The Ultimate Guide to Creating Training Videos

Welcome to the third post is our video training series. The first two posts answered the following questions:

  1. Why should you add videos to your training strategy?
  2. What makes training videos so good, and what can you apply when creating your own?

In this article, we’ll tie everything we’ve discussed all together to offer the ultimate guide to get started with corporate training videos. 

You may be reading this because you’re new to video and thinking of incorporating it into your training. Or, you may be using video already and would like to elevate your company’s video training game. We’ll answer questions like, “What format should I use?”, “What do people relate to?”, and “How can I empower my teammates to create videos?”

The importance of learner-generated content

Josh Bersin wrote about learning channels back in 2017 and described a future of learning that looks a lot like Netflix where learning management systems recommend content based on the individual needs of the learner. This vision is pretty much standard now.

Bersin describes a “shift away from the corporate learning management system (LMS) as the ‘center’ of learning toward a new model where we view learning like channels or movies on TV.” 

I see three primary sources of content to fill these channels:

  1. In-house L&D for more formal, structured learning such as onboarding and career path training.
  2. External vendors that rapidly develop courses and experiment with new approaches for topics that require immediate attention such as compliance, or short-order requests from SMEs.
  3. User-generated content that harnesses all of the great conversations that take place through social channels and email and amplifying it for everyone in the organization to benefit.

Two of the three sources of content are internal. So how do you go about creating high-quality video internally to support your other training efforts?

Let’s look at this from two perspectives: design considerations and technical considerations.

The Ultimate Guide: Design Considerations

In this section, we’ll look at three elements that make up the design of your training video: narrative and flow, pacing, and delivery format and tone. 

Narrative and Flow

Flow works at its best within a structure. Here is a simple rubric for structuring your videos:

  1. Hook
  2. Signpost
  3. Sensitize
  4. Elucidate
  5. Reinforce
  6. Conclude

The hook is where you establish the narrative. The goal is to capture attention by shocking, surprising, or delighting your audience. Fascinate, or entertain. Amuse. Create suspense. 

Then, use the signpost to set the scene and facilitate engagement. Think in chapters. Signal what’s coming later and address the reason why for everything you do. Make sure to revisit the signpost throughout the video to help your audience keep track of where they are. For example, the six points above represent the signpost for this section.

Sensitizing your audience is something you should also do throughout the video. You want to facilitate a receptive mindset with a consistent style. For example, you can achieve this mindset through your music choice by signaling changes in mood or topic. Familiar settings also help sensitive an audience by providing context. 

Now it’s your turn to describe or explain the more complex topics of your video. Specify the logical status of your points (e.g., implications, consequences, and comparisons), and vary pauses between cuts to indicate new or same sections. Be careful not to overload your audience. Remember, with video, less is more. 

In video, repetition is also a good thing. Repeat and summarize the key points often. Use comparisons and analogies to show relationships in different ways. 

Finally, conclude by linking back to your hook. Tie your points together and provide your audience with the dramatic climax they’ve been craving. 

Pacing

Proper pacing is essential for web-based videos as the viewer has ample opportunity to turn away to something else. Here you should ask yourself, how can you vary the length of shots or sections of your delivery to control the rhythm?

There are two primary visual approaches to sequencing shots: deductive and inductive.

Deductive sequencing starts with an establishing shot like this one of a whole city…

Then, it gradually gets closer…

Finally, we’re in a side-street where the action will begin to unfold.

Movies most often use this classic storytelling formula. However, it works better on bigger screens and in longer formats. You want to watch out for fragmenting your video too much, such that your viewer doesn’t make the connections you’re expecting them to. 

Inductive sequencing, on the other hand, starts with a series of close-ups like this.

This approach is better for small screens as the viewer participates more, piecing together the action that you’re unfolding for them. 

Play around with these two approaches to see for yourself what effect each has on your flow.

