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

How to Improve Your On-Camera Presence

Improving Your On-Camera Presence

When creating live training or pre-recorded learning content, there’s one question you should ask yourself – what is your on-camera presence like?

In the learning industry, your on-camera presence is key to getting your message across.

But what if you’re not a natural in front of the camera? Don’t worry, the truth is most people aren’t. If you want to learn how to improve your on-camera image, we’ve got just the episode of The Visual Lounge for you.

Diana Howles, CEO and Co-Owner of Howles Associates, shares some tips for success and breaks down all the little details you should think about to improve your videos and give a great impression to your audience.

Diana is an award-winning speaker, author, and international virtual trainer with 25 years of experience in the learning industry. She has conducted live online training for clients since 2000 and has taught virtual classes in more than a dozen countries. Diana is also the author of the book Next Level Virtual Training.

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…

What is an on-camera presence and why is it important?

In Diana’s words, presence is an idea of shared community and connectedness. In the modern world, where many of us interact virtually on camera or get involved with virtual training, Zoom and pre-recorded video content have become more commonplace.

With it has come the importance of how we present ourselves on camera. The impression we make on our audience is key to establishing a connection.

Why is this important? If you want to teach or influence your audience, you can only do that if you’ve built rapport and trust. By building connections, you’re building relationships and credibility, and helping to deliver your message more effectively.

Top mistakes to avoid when you’re on camera

To learn how to improve your presence on camera, a good place to start is to learn what not to do.

Background issues

One of the top mistakes that Diana sees is when people don’t think about their background.

Sometimes you’ll be on a Zoom call and see someone with an awkwardly placed plant behind them, and you spend the whole session imagining it growing out of their head rather than listening to them. Or maybe someone will have a distracting ceiling fan right behind them.

The problem with these little quirks is that they can distract from your message.

If there’s too much going on in the background, your viewers will end up looking at that instead of listening to you.

“We know especially for learning and development, learning absolutely necessitates attention. So we really do a lot to minimize distraction.”

Lighting

Another common mistake is having bad lighting in your video. Even if you’re just on a Zoom call, bad lighting can be distracting for everyone.

Bad lighting can be caused by people having a window behind them or ceiling lights that create a halo effect or make you look washed-out. To learn how to get perfect lighting in your videos, check out this blog.

Bad framing

The third biggest mistake Diana sees is poor framing. Some people will have their face or even just part of their face in the bottom corner or looming at the top, which creates an awkward angle either way. Anything that covers your face or is distracting can get in the way of your message.

Clean up your on-camera image with B.L.E.A.C.H

So what can you do if you want to improve your camera presence? Diana has a handy mnemonic that helps her remember the most important principles of virtual meetings and training.

Her phrase is: clean up your on-camera image with B.L.E.A.C.H.

This stands for:

  • Background: Ideally, you want a background that’s professional and not too distracting. Professionals like attorneys might want a logo of their practice in the background, for example.
  • Lighting: Avoid lighting from the back, always light from the front and try to have soft, even lighting to avoid harsh contrasts.
  • Expressions: Using gestures, movement, and facial expressions is great, just be sure to avoid blocking out the camera with those gestures.
  • Angle: Avoid using a low-angle camera (e.g., from a cell phone or laptop) because it can feel like an intimidating posture.
  • Clothing: Remember that solid colors pop better. The golden rule is if you have a light background, avoid light colors, and vice versa with a dark background to avoid the classic floating head look.
  • Headroom: A good rule of thumb is to ensure there’s a gap of about three fingers above your head and the edge of the frame. This helps you check you’re not too big or small in the frame.

Ways to feel more comfortable on camera

Not everyone likes being on video, but if you have to deliver video training, Diana has some simple tips.

Hide your video

Part of the reason so many people get screen fatigue is the feeling that you have to constantly “perform,” because you’re on camera. Hiding the self-view is a simple trick that can help with that.

Many video conferencing platforms now let you hide the self-view, which can become really distracting.

This way, you can still establish that face-to-face connection with others without spending the whole time worried about how you appear.

Focus on your audience

We have a tendency to think about ourselves when creating live or pre-recorded videos, but the trick is to focus on your learners or audience instead and what they need. Diana likens video to a “conduit between you and your audience.”

“When you put the focus on you, that creates sort of this angst that doesn’t need to be there.”

Sit versus stand: Which is better when recording videos?

Of course, it’s down to personal preference, but Diana highlights that standing naturally gives you more energy. Standing can also help you feel more comfortable using gestures that can help you communicate better.

When you sit down, you can sometimes lose some of that energy. Her tip is to try to generate twice the amount of energy you usually have because it takes a hit as it travels through the screen.

To learn more from Diana, be sure to check out her website and awesome new book, Next Level Virtual Training, which has a chapter all about camera competence and one about hybrid learning.

In the meantime, check out more resources on improving your video skills in 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

How to Create Compelling Video Content for Learning

Compelling Video Content for Learning

When it comes to creating learning video content, the key to success is how engaging it is. A video can have all the right information and be clear and comprehensive, but it can fall flat with the viewer unless it’s compelling.

A compelling video keeps viewers engaged, meaning any message you want to convey is much more likely to stick.

But what’s the secret to creating compelling instructional videos?

Mark Lassoff, Video Instructor and Founder of Tech Learning Network, is on The Visual Lounge to share some words of wisdom on his process and advice for others. Mark breaks down the three must-have elements of any video and explains why talent and expensive cameras are overrated.

The Tech Learning Network produces broadcast-quality learning content that focuses on digital skills such as design, coding, and digital productivity.

Before launching the Tech Learning Network, Mark started several companies in Connecticut and Austin. He’s currently an in-demand speaker and has traveled the world sharing his wisdom. Mark has also authored eight books on programming and was awarded the prestigious Learning Guild Master Award in 2017.

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…

A media-first approach

Mike has a slightly different approach to learning content than most people. Many instructional designers and video creators start with the educational aspect and build content around that like you would with school or training.

But Mark likes to take a media-first approach. His main aim is to build good media that’s compelling, interesting, and informed by educational theory.

“I’ve tried very hard to marry the idea of compelling media and educational content, to make something that I think is a little more watchable than typically what’s produced.”

Why does this approach work so well for Mark?

In his eyes, a common mistake people make is assuming that viewers are comparing their learning content to the last educational video or course they watched. In reality, viewers compare it to other media, like what they last watched on Netflix or YouTube.

In an ideal world, the teams producing learning content would be composed of instructional designers and media creators to get better results overall.

What makes a piece of content compelling?

The number one complaint people have about instructional video is it's boring. So if you can engage with graphics and some narrative, that will help you make better videos.

Everyone reacts differently to content, true. Some might find a video enthralling. Others not so much.

But for the best chance of engaging your audience, your videos need to take three must-have elements into account.

1. Content style or format

Mark’s first tip is to match the content and style with the reason people are consuming it.

On the one hand, if people are looking for an immediate answer to a question, they’ll appreciate a short, straight-to-the-point video.

On the other hand, if people want to learn about spreadsheets, that content will need to be longer, multi-topical, and broken down into different videos.

You should learn more about your potential viewer to get this part right. Who are they? Why are they watching this? What’s their expectation after the video?

Learning more about the position your viewers are in when they watch your video will help you tailor the content and style to what they’re looking for.

2. It needs strong visuals and good production

The next important element is what the video looks like. It should have strong visuals that are compelling and don’t distract the viewer. You might want to use graphics to highlight a learning point or change camera angles to keep people engaged.

A common roadblock people face is the assumption that you need very expensive equipment or an entire studio to produce quality content.

In reality, Mark says it’s more about skill than equipment or natural talent. He breaks it down as the following.

Compelling video content requires:

  • 90% skill
  • 10% equipment or resources
  • 0% talent

Anything you don’t know, you can learn. And when it comes to equipment, knowing the best ways of using it is far more important than the type of equipment.

You can make a high-quality video on a cell phone these days if you learn how to do it right. If you don’t learn the skills, even a $10,000 camera isn’t going to save your video.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of buying expensive equipment. I think you can start pretty low-end with what’s in your pocket. There have been entire feature films shot on iPhones.”

