Instructional videos are invaluable tools for businesses. They can assist with employee training or teach customers how to use a product or service. They can also provide important information for clients or outline company policies for personnel. Remote work is a more acceptable norm as of late, so engaging and accessible instructional videos are a must. And creating those videos is a skill the post can help you master.

In this post, we’ll go over some important details you need to consider before you begin producing your instructional video. Then, we’ll cover the different aspects and options of the video itself. 

What is the Purpose and Who is the Target Audience for the Video?

The first questions you should askyourself are: What do you intend to accomplish with this video, and who is going to watch it?

Is this a how-to video meant to provide step-by-step instructions on how to use your company’s product or service? Does it need to be a longer in-depth series of tutorials on using software? Or is it meant for internal use? Are you training employees with a specific skill, or informing them about company policies and practices?

Once you know who you’re making your video for and why, then you can begin to plan how you’re going to achieve it.

How Long Should an Instructional Video Be?

One of the biggest considerations is the length of your video. As a general rule of thumb, shorter is better. People typically prefer instructional videos to be under 20 minutes in length. And the 3- 6-minute range is ideal, according to TechSmith.

Once a video exceeds 20 minutes, viewer retention drops off steeply. That being said, sometimes the learning objective calls for a longer video. If that’s the case, it’s better to break up a longer video into smaller segments.

Work Off of a Script

You need a script. This applies to voiceovers, on-camera lines, and visual text. A script will help you stay organized and figure out how long your video should be and what elements it needs. Even if you’re just planning to do a screencast, it helps to have your talking points mapped out. Ad libbing will only lead to mistakes that require retakes and consume more of your time.

The script is where the structure of your video really takes shape. Start with a clear outline of the main points you want to cover, and organize them in an order that fits with your topic. After you have the main idea, you can flesh out specific wording. Remember: you are telling a story.

Looking at Examples

1. Explainer Videos

A common type of instructional video is an explainer video. It provides information about a specific topic. In other cases, it may explain a company’s service or product.

The following example is an animated explainer video for a digital marketing consultancy company. Its main objective is to explain how it assists clients with their small businesses through digital marketing strategies.

The structure of this video is built around a story about one business owner, Rob. Introducing a character and telling a story is an effective approach to getting information across. It is a simple structure that introduces the character’s problem (lagging sales for his business), then the solution (going to the digital marketing consultants for advice), and, lastly, the results (increased online visibility and sales).

A video like this does not try to explain every aspect of the company’s service. Instead, it provides a general overview of the service it provides, highlighting a few examples, while moving the story along.

This video was created with animation software developed by Toonly. There are several animation programs available with similar features, including Vyond and Powtoon. These types of programs are meant for beginners and provide stock characters, settings, and props to quickly make engaging animated videos that look professional.

The majority of the information in the video is delivered via voiceover, while the animation grabs the viewer’s attention and delivers a few details using text supers.

In this case, the video serves as an advertisement for a company’s service, but the style and approach could just as easily be applied to other use cases.

For more information about creating animated videos, check out our previous blog post on the topic.

2. Screencasting

Screencasting is a low-cost production method for creating instructional videos that aim to demonstrate computer software or website functionality. Essentially, a screencast mimics the experience a viewer would have on their computer using a specific program or visiting a given website.

A screencast lends itself to showing a linear process such as step-by-step or how-to instructional videos, as well as more in-depth tutorials. The easiest way to screencast is simply by hitting the “record screen” button with free programs like QuickTime. Accompanied by recorded audio, screencasts are a relatively quick, easy way to demonstrate a process. They also don’t require much editing.

Screencasting is so easy to produce, you may be tempted to jump right in and start creating a video on the fly. However, writing it all out beforehand and scripting the audio will make for a much better video. For more tips on how to screencast, see our blog post on how to make a professional screencast video.

You will find it useful to have reference points, such as an outline that accompanies the video so viewers can skip ahead or go back, and so they’ll be able to easily navigate to specific steps or sections. This is especially useful for longer videos.

Screencasts can also be used for advertising purposes by educating your viewer about your product.

The following example utilizes screencasting combined with still images to demonstrate usage of a workflow management program.

The video uses still images and a voiceover to introduce three main areas in which the product is able to help the viewer. This is a good way to provide a polished looking intro before going into the screencast.

The screencast begins with a demonstration of one of the program’s features, spending less than a minute before moving back to still images. For demo video purposes, it’s useful to break up a screencast with fresh looking images and keep the pace of the video moving along. This process is repeated until all three features of the workflow program are shown. 

3. Recording a Live Speaker

Recording someone on camera showing how to complete a process or explain a specific topic is a more traditional approach to making an instructional video, but it is also potentially the most labor intensive (and expensive) if you want to do it right.

It can also be as simple as hitting “record” with a smartphone camera, but the results will typically look amateur.

The following example is a video recorded with a person on camera providing management advice for onboarding best practices. 

The structure of this video is fairly straightforward and simple. The person on camera states the intent of the video is to introduce the company’s service, which is providing consultation on workflow management for the onboarding process. She then goes on to explain different aspects of the process, breaking up her talking points into groups of three.

Most of the video uses footage of the speaker, with some b-roll of office workers. To cut back on production costs and reduce the need for animation, the company’s workflow strategies are displayed on a white board placed in the shot behind the speaker. Apart from being informative, the whiteboards make for useful footage that gives interest to the visuals. Aside from that, there are some very simple animated transitions between shots.

Choosing a Style and Format That Works

Hopefully seeing these different examples of these instructional videos gives you a better idea of the options available to you. Ultimately, choosing a style and format that works with your budget and objective is integral when providing the information you want in the most effective and engaging way possible.

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