Delivery Format and Tone

There are five main formats you’re likely to use in corporate training videos:

  1. Talking head
  2. Interview
  3. Conversation
  4. Presenter
  5. Action

News broadcasts primarily use the talking head format. An interview differs from a conversation in that you typically only see one person at a time in an interview whereas a conversation has both people on screen, like a talk show. Presenter formats work best with visual aids or on-location shoots where the background matters. Finally, the action format is primarily voice-over driven, with visuals shown to support the narrator. Documentaries are an excellent example of this. 

Remember, the presenter’s voice and body language determine the tone or mood of the video no matter what format you choose. In deciding between the five formats, consider what brings out the best in the person presenting the video. Your equipment, available time, and space to shoot will also impact the format you end up choosing. 

Now that we’ve covered the design of your video, let’s zoom in on the actual shoot (I couldn’t help myself).

The Ultimate Guide: Technical Considerations

Now, let’s look at four technical elements: framing, background, lighting, and sound.

Framing

Proper framing is one of the most simple hacks to instantly improve any learning video (or your holiday Instagram picture for that matter). Just follow the rule of thirds

Simply split your screen into thirds vertically and horizontally. Most cameras or phones have a gridline setting to do this for you. Then, place the most relevant information at the intersection points of the gridlines. These points carry magnetic “weight” that draws our eyes naturally. 

By placing important objects, such as the eyes of a person, at these points, we create a pleasing effect for the viewer.

Additional considerations for framing:

  1. The edges of a frame have magnetism too. Objects placed too close to the edges appear to be pulled towards them. Always leave space between your subject and the edge of the frame.
  2. We read frames from left to right. Consequently, we pay more attention to the right of the screen, so place your subject there.

Background

The key to the background is to create depth for the viewer. Where the rule of thirds addresses the 2D placement of your subject, here you add the 3rd dimension of depth. 

To do this, leave enough space behind your subject. This way, you’ll be able to focus on your subject and leave a soft blur on the background behind them. Consider using props and the background to tell a story or show the location.

Lighting

There are three simple rules to follow here:

  1. Use as much natural light as possible. 
  2. The primary light source should be behind the camera.
  3. Lighting should be balanced across the frame.

The most common mistake made with lighting is to have the subject facing the camera with a window behind them. If you want to include a view of outside, position your subject at an angle, and balance the light from the window with artificial light from the opposite direction.

And remember, your preview screen will look darker than you think it should, this is ok – just make sure the lighting is balanced across the frame.

Sound

Sound can be used to convey all kinds of information to support the dialogue, but the key points to remember are:

  1. If you have background noise, record the background for 10 seconds. This ‘noise print’ can be used to reduce background noise in editing.
  2. Your subject should maintain the same distance from the microphone throughout. It also may be beneficial to use a separate microphone to your camera or phone. (Pro Tip: clap your hands at the start of filming to aid syncing in post-production).
  3. Your subject should pause for longer than natural between takes. This will make it easier to edit.

Tying it all together

That was a lot to take in! My advice is to experiment with each of the seven areas we’ve covered above in turn, and see what works for you. Above all else, remember:

  1. Strike the right balance between what you and the subject can do well vs. what will work best for the audience.
  2. Set aside more time than you think you might need so you can redo takes and not feel rushed.
  3. Less is more. Every element in your video should serve a purpose. If it doesn’t – cut it out!

Learn through practical experience. You can’t create a good video from just writing scripts.

Ideas for using video in your training

Now that you have a blueprint for experimenting with video, here are a few ideas for where to apply this knowledge:

  1. Translate corporate culture to new hires.
  2. Improve product knowledge.
  3. Improve customer service skills.
  4. Introduce different departments to each other to remove silos.
  5. Communicate new corporate policies.
  6. Roll out new work processes.
  7. Train remote work teams.

Where will you use videos to educate your employees or customers?

About the Author

Andrew Barry runs Curious Lion, Inc, a corporate training agency that partners with ambitious companies that know that training is the highest leverage thing they can do. He also writes a bi-weekly newsletter for a growing community of curious humans. Learn more here.

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