3. Introduce the idea of narrative

The narrative should be an essential feature of your content where the format allows it.

Everyone relates to a story. Even highly technical tutorials on YouTube use narrative to get their point across. The narrative also introduces “stickiness,” so viewers come back for more.

When working with narrative, you want to make sure “your narrative’s appropriate for your audience and the purpose of that particular video.”

If you can integrate stories into learning, people are more likely to remember the message, making the video much more compelling to watch.

The problem with using synthesized voices

I think it's a big mistake to have a screencast-only production with a synthesized voice and no instructor on screen. One of the reasons video works is because we can connect with the presenter.

A common learning video type is a screencast with a synthesized voiceover. This type of video is easier to produce in some ways, but Mark warns against using them.

Without a presenter and an authentic voice, these videos can be “dehumanizing” and create a disconnect between your video and the audience. It’s much harder to connect to a robotic voice talking through a screencast than watching a video with an engaging presenter.

“When we create videos, we always act as if only one person was watching. And we want to make that connection with them.”

Mark’s process for creating videos

Mark says that when he’s going to teach a piece of software, he starts by documenting every feature that will appear on the screen. Then, he and his team arrange that into an order that makes sense.

By the time it comes to shooting the video, it’s not just about that single video. He’s also thinking about shooting microlearning, course videos, and promotional videos. This approach lets him “get more bang for our buck” with each video.

During the shooting process, this is usually done with an instructor on screen to help focus people, even if it’s a screencast with a bunch of annotations. Once the shooting is done, the team will edit it for different formats and start sending it out there.

“One of the reasons we’ve been successful is the ability to multi-purpose video and shoot once and use it a number of different ways for different audiences.”

While the process is a bit more complex than this, Mark says, this is it in a nutshell, and it’s safe to say it’s been working pretty well for Tech Learning Network.

To learn more awesome tips for creating compelling instructional videos, be sure to check out TechSmith Academy and Mark’s Tech Learning Network YouTube channel.

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

Mic Check! Upgrade Your Microphone for Better Audio

Mic Check! Upgrade Your Microphone for Better Audio

Are you ready to upgrade your microphone but aren’t sure where to start in the complex world of audio equipment and microphones?

You’re in luck. This episode of The Visual Lounge is all about audio – how to pick the best equipment, how to use it correctly, mistakes to watch out for, and much more.

Host Matt Pierce shares some helpful need-to-know tips and even tests some of the most popular microphones on the market.

You can check out our full list of microphones and audio equipment mentioned in this episode here.

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 audio is so important to your videos

When people start creating videos, naturally, a lot of their focus goes into the visuals. Visuals are important, no doubt about that. But don’t overlook audio.

When we did our Video Viewer Study 2021 with Dr. Jane Bozarth, we talked about video viewer preferences. The number one thing we found was the most important aspect of a video was audio quality.

If you’re not making videos with good audio, there’s a good chance you’ll lose your audience.

Bad audio makes it harder to watch, harder to take in information, and your audience is less likely to share it with others. That’s why out of everything, it’s worth learning about audio and your microphone so you can master that skill first.

Shopping for your mic

When you're picking your microphone, remember to pick one that's going to work for your environment.

With so many microphones on the market, it’s hard to know which one’s right for you.

If you don’t already have one, your best first step is to just get one. Don’t worry too much about what mic it is. You don’t have to be picky and blow hundreds of dollars on your first one. A budget one is a great starting point, and you’ll be able to learn a lot if you play around with it.

A good rule of thumb for a decent microphone that won’t cost a fortune is to shop in the $75 to $150 range. But you can just as easily pick up a mic that’s cheaper.

A great example of a good all-round affordable microphone is the Blue Yeti. It can be around $100 on sale, and it’s a great pick for most purposes.

USB versus XRL mics

One key part of shopping for a microphone is deciding between a USB and an XLR mic. Most budget mics are USB and plug right into your computer.

The great thing about this is it’s plug and play, you don’t need to buy anything extra to get it set up. Good examples of USB mics are Audio Technica mics and the Blue Yeti.

USB microphones are great for most people, but the other type to know about are microphones with an XLR cable.

The main difference is that an XLR cable is not going to plug directly into your computer. You will need to get some kind of mixer to plug it into, which makes it a more expensive option. The good news is that a mixer will give you more control over your audio, so you might prefer that anyway.

Are you talking into your mic correctly?

The next most important thing to think about with microphones is your environment. Where will the mic be in relation to you?

A common mistake people make with microphones, especially the Blue Yeti, is they set it up all wrong so they’re talking into the top of it. In the case of the Blue Yeti, you should actually talk into the side because this is where the polar pattern is.

The polar pattern is a fancy term for how the microphone is picking up your voice. Every microphone has a pickup point where the sound is going to come into, which is key to recording the best quality audio.

That’s why one of the first steps you should take when using a microphone is to get to know where its polar pattern is.

Play around with the gain

Buying the best microphone won’t help your videos alone. You need to know how to wield this equipment correctly, and part of that is getting to know your microphone settings.

All mics will likely have different ways to alter settings. Some will require you to hook up a mixer, others will have little dials on the mic itself.

The Blue Yeti has a dial for gain which lets you adjust how loud it is. So, if you’re sitting further away from your desk, you might want to dial it up to pick up your voice better.

But, if your gain is too high, you might end up picking up sounds you don’t want, like your laptop fan or traffic outside. It’s a delicate balancing act that you might have to experiment with.

Unless you've got some super high-end software that's like magic, distorted audio is super hard to clear up.

One thing to watch out for if you’re using USB mics is that your computer will have some gain controls as well. So, you’ll need to balance them out with whatever dials are on your microphone. The last thing you want is to set everything too loud and introduce distortion to your audio.

Distortion is super hard to clean up, even with the best editing software out there. So it’s best to try and avoid it by being careful with the gain.

Do you really need a big expensive mic?

A few years ago, we set out on a mission to review different microphones at TechSmith, and we found our number one choice was the sE2200. Popular with musicians, this one is on the pricey side but produces fantastic audio.

But do you really need a mic like this?

That depends on your needs, budget, environment, and style of mic you want. While it’s great for audio quality, one downside to a big, heavy mic like this is that it’s hard to hide it out of your shot.

If you don’t want a giant mic in front of your face on videos, you might want to opt for a shotgun mic or lapel mic instead.

That’s why when shopping for any microphone, you should consider your own needs and environment above all else. What works for one person won’t be a good fit for another. So, don’t feel like you need a big expensive mic to make your videos great.

Test out your mic before recording

Before you go to record a once-in-a-lifetime event or conference only to realize you didn’t record audio, there’s a simple way to avoid this.

Test out your audio before you hit record. Get to know what it sounds like, check everything’s working first, and then you won’t end up in a tricky position when you come to edit.

If you are unfamiliar with your mic, then it’s even more important to test it out first. You’ll want to know exactly how your microphone works in terms of settings before you go recording anything important.

Overall, the takeaway tip from this episode is to consider your own needs first, test everything out, and get to know your equipment well.

For more audio tips, check out TechSmith Academy for more resources just like this.

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

Stop Reinventing the Wheel for Faster Video Creation

Creating videos can be a work-intensive process – especially when you’re doing everything from scratch.

Creating videos can be a work-intensive process – especially when you’re doing everything from scratch.

But it doesn’t need to take eons to come up with a well-rounded video, and that’s what Andy Owen, the Social Engagement and Video Manager at TechSmith, discusses in this episode of The Visual Lounge.

As Andy explains, recreating every element of your video from scratch is just not practical as your career progresses, it’s important for content creators to embrace the efficiency that comes with templatizing in order to make the most of their time.

Andy also discusses various ways to tap into your creativity while staying consistent with templates. As a bonus, he shares a few templates that he uses in 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…

What to consider before making a video

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of whether you should reinvent the wheel with your videos or not, Andy says you need to answer one vital question…

Do you really need to make a video?

It’s easy to believe that the most important parts of video creation are done during production or post-production, but it’s actually this brainstorming stage that takes the cup.

