Many niches are perfect for successfully producing and selling how-to instructional videos. Not only do these types of videos lend themselves to straight forward shooting, they also target most audience’s sweet spots: giving them information that helps them achieve what they want.
Due to the popularity of this type of video on free sites such as YouTube, it’s easy to get discouraged about making money on the information you are giving them. Because of this, you have to up your game. Ask yourself the following questions. Are your instructional videos shot well? Do they offer detailed original tips, images, b-roll, insights, case studies, or analysis? Or did you just throw your videos together without much forethought, were you sloppy in shooting them or have you only provided regurgitated or vague information in an effort to chase after some hot niche?
So what can you do to produce instructional videos that benefit viewers and your exposure? Here are 9 tips to make sure you get it right.
- Give Quality Content – Provide viewers helpful, quality, and detailed information that gives them solutions to their needs and wants. Avoid regurgitating existing content you find on others videos or the Internet. Make your video comfortable to watch and to listen to.
- Get Prepared – Write well-designed, detailed video scripts even if you’ve been instructing and presenting on this topic for a long time. Once you get on camera, it is easy to forget key elements or fumble. If you don’t catch the errors until you are editing, it may be impossible to reshoot. If you are able to reshoot, it will look odd if most of your footage has a different look and sound than the previous shots. It’s tough to make something like that look planned or seamless.
- Explain in Detail – This is another good reason to prepare scripts beforehand. Your viewers mainly want the “need to know” details relevant to achieving their needs or wants. Avoid complex industry jargon to make sure your most basic viewers will understand. (Of course this depends on your intended audience.) To set yourself apart and to ensure your unique content is clear, you want to include specific steps, guidelines, precautions and your best tips. This is what will show your authority and expertise.
- Instruct Clearly and Patiently – Clearly guide your viewers through each corresponding step so they can follow along without having to revert back to a previous step. Start by telling them what they are going to learn by outlining the fundamental steps you’ll be covering in a sequential order, then go through each step. Finish the video by going over what they learned. Talk clearly and slowly but do put your personality into it so you don’t come across in a dull monotone delivery. If you are going to use a teleprompter, practice with it first so that you won’t look and sound as if you’re reading a script.
- Get Them Involved – Provide an exercise or two for them to do on their own. This can be a problem to solve, a fun activity, a survey, or steps to follow to achieve a desired end result. (The National Geographic show Brain Games does this well.) These don’t have to be on camera, in fact, if you offer them on your website, you give your viewer a reason to go there which not only helps your traffic, but is a good showcase for your authority on the subject. Exercises or assignments really help them solidify what you taught and gives them a direction on where to start.
- Leave the Fancy Shooting and Editing ALONE – Leave all of that for the movies. Stick to a basic shooting style, especially if your shooting skills aren’t that polished. People want your instructional video to help them, not overwhelm them. Also limit the amount of fancy editing tricks and font types. Your video will end up looking fragmented and amateurish.
- Share Yourself – Use your own experience when describing an instructional process. Think about the best ways you would follow through with your plan and be precise in your directions. Separate your ideas from the standard “industry ideas”, so your unique content makes an impact.
- Send Them to Your Website – Your instructional video should stand on its own; however, you can entice the reader to visit your website for even more in-depth information in the form of guides, diagrams, other videos, etc. by adding a call-to-action near the end.
- Include References – Your original content needs to be unique and the star of the video, but if it’s related and helpful, include other references. The instructions you give can be your own spin on a basic principle and having that backup to reference will give your viewers some assurance of your credibility.
An instructional video’s primary purpose is to educate people in a short and concise way that conveys useful information to support concepts and procedures. Cut and dry technical videos can be incredibly boring for both the viewer and producer. Use the above list to deliver unique instructional content that’s engaging and never leaves your audience hanging.
Now, back to the challenge of standing our from the ever growing library of free videos online. You need to package and promote your video as a professional product that rightly should be paid for. I pay for online guitar lessons all the time, even though there are plenty of free lessons available. The difference is in the way they are marketed, the quality of instruction and the fact that the instructor is a recognized expert. If you emulate this formula it will go a long way to making your products stand out. You can learn a lot more about marketing your video in our book, Shoot To Sell, Make Money Producing Special Interest Videos.
What do you do to make certain your instructional videos are engaging, unique, and assert your credibility? Share your tips in the comments section below!
So far I’ve covered 2 more guidelines in getting a good documentary interview: preparing and directing the person you are interviewing and asking the right questions. The 3rd and last guideline in my series on shooting documentary style interviews involves how you respond to what the interviewee is saying. Responding to the questions and getting a powerful interview requires you to listen and be engaged in what the person is saying.
