How to make a software demo video

It’s easy enough to make a quick demo video, but making one that looks and sounds professional is a lot more tricky.

Your customers and prospects have such short attention spans these days that a video that’s long, has poor audio or even a few too many ‘ums’ or ‘ers’ is going to have them clicking the pause button.

So in this post I’ll take you through the steps I use to create a software demo video, for training, customer support or sales. Here’s one I made as an example:

And here are the steps to make one of your own:

1. What’s your goal?

First, decide the purpose of your video. If this purpose is to sell the product then your video will need to be short and focus on the benefits of using the product, whereas if it’s a training video then your viewer will want more detail and will be more likely to watch a slightly longer video.

2. Decide on the key points 

It’s tempting to throw in every cool feature of your software, but this will give you a very long video! Instead, decide on what the viewer really wants to know. You need to keep the video short, – around two minutes max for a sales-type video and five minutes max for a training video – and that means you need to be quite strict about which features go in and which stay out. In the case of training videos, it’s usually better to break down one longer video into a series of short ones.

I usually start with a list of bullet points and then expand that out into a script.

3. Decide on your tools 

There are lots of tools available, but I recommend Camtasia or Screencast-O-Matic. Camtasia is definitely the best screen recording tool of the two, but Screencast-O-Matic is a low budget alternative that’s quick to learn.

For a professional result, you’ll need a introduction slide or animation, both to act as a title and to make the video consistent with your branding. The introduction slide can also be used as a thumbnail for your video if you upload it to YouTube. You can also have a slide at the end of the video with a call to action, so that your viewers know what to do once they have finished watching the video. This might be your phone number so they can give you a call or the video you suggest they watch next. You can create these slides easily using PowerPoint or Google Slides. You can create simple animations in these tools too, or you can have an animation made for you on one of the freelancing sites such as Fiverr.com.

Make sure you have a decent microphone, too. Poor audio quality is very distracting and could encourage your viewers to stop watching early. You’ll almost certainly need an external mic for recording video demos rather than using the one built-in to your computer.

4. Create examples and data

If you’re walking your viewers through how to use your software, you may need to plan a scenario or add some data before you begin as it’s not easy to think up realistic ones on the fly, and it slows down your demonstration. In my example video I planned out ‘client 1’, ‘plan project’ etc in advance. It’s not rocket science, but the video recording flowed much more smoothly because I didn’t need to think about it.

Try to have a few practice runs through the material to rehearse what you’re going to say before you begin recording.

5. Record

Do a quick sound and video test to make sure everything is working and then you’re finally ready to start recording! You can certainly record everything you want to cover in one take then edit out anything you don’t want afterwards. In fact I used to do this back in the days when I was less confident with video editing. These days I record a series of short video clips as it’s no problem at all to edit them together in Camtasia.

Top tip: leave a gap of a second or two after any mistakes so it’s easy to edit them out.

6. Edit

Screencast-O-Matic has some editing features, so check those out first if you used this tool to record your video. Alternatively iMovie (Mac) and MovieMaker (PC) are simple editing tools you could try. Here’s my tutorial on trimming off the first and last few seconds of your video using Movie Maker.

If you are using Camtasia to record then use it to edit your video, too.

7. Export your video

Yes, there’s more! Video formats are more complex than just the file type (e.g. mp4, avi and so on). Check the requirement of wherever you’ll be uploading your video, then make sure you export your video using the right settings. Here are YouTube’s recommended encoding settings and Vimeo’s compression guidelines.

8. Upload

Upload your video to the service you’ve chosen to host it, for example YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia.

Or if that all sounds like a lot of work… I can do it for you. Just drop me an email helen@helenlindop.com or give me a call on 01223 969857 to have a chat (no obligation, of course.)

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