Sometimes video isn’t the right medium. Perhaps the information could be presented better as a PDF document or a graphic. While it’s cool to see things in video form, it’s not always the best way to get your message across. In fact, it’s one of the most time-consuming ways of doing it.

If you’ve thought really hard about it and decided that a video is the right way to go, then Andy has another important question you should ask yourself.  

What do you care about, and if you made a video about it, would you watch it? You can’t very well create a video about something you have zero interest in because that disinterest is bound to translate.

So, start from your interests, then graduate to what your audience is interested in.

Ultimately, the content is for them, so you really need to dig into factors like niche and demographics. Both these things feed into attention span and interests.

While every member of your audience is a unique person, it’s important to learn more about what they care about, generally speaking. That way, you can create a video that meets their needs as closely as possible.

The bottom line is that knowing your audience well is one of the most important steps to making a video that hits the nail on the head.

Benefits of creating a template for your work

If you create videos, then you already know that it’s not the most straightforward process.

When you’re not designing titles, you’re probably creating graphics, picking frames, or adding in your screen recording content. Of course, all of these offer a great opportunity to up your skills and get some practice, but they aren’t particularly time efficient.

When juggling all these different elements, Andy says that it’s sometimes better to make a template that pieces everything together. By doing so, you can save valuable time and energy.

How to balance consistency and creativity

It’s true that using templates takes away a bit of that creative edge you have when creating videos. If you’ve got a set intro and outro and a templated script, it can feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again.

However, Andy says there’s still room to satisfy the creative within. It’s just not going to be as elaborate as crafting a whole video from scratch. This is especially true when it comes to tutorial videos or learning materials of any kind. You can add elements of “art,” but at the end of the day, it’s more about the lesson and how you get your point across that matters most.

The editing process is also a great creative outlet in itself. Even when you’re using templates to speed things up, there’s still room to clean things up in editing and add a little bit of flair in the process.

Altogether, you shouldn’t think of templates as tools that stifle your creativity. In fact, a benefit of automating even part of your work is that it eventually frees you up to be creative in areas where it can be most impactful.

So, it’s not one or the other when it comes to consistency and creativity. In fact, people tend to be more creative when they have something to build on as opposed to going with the flow.

Should you create a template for your video scripts?

According to Andy, “scripting templates is huge!”

But scripting isn’t just about outlining every single word you’re going to say in the video. What it does involve is creating a sort of structure to build the rest of your video on. It also ensures that you have a tried and tested framework on how to speak to the particular audience you’re targeting.

Once you’ve done the research and you’re clear on what your audience is interested in, then it’s easier to stick to what you know will draw them in.

"If something in your video bothers you as an editor, it's going to bother your audience." - Andy Owen

The most crucial part of a video is the beginning. It sets the tone for everything, but it’s so easy to get carried away adding fluff. Andy stresses the importance of scripting down relevant information because it can make all the difference between captivating and losing your viewers. It also means you’re far less tempted to add fluff.

The same thing goes for the end of a video, especially if there’s a call to action right you want to highlight. Andy recommends highlighting the CTA to ensure that people actually know what you’d like them to do.

Using a template for your scripts means you don’t have to start from scratch every single time. You could easily use one template to build seven videos and tweak the little details as you deem fit.

Some of the other things you can templatize include:

  • Logos
  • Transitions
  • Audio points
  • Title cards
  • Screen recordings
  • Intros and outros
  • Music
  • And so much more!

The great thing about templates is that though they’re pretty consistent, they aren’t set in stone. There’s room to move things around every now and then for a breath of fresh air or simply to optimize your template for your audience.

"The great thing about templates is that they're modular, changeable, editable, and you can grown with them." - Andy Owen

For more tips on how to create value-packed, time-efficient videos, check out 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

The Art of the Demo

The Art of the Demo

Are demos a necessary tool in L&D? Well, according to Troy Stein, TechSmith’s VP of Customer Advocacy, they’re super vital. He joins this episode of The Visual Lounge to explain why and share some tips on how to do demos the right way.

The way Troy sees it, demos are to instructional videos what trailers are to movies. They don’t just give a sneak peek into what’s coming, they also pique the viewer’s interest and make them want to know more.

But there are key elements that need to be on point before a demo is considered successful. In this episode, Troy discusses everything from demo length to the importance of context, and he even shares a few demos he’s worked on himself.

He also shares a bonus tip for video creators: Do everything at 1080p.

Before becoming the VP of Customer Advocacy at TechSmith, Troy held a range of roles with the company spanning a decade. He also played a pivotal role in making Camtasia the popular software it is today.

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…

What role do demos play in the world of learning and development?

As an instructional designer, it’s only natural to wonder if more people should be watching your videos.

You’ve got this great content, and it should be selling itself, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Do you know who’s had the right idea all along? People in the movie industry. Months before the release of any motion picture, they’ve already saturated the market with a movie trailer, and usually more than one. It’s not just to show that they’ve been hard at work throughout the duration of production. The aim is to drive attention to their movie and pique people’s interest.

The same thing can happen in the L&D community. The secret? Utilize demos.

With demos, you don’t just appeal to your audience’s mind, but you win their hearts in the process.

Things to consider when creating a demo

1. Remember, it’s not an exact replica of your instructional video

“Demos aren’t meant to be wholly instructive. They’re meant to grab your attention and make you want to know more.”

It’s worth remembering that, much like a movie trailer, your demo doesn’t need to give too much away. And sometimes, you need to move things around and switch their order — think of it as another form of storytelling.

Rather than giving a progressive narrative as you would in your instructional video, try to create a bit of cognitive dissonance. That’s a sure way to pull people in without necessarily spilling the beans.

As Troy tells us,

“Teasers and trailers aren’t necessarily meant to be wholly instructive, they’re supposed to grab your attention and make you want to learn more.”

So, apply the same principle to your demo.

2. How accurate does a demo need to be?

Going in, you should adhere to one cardinal rule. Never lie.

Sure, you’ll find yourself cutting things out and perhaps bending people’s perceptions of things. But all the information presented in your demo should be 100% factual.

You don’t need to give everything away but withholding information in your demo is different from outright lying. Remember, the aim is to draw people in, and you can’t do that if you tell them everything. Just don’t tell them anything that isn’t true or is misleading.

3. Strike a balance between simple and complex

Troy recommends that if you’re looking to make a feature demo, simply introduce the feature, set the stage for the problem the feature solves, and then show how it solves the problem.

It’s a simple approach, but it gets the message across without revealing the “how-to” of it all.

But that doesn’t mean all demos have to be simple. In fact, it’s often to your benefit to show something that’s a bit more complicated. You’re trying to sell them a skill they don’t have, so feel free to add a bit of finesse to the mix. Don’t show them something the average person can pull off.

4. How long and fast should your demo be?

Right off the bat, Troy says that you should aim for about 30 seconds or less. Then again, it depends on the type of demo you’re creating.

For instructional designers with a knack for squeezing complex information into little videos, Troy stresses that it’s important to let go of the clutter. Then, keep squeezing and zooming in until you can fit the demo into 30 seconds.

When it comes to demo speed, Troy says,

“If you have to pick between going a little too fast versus slow, go fast.”

You’re creating a teaser, not the instructional video, so the demo should whet appetites but not totally satisfy them.

 5. Why context is important in demos

As mentioned earlier, demos run pretty fast and sometimes don’t follow a linear train of thought. So, offering context is a very important aspect of demo creation.

But while creating context, remember to “get rid of the extra stuff.”

Take Camtasia, for instance. It has well over 100 features in the works. You can’t possibly fit all of that in a 30-second video. So, you need to hone into one or a couple of features and create context in a way that doesn’t lose your audience.

The same principle is applicable if you’re running a web application. Chances are that you have a few tabs open and other distractions vying for your attention. While sharing your screen for your video, none of those things need to show up. Look for ways to draw attention to just the part of the screen that’s relevant to your tutorial.

6. Apply Hitchcock’s rule to your demos

“When you get to the point of your demo where it’s time for your feature to shine, don’t forget to zoom in or make it the center of focus.”

There’s a lot to be learned from the master of suspense when it comes to content creation of any kind. But in this case, it’s all about focus.

