves as a visual aid to support the instructional content given, via the sub- or figure text.

SUI graphics allow for easy-to-follow instructions which enable the reader to get to the point quickly and avoid distractions.

Keep it simple, Stupid!

SUI graphics leverage the famous K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, Stupid!) principle: systems perform better if they are kept simple and when unnecessary complexities are avoided. By reducing the graphics to a simpler state and by removing distractions, we can allow the user to focus on only the essential information, which creates a better experience.

Josh Cavalier,an eLearning expert, describes cognitive load as the “amount of information being processed by the brain”. When you reduce the amount of distractions for your audience, they are better able to focus their attention on what is important.

Simplified User Interface graphic with one menu item exposed
In this example, only a single menu item is shown so as direct user attention to something specific.

In a recent blog post from The Interaction Design Foundation, it’s explained that a user is focused solely on how useful something will be for them. This is true for both the product design itself but also for the how-to documentation and instructions.  If it’s hard to understand how to use a product, the value that it has to offer, or how a product can solve a particular problem, then users will struggle.

SUI graphics build upon these principles: using a simplified user interface in help documentation can aid in user success by giving them only the information they must have in order to be successful, increasing their success and satisfaction with a product.

Keeping content up to date

Keep your content current, longer. A quick survey with attendees at STC Technical Communication Summit revealed that keeping content up to date is one of the biggest challenges faced by technical communicators today. And that makes sense, if we look to software as an example: release cycles are shortening and new features and functionality are being added frequently. And with each feature addition and related tweaks to the user interface, the instructions that the technical documentation team laboriously put together are at risk of becoming quickly out of date, even if only slightly. So what is a technical communicator to do?

Again, simplified user interface graphics can play a strategic role in one’s content strategy. The removal of a button or addition of a feature will easily confuse the user if this change is not reflected in a precise screenshot. However, a simplified user interface graphic can often sustain multiple software versions and updates before needing further updates. The simplified design is more forgiving to minor interface changes and additions as it is already an abstract representation of the interface. Technical content creators can use this technique to extend the shelf-life of their visual content or even for repurposing content in similar scenarios.

Faster content localization

Any content creator who has been through the localization process knows that it can be time-consuming and expensive to create screenshots and graphics for each locale. Yet, the localization of onboarding materials and other graphics can be trivial for any organization that wants to be successful internationally. As Day Translations points out, we should all “scrap the idea that English is the language of business”. It’s important to cater to different customer bases by providing them with content that speaks to them…in their native language.

Most technical communicators know the effort it takes to create and manage unique screenshots for each language. In order to simplify this task, one can design the content to use SUI images instead of language-specific screenshots. The same graphic can often be repurposed across multiple languages with little to no adjustment. Additional information or instructions can be conveyed through the sub- or figure text.

Simplified User Interface used in both German and English dialog boxes.
In this example, the same SUI graphic is used in the software preference dialog for all languages.

Again, this is another area that helps to reduce creation and maintenance efforts while still providing the user with clear instructions.

How to create a Simplified User Interface Graphic

Creating a simplified user interface (SUI) graphic is easier than you think. The best way to get started is to begin with a screenshot and then transform it. To do this, you need screen capture and image editing software. At TechSmith, our tool of choice for creating SUI images is Snagit because it provides both of these functions, though there are other capable image editors.

Step 1: Capture the screenshot

Using Snagit, capture a screenshot of the user interface you want to turn into a SUI graphic and open it in the Snagit Editor. Crop the screenshot to the dimensions of your desired output.

Screenshot of a web page for Bridge Street Insurance featured a Request a Quote call to action button

Step 2: Simplify the screenshot

Simplifying an image is a process that involves covering up and removing visual noise like unrelated text, menus, buttons, or tool tips to reduce an image’s complexity and focus attention on the important parts. Snagit provides two ways to help make this an easy process with the Simplify tool available in Snagit.

The first option is to simplify a screenshot manually by selecting the Simplify tool, and using the graphic elements to hide unimportant details in your image and direct attention to the ones that matter. After choosing the Simplify tool, Snagit automatically detects the colors in your screenshot, creates a color palette, and provides a set of tools that match and are ideal for simplifying images.

The second way option is to automate the process. Snagit’s Auto Simplify feature recognizes shapes and text and then automatically covers them with the themed elements. Remove, add, and change the color of any of the elements Snagit adds to achieve the look you want.

Watch the tutorial below to see the Simplify tool in action!

Step 3: Save it

When you are done, save your file as a .png or .jpg file to be used in your documentation. We highly recommend also saving your final image as a .snag file. This is the Snagit project file type and it allows you to reopen the project to edit and adjust the image later on. This makes updating your image easy so you won’t need to recreate your SUI graphic every time.

Bonus Tip: Use a tag to easily access this file any time in the Snagit library.

Key takeaways

The benefits of using Simplified User Interface graphics in your technical documentation are twofold: First, these graphics visually enhance your instructions and improve the onboarding experience for your users. Second, the graphics make technical communicators’ jobs easier, as they reduce the need for screenshot updates and help with localization.

Integrating SUI graphics into part of one’s content strategy is therefore a smart business decision that all content creators should consider, regardless if your favorite aspect is the improved user experience, having evergreen content, or faster localization. Even just a few simplified user interface graphics can make a big difference!

If you aren’t using Snagit yet, download the free trial today, and get started creating your own SUI graphics!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Allison Boatman

Allison Boatman is a member of the Marketing Team at TechSmith. Follow her on Twitter @allisonboats She can often be found aimlessly wandering around local craft stores. Personal motto: "Work hard, stay humble." Favorites: Alaskan Malamutes, Iceland, and 90's pop culture.

How to Run More Effective Meetings with Async Video

How to run more effective meetings with async video

Do you spend an alarming amount of time in meetings?

You’re not alone! According to this survey, we spend about a third of our work week in meetings. 

Unfortunately, most of that time isn’t making us any better at our jobs:

The good news is that meetings don’t have to be a waste of time!

Rethinking your approach to meetings and adopting an “async-first” mindset will help you take back your calendar and give yourself more time for focused, deep work.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Move work forward without a meeting

From creating quick screen captures to shareable video messages, Snagit is an essential tool for hybrid teams.

Try Snagit for Free

How meetings disrupt productivity

It seems simple: the more time you spend in meetings, the less time you actually have to get stuff done. But it’s worse than that. 

Meetings lead to context switching

Multiple meetings on our calendars can lead to more context switching throughout our day, which hurts our ability to focus. 

Let’s say you’re working on a presentation for a project about apples and have to pause to attend a meeting about oranges. 

Since it takes time and energy for your brain to switch between tasks, oranges won’t get your full attention because you’re still partially focused on apples. Then, when you need to get back to work on your project about apples, you’re still thinking about oranges for a while.

Meetings leave less time for deep work

Meetings can chop up our work day, leaving us with an hour or two here or 20 minutes there to complete our tasks. 

It takes time for our brains to gain the momentum they need to handle cognitively challenging tasks like creative work and problem-solving. We need stretches of uninterrupted time to focus on our most important work. 

Without time for deep work, we are less creative and make poorer decisions. 

What are the qualities of a good meeting?

Meetings aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes, being able to talk through ideas and make decisions as a group in a synchronous meeting is the best way to move work forward.

Being intentional about when, why, and how you are having meetings will help make your meetings more effective. Good meetings tend to:

  • Have a clear goal and expected outcomes. If you can’t come up with why you’re having a meeting in the first place, it’s best not to schedule it all. 
  • Be as short as possible. Not every meeting needs to be an hour. Schedule only the time you think you need to reach your expected outcome. 
  • Have the right people in the room. Too many attendees can derail your meeting with side conversations or distractions or, worse, waste someone’s time if they don’t find the discussion valuable.

Use async video to make your meetings shorter and more effective

There’s no way around it. Running an effective meeting takes planning, but it’s worth it. 

Leveraging asynchronous forms of communication like video messages can help you make the most of the synchronous time you have with your team. 

When you’re meeting with a group to brainstorm or make a decision, there’s usually some context, history, or essential information that will help inform the discussion.

Don’t wait until your meeting starts to share that information! 

If you have slides, data, or examples you want to share with your attendees, fire up a screen capture app like Snagit and walk through the information just as you would during your meeting. 

You don’t need professional video experience, either. With Snagit, you can record your camera, microphone, and screen at the same time to create shareable videos in minutes.

Pro tip: Use Snagit’s Screen Draw feature to highlight areas of your screen while you record your videos to emphasize important information.

Your attendees will have more time to digest the information and form opinions or questions, encouraging them to participate in the discussion. 

Plus, you’re saving the time you would have spent presenting this information at the top of the meeting.

A flow chart to help you decide if you should schedule a meeting. If you need input from others to make a decision and expect many questions or discussions, you should schedule a meeting. Do not schedule a meeting if you're only sharing background or updating someone on your decision.

Types of meetings you can replace with async video

Sometimes, the most productive way to run a meeting is not to schedule one at all. 

That’s right! Many of the meetings we attend are scheduled out of habit, and it’s a pattern we need to break.

Informational meetings

Any meeting that is a one-way share of information like a status update, data shareout, or project demo is usually more productive in an asynchronous format.

Record a video with Snagit to share your updates or demo your project, just as you would over Zoom call or in-person meeting.

 

Use Snagit’s Picture-in-Picture feature to include your camera video with your screen recording. It will help connect your face and name to your work, which can be especially difficult when working remotely.

Answering “how do I?” questions

Let’s say you need to show a coworker how to update a page on your company’s website. You could walk over to their desk and guide them through the process. Or, if you’re remote, set up a video call and share your screen.

But whether you’re in an office, remote, or hybrid, there’s a better way to demonstrate a process: asynchronous video. 

You guessed it; fire up Snagit and hit record. Walk them through the steps as you would in a meeting. When you’re ready, click “Share Link,” and you instantly have a link to your video copied to your clipboard. 

Not only will you save time, but your coworker will also be able to reference the information whenever they need to (instead of pinging you on chat with repeat questions.)

Plus, you can re-use the video anytime you need to walk someone else through that process. Even better, if you share your videos via Screencast, you can organize your how-to’s into Collections, so they’re easy to find.  

Providing feedback

You don’t need to schedule hours of meetings or write mile-long emails to provide feedback on a project or review someone’s work. 

Use Snagit to record your screen and share your ideas with a video!

You can record anything on your screen and include your webcam video, making it simple to explain complex ideas and get your point across.

If you’re providing feedback that might be difficult to hear, record your screen and webcam at the same time with Snagit’s Picture-in-Picture feature. Your viewer will be able to pick up on nonverbal cues that can help communicate empathy or enthusiasm. 

The benefits of replacing meetings with async video

At TechSmith, we have been using async video to enhance or replace our synchronous meetings for years. Here are some of the benefits we’ve seen so far.

Work doesn’t get stuck in limbo

Taking an “async-first” approach to meetings means we’re not limited by busy schedules when sharing ideas, providing updates, or making decisions. Especially for distributed teams, time zones can make scheduling a synchronous meeting even more difficult.

