7 Questions To Ask Before You Hit Record: A Pre-Production Checklist

If you want to create successful videos, the key isn't aesthetics. It's all about understanding your audience.

7 Questions To Ask Before You Hit Record: A Pre-Production Checklist

Want to create successful videos in 2020?

It’s simple.

You need to to engage groups of people online in ways that grab and keep their attention — and keep them coming back for more.

It’s not about making flashy videos or having the most polished look.   Instead, you need to understand your target audience and then craft a message that speaks to them.

And how do you do that? Create videos that answer questions or solve problems for your audience.

If you can reliably provide people with solutions to their problems and answers to their questions, you’ll earn a reputation as a trusted resource and authoritative voice in your space. 

But, to do it well, you need to know how to plan a video project. That means having a good pre-production checklist that sets you up for success.

Recently, we conducted a study that details the explosion of video as a means for communicating knowledge and expertise. Based on the data we found, here are seven questions you should answer before you create a video. 

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These questions are an ideal pre-production checklist.

Question 1: Who is my audience?

Question 1: Who is my audience?

When you decide to make a video, you probably have at least an abstract idea of who you’re creating it for. 

Whether it’s instructional, informational, explanatory, or meant to sell a product or service, you likely have in mind some group of people who are interested in what you have to say.

But how clear is that picture?

To deliver a video that sets you apart as a trusted resource, you must have a thorough understanding of your audience.

Knowing your audience helps you determine content, tone, and style

It’s important that your video feels appropriate to your audience and delivers what they’re looking for. Choosing a tone and style that matches their mood and that of your content will give your video an authentic feel, demonstrating that you are indeed an expert on the topic.

Cable television networks successfully use tone and style to reflect their audiences’ preferences and expectations. HGTV, the popular home improvement channel, exudes warmth, comfort, and togetherness. ESPN, the most-watched sports network, is exciting and fast paced. Most news networks carry an air of seriousness and expertise in an effort to lend credibility to their reporting.

And, obviously, each network delivers vastly different content based on what their audiences want, need, and expect.

Tone and style are made up of the language you use, how you speak on-screen or in voiceover narration, musical choices, along with the visuals you include. 

Similarly, your content should reflect those same expectations. If you want to create a series of videos helping people solve common problems with their Windows computers, it will feel out-of-place if you suddenly decide to do a video on how to change a tire. 

But, a general “how-to” YouTube channel might be appropriate for both topics, depending on your target audience.

Examine your audience and match your content, tone,  and style to their expectations.

A few questions to consider when building your picture of your audience:

  • What are their professional interests?
  • What are their personal interests?
  • Are their other tasks or activities associated with the process or content you’re presenting?
  • Does the community this audience is a part of have collective interests or styles?
  • Are there any references to avoid that might not translate well across cultures?
  • Why are they seeking this information?
  • How will your video help them?

There are a number of ways to research and find information about your audience. These include:

  • Interview or survey current clients or customers
  • Peruse forums and social media conversations where your audience congregates
  • Read publications that interest your audience
  • Watch other videos and content they consume

Question 2:  What problem are they trying to solve?

Question 2:  What problem are they trying to solve?

Want to grab and keep your audience’s attention?  Focus your video on a single topic or objective. If you know the problem your audience is trying to solve, this is relatively easy. 

For simple topics (such as changing a tire), it’s fairly easy to understand what your video content should look like.

Sometimes, though, a problem is more complex than it may have seemed at first glance. Often the problem resides at a level deeper.

For example, when I search for videos about re-seeding a lawn, one might assume my problem is dead grass. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it may not be my true motivation. Maybe I don’t want to be the one terrible, patchy lawn on the block among pristine green fields.

The key here is to consider your content, and then drop a level deeper in your thinking to figure out the true problem your audience wants to solve. (This is why truly knowing your audience is SO important!)

Use your understanding of the problem to include context in your video. Show that you know how the audience arrived at this point, use examples that relate to their experience, and give them an idea of where they might go next.

Most importantly, stay laser focused on solving the audience’s problem. Minimize the asides and be sure, if you don’t solve the problem itself, you provide them with the information they need to know what they need to do to find out more.

Question 3: What are their goals?

This question asks you to think philosophically. You may know the problem, but do you know why they’re trying to solve the problem? In the example with the yard above, my problem may have been having an ugly lawn. But, my overall goal may be to have a home with curb appeal. 

Goals inspire people to action. A person’s goals brought them to your video.

Working from the problem your audience wants to solve, figure out what their high-level goals are.

Connecting your content to your audience’s greater goals helps solidify you as a trusted resource. Done well, you will create an audience who returns to you in the future.

If you’re a business seeking new customers or clients, or an individual looking to network, knowing your audience’s goals is critical.

Question 4: What will they need to accomplish their goals?

Question 4: What will they need to accomplish their goals?