Hitchcock’s rule states that “The size of any object in your frame should be proportional to its importance to the story at that moment.”

How does that apply to demos, you ask? Well, when you want to highlight a special feature or topic in your demo video, be sure to zoom in, or add an element that draws focus. Make it the most important thing in the frame.

For more information on how to create great demos and ultimately draw more attention to your instructional videos, check out the resources on the TechSmith website.

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

How (and Why) to Add Music to Tutorial Videos

Graphic hero image

A lot of tutorial videos aren’t exactly what you’d call entertaining. In fact, some of them can be pretty boring. But, adding music to a tutorial video can transform even the most mundane topic.

A song or sound effect used strategically can engage your audience, add a level of professionalism to your content, and make your product stand out.

According to our research about people’s video viewing habits, the most critical characteristic of a video is the audio quality.

However, it’s a challenge to get it right with instructional-style videos. Music can easily become distracting or even make it harder for your audience to learn a concept.

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t add music to your videos! This post will cover everything you need to know to add music to a tutorial video effectively.

Here’s what you’ll learn

Easily add music to your videos

Camtasia makes it simple add music to your videos, remove background noise from your voice over, and more.

Camtasia user interface

How music affects the brain and impacts learning

Listening to music is like a workout for your brain. Research suggests that music is good for us in many ways, including improving our mental alertness and memory.

So, is a tutorial video with music more effective than one without? Yes and no.

Music can improve your mood, leading to better learning outcomes

A simple task can be daunting when you’re having a bad day. When you’re in a good mood? It might feel like anything is possible.

Studies have shown that a student’s good mood can positively impact learning outcomes. That’s where music’s mood-boosting powers can take your tutorial video to the next level.

The right track used purposefully can help your viewer feel more optimistic about the task they’re trying to complete and help them form a positive association with your product.

Music can overload your brain, making it harder to retain information

At the same time, listening to music is a lot of work for your brain, and the Cognitive Load Theory suggests it can only do so many things at once.

Suppose you’re watching a tutorial video about building a treehouse. A narrator shares what materials you will need to secure your structure to the tree. At the same time, a pop song plays in the background.

In this case, your brain has to figure out what information is more important— the narrator’s voice, or the music — leaving less energy for it to retain the information you need.

When you’re making software tutorials, there is usually a lot of information on-screen for the viewer to follow plus voice over.

That’s why it’s critical to make sure your background music matches the tone of your video and your volume levels are balanced. We’ll dive deeper into how to do that later in this post.

 

How to Select and Source Music for Your Videos
Matt Pierce, Andy Owen, and Justin Simon talk through the ins and outs of adding music to videos in this episode of Video Workflow.

When (and when not) to use music in a tutorial video

Does every video need music? It depends on what you want to achieve.

Before adding music to your video, consider how it might help accomplish the overall goals of the tutorial.

Remember, music should be more than just “filler.” Let’s go over a few ways you can use music in a video.

1. Evoke a specific emotion or feeling

Your instructional video may not be a high-stakes drama, but you still want your audience to feel something, right? The right music can help your viewer feel energized or optimistic about what you’re teaching them.

2. Shift between topics or segments

Music is an excellent tool for indicating a transition to your audience. Consider using intro or outro music instead of playing a song continuously in the background of your video.

3. Set the pace of your video

You can use background music with various tempos to change the pace of your video, making it more dynamic and exciting to watch.

You might use music with a faster, more upbeat tempo while introducing a feature and switch to a slower, low-key track when showing the individual steps of a process.

4. Draw attention to specific information

You probably use arrows or annotations to draw attention to essential elements in your screen recording, right?

You can use music in the same way. Pairing an animation with a sound effect can help it stand out. You can even cut your background music at a specific point in the voice over to snag your viewer’s attention.

💡PRO TIP: Consider the context of your video when selecting music. Is this video a series that customers will watch in succession? A riff or melody may be pleasant the first time, but irritating after a few listens.

When in doubt, leave it out

Most videos benefit from music, but sometimes it makes sense to scale it back or leave it out. If the music in your video is distracting or you’re not sure it complements the rest of the elements, it’s pretty simple: Don’t use it.

Where to find music for tutorial videos

Before you begin adding music to your videos, it’s helpful to understand copyright laws.

It may be tempting to download a track from your go-to streaming service and start editing. Unfortunately, that will likely get you in trouble.

Most popular songs are copyrighted, which means you’ll owe royalties to the copyright owner each time someone watches your video.

Sites like YouTube and Facebook can detect potential copyright infringement as your video uploads. Even if you are uploading your tutorials to a learning management system or internal site, copyright laws still apply.

The last thing you want is a strike against your YouTube channel or a lawsuit. So unless you want to compose your own music, you’ll need to use royalty-free music in your tutorial videos.

💡PRO TIP: Have the perfect song in mind for your video, but it’s copyrighted? Use it as a reference while you’re searching. The copyrighted track’s attributes are a good starting point, like beats per minute or genre

Free vs. paid royalty-free music options

It’s not impossible to find music that is genuinely free to use in your videos. YouTube’s audio library is an option if you need the occasional background track or sound effect.

While free to use, there are often limitations to free music sites, including:

  • Fewer songs to choose from
  • Less diversity of genres and styles
  • Restrictions for use, i.e., non-commercial purposes only

If you’re working on a lot of video projects, it’s worth investing in a subscription to a premium music collection like TechSmith Assets for Camtasia.

You’ll be able to download as many songs as you want, and since all the tracks are royalty-free, you can use them as many times as you wish. The music library is constantly updated, so you’ll always find fresh songs and sound effects for your tutorial videos.

How to choose the right music for tutorial videos

Selecting music for your tutorial video can be a daunting and time-consuming task. While you can’t wave a magic wand to find the perfect song instantly, you can follow a few best practices to make the process more simple.

Know your audience

Understanding your audience is critical to every stage of creating a successful product demo or tutorial video and will also help define your music choices.

Think about a specific person who represents your audience. Why are they watching your video? What type of music will resonate with them?

Use the information you know about your customers to guide your music selection and listen to feedback from viewers.

When I started adding music to my Excel tutorials, viewers complained that it was too much. They didn’t complain that it was there. So, I had to learn to be tasteful and judicious in how I used music

Oz Du Soleil, Microsoft Excel MVP, and Author

Identify the tone of your video

Music plays a significant role in setting the tone of your video. Your music selection process will go a lot smoother if you know the spirit of your video going in.

Maybe your video educates customers on a complicated but critical feature, and you want your viewer to feel motivated to try it out themselves. Upbeat and positive music will help reinforce those feelings in your audience.

💡PRO TIP: Not sure if a song works? Listen to the track preview while watching your tutorial video or reading your script. You’ll quickly get a sense of whether the piece fits or not.

Filter by genre or mood

Identifying the genre or mood you’re looking for will help narrow down your results. It will always depend on the video, but a few genres tend to be the best background music for tutorial videos:

  • Ambient music has a reputation for being boring but is often great at adding atmosphere to a video without distraction. 
  • Corporate music tends to be cheerful without being too overwhelming. The mood of corporate music is usually positive and welcoming, which is excellent for learning. 
  • Chill Out music is relaxed, like ambient, but a little more upbeat, a great combination for instructional-style videos.

In TechSmith Assets for Camtasia, you can quickly filter results by genre or mood. Use filters to find the right music for your video more quickly.

You can filter by beats per minute (BPM) and length to further drill down your results. For example, a good dance track will typically be around 115-140 BPM.

Matching a song’s length to the length of your video will help you avoid having to make cuts to your audio or find convenient places to restart it.

Stick to simple instrumental tracks

Regardless of the genre you go with, make sure your viewer will still be able to understand the content.

Background music that includes singing may make it harder for viewers to understand the voice over, especially if the song’s lyrics are in a language that they speak.

Remember the Cognitive Load Theory? Additional voices will give the brain extra work, making it harder to retain the necessary information.

Tracks with simple melodies and chord progressions are often better for tutorial videos.

💡PRO TIP: Instruments like the guitar and violin can have similar tones as the human voice and conflict with voice over.