When you share your Snagit videos to Screencast, viewers can ask questions or leave feedback in time-stamped comments that keep the conversation going without disrupting everyone’s day. 

Work moves forward faster when you don’t have to rely on finding a time that works for everyone to share critical information. 

Plus, when we’re not overwhelmed with unnecessary meetings, it’s easier to find time to connect when it’s genuinely needed.

More people have an opportunity to contribute

Even if you can quickly get everyone in the same room at the same time, not everyone is comfortable speaking up or providing immediate feedback during a meeting. 

Allowing your team to absorb information in their own time can help encourage participation, reduce knee-jerk reactions and lead to more thoughtful communication overall. 

Information can be archived or referenced later

According to research from the Harvard Business Review, reducing meetings can lead to fewer misunderstandings. 

Synchronous meetings have a lot of variables. From side conversations to technical issues, information can get lost in translation, even if you’re taking the best notes. 

When you share a video with your team, that information lives permanently in an easily accessible format. Someone who needs clarity on a related task can reference that video anytime for help. 

Simplify your work life and ditch unnecessary meetings

Meetings aren’t inherently evil, but we tend to schedule them more often than we need to. We don’t have time to do our actual work when we’re in back-to-back meetings all day. 

Unfortunately, many of us steal from our nights and weekends to catch up, which can lead to burnout and hurt employee engagement. 
It doesn’t have to be that way! Screen capture and recording tools like Snagit can help you leverage asynchronous communication to take back your calendar.

Take back your calendar with Snagit

From creating quick screen captures to shareable video messages, Snagit is an essential tool for hybrid teams.

Try Snagit for Free

Executive Insights: Did This Need to Be a Meeting?

Did this need to be a meeting?

In this article:

  • How companies are adapting, and thriving, with a shift to remote and hybrid work
  • How to create a healthier workplace culture
  • Why companies like TechSmith are experimenting with asynchronous workflows

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, six in 10 U.S. workers with jobs that can be done remotely are continuing to work from home today, according to a 2022 study by the Pew Research Center. CSC, a legal compliance consulting firm based in Wilmington, Delaware, is one of many companies opting against a return to the office since the start of the pandemic.

It wasn’t long into the remote work pivot that Mark Tarone, a senior user experience engineer for enterprise technology at CSC, noticed a screen full of blank stares during a regularly scheduled status update.

“There was no discussion, no debate, no decision that had to be made during this meeting,” Tarone said. “We would sit there for 30 minutes and you could see people zoning out.”

The solution? Inviting the project manager to create videos and screenshots that team members could view ahead of the live updates — and on their own time in 10 minutes or less. This eliminated some all-team remote meetings and began the shift to a more asynchronous work schedule.

“People are elated — it’s been a big victory,” Tarone said. A staggering 83% of the more than 9,000 global workers surveyed for Accenture’s Future of Work study, released in April, said they prefer the ability to work remotely at least part of the time.

Tarone and other executives with insights into remote work communication convened virtually in June 2022 for a thoughtful discussion on the evolving dynamics of workplace communication. The conversation was hosted by Crain’s Content Studio, the marketing storytelling division of Crain’s Detroit Business, in partnership with Michigan-based TechSmith, a global leader in screen capture and screen recording software.

During the virtual conversation, the executives agreed that productive hybrid work models require an intentional shift in a company’s overall communication strategy.

“We will continue to see a lot less focus on ‘core working hours’ and more of this ‘anytime, anyplace’ mindset, which is individually flexible and creates an environment where employees and teams feel empowered to do their best work,” said TechSmith CEO Wendy Hamilton.

Roundtable participants

Francine Dubicki
Director, New Business and Financial Service Operations, Mutual Trust Life Insurance Company

Matthew Dyer
Head of Developer Education, Netflix

Kimika Garrett
Chief People and Culture Officer, Walker-Miller Energy Services

Wendy Hamilton
CEO, TechSmith

Catherine Kosin
Managing Director, Senior Vice President, Oswald Companies

Jesse Lahey
Co-founder and Strategic Partner, Workforce Communication

Elizabeth Pierce
Senior Director, Learning Experience, Consulting, TaskUs

Mark Tarone
Senior User Experience Engineer, Enterprise Technology, CSC

Building a digital toolbox

Matthew Dyer, head of developer education for Netflix, has worked remotely since he started at the company just over a year ago.

He characterized his team’s communication best practices as being supported by a mix of synchronous and asynchronous tools.

“Most of the heavy lifting at Netflix happens in the comments section of a Google Doc,” he said. “Often, the first thing I do is browse the comments because I know that’s where all the actual dialogue has happened.”

Asynchronous workflows, like the use of Google Docs, allow employees to connect when it’s convenient for them. Alternatively, synchronous platforms require team members to log in and participate at a specific time.

“There are different communication tech stacks that you can have based on the size of your company, what your company does, what your culture is — even where your people are located,” said Elizabeth Pierce, senior director of learning experience for digital services provider TaskUs. “If you have a company of 200 people, what works for you is not going to work for a company of 2 million employees.”

Jesse Lahey, co-founder and strategic partner at Workforce Communication, is a frequent user of the voice messaging app Voxer, which allows for asynchronous phone calls.

“For a lot of us, it feels like the phone weighs 100 pounds,” Lahey said. “If I pick it up or call somebody, I might get stuck in a 30-minute conversation. But to be able to hit a button, leave a voice message and then get a response when it’s a good time for them speeds up a lot of conversations.”

Francine Dubicki, director of new business and financial service operations for Mutual Trust Life Insurance Company, said her team uses Box, a cloud-based content management and file sharing tool, to keep Mutual Trust’s global workforce connected and “on the same page” despite being in different time zones. Dubicki says she also depends regularly on Snagit to create user documents with detailed screenshots and for creating inspirational emails that feature call-out bubbles and fun graphics.

“We are big fans of utilizing those asynchronous tools as necessary and we continue to look for those collaboration opportunities, whether it’s new software or learning more about the software we already have,” Dubicki said.

Young business person working at a laptop using Snagit.

Tech toolbox tips

  • Google Docs: Collaborative word-based document
  • Box: Cloud-based content management and file-sharing
  • Snagit: Screen capture and recording tool; creates visual communication through images, GIFS, and videos
  • Voxer: Voice messaging, push-to-talk communication
  • Camtasia: All-in-one video editing and screen recording to create, edit and share videos

Rethinking meetings

A 2021 study by Reclaim.ai found the average professional spends over half of their workweek — 21.5 hours — in meetings. Pre-Covid, professionals spent about 14.2 hours weekly meeting. One-on-one check-ins alone increased 500% since the pandemic began.

One factor underlying the spike in virtual meetings is “the need to monitor and see people in order to feel like work is advancing,” according to the “Hybrid Workplaces” insights report from Harvard Business Review. The authors ultimately attribute this “need” to the clash between antiquated 9-to-5, in-office thinking where work is done synchronously, and an increasingly remote workforce, where work happens on each employee’s own schedule.

How many of those meetings could have been an email, a video message, or a collaboratively shared document?

“We are trying to get people to ask themselves, ‘does this need to be a meeting?’ before sending the meeting invitation,” said Catherine Kosin, managing director and senior vice president of Cleveland-based insurance firm Oswald Companies. “One way we hope to reinforce that idea is an automatic default on Outlook that requires users to include an agenda with expected meeting outcomes when sending a calendar request.”

Kosin and her team also implemented a companywide “no-meeting-Fridays” policy, primarily for internal meetings.

TechSmith took steps to reduce the amount of meetings by asking team members to prioritize asynchronous work for the month of July. Hamilton said the company tested “no meeting” days or weeks in the past, but many employees bumped their appointments to the following day.

“We’re trying to see if that ‘async-first’ focus instead helps us and our team members better evaluate when we need a meeting,” she said.

Chief People and Culture Officer at Walker-Miller Energy Services, Kimika Garrett, said she often cancels meetings that aren’t necessary.

“When I joined Walker-Miller in February, I blocked off every Friday,” Garrett said. However, some Friday meetings do make it onto her schedule on a case-by-case basis, she added.

Netflix attempted to give all employees a late summer break by initiating “slow August,” which meant cancelling recurring meetings in 2021. According to Dyer, the impact was uneven.

“Because other people like developers were heads down, our folks in corporate engineering who were doing the tooling support had more work to do,” Dyer explained. “This might not be a thing you can necessarily mandate at a company level.”

Flowchart depicting when it is appropriate to schedule a meeting. If you need input from others to make a decision and you expect a discussion, schedule a meeting. If you don't need real-time input share your information asynchronously.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

While clear communication is the bedrock of building a fulfilling workplace culture, these experts believe using both synchronous and asynchronous tools is critical in accommodating varying communication preferences.

“We have six generations in the workforce today, and each of them receives data in a different way,” Kosin said. “We can’t just make everything a video and we can’t make everything an email.”

If leaders at Oswald Companies plan a town hall webcast to communicate to employees, for example, they might follow that up with a newsletter, Kosin explained, “so that the person who doesn’t enjoy listening or being on camera can reference that information later.”

Pierce said she believes in delivering information three times, and in a different way each time. An all-team meeting could be followed up by a summary email and then a short video, for instance.

“We have different generations out in the workforce, and we also have different learning styles,” Lahey said. “Some people are readers; some people need things visually and some are auditory learners.”

Garrett also highlighted the power of asynchronous tools to help improve communication for her entire team — especially for those who work off-site.

“I have field staff who are unable to attend lunch-and-learns or who are unable to be at a computer, so I need to make sure that I’m tailoring, crafting and delivering communication in a way that is effective,” Garrett said.

Experimenting with different communication techniques and tools, Pierce added, is a crucial part of building a workplace communication strategy. High rates of attrition or sparsely attended company events – virtual or otherwise – are often signs of a communication breakdown, she said.

Work-in-progress

People are now accustomed to working from home and not battling the five-day commute. Increased flexibility is a competitive advantage in today’s talent war, with remote and hybrid work opportunities expanding globally.

At Walker-Miller, Garrett is broadening her team’s search for certain positions outside of Walker-Miller’s primary site locations. She said she’s also focused on a wider talent-pool search that goes beyond diversity in gender and race and includes veterans and retirees.

From an HR perspective, Garrett is focused on shifting existing ideas on hiring practices and getting creative with finding talent.

“We are already seeing how big of an impact the ability to communicate and collaborate without being face-to-face — or without even being available at the same time — has on talent recruitment and retention and frankly, productivity,” Dubicki explained. “Working practices are evolving, and if we want to continue to build our teams, so must our thinking.”

The Ultimate Screen Recorder Comparison Guide (Free and Paid Options)

There are many reasons why you might need to use screen recording software. From making a quick video walkthrough explaining a process to a coworker to creating a formal software demo for clients, the choices are endless.

You know what else is seemingly endless? The software options on the market for screen recording. We curated this guide to help users find the best software solution for them.

Some tools can only capture a small part of your screen and have limited value-added features, while others can record multiple screens, record your webcam, and even add on-screen effects to increase user engagement. But the best tools have the power to capture your entire screen and easily create professional-level videos that have much more polish, even if you don’t have much video creation experience.

So, how do you sort through all the available options?