You may be nervous too but it is important to put that aside and be focused and engaged in the interview and not just be the person who is reading the questions aloud and waiting for the answer to end to ask the next one. Keep in mind that it’s easy to “tune out” while you wait for him or her to finish so you can move on to your next question without you really listening to what is being said. When that happens, important followup questions may not be asked. Make sure you are having a 2 way conversation.
If the interviewer is not on camera, it is important that person keeps quiet when the other person is talking. You don’t want there to be other sound in the background. (Watch out for the “hmmmm”, “Oh right..”) It’s good for the interviewer to nod, and make gentle facial expressions, just have him or her stay silent. NOTE: If you or the interviewer are part of the story and the camera has both of you in the shot, then responding as you would in a normal conversation is okay and makes sense.
But whatever you do, don’t interrupt and talk over the person. I feel one of the worst things you can do as an interviewer is take over the interview yourself. I really hate those “news” shows where they do that. I really want to hear what the person has to say. The more they talk – the better interview you’ll get. While it’s important to converse, being rude and interrupting isn’t valuable to your audience.
Make sure you refer to those follow up questions you came up with when you were preparing your questions. You should have come up with 2 or 3 possible followup questions to ask, depending on the answer. This really helps if the conversation is dragging and/or you’re not really getting what you want from the interviewee.
Before you ask your questions, think how you can phrase them in a way that will allow the interviewee to expand. For example, asking the person, “Why are you so passionate about this [subject]?” is good but rephrasing it like this, “What are the three top reasons we need to learn about this [subject]?” will probably result in a more powerful and well thought out answer. This may take more time and require retakes, but it will be so worth it in the end.
Seek to understand what your interviewee is saying. While you want to understand the topic or what’s happening, like what did this person do and why is it important to share, it is much more interesting, both for you as the interviewer and your audience to know why does this person do what they do, and how. Study some professional interviewers like Oprah or Barbara Walters. You’ll notice that they ask questions to learn not just the what but also the how and why of the person or process. They know that to fully understand everything, their audience will be more engaged and interested.
You want emotion to come through. The best way to do this is to wait until the person finishes his or her response to ask another question. Also don’t stop filming when the interview is “over” – some of the best stuff happens if you continue with the conversation. This is especially important when you have someone who is nervous and never got quite comfortable with the interview. Here’s a trick: When you’re done with your official questions, say “OK, that’s the end of the interview” but make sure the camera continues to roll. Psychologically, the person no longer feels the “pressure” of the interview and may loosen up. This may be when you’ll get the best stuff.
Most of all, don’t forget who you are conducting this interview for. Your audience. Enlightening your audience should be your number one priority. You want to get answers that are meaningful from the person you’re interviewing that will serve those who will consume that content.
To get what you need from your interviewee, you need to ask the right questions. This is the 2nd guideline in my series on shooting documentary style interviews.
In order to do this, you need to think about what you want to get from the person you are interviewing. First off, prepare a list of 5 to 10 flexible and open-ended questions. This will be your “script” for the shoot and take the interview from start to finish. For each question you should come up with 2 or 3 possible followup questions that might be suitable to ask, depending on the answer. You probably won’t ask them all, but they will be a good reminder just in case the perfect opportunity comes up to dig deeper.
To devise your questions, think in terms of how, why, when, where or what. “How did you get started in this business?” “Why is [topic] so important?” You get the idea. Develop 3 or more themes for your subject to touch on.
While it is important to prepare, you also need to plan on being spontaneous. For a better interview, allow yourself to veer off from questions if the interviewee says something interesting or unexpected that you’d like to explore further. These unplanned “spontaneous” questions and answers can be more powerful than what you had prepared.
When you start recording, ask your questions in a way to ease the person being interviewd into what you want him/her to discuss. Ask him what he had for breakfast, where she is from, how many kids in his family.. anything to get the person talking and comfortable. You’ll gradually lead to more complex questions.
As far as the questions themselves, here are a few basic rules:
Don’t ask YES or NO questions.
Don’t ask more than one question at a time and wait until the person fully answers that question before you jump in with another one.
Phrase the questions in a way that will allow the interviewee to expand on his/her answer. Feel free to delve deeper. Now is the time to use those follow up questions you prepared.
Have the person repeat your question, especially if you will have no narration for your video. This will help you with the video editing and storytelling later during the editing process. For example, you ask, “When did you start to realize that something was wrong?” The interviewee says, “When did I start to realize that something was wrong? It was about a week after I talked to the doctor that I noticed a weird sensation in my fingers.”
Allow for an awkward pause or dull moment. Also, if the person messed up, let him/her start again with the answer.
Do not be disrespectful the person you’re interviewing. You want a person to open up and talk to you, not shut down and possibly not giving you permission to include him/her in your video.
Be aware of breathing or making noises into your microphone while the other person is talking.
Ask the interviewee if he/she has something more to say or didn’t cover as well as he/she would have liked