Stay on brand

Music that aligns with the overall feel of your business will create a consistent experience for your customers.

You would probably be surprised if you walked into a surf shop and classical music was on blast. A viewer may be just as surprised to hear a country ballad paired with your cutting-edge software product.

Refer to your brand guidelines when selecting tracks for your videos. If specific guidance on music isn’t available, consider how music might align with your core values and mission.

How to add music to a tutorial video

While selecting the right music track for your tutorial video may take some time, adding audio to your video is surprisingly quite simple, especially with a video editor like TechSmith Camtasia.

  • Step 1: Import your music file. With your Camtasia project open, click import media and add your audio file to the media bin.
  • Step 2: Drag and drop your music onto the timeline. Depending on your needs, you can add it to an existing track or a new track. Click and drag your clip to position it on the timeline. 
  • Step 3: Adjust your volume levels. When you select an audio track in the timeline, a line with shading will appear. To adjust the volume of your audio track, drag the line up or down.

It really is that straightforward! Remember to be sure your music doesn’t conflict with your voice over.

Matt Pierce

If the music levels are too low, it won’t have an impact. Too high, and no one will hear and understand what’s being said. Take the time needed to make sure, if you are using music, that it is going to help you accomplish your goals and not cause problems.

Matt Pierce, Learning and Video Ambassador at TechSmith

This helpful tutorial goes into more depth about editing audio tracks in Camtasia.

Shortcut: Automatically adjust your music levels to your voice over track

Manually balancing the volume of your vocal voice over and your background music is time-consuming and challenging to get right.

The latest version of Camtasia does all of that work for you.

After your voice over and music tracks are on the timeline, go to audio effects, and select audio emphasize.

Then, choose which audio track you want to be more prominent (hint: your voice over) and use the slider to make adjustments.

You can apply this effect across multiple clips and even use it to fill gaps in your voice over automatically. It’s a real game-changer! Download a free trial of Camtasia and try it out.

Get feedback, and watch your video on multiple devices

Music can make or break your tutorial video. Before you hit publish, solicit feedback from others! That is the best way to catch any issues with your audio before your tutorial reaches customers.

Ask them to make sure that:

  • Your voice over is easy to hear and comprehend
  • The music fits the tone of your video
  • You can hear the music, but it isn’t distracting from your content

It’s always a good idea to watch your video on multiple devices so you can hear your audio through different speakers. Remember, many people watch videos on their phones or other mobile devices.

You may have high-quality studio headphones on hand, but your viewer may be listening on standard earbuds or through their computer speakers.

Because different devices provide varying levels of sound quality, what sounds good in your headphones may sound different when played from a phone’s built-in speaker.

Andy Owen

Music is going to impact how a viewer feels about your video, what they remember about your video. So you have to choose it carefully, you have to edit it carefully. It’s not going to be easy but get in there, get your hands dirty and try adding music to your video.

Andy Owen, YouTube & Video at TechSmith

Frequently asked questions

Should tutorial videos have background music?

Background music is a great way to add atmosphere or energy, but it can be extra challenging to make it work in a tutorial video. If your music is too loud or distracting, viewers won’t be able to understand the voice over.

Always use caution when adding music to tutorial videos. It’s worth the extra steps to make sure your music is complementary to your tutorial and not distracting.


Does music impact the way people learn?

It certainly can! Music can help alleviate stress and improve your mood, leading to better learning outcomes. At the same time, music can distract our brain from taking in more necessary information. It depends on many factors whether or not the impact of music is positive or negative for learning.


Where can I find music for videos?

If you’re creating videos often, your best bet for finding high-quality, royalty-free music will be from a premium subscription site like TechSmith Assets for Camtasia.


Is royalty-free the same as copyright-free?

No. If a song is royalty-free, you’re paying a one-time fee to use it instead of a per-play type of fee structure. That doesn’t mean the music is copyright-free.


What is the best genre for background music?

The best genre for background music will always depend on the context and style of the video. However, genres like ambient and corporate tend to work well as background music.

Out of the Box with Camtasia

Out of the Box with Camtasia

Want to take your video editing skill to the next level (we’re talking ‘coloring outside the line’ levels)?  Then this episode has your name on it.

Cristi Cotovan joins The Visual Lounge to take us through some of the ‘out of the box’ work he’s been doing on Camtasia.

Cristi is a video editor, educational content creator, developer, and Founder of Design Catchup and Graphicious. One of his superpowers is having a “visual brain,” and that certainly comes in handy in his line of work.

One of Cristi’s core focuses is Camtasia, which he uses to produce some advanced-level material that can only be described as “out of the box.”

Whether you’re just getting started in video creation or you’re further down the line, there’s something to be learned from Cristi’s approach to video making.

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…

The best approach to mastering Camtasia

One of the many great things about Camtasia is that there’s so much you can do with it. Sure, using Camtasia for the first time can feel daunting. But the good news is you can become a master of it with a bit of practice.  

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your Camtasia mastery won’t be either. So, Cristi’s suggestion is to approach everything with a fun, “let me try this” attitude. Exploring the software and trying out new things will help you discover and unlock everything Camtasia has to offer. 

Another tip he has is to avoid getting caught up in the technicalities because that’s only one aspect of video creation. Instead, approach video creation and editing as a package that you can pick apart one piece at a time, and everything will start to fall into place.

Tips on how to go “out of the box” with Camtasia

Cristi is always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with Camtasia, day-in, day-out. But it didn’t happen overnight. He applied a few principles, made a few mistakes, and picked up a thing or two along the way. Here are some tips that’ll help you level up quickly.

Out of the Box with Camtasia

1. Use custom animations

Animations are a great way to get your message across, whether you’re delivering a tutorial or creating a marketing video.

But working with animations can get a little tricky, even with Camtasia’s handy “zoom and pan” functions. What’s a better alternative? Cristi recommends trying out the custom animations in Camtasia.

It’ll open you up to a whole new world of possibilities and add a unique flair to your videos.

2. Draw inspiration from things that aren’t video-related

You don’t just have to watch other people’s videos to pick up some inspiration. There’s a whole world of content out there and no limit to what can inspire you.

Cristi likes to draw inspiration for his ‘out of this world’ videos from book covers. With his prior experience designing book covers, he’s got a knack for packing as much value and information into videos, regardless of their length.

It’s all about paying attention to the world around you and picking out useful designs and ideas wherever you can.

3. Don’t shy away from constraints

There are lots of things no one knew were possible in Camtasia. It just takes a little exploring and an inquisitive mind like Cristi’s to dig them up.

That’s why one of his main tips is that you shouldn’t back down, even when something you want to do is seemingly impossible. If you can push beyond what’s considered typical in Camtasia or other editing software, you’ll be able to develop your creativity and exercise your “out of the box” thinking muscles.

4. When a project becomes too busy, it’s time to stop tweaking

There will always be just one more thing you can do to make a video better, so in a sense, a video is never really finished. But you have to stop somewhere.

As a general rule of thumb, the best time to stop is when the video becomes too busy.

Having too many elements in play, one after the other (or at the same time), is bound to distract the viewer. And once the viewer is distracted, it’s easy for the message you’re trying to communicate to get lost in translation.

5. Check out videos created by other people

Out of the Box with Camtasia

If you want new ideas, techniques, and inspiration, watching other people’s videos is a great way to get them.

With so many high-quality resources and talented creators out there, you’re bound to find a few video gurus that’ll help you level up your skills.

6. Pay attention to layouts

According to Cristi, you simply can’t get away with ignoring proper layouts. If you do, you end up with videos that aren’t just visually unappealing, but also distract the viewer from understanding your message.

So, pay close attention to:

  • Your margins. “You don’t have to fill every pixel with content,” but try to make the most of your space without bombarding your viewers. Based on the kind of video you’re creating and who it’s for, you’ll be able to make the judgment call to go with either a “less is more” or “more is more” approach.
  • The placement of your video elements should be visually appealing. Don’t have items overlapping each other unless you’re specifically doing it to drive a point across.

Think of yourself as a director. Your videos may not be feature-length movies, but they should still take your viewers on a journey. Lead them where you need them to go and make the shift from point “A to B” as informative and visually appealing as possible.