We’re here to help! We’ll walk you through some of the most popular screen recording options available and break down the capabilities of each one.

Here are the 7 screen recording software options we’ll compare:

  1. Camtasia
  2. Snagit
  3. Filmora
  4. Screencast-O-Matic
  5. Loom
  6. Vimeo Record
  7. OBS

Let’s take a look!

How we judged the top screen recorders

A number of factors go into what makes a screen recording tool great. The best options will tick most, if not all, of the boxes. However, the aspects most important to you will depend on your needs. An educator making video lessons with interactive quizzing will have different needs and preferences than someone who needs to record a webinar or show off a software user interface.

In addition to specific features in the software itself, it’s important to consider the value-added features of the parent organization, like accessibility, security and privacy, and support and onboarding options.

Creating great video content means choosing a tool that fits your specific needs. 

As you consider the list of screen recorders available, alongside the particular outcomes you’re looking for, it’s essential to consider these factors as well:

  • Ease of use
  • Ease of setup
  • Support options (live support, phone, chat, email, etc.)
  • Availability of help articles, tutorials, and other self-guided learning
  • Ability to record your full screen and webcam
  • Audio editing features
  • Ability to make on-screen callouts, annotations, and cursor enhancements
  • Sharing and export options
  • Additional features tailored to fit your specific needs

Comparison of screen recording software options on the market

  Camtasia Filmora Screencast-o-matic Vimeo Record Loom OBS Snagit
Easy for beginners to use
Easy to set up
Live support
Help articles
Free training and video creation courses
Webinars
Advanced video editing
Web camera capture
Audio editing
On-screen annotations and text
Paid Version
Pre-built video assets and templates
PowerPoint add-in
Closed captions
Paid Version
Direct sharing on YouTube
Video export to computer (local drive)

Camtasia

As you can see in the comparison chart above, Camtasia ticks all the boxes. This brand prioritizes innovation around advancing screen recording capabilities and enabling users to create professional-quality videos without any previous experience. Camtasia records exactly what you want — your entire screen, specific dimensions, a region, a window, or an application. It can also record your webcam at the same time as your screen and toggle between the two. It is especially ideal for tutorial videos, educational content, demo videos, training videos, meeting recordings, webinar recordings, and more.

Camtasia is incredibly user-friendly and offers phone, chat, and email support and a ton of great how-to content to assist you in your specific video creation needs. There is even a Camtasia tutorials webpage to help customers with specific processes, and the Camtasia Certification course provides users with in-depth training to help them get the most out of the software.

Third-party sources agree: G2 rated Camtasia’s ease of use a 9.0 out of 10.

A few unique features of Camtasia include interactive quizzing, PowerPoint integration, on-screen annotations and callouts, and a large library of free video and music assets. The new Camtasia 2022 even includes several new mouse cursor effects, like smoothing, path editing, cursor replacement, and more. This allows users to edit, emphasize, and optimize the appearance and movement of the cursor with precision, which is important to ensure clarity for viewers when showcasing any screen capture-heavy learning materials.

These features and so much more are what make Camtasia perfect for creating engaging instructional and educational videos. Other screen recorders don’t come anywhere near the level of interactivity, support, and ease of use of Camtasia.

Camtasia is best for: Tutorial videos, educational content, demo videos, training videos, meeting recordings, webinar recordings, and more.

The Best Tool for Creating Engaging Videos

Camtasia is the fastest and easiest way to create incredible videos that will wow your users

Download Camtasia for Free

Snagit

Snagit is a screen capture and screen recording tool that lets you easily create and share content across your preferred platforms. Its screen recording abilities are championed by users who need to make an off-the-cuff walkthrough or informal video to share with coworkers. It can even create a video from a series of screen captures.

Snagit can capture both on-screen and webcam footage simultaneously with picture-in-picture, and it also includes the ability to trim any part of your recording, not just the beginning or end.

If you’re looking for an affordable, beginner-friendly tool that can help you make quick and easy video walkthroughs, then Snagit is a great choice. But for the more professional jobs that need more polish added like, cursor enhancements or on-screen annotations overlaid within the video, it may be best to consider an alternative like Camtasia.

Snagit is best for: Asynchronous workplace communication, informal shareouts, giving or receiving feedback, presentation recordings, process documentation, quick demonstrations, and more.

Filmora

Wondershare Filmora offers easy setup and a beginner-friendly platform. Key features include noise removal and audio equalizer. Users also have the ability to share directly to specific destinations, such as YouTube. The Auto Synchronization feature can even automatically align audio and video captured by different cameras in the same scene, making it ideal for artistic content.

However, some users report inconsistent video quality, and technical support articles are difficult to locate on their website. Additionally, Filmora is primarily advertised as a video editor, and it lacks the same powerful recording abilities as some of its competitors. Depending on your video goals, additional purchases may be required to achieve your desired final product, including paying extra for Filmora Pro.

Filmora is best for: Music videos, commercials, social media videos, and more.

Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic is a screen recorder and video editor that features automated caption creation (paid version only), on-screen drawing tools, and drag-and-drop content management. With free and low-cost paid plans, it’s one of the more affordable options on the market.

While the free version of Screencast-O-Matic has all the basics required to create informal video shareouts and make simple screen recordings and edits, users will likely need to purchase a monthly subscription to fulfill all their video needs, like complete sharing and privacy controls, ad-free video players, and video/music assets.

Screencast-O-Matic is best for: Informal shareouts, simple educational videos, lecture capture, social media videos, DIY videos, and more.

Vimeo Record

Vimeo Record is a free screen and webcam recorder that can be used for simple video shareouts or updates. It offers free templates that can help users get started and provides them with an option to hire a video pro through the platform to create content for them. Vimeo Record is also available on mobile devices, which can’t be said for all its competitors.

While Vimeo Record does have some editing tools, they are limited to just trimming the beginning or end of a video. If you need to trim out any content in the middle, that isn’t possible with Vimeo Record’s editor. You’d need to purchase a separate video editor to accomplish any additional edits or effects, such as captioning.

Vimeo Record is best for: Mobile device recording, simple shareouts, giving or receiving feedback, quick walkthroughs, and more.

Loom

Loom’s free version includes screen and webcam recording, viewer insights, and a team workspace. Few competitors can boast the same content hosting capabilities in addition to screen recording features as Loom. The paid versions include unlimited length and number of videos, closed captions, and custom branding.

However, like the other free screen recording options on the market, users need to pay an additional fee for most features. The free version of Loom only allows videos up to five minutes, and users have a limit of 25 videos per person. Like other free or low-cost options, Loom’s video editing capabilities are somewhat limited: included is video trimming and a drawing tool. For a project that needs a little more polish, you’d need to import your video into a separate editor.

Loom is best for: Video shareouts with minimal editing, walkthroughs, sending updates, onboarding, and more.

OBS

OBS Studio (Open Broadcaster Software) is an open-source option for live-streaming and recording videos, and it’s especially championed by video game streamers. OBS is free to use and provides significantly more features for screen recording than other free software options, including webcam capture, on-screen annotations, and the ability to import user-made plugins.

However, this option is not for the weak-willed. Since OBS is open source, there is no technical support to help users troubleshoot, and its setup is complicated and unfriendly to beginners. 

OBS requires a lot of initial work to locate the effects, presets, and recording tools required to record your computer screen in the way users might want. Its starting file format is MKV, which, while a standard video format, cannot be uploaded to sites like YouTube. While there is a several step process that can be done to record to MP4 and other formats, it can be tedious. Otherwise, you’d need to convert your video to a more widely accepted format using other software. 

If you have a lot of video experience, OBS could be a solid option for you. If not, we recommend seeking a more beginner-friendly choice.

OBS is best for: recording video game streaming

Benefits of an all-in-one screen recorder and video editor

As the comparison above shows, there are a ton of options on the market, and the right product for you will depend on how each platform’s specific features fit your project requirements. However, it’s important to consider that those requirements may change or evolve over time, and you don’t want to be stuck with a product that can’t evolve with you.

Choosing an all-in-one screen recorder and video editor will save you both time and money. You won’t want to record a video in one application only to wait for it to convert to a usable format and upload into a separate video editing application for final touches. You’ll be paying for two products and wasting valuable time that could be spent on your edits.

Instead, choose a software product that can both record your screen and edit your videos. We also strongly recommend finding a product with beginner-friendly, but advanced editing capabilities. 

You may only need to make simple screen recordings now, but if you ever are asked to make a more polished recording for an external client or formal video shareout, it’s great to know that your chosen software has the ability to create professional-quality videos without any experience required.

Our analysis across various products shows that Camtasia is the best choice for an all-in-one screen recorder and video editor. With over 34 million users worldwide, Camtasia allows anyone to create tutorials, software demos, training videos, and more, even if you’re never made a video before. 

Plus, you don’t need a giant budget or special skills – Camtasia’s free video templates will have you creating polished content in no time.

Ready to start making professional-quality videos with easy-to-use software?

Camtasia is the fastest and easiest way to create incredible videos that will wow your viewers.

Download Camtasia for Free

Image to Text: How to Extract Text From An Image

Imagine there was an easy way to get or extract text out of an image, scanned document, or PDF file and quickly paste it into another document or chat tool.

The good news is that you don’t have to waste time retyping or searching for the original document. There are programs that use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to analyze the letters and words in an image and then convert them to text.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use OCR technology to copy text from an image or PDF.

  • Paste text from a picture or screenshot into Slack, Teams, Word, or another tool
  • Capture text in an error message, pop-up window, or menu where text can’t be selected
  • Capture the text in a file directory (filename, file size, date modified, etc.)

Regardless of your situation, this function can be helpful, especially when you need to copy information from a file folder or screenshot of a website that typically would require you to spend a significant amount of time retyping all of the text.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to capture text or convert a picture of text to editable text. With Snagit, it only takes a few steps to quickly grab text from an image.

Snagit is an all-in-one screen capture and recording software that helps you capture your screen and camera, add additional context, and share images, GIFs, or videos across your preferred platforms.

It also has OCR technology that can help you easily extract text.

Extract text today!

Download a free trial of Snagit to quickly and easily extract text from images.

Download a free trial

Here’s everything you need to know about how to capture text on your computer screen or pull text out of an image.

How to use a screenshot to capture text on Windows or Mac

Step 1: Set up your capture settings

To capture text, open the Capture Window, select the Image tab, and set the selection to Grab Text.

how to capture text on Windows or Mac step 1

You can also speed things up by using the Grab Text Preset.

Step 2: Capture your screen

Initiate your capture, then use the crosshairs to select the region of your screen with the text that you want.

Snagit then analyzes the text from your selection and displays the formatted text.

If the font identified is not installed on your computer, Snagit will substitute it with a system font of similar style.

how to capture text on Windows or Mac step 2

Select the text you want to copy, or click Copy All to copy all of the text to your clipboard.

Step 3: Paste your text

Finally, you can paste the text into a chat tool, document, presentation, or any other destination.

how to capture text on Windows or Mac step 3

Image to Text: How to extract text from an image with OCR

Step 1: Find your image

You can capture text from a scanned image, upload your image file from your computer, or take a screenshot on your desktop.

extract text from image step 1

Step 2: Open Grab Text in Snagit

With the image open in Snagit’s Editor, go to the Edit menu and select Grab Text.

