Avoid an Ad Hoc Approach to Making Training Videos

Monday, August 28, 2017

If there’s one thing I know how to do well, it’s make coffee. And I can do it in my sleep, without thinking. Which, invariably, I do.

Every morning at a quarter to six, I shuffle down to the kitchen to brew a coffee for my wife and me. I fill the kettle, grind the beans, and pull out my coffee press to create this morning elixir.

I make my coffee fast, like a well-oiled machine. First, I fill the kettle so I can grind the beans and get the coffee press ready, while the water is coming to the boil.

Doing it in this sequence is quicker than assembling everything and then boiling the water. As well as being quicker, this morning routine ensures my cup of joe is the same—just the way I like it—each morning.

My coffee brewing success comes down to the fact I have established an effective work flow. A work flow for routine tasks such as making coffee speeds things up and ensures consistent quality.

Work Flow Helps When Making Training Videos

I meet a lot of trainers who find it challenging to consistently make high-quality video. Sure, some of their videos are really engaging. But they struggle to ensure that most of their videos are high quality.

One reason many struggle is they don’t have a production work flow. They approach the making of video in an ad hoc manner. Just as my simple coffee work flow speeds up coffee making, a production work flow can also prevent mistakes, ensure consistency, and free your mind from the routine tasks to focus on being creative.

Good production work flows are fine-tuned to save time by establishing an effective order in which to complete tasks. For example, when I brew coffee, I boil the water first. This gives me time to complete other tasks as it boils.

When it comes to video, completing tasks like paperwork before you go and film can save time in the long run, over doing paperwork two weeks later. And, just as I emphasize in my books, Rapid Media Development for Trainers and Rapid Video Development for Trainers, drawing a storyboard before writing a script can lead to better content. It’s an old trick I learned when I was at the BBC.

When you consistently follow a work flow, each step and the sequence you complete it in becomes a habit. You don’t waste time wondering what’s next—it’s automatic. This makes it fast, effective, and less stressful.


Work Flows Are Important for Teams

Work flows are especially important when working in a production team. When everyone follows the same sequence and approaches the same tasks in the same way, it becomes easier to work together, fill in for one another, and keep quality standards consistently high.

Until about five years ago, most of my work was providing media training and consulting to newspapers and broadcasters. The most effective media companies I worked with—ones that consistently turned out top-notch content—had well-defined work flows.

The media companies that struggled and did not meet these high standards generally had an ad hoc approach to production. Oh, and their coffee is usually poor, too. But that’s another story.

There’s no one work flow to follow for making video, but a number of general principles will ensure your work flow is effective. Many organizations will tailor a work flow to their culture and infrastructure. But work flows are not intuitive to everyone, especially for folks who are new to media.

Below is the eight-step process I teach in my rapid video workshops for trainers and learning professionals. I write about it in my books, and it’s a framework that you may find helpful. It’s a work flow that I’ve seen many clients use to speed up their video production and improve its quality.

Rapid Media Work Flow

  1. Define the objective and create a learning persona. Every editorial decision you make should answer the question, “Does this help my learner achieve the objective?”
  2. Break content down into knowledge and skill chunks. This is where you get to know the topic inside out. It also helps you prepare for step five.
  3. Determine whether video is indeed the best medium for the topic. Video is ideal for topics where learners need to see something to learn. It’s not so good, though, for abstract topics with lots of detail. If video is not the ideal medium, consider recording a podcast or writing a job aid.
  4. Identify which devices learners will watch the video on. We need to plan, shoot and edit video with a mind for the screens that learners will watch it on. For example, video for mobile phones should follow some conventions that desktop video does not need to.
  5. Plan the content. This is where you take the knowledge chunks from step two and put them into a structure, conduct research, draw storyboards, write the script, and complete administrative tasks, such as clearing copyright permissions where necessary.
  6. Prepare the production. At this point the video has been conceptualized and planned. Now it’s time to prepare the production. This includes creating shot plans, scouting the location, getting permission to film on location, and checking that the equipment is charged and in working order.
  7. Create the content. This is what most people associate with video: filming. In reality, filming is the part of the process we spend the least amount of time on, except when we’re winging it—and winging it never guarantees good content.
  8. Edit the video. At this stage, everything comes together and each shot is cut together to create a final video package.

Consistently Making Good Video Is Complex

Some people think that good training videos can happen at the snap of the fingers. Grab a camera and start filming. But when you take an ad hoc approach and forget important preparatory steps, you leave things to chance and spend more time correcting preventable mistakes.

One of the really neat things about a work flow is that once you learn it, you start following it automatically, like the way I make my coffee each morning. And it frees you up to be creative with the learning content.

Rapid Media Certificate Program

If you’d like to learn this process in detail, sign up for the ATD’s Rapid Video for Learning Certificate Program on September 14-15. This is the last public workshop on the rapid media technique running this year. Participants receive a free copy of the go-to book for trainers on making training videos, Rapid Video Development for Trainers.

About the Author
Jonathan Halls is an author, trainer, and coach. He wrote Rapid Video Development for Trainers (ATD Press, 2012) and was a contributing author to Speak More (River Grove Books, 2012) and the ATD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development 2nd Edition (ATD Press, 2014). He is author of the ATD Infoline, “ Memory & Cognition in Learning” (ATD Press, 2014) and has written numerous articles for T&D magazine. Jonathan is an ATD BEST Awards reviewer and has sat on the advisory committees for the ASTD International Conference & Exposition and TechKnowledge.

The former BBC learning executive now runs workshops in media, communication, leadership, and creativity. He is on faculty at George Washington University and facilitates ATD’s Master Trainer Program ™, Training Certificate and Rapid Video for Learning Professionals Certificate program. Jonathan has been training, speaking, and coaching for 25 years in more than 20 countries. He describes his work as “at the intersection of media, communication, learning, leadership, and innovation.”
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