For more tips on video creation, editing, and design, check out 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

Powerful Stories and Your Message

Powerful Stories and Your Message

Storytelling can be a powerful tool in the L&D community.

But, as it is with most tools, you need to know how to use it to get the desired end result. That’s what Hadiya Nuriddin, Learning Strategist, speaker, and CEO of Duets Learning explores on this episode of The Visual Lounge.

Hadiya doesn’t just have a wealth of experience developing and delivering both technical and professional development courses, she’s an advocate for storytelling.  She believes that the right stories can deliver context, spur empathy, and inspire people to take “expected” actions.

As Hadiya explains, there’s always a story. It’s up to us to figure out how and when to use it.

Listen to this episode of The Visual Lounge to learn how to leverage the power of storytelling for everything from compliance training to customer service training.

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…

When to use storytelling?

For starters, storytelling is simply a tool. It’s just one of the many ways we convey information in order to inspire a particular action.

So, knowing when to leverage this tool depends on your intent. One of the best ways to reveal your intent is to ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want people to do with the information?
  • What do you want them to feel or believe?
  • How do you want them to act afterward?

Once your intent is clear to you, you can use it to build your story and give your audience the right context.

If you’re in L&D, you already know there are topics that everyone can relate to and others that tend to alienate people. But with the right context, you can connect those dots and fill those gaps to deliver a narrative that a general audience can relate to.

This more focused approach to storytelling and being intentional could be the very thing to spark the performance you’re looking for.

The relationship between storytelling and emotions

You don't want people to plant a copy of your story in their heads. You want them to invest in it and recognise themselves in the narrative. - Hadiya Nuriddin

If you ask a group of people what makes storytelling so compelling, most of them will say it’s all about the emotions they trigger.

Hadiya points out that people respond to having their emotions triggered in different ways. So, you have to find out the particular emotions that’ll drive your desired outcome.

One way to approach this is to make them feel that something is at stake for them personally – because risk or loss are universal fears.

Of course, you can’t make people act or learn, but it’s possible to create circumstances where they’ll be more likely to take action.

Layers of storytelling

It’s true that you can find a story in any situation.

But stories don’t form at random, you have to put some thought into them.

Some people have cracked the code and can spin a story on the spot. But, if you’re just getting started, there are two layers to storytelling you can use as a guide:

1. The academic aspect

It all starts with an intense understanding of the narrative structure. With elements like climax, conflict, and resolution, it’s easier to give your story more substance. You can learn how to weave these elements into your stories by reading books or using your observation skills.

2. Vulnerability

If there’s one thing that audiences can relate to, it’s vulnerability because that’s where their pain points lie.

More often than not, the things that motivate you to take action are the same things that motivate others.

But here’s the thing, showing your authentic self practically creates a variant of the story that’s no longer yours. Based on that, Hadiya advises people to withhold stories that’ll end up compromising their psychological safety.

If you choose to share a personal story, remember that your audience isn’t just listening. They’re also filtering your words through their own experiences. Because of that, they may not come to the same conclusion as you.

However, with a compelling story, there’s a good chance that they’ll find something to relate to in your narrative, and that’s ultimately what you should aim for.

Is it necessary to use stories in learning and development?

Your stories need to inspire change because, without that element, it's simply an anecdote. - Hadiya Nuriddin

Some messages can definitely be delivered without a story. But, as Hadiya says,

“There’s always a story, the question is if you can find it.”

But whether that story is necessary is a whole other ball game. You need to ask yourself whether people will be able to easily create their own context to understand your message.

Is the topic too foreign, or are there too many barriers to understanding?

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then it’s time to try turning your message into a story.

However, if you think the audience is unlikely to remain patient enough to digest the story, then it’s advisable to skip it altogether. There’s no harm in trying out either method and seeing the results.

For more pointers on how to use storytelling to get your message across, head over to 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

The Future of Communication Is Visual. Here Are 6 Ways Your Team Can Innovate.

Most people understand information faster and better when it’s presented visually. 

It’s why emojis, GIFs, screenshots, and videos have flooded our everyday communication. And it’s true at work too.

It was true when most of us worked in traditional office settings, and it’s true now that so many of us work on remote or hybrid teams.

That means it’s even more crucial for companies to embrace images and video.

So why do so many companies rely on long emails and endless Zoom calls for their remote communications?

For most organizations, CEOs, and managers, the answer is as simple as, “That’s the way we’ve always done it, and it works fine!”

But here’s the thing: What worked yesterday doesn’t necessarily guarantee success today — especially when there are more effective options.

Companies that are slow to innovate or update procedures will be left in the dust.


[Webinar] The Value of Visuals & 6 Ways You Can Start Using Them Right Now

 

Hybrid work requires finding new and better ways to connect online with coworkers — and visuals and video are the keys to effective workplace communications (whether remote or in-person).

We get it. Change is hard. You’re busy. Your team is busy. And the idea of learning to make images and videos is daunting (especially if you’ve never done it before).

But what if creating professional-quality visuals and videos to communicate was — in many cases — actually easier than typing out a long and boring email?

It is! 

And, best of all, asynchronous communication isn’t just better for your employees — it’s better for your business. You’ll increase productivity, have fewer mistakes, and eliminate feedback loops.

Plus, your employees will be more engaged than ever.

Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to give up email entirely. We’re just suggesting a better way. 

And it’s incredibly easy to get started.

We’ll show you how.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

How visuals are better for remote communication (and your business)

We’ve all been there. You hear the little “ding” from your email inbox. You click over to check it, and right there staring back at you is a giant wall of text. Five paragraphs, six sentences each. No personality. No breaks. No images.

No thanks. 

Spoiler alert: Your email did NOT find me well. 

But let’s be clear about something. We’re not saying email is obsolete. Email is and will continue to be one of the backbones of business communications.

It’s great when used properly. Unfortunately, we’ve come to rely on email as the end-all, be-all of workplace communications. 

Email is perfect for quick updates or notes a few sentences long. Need to follow up on a request or check the status of a project? Email’s your go-to. 

Need to give instructions or deliver a lot of information at once? That’s not really email’s strong suit.

Chat applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams have become so popular at least in part because we’ve been abusing email. 

When it comes to text-based communications, people want them short and sweet. 

But don’t take our word for it. We did the research!

What is the true value of visuals?

A couple of years ago, we did a major research project called The Value of Visuals. We wanted to know if communicating with visuals and video actually was better than plain text, but we also wanted to discover if there was an economic benefit to visual communications. 

the value of visuals graph

We tested 125 people performing real-world office tasks, such as updating a web page, filling out an expense report, and downloading and installing new software. For each person, the instructions for each task were randomly given as plain text, text with marked up screenshots/images, or video.

Then, we measured their performance as they completed their tasks.

The results were astounding.

In all, 67% of those tested completed tasks better when the instructions were provided as images or video. On average, they absorbed the information 7% faster and, when asked later about the tasks, they remembered the information better and for a longer period of time. 

In fact, our research estimates that when companies use more images and videos in workplace communications, each employee could gain nearly seven minutes of productivity per day.

the value of visuals productivity chart

That’s nearly 34 minutes per five-day work week and 2.25 hours per month — for each employee. 

That means if your company has 100 employees, you could get back 225 hours of productivity every month. If your company has 500 employees, that’s 1,100 hours of productivity gained. 

In monetary terms, that’s about $1,200 in productivity gained per year for each employee — just by using more visuals in workplace communications.

Employees want more visuals

If the purely economic benefits weren’t enough, your employees crave more visual communication at work. 

Our study found that 48% of employees consider video to be the most engaging form of communication. 37% consider text with images to be the most engaging. 

Just 15% said email was the most engaging.

And yet, nearly 50% of businesses are actually increasing their use of email. 

value of visuals engagement chart

Employees who are less engaged feel less connected to their work, their company, and their peers. And that’s compounded by the feeling of disconnection that can already occur with remote or hybrid work.

But truly engaged employees feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. They have motivation to do better work.

When they feel like their company cares for them, they care more for their company.