Or, simply right or control click on the image, and select Grab Text.

extract text from image step 2

Step 3: Copy your text

Then, copy the text, and paste it into other programs and applications.

extract text from image

That’s it! It doesn’t take much effort at all to extract text from pictures, PDFs, or scanned documents.

Extract text today!

Download a free trial of Snagit to quickly and easily extract text from images.

Download a free trial

Frequently asked questions

How can I convert image to text?

Upload your image into Snagit. Then right-click anywhere on the image and choose Grab Text. This scans your image and converts it to text.

How do I extract text from an image in Windows?

First, use Snagit to take a screenshot of your image or upload it into the editor.

Snagit uses Optical Character Recognition software, or OCR, to recognize and extract the text from your image on your Windows computer.

How can I extract text from a scanned PDF?

You can capture text from a scanned image, upload your image file from your computer, or take a screenshot on your desktop. Then simply right click on the image, and select Grab Text.

The text from your scanned PDF can then be copied and pasted into other programs and applications.

How can I copy text from an image?

Use Snagit’s image capture window. Then, in the selection dropdown, choose Grab Text. When complete, a box pops up with all of the text, ready to copy and paste.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Here’s the Best Way to Quickly Take a Scrolling Screenshot

Here's the Best Way to Quickly Take a Scrolling Screenshot

Most basic screen capture tools allow you to capture all or part of your screen, but what if you need to capture more than what’s visible at any one time?

If you’ve ever needed to capture an image of an entire web page, you probably know how annoying it is to take multiple screenshots and try to stitch them together.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Scrolling screenshots allow you to grab content that doesn’t fit within the dimensions of your screen. They’re great for capturing:

  • Spreadsheets with lots of rows or columns
  • Lengthy email, chat, or social media threads
  • Long website pages or documents

In this post, you’ll learn the best (and easiest) way to take a scrolling or full-page screenshot.

Easily capture scrolling screenshots with Snagit

Quickly grab infinitely scrolling pages, long chat threads, and everything in between.

What is a scrolling screenshot?

Put simply, a scrolling screenshot is a screenshot that allows you to scroll to capture screen content that may not be visible on your screen. You can scroll vertically for capturing things like web pages or documents or horizontally for spreadsheets, large graphics, and more.

How to take a scrolling screenshot (Windows or Mac)

There are many ways to take screenshots on Windows or Mac, but both operating systems’ built-in screen capture tools lack a scrolling screenshot feature. They can only capture the visible areas of your screen.

Unless you want to spend countless hours piecing together multiple screenshots, you’ll need a better screen capture app to take a scrolling screenshot. 

For this post, we’ll use Snagit, which works with Windows and Mac OS. (If you don’t already have Snagit, you can try it for free. No credit card required.)

Unlike browser extensions, where your captures are limited to web pages, Snagit can capture anything on your screen. 

Capture a scrolling area with a panoramic capture

  1. Select the “All-in-One” tab within Snagit’s Capture window and click “Capture.”
  2. When the orange crosshairs appear, click and drag to select the area you want to capture.
  3. Click the Panoramic Capture Button.
  4. Click “start,” scroll through the content you want to capture, then click “stop.”

It’s that easy! Once you’ve captured your screenshot, it will automatically open in the Snagit Editor, where you can preview, edit, add markup or callouts, and quickly share it.

Three ways to make your full-page screenshots even better

Screenshots on their own are useful, but add a little context, and they can be a downright magical way to communicate your ideas.

Once you capture your full-page screenshot, it will open in the Snagit editor, where you’ll be able to:

1. Annotate your screenshot

Don’t let important information get overlooked. Use arrows and callouts to highlight specific areas of your screenshot or add more context. Choose from different color themes, or create your own to keep your images on-brand.

2. Rearrange objects within your screenshot

Snagit automatically makes the objects in your screen capture movable, which means you can rearrange buttons, delete text, or edit other elements in your screenshots.

Is your cursor blocking something? Just delete it! Wish that button was on the right and not the left? Just move it! 

You can even magically mock-up websites with screenshots.

3. Edit the text in your screenshot

Snagit recognizes the text in your screenshots for quick editing, which means you can change the text’s color, font, or size without redesigning the entire image. Need to extract text from an image? Snagit can do that, too. 

No built-in screenshot tool can do that!

The best way to capture scrolling screenshots

Scrolling screenshots are a lifesaver when you need to capture a full webpage, extensive spreadsheet, or long chat thread. 

Since you can’t take scrolling screenshots with native apps like Snip & Sketch, investing in a more powerful screenshots tool is worth it.

Snagit is the best tool for taking full-page screenshots. It lets you quickly capture your screen, add additional context, and share images, GIFS, or videos to your favorite apps.

Frequently asked questions

How do I take a screenshot bigger than my screen?

A scrolling screenshot is a great way to capture content that doesn’t fit within the dimensions of a typical screenshot.

Can you scroll while taking a screenshot?

The native Windows and Mac tools don’t have a scrolling screenshot feature, it’s possible with a third-party app like Snagit.

Is it possible to screenshot a parallax website?

Static screenshots aren’t the best way to capture interactive elements like parallax scrolling. However, with Snagit, you can record your screen and quickly turn the video into an animated GIF.

Can you take a scrolling screenshot on an iPhone?

Yes, but only when using native apps like Safari and Notes. Press the side or top button and volume up button simultaneously to take a screenshot. Then click on the preview and tap “full page” at the top.

How do I take a scrolling screenshot on Android?

On Android 11 or later, press the power and volume down buttons at the same time. Then, tab the “capture more” option at the bottom left corner of the screen.

How to Create Incredible Software Demo Videos (No Experience Necessary!)

How to Create Incredible Software Demo Videos

A software demo video is one of the most effective ways to show what makes your software or application really shine. They’re perfect for highlighting key features, ease of use, important elements in your user interface, and much more.

But what if you’re a marketing team of one, don’t have a huge video budget, or simply don’t know how to create videos? You’re out of luck, right?

Wrong!

What if I told you that you could start creating highly effective, engaging, and professional-quality software demo videos right now — no experience required?

You can! And it’s way easier than you might think!

You’ll get more customers clicking that “Buy Now” button, and your boss will think you’re a total rockstar.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

The Best Tool for Creating Engaging Software Demo Videos

Camtasia is the fastest and easiest way to create incredible software demo videos that will wow your customers and drive sales!

Download Camtasia for Free

What is a software demo video?

A software demo video is a marketing video that allows you to show customers what makes your software, website, or app stand out from the competition. 

Typically created from screen recordings of your software in action, along with enhancements that allow you to highlight important features and user interface elements, it helps you show customers what they can expect from your software when they purchase.

Unlike a software tutorial video, a software demo video isn’t intended to show someone how to use your software, but instead entice them to purchase. It should address their pain points and show how your software solves them.

Feel free to be creative! Remember, you want your customers to be excited about your product!

I love this one from Slack. It’s a great combination of showing not just what the software does, but how it helps solve a customer problem.

Why create software demo videos?

The simplest answer is: To sell more software! A software demo video is like being able to do in-person customer demos at scale. Only, unlike in-person demos, you reach thousands of customers and once! Plus, you can use multiple videos to highlight key features or abilities without having to try to cram everything into one session. 

Your potential customers can watch each video as they want to, share them with others, and even revisit them to refresh their memory on what they liked about your application. 

That’s not to say that software demo videos can replace in-person or online personal demos, but they can be your secret weapon for grabbing attention and helping to funnel customers to clicking that “buy now” button more quickly.

How to create a software demo video

Step 1: Start with a plan

Just like any piece of good content, you need to plan what you want to show, how you want to describe it, what elements you’ll need to include, etc. 

Remember a good video is only as long as it needs to be, so don’t try to cram everything into one video. If you want to show multiple features or how your product solves various problems, consider making multiple videos so your customers can view them as they wish.

Here are some essential elements of great software demo videos:

  • A brief description of what your product is and what it does
  • Show them how it solves their problems and pain points
  • Highlight your software in action
  • A clear call to action (CTA)

I said it before, but I’ll say it again: Remember to keep your video as brief as possible. Want to show more stuff? Make more videos!

Step 2: Write a script

If your video will include any voiceover (sometimes called narration), make sure you write a script detailing exactly what you or your voiceover person will say. This ensures that you include the information you need to in the way you intend without danger of going on a tangent or missing important stuff. 

Plus, having a script means you can get all the language you intend to use approved before you make your video, which means fewer revisions!

Step 3: Fire up that screen recorder

To capture a software application in action, you’ll need a tool that will let you record your screen. I firmly believe that Camtasia is your best bet for capturing your screen and creating stunning, professional-quality software demo videos.

It’s ridiculously easy!

You can record your narration as you record your screen, but I recommend doing it before or after so you’re not trying to do two things at once. However, many software demo videos may not need voiceover, or you have someone else do the voiceover for you. Regardless of how you get it, you can import the audio into the Camtasia media bin and drag and drop it to the timeline as needed. 

If someone else has already created screen recordings or other video clips for you, can you also import those clips into your Camtasia media bin. Then, just like with the voiceover audio, drag and drop them to the timeline.

Step 4: Edit your video

Now comes the fun part – editing your video! This may sound daunting, but with Camtasia, editing is a breeze. 

You can trim your footage, add music, incorporate an animated intro, include animated effects, and more. 

While there are lots of available editing options, there’s no need to go overboard. Keep it simple so that your audience can focus on what you’re trying to convey.

Oh, and did I mention that we offer templates and assets? Yeah, you can get a HUGE head start on video creation and editing!

Camtasia includes an extensive library of free, customizable templates. Or, you can create your own and share them with your team! 

Plus, no more hunting for extra content. Camtasia includes a built-in library of music files, images, video clips and more! 

Plus, TechSmith Assets for Camtasia includes hundreds of thousands more in a fully searchable database to help you create even more engaging videos faster.

Step 5: Share it with the world

Once your video is ready, you can share it wherever it needs to go. Camtasia offers direct exports to YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, and more!

You can also save it directly to your computer to share anywhere else you want to!

You (yes you!) can create incredible software demo videos with Camtasia

So there you have it! Camtasia makes it easy to create software demo videos that will wow your customers, drive more sales, and make you look like a video wizard — no pro skills required!

The Best Tool for Creating Engaging Software Demo Videos

Camtasia is the fastest and easiest way to create incredible software demo videos that will wow your customers and drive sales!

Download Camtasia for Free

Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist and manager of the TechSmith Blog. More than 25 years of communications and marketing experience. Geek. Science and sci-fi enthusiast. Guitar player. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him. A few things about me: 1) Mildly (or not-so-mildly) obsessed with the movie Alien, 2) two rescue pibbles (Biggie and Reo), and 3) friend of ducks everywhere. Ask me about my seven+ years as a roller derby coach.

Championing Workplace Equity Through Asynchronous Work

A person works on a laptop with a dog in their lap

As a leader, I firmly believe that my team is happy and productive only when each individual can bring their best selves to work. Leaders are responsible for creating an environment where each team member feels heard, valued and fulfilled. Here’s the thing, though: it is not easy to achieve because everyone shows up differently.

