How to make (or buy!) a great tutorial video

make a tutorial videoIn this post I’ll give you some tips to think about if you want to make a tutorial video yourself, or what to look out for if you’re buying the rights to use someone else’s videos or you’ve hired someone to make videos for you.

It might help to give you a bit of background first, though. I was a face-to-face trainer – mainly a software trainer – for many years. Then, nine years ago I had a job where part of the team was in Mumbai. I went out to train them once, but obviously I couldn’t do that for every small software update so I started running webinars. Then some team members wanted a recording of the webinar and eventually it made sense to offer some training in video format, too. I loved the way people could access video training any time of night or day to suit themselves, so when I wanted to create my own courses for my own sites, video is what I did. Last year I launched four of my own courses at Udemy, too.

It was at Udemy that I learned a lot about making video courses. This was partly because their strict audio/video quality rules meant I had to up my game. But in watching some other people’s courses as a student, I learned about what worked well and what became tedious very quickly. And yes, I had done some of the tedious things in my own courses in the past, but I stopped immediately after that!

So here are my 6 tips on what to look for if you want to make a tutorial video:

1. Audio quality

It’s a video, but don’t overlook the audio because poor audio quality can be incredibly distracting. So make sure you have no crackles, background noise, coughs, sniffs and pops. If you’re recording the video yourself you can reduce this enormously without spending a fortune by making sure you have a decent mic, a pop filter (that’s a piece of stretched mesh in front of your mic) and no background noise.

A few ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ can be OK if it’s a conversational style of video, but otherwise avoid saying them or edit them out afterwards.

2. Video quality

This is easier with a screencast video than with a camera, because because you don’t have to worry about things like the lighting and background. But you can still get blurry or grainy videos if you don’t pay attention to the guidelines of the platform you upload to (here are YouTube‘s) and you can make details in your video so small that it’s hard to see them – try your software’s zoom feature to avoid this.

3. Length

Generally, shorter videos are better in a course. People have very short attention spans online, so you’re better to break an hour-long video course into videos 2-10 minutes in length. My Udemy stats have proven to me that people rarely work through a course from start to finish, instead they jump in and watch what they need to know right now. It’s easier to find the content you want in a series of short videos than to look for it in a single, longer video.

I’ve taken courses on YouTube that recommend videos are no longer than 4 minutes because most people stop watching after 2 minutes anyway. But my longer YouTube videos (8-10 minutes) have many more views than my shorter ones, so I suspect YouTube might give more weight to a longer, ‘meatier’ video than a short one and simply show it to more people. Or maybe I just manage to make better, more in-depth, more ‘niche’ videos at that length? I need to do some more testing to be sure. As with anything online, you need to watch your stats.

4. Structure

A tutorial video works best if you have one single point or feature per video. E.g. ‘How to add an intro and outro to a video using Camtasia Studio‘.

If you’ve done any presentation or teacher training you’ll have been taught to introduce the material, teach it, then review it. If you’re presenting or training face-to-face you have a captive audience to some extent, so if your first few minutes of a presentation aren’t that thrilling they’ll probably forgive you. With a video tutorial you have to grab them instantly or they’ll click away somewhere else. So you have to get straight into it. You still need to make it should be clear what the video is about before you begin, but the title and the title slide should do that for you. Your review at the end can be as simple as a sentence.

Avoid starting a video with ‘In this video we’re going to…’ because if someone is watching ten video that are a few minutes long, this gets annoying really fast. It still feels weird to me to not do any chit-chat at the start of a video, but it’s usually for the best. Some Udemy instructors use a simple ‘welcome back’ at the start of a video if they want to give a feel of continuity.

Also, avoid introductory animations if your videos are going to be part of a course. Five seconds of swirling logo isn’t a big deal for a one-off video, but it gets irritating fast if you’re shown it repeatedly every couple of minutes.

If possible, make each video able to stand alone. By that I mean try not to refer to the next or previous video, or the platform it’s on (e.g. ‘In this Udemy course…’). This is because you can then take a few videos out of a course and post them on YouTube or your blog and they will be of value in their own right, too. People are more likely to watch a video because it helps them with a problem they have right now than if it feels like an extended promo for your course. Also, if the videos don’t reference each other you’ve got much more flexibility in terms of breaking a large course down into smaller courses, rearranging videos within a course or deleting one if it becomes out of date.

5. Speaking

If you’ve not recorded your voice on video before, you’ll need some practice. Chances are you’ll need to speak more slowly, but with more energy and more volume. Yes, it feels really odd to do all of this at the same time!

If you’re buying or outsourcing videos, make sure the narration is clear and that you’d be happy to listen to that voice for the whole series. The voice needs to be engaging enough to hold the viewers’ attention but not distract from the content of the video.

6. Call to action

If it’s a video for marketing purposes, make sure you have a slide at the end telling viewers what they should do next e.g. sign up to your course or subscribe to your channel.

So you can see there’s quite a lot more to creating a good tutorial video than just hitting the record button!

If you don’t want to record your own videos, a couple of options are to have them custom-made for you, or you can buy the rights to videos made by someone else (often called PLR). Click here to find out more about PLR.

If you’ve already bought some PLR videos, I have some tutorials on how to brand them here.

Please share!

4 thoughts on “How to make (or buy!) a great tutorial video”

  1. Some great tips here, Helen. I have not tried video, or audio, in fact I cringe when I hear a voicemail I have left. But I know that if I want to use video in the future I will refer back to this post to remind myself.

    • Thanks Paul! It does get easier with practice, but I know many people are much happier writing than recording and I can understand why. 🙂

  2. Hiya!

    It’s been a while since I’ve done video (I used to do them weekly), but I haven’t done them for some time. I used to introduce my videos, all the same, way, regardless of the topic, but it makes sense to change that up from time to time — especially when offering a course!

    Love your tips! Very helpful. I will keep them in mind when I get back to creating new videos this year!

    – Bonnie

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