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Using video as a training tool

By Andy Boland 14th January 2022

Writing training material (or the dreaded manual!) for a new product can be a daunting task. Conveying potentially complex and, let’s be honest, sometimes very dry instructions to users in a concise way is tricky and is often left to the last minute, especially when you’re pretty sure no one will read it anyway!

Retro robot directing a film

One alternative is to provide training either in person or via a video call, and this can be especially beneficial when the product or service is complex and likely to generate questions and require feedback. Delivering training in this way is also more likely to keep the audience engaged but it has one main drawback - it’s time-consuming, especially when needing to be delivered across multiple sites and locations.

An alternative method that can be equally as engaging is using video. There are lots of advantages to using video to deliver training, but also some issues you’ll need to be aware of.

Advantages

  • Video is a much more engaging medium for training than written content, and being able to see a product or application in use rather than a text description greatly aids the learning.
  • As previously mentioned, using video removes the need for repetitive in-person delivery of the training, with the associated time and cost benefits on both sides.
  • The recipients of the training can watch the content at a time that suits them, rather than having to fit their work around a fixed training schedule.
  • The recipients can watch the content as often as they need - this repetition can greatly aid understanding of more complex subjects.
  • The content then becomes a great resource for onboarding new staff, delivered via the company intranet if one is available.

Potential issues

  • The training may generate questions that can’t be answered immediately if not delivered face-to face - having a means for these questions to be answered may therefore be important, either via email or a group Q&A session via a video call for example.
  • If the training is likely to need very regular updates (to keep track of a rapidly changing set of features for a product for example), then this could prove time consuming to keep producing video content for. In this case, it might be better to keep the content high level until the product is matured and stable, and then drill down to the details in the video training later.
  • Depending on the amount of content required, you could need to distribute a large number of potentially large files. Making sure you have a plan for how to get the content to your customer is important - either via online delivery using a service like WeTransfer, physical media (USB stick, hard drive) or using an online streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo.

What you'll need - kit and software

Many of us have invested in cameras and microphones for home-working video calls, so we may already have most of the kit we need. If not, the kit needn’t be expensive - here’s a list of the stuff you’ll need to get started.

  • A decent quality microphone (or camera with a good microphone) - it’s important that your voice is recorded clearly to get your message across.
  • Video camera (optional) - You needn’t appear in the videos - having an image of the trainer as a picture-in-picture (PiP) in the corner of the screen can humanise the content a little but it’s not compulsory! If you do want to make an appearance, make sure your video camera is of reasonable quality, especially if you want to appear full-screen - not so critical if you’re appearing as a small PiP in the corner of the screen. A decent webcam will do the trick.
  • Screen capture software - you will need to capture the training material you’re presenting (Powerpoint/software product/website etc) and screen capture software can record this along with your audio commentary at the same time. There are a number of options - either as standalone applications or web browser extensions. I personally recommend the tools created by NCH Software, which are very intuitive and reasonably priced, but free options are also available.
  • Video editing software (optional) - Once you’ve captured your presentation, you may want to edit it or add titles and captions to give it a more professional final look - for this you’ll need some video editing software. Again, there are free options including Windows Movie Creator or Lightworks. Probably the best free option, if you want to get more advanced, is Davinci Resolve, which has a steep learning curve but is a fully-fledged professional editing suite capable of excellent results.

There's a wealth of YouTube content to get you started producing professional looking videos, and it's well worth taking the time to research the latest tools and techniques.

Tips for better videos

  • Try to record in a room that isn’t too large or use a room that has plenty of soft furnishings to dampen down the echoes in the space (which can make the voice less legible). Also ensure that you do tests to check the recording level to ensure you’re not too quiet or going to make your audience jump for the volume control!
  • Likewise, if you’re appearing in the video, make sure you can be seen clearly with enough light and that the camera is properly focussed. Using an accessory like a ring light can help here - there’s lots of options available at reasonable prices.
  • Rather than trying to record all the content in one go (which could result in a huge file), break the content down into smaller sections. This will result in smaller files which will be easier to distribute. If you mess up a section, it’s also a lot easier to retake it!
  • If the software you use has options for the video quality, experiment to find the setting that gives you a picture quality you're happy with without the file size getting too large. It's unlikely that you'll need to produce 4K video with very high frame rates - this will just make the resulting files too large to manage and distribute. Again, YouTube is your friend here to get advice for the best settings.

If you want to find out more about how to use video to improve your website engagement, call us today on 0844 736 2747 or contact us here.