It is crazy hard to attain true equity in the workplace. People work differently. People relate to each other differently. People have different personalities and work in different geographical locations. The list of complications to achieving the ideal goes on. Some team members are always-present type-A professionals who engage loudly; others are introverts who hang back and listen. Some can participate and brainstorm at a moment’s notice; others prefer to internalize, research and prepare before voicing their opinions. Some are morning people; some are night owls. Some work better in groups, some – alone. If leaders don’t consider everyone’s working styles, we risk decreasing engagement, productivity, and innovation and alienating or losing top talent.

Remote and hybrid work has made this issue even more pronounced during the pandemic. Employees feel disengaged, isolated, and burned out.

Asynchronous work has been the secret weapon of some of the most successful leaders worldwide, and remote/hybrid work truly highlighted its advantages.

Effective leaders are time ninjas.

They use their knowledge of their team members and work style preferences to decide what work must be done synchronously (meetings, group discussions) and what work can be done asynchronously (shared docs, video feedback, email). According to research, 83% of employees prefer an asynchronous approach to work. In addition, the same research found that removing 60% of meetings increased cooperation by 55% and decreased the risk of stress by 57%.

Time ninjas – the truly great leaders – pay attention.

I have been a huge fan of asynchronous work for a while. But in the past five years, I have rebalanced my team’s workload to heavily favor asynchronous communication.

A person working at a home office, there is a bulldog sleeping on the floor.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. Opportunity for equal engagement. Not everyone will feel comfortable voicing their opinions in real-time; some prefer quiet time to reflect and collect their thoughts. In the meetings, the loudest voices tend to take over. In asynchronous communication, however, everyone has equal time and opportunity to engage and offer insight. It helps quiet people stand out and contribute in meaningful ways.
  2. Accountability. The loudest voices might stand out during meetings, but asynchronous feedback allows all rockstars to shine. When teams collaborate asynchronously, transparency increases. It is easy to see who contributes effectively, consistently and thoughtfully. That, in turn, increases managers’ and peers’ trust in each other. Not only that, this approach holds people accountable for their work and impact.
  3. Increased feedback effectiveness. If you haven’t tried providing feedback through video, you are missing out. In my opinion, it significantly increases feedback effectiveness and impact. Using tools like Snagit, you can easily – and quickly! – record your feedback while simultaneously displaying the document on screen and turning your camera on (or not if you prefer audio-only). This makes feedback more human and detailed while significantly reducing the time it would take you to type it out. Once you start using this approach, you will get addicted, and your team will appreciate this method of feedback delivery.
  4. Higher clarity and fewer misunderstandings. When your thoughts are recorded and transparent to other team members, the drama, the excuses and the misunderstandings decline significantly. There is much better clarity on direction. There are more collaboration opportunities and ways to bring along all relevant stakeholders.
  5. Increased employee satisfaction and reduced anxiety. Flexibility on when and how to complete work is extremely important. Have meeting-free days. Record meetings for subsequent playback to allow colleagues to catch up later, especially if they are in very different time zones. Ask employees about their chronotype to understand who an early bird is and who is a night owl. Make allowances for their family situations. Asynchronous communication significantly increases productivity and loyalty when employees know they can manage their work on their terms.

This approach becomes essential when your employees have synchronous limitations such as autism, sensory processing disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Asynchronous work requires a bit of planning, however. Don’t be one of those managers who demands hyperresponsiveness and constant fire drills. With a little forethought, leaders can create an environment of high efficiency and creativity. Prioritize that!

Another caution I will leave you with is this: beware of the double standard. Lead by example by using the same tools you are asking your teams to use and following the same behaviors you expect from them. The emotional fallout of the double standard is destructive, deteriorating trust that is necessary for a team’s success and meaningful employee engagement.

We live in the age of employee empowerment. The best talent will not stick around if leaders don’t offer high levels of flexibility and opportunities to be heard and contribute. As Adam Grant said, “great collaborations don’t involve constant contact. They alternate between deep work and bursts of interaction.” Asynchronous work is a great equalizer. It allows for everyone to shine in their own unique way, promotes equity in the workplace and creates a culture of trust, innovation and inclusion.

Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina Walter is a globally recognized business and marketing innovator, international speaker, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck (2013) and coauthor of The Power of Visual Storytelling (2015) and The Laws of Brand Storytelling (2018). Her two decades of experience as a brand marketer and storyteller includes a blended perspective of Fortune 50, start-up, and nonprofit environments. Ekaterina’s thought leadership has been featured on CNBC, ABC, CNN, WSJ, Forbes, TechCrunch, and Fast Company, among others.

What High-Performing Teams Do to Succeed in a Modern Workplace

A person works at a desk in an office space

In the world of hybrid work, there rages a fierce debate about when and where employees should work. There is much less focus, however, on the how. Therein lies the problem. The how is the hardest part to get right, yet the most important.

Organizations are still confused by their legacy thinking. Even when they were forced to move offices online, they took the bad habits that infused their workplaces with them: too many meetings, bad tech infrastructure, threadbare approaches to leadership and the list goes on. While the world of work was rapidly changing, organizations grudgingly shifted where people worked and, in some cases, even when they worked. What was slow in changing was the realization that the way work is done needed to mirror the realities of the rapidly shifting workplace.

Leaders have to improve how their people work. Asynchronous-first communication approach is a must for organizations and leaders who want to thrive in the new challenging world of work, whether their workplace is fully remote, hybrid or in-person.

It is time we stopped hiding behind the safety blanket of the familiar synchronous-first work approach and telling ourselves that having our team members in the same (virtual) room at the same time is what keeps the team functioning properly. Because it isn’t! Mind you, I am a type-A extrovert who thrives on in-person social interactions, but I will be the first to admit that long mindless meetings (in-person or not) are not what makes me productive.

Look, I am not saying that synchronous communication isn’t important. But when it becomes the default, it creates an environment and expectation for constant hyperresponsiveness. Every interaction becomes a fire drill. In contrast, when leaders plan and execute thoughtfully, the door swings open for asynchronous communication to thrive.

Over the past decade, I have watched some of the most successful leaders drastically rebalance the mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication to create a dynamic and healthy environment for their teams. I followed suit, and I learned a lot in the process.

But before diving into that, let’s agree on the definition and importance of asynchronous communication.

A person works on a laptop in a coffee shop.

What is asynchronous communication?

While synchronous communication is the communication that happens in real-time, with all parties engaged simultaneously (e.g., Zoom call), asynchronous is a style of communication that lets employees organize and perform work according to their own timetable, providing space to strategize and fine-tune deliverables.

Why asynchronous-first?

Simply put, asynchronous work allows for a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Synchronous-heavy work can diminish any team’s productivity and create unnecessary anxiety. Despite eliminating commute times during the pandemic, working from home increased the number of working hours, leading to a skewed work-life balance. At the same time, 94% of American workers report experiencing stress in their workplace.

It doesn’t help that select types of synchronous work – such as meetings – consistently dominate employees’ calendars. Bartleby’s Law speculates that meetings waste 80% of the time for 80% of the people in attendance. The average person spends between 35% and 50% of their time in meetings, and executives consider 67% of meetings to be unproductive. Given these statistics, I firmly believe that leaders must champion asynchronous communication to free people’s time to increase their effectiveness and prioritize employees’ mental health.

Reducing meeting times and increasing emphasis on asynchronous communication will allow leaders to break the cycle of hyperresponsiveness, creating space for focused work time and thoughtful engagement, thus increasing effectiveness and collaboration while significantly decreasing stress and anxiety. In addition, this will deepen inclusivity, as not everyone can bring their best selves to the table at the spur of the moment in a synchronous environment.

How to lead with asynchronous-first work

High-performance teams lead with an asynchronous-first approach. They use creativity and technology to create an environment of collaboration and inclusion through asynchronous communication. The leading organizations even revise their cultural norms to adapt to the needs of their workforce.

Here are the five things I recommend you start with.

Establish a “no meetings” day

I have worked in two companies that instituted “no meetings Fridays.” Only one was successful with fully implementing it culturally because it came from the top, and executives led by example. It was the most productive day of the week for my teammates and me. In addition, the same company gave its employees every other Friday off during the summer months. Both contributed to increased levels of productivity and camaraderie among colleagues. This also drove us to prioritize asynchronous collaboration.

Consider and respect time zones and personalities

I’ve spent almost three decades working with people from around the world. Do you know what I found most effective? An asynchronous-first work approach!

With global teams, collaboration works best when it’s not in real-time. Instead of calling a meeting with some people jumping on at 6 am and others at 10 pm, create an environment where everyone can contribute while being their most productive selves.

It’s not just about time differences; you must consider people’s work preferences. For example, I had a high-performing individual on my team who was a night owl; even though he resided in the U.S., he did his best work between 5 pm and 11 pm. In addition, he wasn’t the type of person who felt comfortable providing ideas in real-time (on a call); he needed time to process, research and then form his opinion. Knowing all that, I utilized an asynchronous work approach with him 90% of the time. The result? Exceptional work.

Some of my favorite vendors and agencies are in Asia and Africa. With such vast time differences, we use various communication tools (including WhatsApp) to collaborate. About 98% of this communication is done asynchronously and works seamlessly.

Replace meetings with video updates

Many meetings can be replaced by simply creating a video and sending it to colleagues, stakeholders, or partners. Not only does it cut down on wasted time, but it also increases engagement. Research from TechSmith shows that 48% of employees consider video the most appealing form of communication.

Types of meetings perfect for this approach are:

  1. “Inform” meetings: status updates, metrics report-out, project demos, new employee introductions, “behind the scenes” project information, monthly leadership updates, etc.
  2. “Shoulder tap” training: answers to “how-to” questions, showcasing a new tool, outlining a new process, etc.
  3. Feedback meetings: stakeholder reviews, reporting a defect, congratulating a team member on a job well done, etc.

As a fan of TechSmith products for over a decade, I use Snagit’s all-in-one capture tool to easily record my screen and make simple real-time edits if needed. Snagit gives me a simple way to record my voice and screen (or webcam) simultaneously, resulting in great-looking informational videos that are an absolute breeze to create. Often, it can be as easy as opening a slide deck or a spreadsheet and talking over it while recording. Then, I can easily cut out any parts I don’t like to create a polished finished product to share with the team.

Brainstorm and collaborate via shared documents and visual collaboration platforms

Tools such as SnagIt or InVision for design collaboration, Pastel for website development collaboration, and Miro and Mural for visual brainstorming allow you to collaborate effectively. Along with Google Docs, OneDrive and DropBox, these are just some invaluable tools in the toolbox that simultaneously allow for high productivity and great flexibility.

Set boundaries and use tools to reduce distractions

A survey by The Economist found that 34% of workers lose focus at work because of face-to-face interruptions from colleagues. I suspect this loss of focus is even more substantial in a virtual environment with distractions from tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and text messaging platforms. High-performing teams align with and respect each other’s preferred work patterns. They create “office hours” and use plugins to reduce interruptions and maximize focus periods. They rely on careful planning and asynchronous communication to bring their best selves to work while giving their colleagues space to work in a manner that allows individual team members to be most productive and engaged.

