Eight steps to better video content

Good planning and high production values will help you to create engaging bite-sized learning videos, according to Phil Bailey and Bradley Williams.

Online video has become the world’s favourite means of learning. With YouTube, Vimeo, TED Talks and other sites, we now have a vast array of options to meet our information (and entertainment) needs on any device, whenever and wherever we want.

Statistics show that 55% of people watch videos online every day – and more than 80% of senior executives now watch more online video than they did a year ago.

Video is naturally engaging and, importantly in an age of information overload, it’s easy to digest. Video can tell a story (with a beginning, middle and end) that can take learners on a journey and make their learning memorable.

The footage can be edited and altered with minimal fuss, so you can easily import native language dubbing or add translated subtitles if you want to use the content in different countries.

L&D teams are now using video to support a range of learning applications including leadership and management, personal skills, compliance, onboarding, health & safety, technical and product training. These videos can be consumed on-demand as self-directed learning tools, incorporated into a structured learning programme or they can be continuously streamed.

‘Video is naturally engaging and, importantly in an age of information overload, it’s easy to digest.

Whether you’re sharing theory, showing best practice, interviewing experts, conveying a message or demonstrating behavioural techniques, the flexibility of video is extraordinary. Techniques such as flashbacks and showing alternate versions of the same situation can add ‘drama’ to your learning and communications.

With interactive video, you can now introduce ‘branching options’ which allow learners to directly affect the scenario or choose which path to take. Quizzes and surveys can also be embedded into the footage.

Shrinking production costs

For years video was an exciting – but expensive – option in the learning mix. A custom project could cost £20,000-£40,000. And you had to factor in the distribution costs. For example, we made VHS copies of our first video for every one of our client’s UK branches.

Now, a five-minute animated video including graphics and a voiceover can be produced for a fraction of that cost. And you can make it instantly available for everyone.

There’s still the option to commission a customised video from an external vendor, or you could purchase off-the-shelf generic video content. It’s estimated that a customised video will be 60% more effective than an off-the-shelf video because of its relevance, alignment and greater perceived value. However, there’s now a third option of creating your own video content.

Eight steps

The optimum length of a ‘bite-sized’ video is three-five minutes. Here’s how to produce a live action video, with high production values, on a low budget:

  1. Clarify the key stakeholders. Confirm who will need to oversee and approve the project.
  2. Decide on the scenarios. In a facilitated workshop with the stakeholders, you can determine the objectives and the desired outcomes of the video, the issues or challenges which need to be overcome and any cultural or contextual aspects. You can then discuss what style of video will best meet the needs of the target audience and what scenarios will exemplify your learning points – and be relevant and rewarding for learners.
  3. Storyboard your video and agree the script. Bring together subject experts to define what best practice looks like (for example, if it’s a sales video, get your sales team to agree a ‘model sale’). Plan out all of the details of the video footage you want to create and the shots/angles that are needed. Draft and clear a fast-paced script – and get everything approved by your stakeholders.
  4. Plan when and where you’ll shoot. Agree the most appropriate setting/location for your footage. The more realistic you can make this, the more real and relevant it will be for the learners. Using your own staff and venues can engage learners and help them identify with the challenge/issue being addressed. And remember, you need an environment where you can control sound, light and foot traffic. You do not want an unwelcome passer-by to ruin your take.
  5. Prepare your ‘actors’. If you’re using external actors – or if your own staff will feature in the video – brief them on your learning objectives and coach them on the scenarios. Make them feel comfortable and confident, as stress or lack of concentration will have a negative effect on their performances.
  6. Have an expert ‘on set’. No matter how much you prepare, something will come up at the last minute. Have a product or skills expert available who can ‘sign off’ each film as you create them. It’s impossible to add footage in the edit. You can only use what you film.
  7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.  If you use an external partner to create your videos, don’t be afraid to point things out if you’re not happy with their first edit. Filmmaking is a complex and personal process, so feel free to speak up, but be prepared to listen if they have a valid point.
  8. Get it approved. Confirm that your stakeholders are happy with the final edit, then upload and utilise your video as planned.

Video will play an increasingly important role in the learning strategies of today’s organisations. Whether you generate your own video content, or whether you choose to partner with an experienced provider, these tips will help you to improve the way you plan and produce your videos – so your organisation can more effectively reap the benefits of video-based learning.


About the authors

Phil Bailey is chairman of global learning consultancy OnTrack International and Bradley Williams is the company’s digital production manager. Bradley, an experienced filmmaker is currently heading the production of numerous corporate film projects in the UK, France, Canada, USA, Australia, Mexico, UAE, China and other parts of the world. 


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