You know your audience’s goals, so now you need to consider how you will equip them to reach those goals. The answer to this question has implications for the content of your video, but also the structure.

Make clear what’s needed to follow along

If your audience will need particular items, you need to make that clear. It’s incredibly frustrating when you start a video with the promise of solving a problem only to find out the narrator expects you to have a tool, technology, or item that you don’t have. 

If your video requires a list of items or for certain things to be done in a setup phase, make sure there is a section that clearly goes over these items, and prompts viewers to prepare. You might encourage them to pause the video and gather what they need.

Additional contextual knowledge and information

Just because they’ve decided to watch your video, don’t assume your audience has all the prerequisite knowledge you do. They’ve come to you because you’re the expert.

Where appropriate, pepper your video with key information that explains the why or how of certain things you’re including. Don’t overdo it, though. Too many asides may indicate that you need to create a separate video (or videos) that explains the basics or highlights other useful information.

Provide practical, real-life examples that your viewers can easily apply to their own lives and use good visuals, like images and icons, to illustrate your concepts.

Question 5: What is their skill level? Do they have previous experience with the topic?

Question 5: What is their skill level? Do they have previous experience with the topic?

This is a quick question, but it’s important to consider. The members of your audience will fall on a general spectrum of less to more experienced with your topic.  A highly experienced audience won’t need as much hand-holding or context, while a novice audience may need more basic information. Then, use your knowledge of your audience’s experience to right-size your video.

Right-sizing your video is important. This amounts to determining how much you will cover and how long you will take to do it. 

Our research provides a good benchmark to work from, indicating that most viewers prefer videos of 3-4 minutes or 5-6 minutes in length. You can go longer if you need, and your audience may respond well. Our unofficial motto is “make your video content as short as possible, yet as long as necessary.”

Knowing your audience’s experience level will also help you know the kind of language you can include in a video. Every domain of knowledge has things that only insiders are familiar with. Be aware of jargon and other insider knowledge that might need to be explained to less experienced viewers.

Question 6: Where and how will they likely find or access the video?

Question 6: Where and how will they likely find or access the video?

Creating the right video is only half the battle. You want your audience to actually find and watch it. Where exactly will that be?

Knowing your audience includes knowing where they will most likely discover your content. Usually, this is done through search engines. 

If you plan for your audience to find your video using search, use good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices when naming, describing, and posting your video.

I’ve got five tips to help you make your video search friendly:

  • A strong title that clearly states the problem that your video is solving, how it is presented, and the product or process it applies to.
  • Include a description that outlines the content and key learning points of your video. Aim for a minimum of 200 characters and include keywords and alternative wording.
  • Conduct keyword research and incorporate alternative terms and wordings into your description and video tags.
  • Tag your video with your target keyword and then choose other tags related to your primary keyword. Around 10 tags is ideal.
  • Provide captions so your content more accessible. Plus, video sites like YouTube use captions for content-indexing to improve search results.

This should go without saying, but just in case: Avoid using click-bait titles or descriptions that don’t accurately reflect the video content. You may get people to click on your video, but they will leave when they discover the video isn’t what they were expecting — and it will damage your reputation as a trusted resource. 

Good content trumps splashy headlines. Always. 

Search isn’t the only way that your audience will find your video. It’s good to consider the other places or ways someone might encounter your content. These include:

  • Groups on social media
  • Professional forums
  • Company intranet
  • Shared by an expert in the field
  • Shared by a friend on social media

Share your video in groups or forums where your audience congregates. You can also encourage viewers of your video to share it with their network.

Question 7: What related topics should they also be learning?

Question 7: What related topics should they also be learning?

If you’ve done your job right, your video will become an opportunity for both your audience and yourself. For your audience, it’s obvious — they get to solve their problems and possibly reach their goals. For you, it is to begin a lasting relationship with the audience. 

But how do you ensure they keep coming back? Provide your audience with a suggestion of what to do next. 

Our research found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of videos we analyzed, included a call to action, giving viewers clear direction on next steps or where they can learn more.

If you have more videos on similar topics, mention them at the end and provide links. Do you have a piece the audience could download and keep to use later when they need to reference the information you provided? Or, if you provide a product or service, now is the time to mention it. Offer a sign-up, free trial, or another way to start exploring more of what you offer.

When a viewer feels they’ve received value from a video, a call to action is a welcome closing element.

techsmith pre production checklist
Ask these seven questions before you make your next video.

The big picture

As video continues it’s rapid ascent as the favored format for learning new skills and providing instructions, it’s important that you or your company develop the skills that keep you relevant and competitive. 

Organizations and individuals that embrace video for training and educating customers and employees are at a clear advantage.

Answering the questions we’ve covered here before you start creating will help ensure you create a great video that connects with your intended audience.

Guy Larcom

Guy Larcom is an Instructional Designer with the Marketing Team at TechSmith. Outside of making awesome screencasts and tutorials, he loves golfing and skiing.

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