In conclusion, amidst the “Talent War” and the “Great Resignation” movement, how people work will shape the future of your organization. Maximizing productivity without sacrificing employees’ mental health is now a business imperative. An asynchronous-first work approach needs to become a rule, not an exception.

Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina Walter is a globally recognized business and marketing innovator, international speaker, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck (2013) and coauthor of The Power of Visual Storytelling (2015) and The Laws of Brand Storytelling (2018). Her two decades of experience as a brand marketer and storyteller includes a blended perspective of Fortune 50, start-up, and nonprofit environments. Ekaterina’s thought leadership has been featured on CNBC, ABC, CNN, WSJ, Forbes, TechCrunch, and Fast Company, among others.

Video: Your Secret Weapon for Incredible Software Tutorials

Your customers rely on your software tutorial content to ensure they can actually use your software. But what happens when your help content doesn’t actually help anyone? Software tutorial videos to the rescue!

Unfortunately, it usually means unnecessary calls to your tech support department, angry and frustrated customers, or worse — users who may actually just decide to buy from a competitor.

But great software tutorial and how-to content can actually delight your users help create customers for life. Plus, you’ll take a huge burden off your tech support team!

In this post, you’ll discover:

Video tutorials can be a game changer for both your customers and your company! No one wants to read through pages and pages of software documentation hunting for the answer to their question.

More and more, users want self-service content that can help them do what they need to do without sitting on hold or waiting for an email response to their question.

But I’m not here to convince you that video is an essential part of your customer education content. You already know that.

For most people, the problem is that they simply don’t know where to start. Some people think videos are too time-consuming or expensive to create.

Or, maybe you think you need to be a video professional to create professional-quality videos.

What if I told you that you can start making incredible software tutorial videos with no experience. Not only that, it’s also actually really cost-effective and takes way less time than you may think.

It’s true!

The Best Tool for Creating Engaging Software Tutorial Videos

Camtasia is your secret weapon for creating powerful and effective software tutorial videos to help your users use your software to its fullest!

Download Camtasia for Free

Is your software tutorial content actually helping anyone?

Here’s the long and short of it: If your software help content is text-based, you’re behind the times. Today’s consumers are used to being able to find how-to videos of all sorts via YouTube and if they can’t find all the ways to provide great help content, giant walls of text is most likely the least useful. Research shows that people don’t just prefer video and visual content — they actually perform better when its provided. They even remember it longer! It’s literally a win-win-win.

When your users can see how to perform tasks, they understand faster what they need to do.

Remember, though, that not all of your users will be able to consume your visual and video content in the same way. Always create content with accessibility for users with disabilities in mind. All images should include alternative text and all videos should include an audio description and captions.

Of all the ways to provide help content, giant walls of text is most likely the least userful.

How to create incredible software video tutorials (right now!)

You don’t have to be a video professional to create professional-quality software how-to videos. Here’s how to get started today!

Step 1: Choose your software

While it’s incredibly easy to make software tutorial videos, they don’t make themselves. That means you need to choose your video software.

There are a lot of options out there, but we happen to think that Camtasia is the best software for creating software tutorial videos. In fact, we have an entire library of software how-tos created with Camtasia. Pretty meta, eh?

But seriously, with Camtasia you can record your screen, add audio, effects, animations, and more with a simple drag-and-drop interface that’s easy enough for anyone to use.

Plus, you can download it free to use for 30 days. What do you have to lose?

Step 2: Record your video

Once you have Camtasia downloaded, you’re ready to get started.

Now, I could write out all kinds of instructions on what you need to do, but why would I do that when we have so many great tutorials?

Here’s an overview of how easy it is to get started.

You can see how easy it is to get started recording and editing your videos. Of course, we recommend that you have a plan for what you want to show. Keep your videos short and to the point. Cover one topic for each video whenever possible to avoid confusing your users or giving them too much to understand or remember.

Adding some professional polish

While a basic screen recording may work for some videos, adding animations, callouts, cursor effects and more can go a long way in enhancing your video’s effectiveness.

Camtasia makes it ridiculously easy to add powerful effects and more.

Want to take it even further? It’s just as easy.

Step 3: Share it with the world

Once your video is ready, you’re ready to share it! We recommend hosting your videos in a library on your website where your customers can easily find it.

But, it’s also a good idea to have a library of videos on a site like YouTube where many people go to look for help content.

Camtasia offers exporting to many of the most popular hosting destinations, including YouTube, so you can find your customers where they are!

Software tutorial videos aren’t just great for your customers

Your tech support team works hard. Probably too hard. You can help with that!

Think about what YOU do when you need help with a product. For me, the first thing I do is go to Google and search for the problem I’m having. My first choice is rarely to go directly to tech support. I want to solve the problem on my own. Chances are, your customers want to do the same.

A great library of tutorial videos helps your customers help themselves. Solve the most common issues and most of your customers won’t ever need to contact support.

And that frees up your tech support team to handle the really tricky issues.

Keep up with the pace of innovation

One of the hesitations with creating video tutorials is that the minute you update your UI or add a new feature, they may become obsolete.

New software features can come at any time. Keeping your videos up to date can be a challenge, especially with more complex video editors.

With Camtasia, it’s ridiculously fast and easy to create videos to highlight new capabilities and UI changes — or edit existing videos to include enhancements.

Video templates allow you to create new videos. But it’s just as fast to edit existing videos, as well. Simply open your project, remove the outdated content and drop in the new content. You can adjust timings as needed and get your new tutorials out quickly and easily.

No lag time. No hassle.

Help your customers help themselves

So whether you’re on a customer support team, a content marketer, or someone in between, these tips will will help you produce help content that makes more successful users.

The Best Tool for Creating Engaging Software Tutorial Videos

Camtasia is your secret weapon for creating powerful and effective software tutorial videos to help your users use your software to its fullest!

Download Camtasia for Free

Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist and manager of the TechSmith Blog. More than 25 years of communications and marketing experience. Geek. Science and sci-fi enthusiast. Guitar player. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him. A few things about me: 1) Mildly (or not-so-mildly) obsessed with the movie Alien, 2) two rescue pibbles (Biggie and Reo), and 3) friend of ducks everywhere. Ask me about my seven+ years as a roller derby coach.

How I Improved My Videos

How I Improved My Videos

Video creation skills aren’t “built in a day.” Like everything else worth learning, it’s a gradual process that you’ve got to embrace every step of the way.

To share the story behind his stellar video creation skills, Jeff Batt, Learning & Development Specialist and Founder of Learning Dojo, joins The Visual Lounge

He takes us back to where it all started to talk about his humble beginnings in video creation. Jeff also explains his production process and shares some insightful advice for anyone looking to up their video-making skills.

Jeff has a wealth of experience ranging 10+ years in the digital learning and media industry. He also has a strong background in web development and is a regular conference speaker covering eLearning technologies such as Captivate and Camtasia.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Things to consider when you’re just getting started in video creation

Speaking from experience, Jeff advises beginners to strive for perfection but not to wait until they’re perfect before showcasing their work.

It’s all part of the learning process. So, don’t wait to buy that fancy camera or audio equipment before you put yourself out there.

Another thing to consider is scripting. Jeff had a whole back and forth relationship with scripting when he was starting out.

At first, he thought he needed to script out his videos to sound more fluent. But it just ended up making him sound a bit robotic. As an alternative, he recommends coming up with bullet points and using them as speaking points.

Jeff’s third major thing to consider is practice…you need lots of it. The more you practice talking about a topic, the easier it is to teach or speak more fluently on camera.

Finally, Jeff talks about feedback and how to receive it when you’re first getting started. It’s easy to get deterred, especially if you’re unsure of yourself. However, feedback isn’t a condemnation of your work, rather it’s an indication of the areas you need to improve on.

So, accept constructive feedback, apply it, and watch your video skills level up.

Look at feedback as a way to improve, not a sign that you've failed.

Jeff’s gear guide for beginners

If budget constraints exist, you should start with a Blue Yeti microphone. As Jeff tells us, “they’re still top of the line.” But if you have a little more money to play with, then the Shure SM7B is a good way to go.

However, Jeff’s best audio investment so far is the Rode Procaster, which allows him to control up to four microphones at once.

If you’re just getting started in video creation and looking for a good audio setup, get yourself a good microphone first and foremost.

As far as lighting is concerned, an excellent place to start is with a ring light. But, if you have the budget, Jeff recommends Godox lights.

Common challenges when developing video creation skills

Chances are, as you’re just starting out, you don’t have fancy, expensive equipment to get the video quality you want.

Like most newbie video creators, Jeff faced this same challenge in his early days, but he powered through with what he had.

First, he didn’t have the high-grade DSLR camera he uses today, so he started out using his iPhone to shoot videos. An iPhone isn’t a bad place to start, but it posed quite a few challenges, especially when it came to matching video quality with sound and getting the right lighting.

Speaking of lighting, that was a tough one to figure out as well. Jeff got started with a ring light, which is fine if you know how to manipulate it properly. He had to combat harsh shadows in his background in most of his early videos, but that all changed as he learned a little more and upgraded his setup bit by bit.

Another major challenge Jeff faced, mainly on the L&D front, was deciding whether to script or not to script. He eventually went with the latter.

Key takeaway? It takes patience, flexibility, and the ability to tweak your work to perfect any areas you’re lagging in.

Adopt an “Agile” approach over a “Waterfall” approach

This links back to Jeff’s advice about perfection — sure, it’s great to strive for it, but never let it hold you back.

The Agile methodology involves trying your hand at things and learning as you grow. On the other hand, the Waterfall approach requires that you get everything right every step of the way.

In Jeff’s opinion, the Waterfall approach isn’t a great way to level up your video creation skills. Instead, In Jeff’s opinion, the Waterfall approach isn’t a great way to level up your video creation skills. Instead, you should put something out there, see how it performs, learn from it, apply any upgrades, and then move on to the next lesson.

It’s a tried and tested way to get better.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to fail. According to Jeff, failure isn’t the end of the line, it’s just an Bottom line, don’t be afraid to fail. According to Jeff, failure isn’t the end of the line. It’s just an opportunity to learn a few more lessons which is ultimately the only way you’ll improve your video skills.

For more pointers on how to upgrade your video-making game, check out the resources in the TechSmith Academy.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

Proximity Bias and Hybrid Work: What You Need to Know

Proximity Bias and Hybrid Work: What You Need to Know

As employees return to the office, companies embracing hybrid work arrangements face a challenge: proximity bias. 

In hybrid work environments, proximity bias could lead to the incorrect assumption that those working in the office are more productive than their remote teammates. 

Managers and employees alike are concerned about the effects of proximity bias and hybrid work. In fact:

  • Two in five employees are worried that less face-to-face time with company leadership will negatively impact their career growth
  • 41 percent of executives say potential inequities between remote and in-office employees are their top concern
  • A study found remote workers were less likely to be promoted than their in-office colleagues, despite being 15 percent more productive

At the same time, hybrid work is the new norm. Most employees favor a hybrid work model, so forcing everyone back to the office isn’t the solution. 