Six easy ways you can start using visuals at work right now — no pro skills required

1. Replace meetings with video

Purely informational meetings shouldn’t require everyone to be in the same place at the same time — even if that place is virtual.

If you have information to share with your team that doesn’t require immediate feedback or brainstorming, try replacing that meeting with a video. 

Replace meetings

You can write out exactly what you want to say and share the info without interruption or without conversations digressing or running wildly off course.

If you have slides to show, use Snagit to record your screen while you narrate. No slides? No problem. Snagit can record your webcam to give your video a more personal touch.

Have a brainstorming session coming up? Make a video with the information they need BEFORE the session so they can come in with ideas rather than having to generate them on the spot.

This type of delivery is more respectful of your team’s time. If it’s not urgent that they know the information right this second, they can watch the video in their own time. And, if they need a refresher, they can always go back and watch again.

Plus, if you do need feedback or if they have questions, they can come to you individually. 

In our experience, meetings that normally might have been scheduled for an hour can be reduced to a 20-minute (or less) video. That’s a TON of time saved!

2. Provide visual feedback

This is one of the best ways to get started using visuals in workplace and remote communications, because you’re probably already doing something similar.

Nearly all of us have had to proofread and edit a document that someone else has created. We print it out, grab our red pen, and note on the printed pages where to make the requested changes. 

Provide feedback

Unfortunately, unless you then want to scan your pages and email them, that doesn’t really work in a remote or hybrid environment. Why take that extra step?

Snagit can help!

In image above, I used Snagit to grab screenshots of specific pages in an ebook and note where changes were needed. Just like with traditional document editing, the recipient can see exactly what I want and where I want it. 

This took almost no time at all.

Plus, it works for just about any kind of similar feedback. Need to make changes to a website? Just grab your screenshots, note the necessary changes, and send them along to your web team. 

You can also do this by combining images and video. Snagit customer Referral Rock — whose team has been remote since day one — told us he regularly grabs the screenshots he needs and adds the markup. Then, he’ll make a quick screencast video walking his team through the changes so he can add context where necessary. 

Now, they understand what needs to be changed AND why.

It’s quicker than writing and email — and much more engaging and personable. 

3. Make evergreen onboarding and focused training content

Great onboarding gives new hires the tools and information they need to succeed in their new roles. In a remote environment, getting face-to-face time for training isn’t much of an option, but creating video and visual training content can go a long way in setting them on the path to success.

Whether it’s first-day training stuff or ongoing employee improvement training, visual and video content makes so much sense.

Onboarding and training content.

It’s great for things like how to use HR systems or log into the network. You can even make a quick video of answering four (or six or 10) most frequently asked questions from new hires.

And, it’s easily scalable. Your how-to guides, job aids, or short training videos work for one, 100, or 1,000 people or more.

Even for smaller organizations, this makes more sense. Your training content can work for you even when you’re doing other things. You’ll spend less time away from your job and more time doing other work.

Whether you need to create job aids, software training microvideos, step-by-step guides, or more, Snagit is the perfect tool for creating internal training content.

4. Have more efficient software rollouts

Nearly every organization has to roll out new software at some time or another. It can be incredibly frustrating and disrupting to your employees — especially if not well-communicated.

Use screenshots and screencasts to show how to showcase software features during an internal rollout. Record a quick screencast that can be easily shared with team members or the entire company. 

Software rollouts

Short training sessions can help users maintain their skill sets while learning new features. Having employees train for software rollouts can help prevent productivity loss.

We recently went through a major software rollout at TechSmith. Our IT team used a combination of screenshots, short videos, and even email to help prepare us for what was to come, guide us through the rollout process, and follow up with us after the software was installed. 

Rather than plowing our way through paragraphs of text (which most people won’t do more than skim), we were able to see what was coming, what we needed to do, and provide feedback as requested. 

📚 Recommended Reading: How to Crush Your Next Software Rollout

5. Provide peer-to-peer training/help (aka social learning or informal training)

Most of us probably don’t think of ourselves as trainers, but chances are if you work with other people, you’ve had to show someone how to do something at one time or another.

It can be anything from showing a colleague how to add an out-of-office message to their email to how to adjust the microphone settings in their virtual meeting application. 

Peer-to-peer training and help.

Instead of jumping in a Zoom meeting every time someone needs help, create a quick screencast video showing the process. Or, grab a few screenshots and use Snagit’s step tool to make a step-by-step guide. 

You’ll save time in your day and give your coworkers a nice reference for when they need a refresher.

6. Answer technical questions faster

Your IT staff can save considerable time and effort by creating how-tos and job aids for their most frequently asked questions. Then, when a request comes in, they have the answer at the ready.

Even more complex or less common questions will also benefit from visuals and videos. When one of your users has a problem or request, your IT team can grab screenshots of exactly where to go and what to do to fix the issue. Or, make a screencast video walking through various options or potential fixes. 

Technical support and customer support.

This works for your users, too! Did someone suddenly get a weird new error message? Grab a screenshot and send it to your IT team. They can diagnose the problem and get you back to work. 

Or, if a software application is repeatedly crashing, grab a screen recording of what steps you take before the crash to help your IT staff identify and rectify the problem.

Three myths about creating visual content (and why they’re untrue)

So, you know that you should use more visual content in workplace communications, but isn’t it way harder? It’s just so much easier to write an email, right?

Let’s look at that.

Myth 1. Creating visuals and video takes too long

Video and visuals CAN take a long time. But they don’t have to. 

Remember that perfect is the enemy of good. While many of us have no qualms about sending off a quick email without proofreading or making sure all our grammar and punctuation are perfect, for some reason we think visuals and videos have to be perfect before sharing. 

Not so. 

Embrace the slop. Champion the one-take screencast. Celebrate and use the quick screenshot with markup. 

If you find yourself in a cycle of perfection, take a step back and think about the goal and audience. These two factors will help you determine how polished your video needs to be. 

As a manager or CEO, boost your team’s confidence by explicitly outlining what content is higher-priority and needs more polish. Most internal communication probably doesn’t need to be perfect to be effective. 

Myth #2: You need special skill sets

Switching to anything new can make some people feel uneasy. Whether it’s nerves around being a first-time creator or uncertainty around the execution, many people have no idea how easy it is to create visuals.

Technology has brought a lot of ways to easily create really incredible visuals and videos without the need for professional skills. 

Visual communication software like TechSmith Snagit makes it easy to create and share high-quality images and video that deliver messages more quickly than text alone.

In many cases, it’s much easier and faster than writing a long and complicated email.

Myth #3: You won’t know where to start

Finding new ways to incorporate visual content into your organization doesn’t have to be overly elaborate or complicated — it’s meant to simplify. There are lots of ways to use visuals to make communication easier and help get the point across.

First, determine what you are trying to achieve and how visuals can help with that. Then, empower your employees and guide them to make sure it actually gets done.

It may take some time to get out of the email habit, but you and your employees will be happier when you do. 

Just like writing an email or putting together a meeting agenda, think about the purpose of the video or image and then what you want to accomplish with it. Then, create something that does that. 

If you still need a helping hand, Snagit comes with professionally designed, easy-to-use templates for those times when starting from scratch just seems like too much. And, with a subscription to TechSmith Assets for Snagit, you’ll get access to even more.

Take your internal communications to the next level with visuals and video

Companies that use more visual and video content for internal communications can gain productivity, reduce mistakes, eliminate feedback loops, and have happier, more engaged employees.

And, with software tools like TechSmith Snagit, it’s never been easier to create professional-quality, highly effective content with just a few clicks — even if you’ve never made an image or video in your life. 

Slay the unnecessary email monster and get on the path to engaging, effective communications.

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 to Resize an Image Correctly

How to resize an image?

Whether you want to build user documentation, give a presentation, or create a website, high-quality, appropriately-sized images will help you demonstrate competence and build trust with your audience.

There are many ways to resize an image, but not all will have the same results. If you don’t resize it correctly, your image could end up stretched, blurry, or pixelated, making your finished product appear sloppy and unprofessional. 

In fact, more than two-thirds of consumers say they find the quality of product images essential when buying something online. 

And, finally, they just look better!

