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Forget reading user manuals—people today watch instructional videos when they need to quickly solve a problem. Organizations today are tapping into this preference by using video as an educational tool across industries:
Of course, there’s no guarantee that people will watch these videos beyond a few seconds. It’s not enough to share instructions for completing a task. Engaging instructional videos must be easy to follow, visually dynamic, and speak to a target audience’s needs, among other important qualities.
Before production begins, you must take a step back to envision the content you want to create. What will be the takeaway of your video for your target audience? What type of video do you want to create? With this brainstorming, you’ll be ready to create a great instructional video that is both compelling and substantial.
You may have a general topic in mind that you want to cover, but you aren’t sure what part of the subject is worth focusing on for the video. Find your angle by interviewing members of your video’s target audience about the topic. Determine what they understand and where knowledge gaps are—the latter will be the most useful, relevant subjects for your instructional video.
Based on the knowledge gaps discovered during the interview process, set a clear learning goal for your video. This objective is your guiding light for the rest of the video creation process. Every decision you make about the video should serve its larger learning goal.
Depending on the topic of your video, some formats will work better than others.
This example is beautifully produced, but you don’t necessarily need video knowledge to create a useful instructional video. Take a look at this iPhone example created to solve a specific car problem.
One type of instructional video isn’t better or worse than another—it just depends on how well the style serves your subject. Select the format with visuals that will make your topic the easiest to understand.
Planning a video is only productive if you’re realistic about your resources for the project. Meet with senior leadership to determine a reasonable video budget. Start the conversation by explaining why creating this learning video will be valuable for your organization. If leadership understands how this video helps the company, they’ll be more likely to give you the resources you need to create it. Your budget will depend largely on the video format you select and if you decide to create it yourself or hire a professional.
According to microlearning research, we better remember what we learn when we watch shorter videos—no longer than two minutes, to be exact. If your topic is complex or complicated, consider creating a series of short videos to reduce viewers’ cognitive overload.
With this planning, you’ll know the basic details of your instructional video and be able to begin scriptwriting.
After brainstorming your video, it’s time to organize your ideas into a script. This document describes everything that happens in your video—dialogue, visuals, music, and more. You’ll use the script as a basis for storyboarding and filming your video, so it’s important to take this writing stage seriously. Use these tips to write a script for a video that is both engaging and educational.
People lose focus when they’re presented with a long list of facts and figures. Weave information into a narrative and viewers will have a framework for remembering the content you present. For example, an HR training video about recognizing negative workplace behavior could show a scenario with a character who experiences discrimination.
Video is primarily a visual medium, so be mindful of how you can explain concepts through imagery and motion as you write your script. If you have an idea for a visual, explain it as a scene description in your script, and depict the idea in your storyboard (covered in the next section).
Trying to process graphics, narration, and on-screen text at once can be overwhelming for viewers. Reduce cognitive load by limiting on-screen text as much as possible. If you can’t express the idea through a visual, explain it with narration instead.
eLearning professionals often create instructional videos with different scenario branches, a form of learning that is similar to a “choose your own adventure” book. The learner makes a decision in the course—choosing an answer, clicking a call-to-action button—which causes the video to unfold in a unique way.
Here’s a live action example of a choose your own adventure recruitment video from Rapt Media for Deloitte.
If you’re creating a video with multiple learning paths, be sure to write separate scripts for each scenario to avoid confusion.
An educational video doesn’t have to be completely serious. Your audience will appreciate a few jokes and visual gags here and there as a light break from the lesson. For example, you might use a pun in your lesson name or create a funny character to be the narrator of the lesson.
This instructional sales training video includes a few subtle jokes to make the intended audience smile.
To ensure that your video is meeting its learning objective, show the script to experts in the video’s subject. They will be able to confirm whether the knowledge you’re sharing is accurate and useful before you dive into video production.
Once you’ve created a script, you’re ready to translate those ideas into visuals.
Storyboarding is the process of visually representing every shot of your educational video, whether that’s through drawing or a computer program.
By looking at each frame, you’re able to evaluate the visuals of your video and decide which imagery is serving your learning objective.
It’s okay if you only know how to draw stick figures. As long as you can communicate the main actions in every frame, your storyboard will be useful. Here’s an example from Kenneth Chan at Stanford University:
Make the progression of your video clear by including your script in a column next to your storyboard drawings. If a viewer gets lost, they can refer to the dialogue and descriptions in your script column to understand everything happening at that moment.
Viewers are more likely to focus on your instructional video if they have a sense of what is coming next. To make your video easy to follow, include visual cues in your storyboard, such as character expressions and actions or header text.
If you prefer to hand-draw your storyboard, you don’t need to draw boxes for every frame—use this free template.
Download this: US Letter | A4
The printed boxes will save you time and give your storyboard an organized, uniform look.
Don’t want to hand-draw your storyboard? Use animation software, like Vyond, to create your storyboard. You’ll be able to quickly create each frame with drag-and-drop scenery, props, and characters. If you’re planning to use animation for the project, you’ll be able to create your video from these storyboard frames in a short amount of time when production begins.
The production phase can feel frantic at times, even if you’ve prepared well for it. Equipment may need unexpected troubleshooting, or you may discover that you can’t film a shot as you imagined in your storyboard. To help you stay on track, here are a few suggestions for crafting an engaging video that you may have overlooked.
Viewers can process only so much information at a time. To avoid cognitive overload, limit the amount of sensory content you present at one time. For example, don’t present dense information through narration at the same time as an energetic music cue.
If your video includes dialogue or narration, consider investing in a professional voiceover. A trained actor is able to use vocal emphasis to express ideas, so their voiceover will make the content more understandable for viewers. To hire a voiceover artist, consider using the popular online markets VoiceBunny and Voices.com.
Interactive videos allow viewers to click, drag, hover, and complete other digital actions to interact with video content rather than just playing it.
This example from Ana Grade, senior instructional designer at Amazon, includes an interactive skill check at the end.
Adding these features boosts engagement by forcing audiences to stop and demonstrate their knowledge. While marketing and HR professionals might not create interactive videos, eLearning professionals use complex authoring programs, like Storyline, that allow quizzes and other interactive elements to be inserted into instructional videos. Ana used Vyond and Storyline 3 to create the training video above.
If you have trouble playing the interactive example, try switching browsers or updating Chrome.
It doesn’t matter how well the production phase goes—a high-quality video won’t have any impact unless it reaches viewers. Learn how to make your video easy for your target audience to find and watch with these tips.
YouTube may be the most popular online video host, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best place for your video to live. The platform makes sense for marketers who want to reach a large audience, but you may prefer to host your video somewhere else. Review this breakdown of online video hosting options to find a solution.
HR and eLearning professionals will most likely prefer a more secure, customizable learning management system as an alternative.
Make it possible for people to watch your instructional video in any learning environment by optimizing your video for all devices. Giving people this ability increases the likelihood that they will view your video and build their knowledge. Learn how to make your video device-friendly with this guide from Vidyard.
When a person is deciding whether they want to watch a video, they look at its thumbnail, or resting snapshot. Encourage views by picking a clear, compelling image that reflects the topic of your video for its thumbnail. These examples from Bon Appétit, are both appetizing and engaging:
Encourage views by picking a clear, compelling image that reflects the topic of your video for its thumbnail.
If you’re a marketer hoping to attract leads with your instructional video, consider using niche social media platforms to promote the content. For example, you might share a link to the video on a relevant subreddit or an industry-specific online forum. These spaces aren’t crowded, and they’re filled with high-quality leads who are genuinely interested in your company’s field.
If your instructional video is relevant employee training for new hires, work with your HR team to incorporate the content into your onboarding plan. By scheduling the video in the onboarding timeline, you ensure that new employees will watch the video and build the knowledge they need to succeed in your workplace.
Online course websites, such as Lynda, typically present their most recent and most popular courses on their homepage. If you’ve just created a set of instructional videos, work with your site developers and administrators to see if the course can be featured on your homepage to promote views.
Creating a captivating educational video requires big-picture thinking. You’re trying to inform and engage viewers at the same time, so you must be aware of multiple factors at once: your learning objective, technical constraints, distribution tactics, and more.
Instead of trying to remember every area, return to this post, and follow these 25 tips every time you make an instructional video. If you’re able to check off every tip, you can rest well knowing that you’ve taken steps to make your video engaging for your target audience.
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