That’s why it’s more important than ever to be aware of proximity bias and make sure everyone on your team feels included. 

The good news is that managers and employees alike can take steps to avoid proximity bias in the workplace. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post: 

How proximity influences our perception of colleagues

Our brains take shortcuts all the time, using processes to simplify the information around us to make more efficient decisions. 

But sometimes, our brains misinterpret that information, and it affects the accuracy of our judgments. In the case of proximity bias, our brains overvalue what is around us and undervalue what isn’t. 

If left unchecked, proximity bias can create a company culture where in-office employees are rewarded for their presence with resources and promotions while their remote counterparts are left behind.

Illustration of a hybrid meeting. Some participants are sitting at a conference table speaking with another while another group is on a large screen.

Examples of proximity bias in the workplace

Proximity bias can show up in both big and small ways. Here are a few examples of proximity bias in the workplace:

  • Offering in-person employees more exciting projects or professional development opportunities
  • Leaving remote stakeholders out of decision-making or important discussions
  • Providing in-person employees with more perks

While bias is often unconscious, knowing how proximity influences your decisions can help you recognize and overcome it. 

What managers and leaders can do to prevent proximity bias

The reality of the hybrid model is that we have to adapt to new ways of collaborating. 

Remote team members cannot be an afterthought. Successful hybrid leaders set up processes that allow employees to flourish regardless of where or when they work. 

Adopt a remote-first approach to communication

When everyone isn’t working in the office simultaneously (or at all), key decisions can’t be made at the water cooler. 

Adopting a remote-first approach to how your team communicates will help prevent people from feeling left in the dark when working from home.

That means when one person is remote, everyone is remote. Digital and asynchronous forms of communication should be the default method, regardless of an employee’s location.

Asynchronous communication: communication that doesn’t happen in real time. Common examples of asynchronous communication are emails, video messages, and comments in which the sender does not expect an immediate response.

Make sure discussions about projects and tasks happen in a digital messaging app like Slack or Teams, where all relevant team members can contribute and benefit from the conversation. 

It’s not just remote employees who benefit. Remote-first, asynchronous communication will: 

  • Enable employees to take time off without feeling like they’re falling behind
  • Allow new employees to get up to speed more quickly
  • Archive information in a way employees can reference at any time
Matt Pierce

It’s important that you don’t have the people who are in the office vs. the people who aren’t in the office. The more that we can use these tools and communication methods to level the playing field, the better everything is going to be.

– Michelle Massey, Vice President of Community and Customer Operations at TechSmith

Stop relying on real-time meetings

When your team works across locations and time zones, relying on synchronous communication can be frustrating and unfair. Schedules and location can prevent everyone from being able to participate fully. 

If you’re like most office workers, you probably feel like you waste a lot of time in meetings anyway. Here’s the sign you need to take back your calendar. 

There are several types of meetings that are almost always better in an asynchronous format: 

  • Status updates
  • Project demos
  • Data shareouts
  • Informal training

Anytime you’re scheduling a meeting to share information, consider recording a video instead. 

Let’s say you want to share results from a recent marketing campaign with your team. If you were in a Zoom meeting, you’d probably share your screen to walk through a dashboard and provide context around the results.

With a screen capture tool like Snagit, you can accomplish the same thing in less time without interrupting your team’s day for yet another meeting or leaving someone out.

 

In just a few minutes, you can create a quick video that your team can watch on their own time (and even at 1.5x speed). Snagit can even simultaneously record your screen and camera, replicating the “face-to-face” feeling of an in-person or virtual meeting. 

Of course, there will be times when meeting in real time makes the most sense. There are a few things you can do to help level the playing field for remote team members:

  • Have everyone call into virtual meetings individually to prevent in-person side conversations
  • Make sure everyone has the equipment they need, like cameras, microphones, or bandwidth, to be fully present
  • Record the meeting so those who cannot attend can watch it later

Measure employee performance by output

In a typical office environment, employees can try to impress by being the first person at their desk in the morning and the last one to leave at the end of the day. 

But focusing on hours worked as an indicator of performance can leave your team feeling pressured to be “always on” when working from home to make up for their lack of physical presence.

Instead, shift your mindset to focus less on time spent in the office or online and more on the quality and quantity of work your employees produce. 

Be intentional about checking in

When working in the same physical space as an employee, you naturally have more opportunities to observe their work, offer feedback, and recognize their success. 

To effectively manage a hybrid team, you have to be intentional about how you connect or risk in-person employees receiving preferential treatment. 

Start by keeping track of when and how you engage with your team, both in-person and virtually, and identify disparities. 

You might find that you offer feedback more frequently when working in the office. If that’s the case, employees who are remote full-time may miss out on opportunities to improve their work. 

Incorporating virtual forms of feedback into your communication could help level the playing field for fully remote employees.

How employees can be more visible when working remotely

It’s no secret that flexible, hybrid, and remote work can feel isolating. More than half of people who started working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic feel less connected to their coworkers. 

But, if you’re proactive, you can still make meaningful connections with your colleagues and establish a presence on your team while working away from the office.

Turn your camera on during virtual meetings

Many people don’t enjoy being on camera, and “Zoom fatigue” is a real phenomenon. However, video conferencing can help us feel connected even when we’re not in the same place.

When you’re on camera, it’s easier to establish a sense of presence and a shared sense of being together even though we may be physically separated from across the globe.

— Diana Howles, author of Next Level Virtual Training: Advance Your Facilitation

When you’re on camera during a meeting, your colleagues can see your nonverbal behaviors and better understand who you are and what you’re saying. 

Turning on your camera will help people get to know you better and allow you to communicate more effectively. Research has even shown video conferencing can create perceived proximity.

To avoid video burnout, pace yourself and take breaks as needed. Identify which meetings you’ll benefit most from being on camera, and when it might make sense to step away.

Turning off the “self-view” option once you have established yourself in the frame during a meeting can also help relieve camera fatigue.

Stop relying on text-based communication

Asynchronous communication is essential for keeping hybrid and distributed teams on the same page, but it can sometimes feel less than human.

That’s because we often default to text-based ways of sharing information when research shows most people understand information better when it’s communicated visually. 

The next time you’re about to send a mile-long email, consider if a video message could be more effective. 

Suppose you’re providing feedback on a project. Text-based communication can easily lead to misunderstandings. But, when your teammates can hear your voice and see your face, they’re less likely to need clarification. 

Even better, with Snagit, you can record your screen and draw attention to the areas of a project needing attention with arrows and callouts while you walk through your feedback.

What could have been a boring or confusing email thread can be transformed into an opportunity for communication that feels more like the face-to-face interactions you might have in an office environment. 

Ask for advice

Proximity bias can put remote workers at a disadvantage when it comes to professional development.

For example, when leadership teams are working primarily in the office, in-person employees may be more likely to be top of mind when new opportunities arise. 

While your company is hopefully taking steps to address proximity bias already, you can help move your career forward by proactively seeking advice and mentorship from others at your company.

We often avoid reaching out to others for advice because we are afraid we might be bothering them or appear incompetent. 

However, studies show that asking for advice facilitates meaningful connections with our colleagues and also helps us make a positive impression on our mentors.

The secret to making hybrid work “work” is effective communication

Many of us have spent most of our professional careers working in an office space. It will take time to unlearn habits that no longer make sense and replace them with new ways of working.

Embracing asynchronous communication tools like Snagit will transform the way we work for the better.

Move work forward from anywhere with Snagit

From creating video messages to annotated screenshots, Snagit is an essential tool for hybrid teams.

Snagit

Strategies for an Effective Hybrid Workplace

Strategies for an Effective Hybrid Workplace

Whether you’re a video creator, learning and development professional, or even a software engineer, your industry is probably embracing hybrid work in one way or another.

Hybrid work isn’t a challenge we can master overnight, but all it takes is the right information to get you moving in the right direction. Michelle Massey, VP of Community Outreach and Customer Operations at TechSmith, joins this episode of The Visual Lounge to share some practical steps and advice that make for a more wholesome hybrid work environment.

She talks about organizational culture and how it affects the hybrid work setup and doles out a few tips on communicating better in a hybrid work environment.

Watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/z5gaL3UA9wE

Michelle is responsible for maximizing the impact of the customer experience and growing TechSmith’s philanthropic impact in K 12. education.

As well as having over 25 years of IT industry experience, she’s also well-versed in community engagement, business operations, corporate planning, and proposal development. She received the 2021 Athena Leadership Award and Downtown Lansing Inks Downtown Dreamer Award for her contributions to the Lansing community.

To listen to the full podcast episode, hit play below.

What is hybrid work?

Hybrid work is when people work from different locations — some work from home full-time, others work in the office, while the rest combine both work setups.

But that’s not all there is to consider when it comes to hybrid work.

The main challenge of hybrid work is ensuring that everyone gets the same corporate experience.

Let’s take a simple meeting as an example. How do you make that shared experience the same for the people who aren’t physically present? Their vision and ideas are still valid and need to be heard by the group.

As Michelle tells us:

That’s where tools, norms, and practices come in.”

Why the topic of hybrid work is important

First, the world has changed drastically over the past couple of years, and there’s no going back.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people rely more heavily on remote tools than ever before. We are now entirely in the age of Slack, Zoom, Teams, and other similar tools.

And it’s not just that way in the business world either. We’ve had to figure out how to weave hybrid living into our world in our personal lives.

Even if you’re not working in a hybrid environment, most of us still interact virtually. And technology is key to making all that possible.

Sadly, when the topic of tech comes up, some people start to get nervous.

But in today’s world, it’s essential to know how to use technology to make our businesses and personal lives better. New software, tools, and apps will keep popping up, but we must learn how to wield them. And once you know how to use these tools effectively, your life becomes much more manageable.

Addressing organizational culture in hybrid work environments

Research shows that one of the biggest concerns companies have today is losing their culture in the hybrid environment.

Especially in the tech industry, people are always looking for ways to either:

  • Differentiate themselves from the competition, or
  • Just differentiate themselves from others, trying to enhance their own set of employees

With the talent drain, there are lots of jobs available and not enough people looking to fill them.

So, what do you do if you can’t bring potential hires into the office to experience how your company is different?

Michelle’s simple solution isn’t to completely change the company culture. Instead, it’s about adapting it to suit all parties involved. So, if your culture is about transparency, integrity, and honesty, don’t throw those out the window. Figure out how to enhance them in a hybrid environment.

There are various ways to think about organizational culture, but the best way to approach it in a hybrid environment is to focus on good communication.

Leaders need to make sure they’re not just communicating to people but also listening to and understanding them. Employees also need to realize that many leaders are navigating uncharted territory at this point.

“So, for both parties, a little bit of grace, a little bit of understanding, and then also being able to let each other know what’s working and what isn’t in a constructive way is what’s needed.”

Tips for enhancing meetings and communication in hybrid work environments

It’s clear that communication is key in hybrid workspaces. Michelle shares a few tips she’s gathered over Communication is critical in hybrid workspaces. Michelle shares a few tips she’s gathered over her many years of leadership.

