This article will go over techniques to make your videos more engaging. Collaborative studies have shown that students can be very forgiving when it comes to technical video quality if the instructor is genuine, passionate, and well-spoken. Additionally, years of analytics show that videos can only capture students' interest for so long; it's best to keep your one-speaker video content bite-sized and under ten minutes.
To help you re-shape your video content, we will provide general information on script writing, techniques and reasons to make a welcome video, guides to preparing your on-camera guests, and tips for performing in front of a camera and with microphones.
Interviews and conversations can be more engaging than a one-speaker video, as students can hear different perspectives, scholarly arguments, and potentially divergent opinions. Whether the conversation is recorded with video or is just audio, this type of content can and should be longer so that the participants have time to build rapport and get their points across. Additionally, interviews require less preparation and are usually performed without a script.
The script-writing and guest preparation should happen in the pre-production phase of your media development, and the performance tips are for when you are in production. Click here to further understand the different phases of media production.
Click here for Optimizing Video for Learning as written by Elizabeth Choe from MIT.
There are many reasons to write a script for your video. First, it allows you to concentrate on your performance when you are recording. Secondly, you can be very succinct and flawless with your language so that your content is better thought out, and in the end, your video is clean, to the point, and addresses the learning objectives. Lastly, your content will be consistent and easily updated in the future.
If you are collaborating with other people, it allows for a very transparent and clear storyboard so that supporting materials like images, graphics, and charts can be found or created.
Addressing an audience in a video is very different than giving a live lecture. Videos tend to have a lot more scrutiny since your audience is not in the room with you having a collaborative experience, they are staring at a screen and listening to you up close. If you consider that the most important part of your lecture is actually the verbal or audio portion, it corresponds that preparing that content should take the most time.
Tips for writing scripts:
- Be brief and to the point – Due to writing and production time, is in your best interest to keep your scripts short. If you are planning a lecture over 20 minutes long, then it might be better to use slides as a prompt and not write a script. You are at 20 minutes, it's possible your content can be further broken up to be more interactive.
- Tell stories and anecdotes – You bring your experience and perspective to the topic, make sure that shines through.
- Write how you speak – You want to sound and appear like you do in person, and you don’t want to sound like you are reading a research paper. A human connection is only possible if you sound genuine. Use humor, colloquialisms, and write to sound like yourself.
- Voice to text is a perfectly great way to start your script - Your phone and computer have tools to do this. The current version of Word has a dictation tool, as does Zoom.
- Keep your sentences short – when reading from a teleprompter or screen, it’s easy to lose your place in long sentences with a multitude of commas.
- Avoid lists - This content might then be better written down in your course or in a handout. If you must list steps, try to speak about it in paragraph form.
- Most people read about 180 words a minute - Use this Script Timer to see how long it will take you to perform your script.
- Writing scripts takes practice as does performing them - These are acquired skills that anyone can grow in, but they are skills, and they take time to improve.
- Have someone else read and edit your script.
Your Welcome Video will set the tone of your course for your students and be their first contact with you as an instructor. Whether your course is online, or a hybrid, the welcome video becomes the human touch stone for your course and will potentially can create a warm and inclusive feeling.
Your welcome video should not include any course logistics, syllabus material, or your resume/bio; we recommend that you keep that type of content written so that it can be easily referenced.
Think about your Welcome Video as a tool that will hook your students into who you are and what you love the most about teaching this course. Here are some question prompts for your Welcome video script:
- What is the story you love to tell when you lecture for this course?
- What moment/material in your course do students get most excited/inspired by?
- How has your course made a difference in students’ lives (e.g. chance to do a work project, helped them get a job or internship, etc.)?
- What is the best experience you’ve had teaching this material?
- How do your credentials relate to this course specifically?
Use your favorite of these five questions to guide you as you write the script for your Welcome Video. If you want to share information that is already available for your students to read in the course syllabus or your bio, only mention it if you feel it is essential to your students’ understanding of who you are and what you love the most about teaching this course.
- The language you write should feel natural to speak out loud--unlike other writing, scripts can and often should have a casual/conversational tone. Colloquialisms and slang are fair game here, since you’re aiming for a script that will sound authentic when you speak it.
- Use this Script Timer to help you keep your script to 2 minutes or less.
- With an average reading speed, you can expect 180 words per minute.
Preparing yourself for the camera or web-camera:
Your goal is to capture your authentic personality and perspective, and to help you to feel at ease so you can have fun with this process. If you have fun making media, that energy will shine through your content. It is very important to prepare prior to the recording. If you are recording at home, read this article for tips on how to best capture picture and sound.
- Create a script to solidify content length and clarity. It's really helpful to have one if you are having on off day or are feeling nervous.
- Practice what you will be saying in front of a mirror or friend; you can also use a tool like Zoom or Photobooth to record yourself, and practice what it’s like speaking into a microphone.
- If you’re planning on using the teleprompter, practice reading and performing the script so that you don’t sound like you’re reading. The goal is to make your performance fluid, natural, and interesting.
- Try to imagine an audience that just asked the question that you are answering. Occasionally look at the camera so that your students feel like you are looking at them.
- If using PowerPoint, practice with a clicker or a key on the keyboard, and the slides.
- Time yourself when you practice. Use this online tool to estimate how long your script will take to perform.
- You might get different results if you prefer to stand or sit. Standing is more energizing and might result in a better performance. Sitting might be more comforting. Either way, make sure you are not moving around in the frame.
Prepare your interviewees:
- Reach out to your guests and clarify what specific points you are hoping your students walk away with, and what tone you are hoping the interview or conversation to have.
- Regardless of whether you’re aiming for a more formal interview or a conversation, we find that the more you and your guest can share a relaxed, conversational tone, the more compelling your video will be to watch. Share this information with your guests and do what you can to increase your level of ease in talking with them.
- Share your questions with your guests ahead of time, so they can prepare for the recording.
- For interviews, it’s fine to bring and use notes, and let your guests know they can bring notes as well. Whether you are recording video or just audio, you and your guests can always pause to review your notes if you will be editing the content.
What to expect in a studio or on-location shoot:
Create a script to solidify content length and clarity. This way you can send a final version to your producer in advance, so they can load the teleprompter (if available) before you arrive.
- Since performing in a front of a camera is very different from lecturing to a classroom, your producer will be guiding you throughout the shoot to ensure that you look and sound great.
- You may need to turn off your cellphone.
- Before recording, the camera, lighting and sound crew will spend some time adjusting the set to making sure you look and sound great, so you may need to be patient while adjustments are made.
- You may be looking into the camera when you speak, and may have the option of using a teleprompter, which will scroll your script directly in front of the camera lens.
- You may be able to record multiple versions of your presentation, so you don’t have to worry about getting everything perfect the first time. If editing, footage from different 'takes' can be combined into a final video that captures your best takes.
What to wear in front of a camera:
- It’s best to dress professionally. This footage could be used for years.
- Color: Wear blue, brown, tans, greens, dark pinks and reds, and avoid really bright colors. On a webcam or cheaper cameras really tight patterns can create moiré - a distracting psychedelic effect.
- Structure: If you are concerned about wrinkles in your clothing, consider wearing something that has structure like a blazer or jacket.
- Makeup: Wear the makeup you normally wear, maybe a little bit more. On screen it tends to look less intense than in real life.
- Jewelry: Most jewelry is not a problem. Avoid jewelry that makes noise or is highly reflective. Avoid dangling earrings.
- Glasses: Avoid wearing glasses that have darkened lenses.
- Consult your producer for more details if going into a studio or on-location.