If you work with images often, knowing how to resize them correctly is critical. The good news is, it’s also quite simple!

Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:

Easily resize images and screen captures

Ready to quickly resize images without losing quality?

Download a Free Trial of Snagit

How to resize an image without stretching it

When working on a document in a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, it’s tempting to drag the corners of an image to make it larger or smaller. 

Don’t do it!

A photograph of a chihuahua compared to the same photograph that appears distorted and blurry from resizing incorrectly.
Dragging the corners of an image to resize it can make your image look distorted and blurry.

When scaling your image, it’s crucial to maintain the ratio of width to height, known as aspect ratio, so it doesn’t end up stretched or warped. If you need a specific width and height, you may need a mixture of resizing and cropping to get the desired result.

You definitely want to use an image editor to resize your photos correctly. For most basic image editing, including cropping and resizing, TechSmith Snagit is the perfect solution. 

Open your screenshot or image in the Snagit Editor, select “Image” from the top menu, then “Resize Image.” Before changing the dimensions, notice the lock symbol to the left of height and width.

A screen capture of an image being resized in TechSmith Snagit. The lock symbol that shows an image's aspect ratio is locked is highlighted.
Prevent an image from appearing stretched by locking the aspect ratio when changing the width or height.

With the lock activated, Snagit maintains the image’s original proportions. Now, you can adjust the height or width of your image to the desired dimensions without stretching or warping it.

How to resize an image without losing quality

Remember, too, that there’s a big difference between scaling an image down and resizing an image to make it larger. 

Most of the time, reducing an image’s size or dimensions won’t affect the image’s quality. Making an image to be larger than its original dimensions can be tricky.

An image is shown at its original size, smaller, and larger. The smaller and original image are clear and crisp. The larger image appears blurry and pixelated.
Resizing an image larger than its original dimensions can affect the quality.

In fact, rather than trying to increase an image’s size (which is almost never a great idea, It’s best to start with a high-resolution image that is larger than you need. Then, simply crop your image or scale it down to preserve its quality.

It’s also important to keep in mind that this is only true of bitmap images such as JPEGs, GIFs, or TIFFs. Vector files such as EPS or SVG, on the other hand, can be resized both larger and smaller without any loss in quality. 

Bitmap files tend to be photos or screenshots while vector images are typically graphics such as the one at the top of this post.

Optimizing your images and screenshots

By knowing how to resize your images correctly, you can show the value of your products or services in a polished and professional way. 

Here are some key things to remember when resizing images:

  • Use photo editing software to resize your image
  • Avoid stretching or distorting your images by locking the aspect ratio before making adjustments.
  • Start with a high-resolution image that is larger than you need.

Whether you’re sizing images for documentation, a website, or social media, you can quickly accomplish your goals with Snagit

Frequently asked questions:


Does resizing an image affect its quality?

It definitely can! Typically, making an image smaller will not impact the quality, but an image can suffer quality loss when scaled beyond its original size.


What is the difference between image size and image file size?

It can be easy to confuse image size with image file size. The image file size refers to how much space the file takes up on your computer. An image’s file size is measured in bytes. Image size refers to the image’s dimensions, commonly measured in pixels, inches, or centimeters.


What does DPI mean?

DPI stands for “dots per inch” and describes the resolution of an image. PPI or “pixels per inch” is also used to describe image resolution.


What is an aspect ratio?

Aspect ratio describes the width of an image compared to its height. For example, a photo with a 1:1 image ratio would be square, with equal width and height.


What are the best file formats for images?

There are many different file formats for images and choosing the right one depends on where and how you’re using an image. Common web image formats include JPEG, PNG, and GIF.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated in March 2022 for accuracy and to include new information.

Increasing Impact of Videos through Lessons from Marketing

Increasing Impact of Videos through Lessons from Marketing

What can learning and development professionals learn from marketing experts? That’s the question we tackle in this episode of The Visual Lounge featuring Danielle Wallace, Chief Learning Strategist from Beyond the Sky.

Danielle specializes in coming up with innovative ways to infuse marketing into training to create learning content that sticks. Believe it or not, we can learn so much from marketing teams, especially when it comes to identifying learner (or consumer) personas, defining the content’s objectives, and creating materials and resources that our target audience wants and needs.

So, where should we begin when it comes to bridging the gap between marketing and training?

Tune in to this amazing episode of The Visual Lounge to find out and get ready to take your training to a new level.

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…

What makes good content?

When you’re creating learning and development videos, you need to think about what makes good content. What makes learners engage with videos? And how can you make sure that what you’re teaching actually sticks?

Danielle shared what she learned about making good content from her experience working with everyone’s favorite snack – Doritos!

Since she had to create the strategy for Doritos, Danielle had to think about things from a higher level. This involved combining everything from the content strategy to customer research and making sure that everything worked together.

Some aspects of her experience working with this client parallel with learning and development.

Danielle advises L&D professionals to consider the learning strategy and develop a solid understanding of your learner persona. From there, you can develop content that actually creates behavioral change.

Focus on learner behavior

One of Danielle’s top tips to create more impactful L&D videos is to keep them focused on behavior. She suggests that L&D professionals should consider…

“…what is that crystal clear articulation of the behavior to change, and doing away with all the excess fluff, either from the marketing world, or from the learning development world.”

You must be clear on what the key behavior needs to be and then execute your video accordingly. This helps to keep your content focused from a learning standpoint.

Another useful tip from Danielle is to focus on one clear objective. Don’t mix lots of different objectives together in one video. You’ll only confuse and maybe even bore the viewer, which means any information they take in is unlikely to stick.

Instead, keep your video content focused on one objective.

How to overcome common L&D challenges

If you’re a learning and development professional who creates videos, you might notice that it’s easy to let the video run longer than you intended. This usually happens when you drift away from the core objective of your video.

To overcome this common hurdle, Danielle advises that you try to be more disciplined. Even if you create longer videos, it’s okay as long as the learner can articulate the key objective. Having discipline and focus in your message is something that sets the best marketing pieces apart.

Using a multi-sensory experience to create better videos

How can you create more engaging videos for your audience?

Danielle advises that you focus on creating a multi-sensory experience. When you’re watching a video, multiple senses are engaged, and you can see, hear, and even feel emotions. As a video creator, you need to take full advantage of this and try to create an immersive experience for your viewers.

Stay away from creating videos that lack personality and depth. Don’t sit and look at the screen while reading from a script. And, if you do use a script (which is completely fine), make sure that you don’t make it too obvious.

Always aim to create a multi-sensory experience that draws on emotions rather than creating something static and uninteresting that makes people switch off.

Create drama in your videos

Drama is part of the emotion, action and focus of a video that draws you in.

Danielle also talked about the importance of creating drama, which is part of the emotion, action, and focus of a video. It could also be the story, or it could be impactful visuals that grab your audience’s attention.

“Think back to anything you’ve seen on TV, the great commercials you’ve seen online, in theatres, or even great e-learning that has stuck with you. Often you will recall something where there is drama, something that either pulls at your heart or shocks you because all the action is focused there, or just really brings to life those key messages because that’s where the focus is.”

Here are some of Danielle’s top tips to help you create drama in your videos and increase the overall impact your videos have on your audience:

  • Always start with a clear, focused objective
  • Use a creative brainstorming session to think about how you can bring your objective to life
  • Exclude anything that clouds the message (get rid of the fluff!)
  • Identify your learner or consumer persona before you create your videos

Bonus tips from marketing!

Learning and development professionals should draw insights from data and use them to make informed decisions.

One of the most important lessons L&D professionals can take away from marketing is drawing insights from data and using those insights to make informed decisions. Top marketing professionals spend most of their time drawing insights from data, and it’s something that the L&D community can learn to use as well.

Danielle also shared a great tip to help give your videos more impact from the start and that is to make the ‘drama’ part of your video the main learning point.

Take TechSmith, for example, we create lots of videos that are quite technical in nature. Before we get into the meat of the video, we introduce the main topic that gives our videos a clear focus and objective. We then focus on that same objective throughout the video while sharing the information in a way that is easy for our viewers to understand.

For more tips on instructional design and video creation, check out 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