1. The proper equipment matters

First things first, make sure that everyone has the right tools, they’re operational, and that they know how to use them. That may include looking at bandwidth, Wi-Fi connections, microphones, and even computers. Consider equipment both in and out of the office to ensure that the same experience is shared.

2. Don’t assume everyone knows how to use the tech available

Even if everyone knew the ins and outs of using specific tech before the lockdown, don’t assume they all still remember now. It’s easy enough for things to slip people’s minds, especially if they’re not regularly practicing with them.

A solution is to offer little refreshers to ensure that people understand the tools and technology at their disposal.

3. Have meeting norms

Meetings in hybrid work environments may seem pretty much the same on the surface, but there are a few nuances to consider.

In a typical meeting, people just jump in, throw up agendas, and everyone dives in. But it’s not as easy to pull off in a hybrid work environment. You need some good norms and rules of thumb so that people feel comfortable when it’s time to speak up and contribute.

A few things Michelle mentions include:

  • Zoom to zoom: It’s easy for a few voices to get lost in the mix over Zoom calls. Ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak or share their thoughts during the meeting. 
  • Use collaboration tools: People should be able to ask questions and receive feedback, and collaboration tools are one way to go about this. It’s also great because no one feels singled out, and people feel more at ease when expressing themselves.
  • Record meetings: Not everyone will attend every meeting, so if there’s a shared file or drive they can access to get the lowdown, it’ll streamline operations.

Not every meeting needs to be a meeting either! Michelle says asynchronous communication tools like Snagit that allow you to capture your screen and make quick, informal videos have opened up a whole new world of communication and employee creativity.

Michelle says asynchronous video messages can allow leadership to communicate consistently without the challenges of aligning schedules or getting everyone in the same room for a “town hall.”

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

For a Hybrid Work Model, Companies Can’t Afford to Ignore the Trend

Several people gathered for a meeting, one person is joining remotely and can be seen on a monitor

Steve Jobs once said: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

However, a decade after his passing, Apple employees seem to be taking a stand to tell their company what they need to do via this anonymous letter. According to the letter, they need worker autonomy and flexibility to decide when and where to work.

These employees are not alone. Many members of the workforce whose roles and self-discipline allow them to work remotely share this perspective.

Gallup has studied the experiences, needs and future plans of more than 140,000 U.S. employees since the onset of the pandemic and found that 53% of remote-capable employees expect a hybrid arrangement, and 24% expect to work exclusively remotely moving forward. When asked if they would look for a new job if their employer stopped offering remote-work options, an astounding 54% of employees currently working exclusively from home and 38% of current hybrid workers confirmed that they absolutely would. That is a staggering number and an alarming one for employers amidst the ongoing trends of the “Talent War” and the “Great Resignation.”

Illustration of a hybrid meeting

It’s not hard to guess why, though. A study from Ergotron found that the hybrid workplace model has empowered employees to reclaim their physical health (75%), improve work-life balance (75%) and increase job satisfaction (88%).

The simple truth is that the hybrid workplace isn’t just good for workers; it is also good for business. A recent survey by The Economist found that 36% of respondents felt more focused working at home than in their office. Decreasing distractions and increasing focus could mean a potential gain of US$1.2trn currently lost from untapped employee output each year. A survey of HR professionals by Crain’s found that 78% cite flexible schedules and telecommuting as the most effective ways to retain employees. These are just two of many reasons to move away from traditional office practices. According to Accenture, the “productive anywhere” model was already embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies, whereas 69% of companies with negative or no growth reject the concept of hybrid workforces.

Remember “digital transformation?” It was a favorite corporate buzzword for over two decades. It was discussed for years as the next big transition for the modern workplace but never quite came to fruition. COVID-19 made companies get real about it fast, though, forcing their collective hand and pushing digital transformation as a key part of “the new normal.” Hybrid work as a post-pandemic reality is a natural extension of this fundamental shift. The overwhelming employee support for the continuation of the hybrid workplace model demonstrates it is past time employers take it seriously.

An unstructured hybrid work model provides the freedom to accommodate the ways employees work most effectively. An unstructured hybrid workplace is the future for most offices. Those of employers who want to recruit and retain top talent, that is. Notice that I said “unstructured.” That’s because rigid hybrid work policies won’t cut it either, as made evident by Apple employees’ immediate and strong reaction to their rigid structure Hybrid Working Pilot.

Illustration showing one person working in an office and the other remote

Some of the most forward-thinking companies in the country have already adopted the practice. Airbnb recently told employees they can work remotely forever with an option for teams to meet up in person for one week each quarter. Their workers can even work abroad for 90 days at a time and be trusted to do their jobs. 3M announced “Work Your Way,” a trust-based approach that allows personnel to choose whether to work remotely, from an office or a mix of the two. SAP’s “Pledge to Flex” model allows its employees to do the same.

The companies that were open to a hybrid approach pre-pandemic were ahead of their peers when COVID-19 hit. For example, TechSmith – makers of Snagit and Camtasia, my all-time favorite tools in my marketing toolbox – had “WFH Wednesdays” where employees were encouraged to work from home to promote wellness and mental health. This prepared the company to transition quickly and smoothly to remote work during the height of COVID precautions. TechSmith is also testing “No Meetings Wednesdays,” allowing employees space and time to dig into their work, meeting-free.

On a global scale, companies are going even further and are experimenting with a 4-day workweek. Some have already adopted this practice in Europe. This year, 38 companies in the U.S. and Canada are taking part in 4 Day Week Global, a six-month program where companies execute and measure the impact of a four-day workweek, running April through September. I suspect that the 4-day workweek approach will require a mix of remote and hybrid models to be successful, depending on the size and culture of the company.

Creating an effective hybrid workplace is much easier said than done. It requires purposeful planning and intentional implementation. In some cases, it might require a cultural shift. The challenges are plenty. A hybrid workplace demands a highly efficient technology stack, clear and consistent communication, intentional inclusivity, thoughtful collaboration, constant adaptability and persistent connection while fostering creativity and inspiring innovation. It is a potent mix that takes time and energy to establish and nurture.

In this video, I offer immediate things companies and leaders can do to prepare for a hybrid workplace.

One thing is clear – the remote-capable workforce will not accept a traditional office any longer. Leaders everywhere need to take their blinders off and accept that reality. Creating an effective unstructured hybrid workplace isn’t easy. However, the risk of complacency is too high. It is too late for leaders to ask, “can we afford to?” The question they need to be asking themselves is, “can we afford not to?”

Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina Walter is a globally recognized business and marketing innovator, international speaker, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck (2013) and coauthor of The Power of Visual Storytelling (2015) and The Laws of Brand Storytelling (2018). Her two decades of experience as a brand marketer and storyteller includes a blended perspective of Fortune 50, start-up, and nonprofit environments. Ekaterina’s thought leadership has been featured on CNBC, ABC, CNN, WSJ, Forbes, TechCrunch, and Fast Company, among others.

The Future of Communication at Work

modern cto

Daniel Foster, Director of Strategy at TechSmith joined the Modern CTO podcast to discuss how using recorded video as a means of communication is becoming the new norm for hybrid work environments.

Hear about the advantages of recorded video and annotated screen capture for asynchronous training and why you should do away with perfectionism and start sharing ideas before you feel like they’re ready.

Lighting Tips for More Professional Looking Videos

Lighting Yourself on Camera

Here’s the thing about lighting, it doesn’t just affect picture quality. It also sets the mood and tone for any video you’re creating. So, if you’re looking for tips on how to use camera lighting to your advantage, this episode of The Visual Lounge is a good place to start.

Matt Pierce, TechSmith’s Learning and Video Ambassador, delves into everything you need to know, from using natural and artificial lighting to how to get good lighting on a budget.

It’s an episode packed with useful information that’ll bring you one step closer to mastering video lighting.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Why is video lighting so important?

Matt kicks things off by saying that the right lighting goes a long way to make your video quality better, even if you’re working with a low-quality camera. If that doesn’t highlight the importance of camera lighting right off the bat, then nothing will.

But there’s more to good lighting than just improving overall picture quality. It also has a huge effect on the overall mood and tone of a video.

The most important thing to remember? Your camera loves light.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a DSLR camera or a budget webcam. Cameras are built to take in light to help make the camera’s vision clearer and crisper.

Can you have too much light?

Short answer, yes. Using lighting in videos is all about finding that sweet spot that’ll highlight the subject in the most flattering way possible.

Having too much light does the opposite of that. While some parts of the picture may look fine, the subject may lose some of its crispness or even go out of focus.

Matt’s solution:

Experiment and tweak things a little until you hit that sweet spot.

What to do when you have no lights?

Before backlights and fill lights, people relied on good old mother nature for their on-screen lighting. Luckily, that method still works today, but it comes with one big downside – unpredictability.

Sadly, we can’t change the weather.

One rule of thumb Matt has when using natural lighting is that you have to think carefully about positioning. Let’s say the light is streaming in through your window, you should be facing the window as opposed to having your back to it.

Why? Well, when you’re facing the window, you could find your shot has too much light and your image becomes distorted.

But positioning isn’t the only thing to consider when dealing with natural light. Weather conditions play a huge role too.

You might think you’d get better image quality on a sunny day than you would in gloomy weather.

But as Matt tells us, gloomy weather wins this round.

Remember, natural lighting is highly unpredictable. With the sun ducking behind clouds every now and then, you’ll have a hard time controlling the intensity of the light.

It’s the exact opposite on gloomy days. The lighting is pretty much one tone. So, while you may not appreciate the dullness, you can rest assured that you’ll get the same level of brightness for your videos. That’s ideal when you’re making multiple takes for a video.

Lighting on a budget

The great thing about video creation is that there’s always a solution, regardless of your budget. Sure, the image quality may differ from someone using a full studio to another using a smartphone camera, but you can still get a solid video either way.

If you’re on a budget, go for options like metal cans with LED light bulbs in them or curly light bulbs. Whatever you end up settling for, remember to match color temperatures while you’re at it.

Avoid mixing blue bulbs with orange bulbs or picking bulbs that don’t match your background.

Here’s a handy tip, let’s say the general lighting in your background is fluorescent, it pays to figure out what temperature the bulb is. That information is usually printed on the packaging or the bulb itself, and you can use that to match any additional lighting you want to use.

Ring light, yay or nay?

First and foremost, Matt encourages everyone to make the best of the lighting they have. So, while you shouldn’t throw out that ring light just yet, it’s a good idea to really figure out how to use it to its full potential.

But here’s the thing about ring lights. Since your camera sits in the middle of the light source, some of the angles aren’t evened out. You may get an even glare from above, but without the sharp angles that three-point lighting offers, it ends up creating shadows below the eyes.

The only exception to this is if the subject is positioned quite close to the ring light. But with the light so close, you may end up getting a bit more light in your shot than you bargained for.

One thing to keep in mind is that ring lights are better than no lights at all. So, experiment with it as much as you can to find what works.

There are lots of moving parts that work together when it comes to video lighting. In Matt’s words:

There are a million more things you can learn about lighting.

So this is a little something to give you a nudge in the right direction.

If you want to dig deeper for more knowledge on lighting, there are multiple resources available on TechSmith Academy.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr