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Key principles to apply to get your audience hooked on your learning videos

Abstract

Software vendors constantly struggle with the production of engaging learning material. Poor engagement leads to poor enablement, which correlates to lower software adoption and a drop in renewals. The challenges are well known. Learners are busy, have a short attention span, and get bored easily. With an abundance of learning content available, they gravitate to the most convenient and easy to consume option, which leaves your officially provisioned content unwatched. Below are the key principles my team practices daily to create engaging videos.

Introduction

When supporting software product enablement, the primary focus is on scalable production of quality content tied to software updates. This means you have to balance keeping the production lean with keeping the content engaging. We have found the following principles to be the most important to follow:

  • Know your audience
  • Be on point
  • Standardize your production values
  • Continuously analyze your audience

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Disclaimer: This is not a how-to guide for making videos with Hollywood productions, but rather a useful start to get you on the way to creating engaging enablement content for a software vendor.

 

Know your audience

Who are you talking to? What is their level of expertise? What are their intent and role?
The most common way of structuring the content is per learners’ roles, but pick any industry, and you’ll find that the roles constantly evolve.
A learning experience platform enables personalized content curation, based on learner profile, past courses, learning style, systems they use, etc. But that requires technology. What remains constant is learner motivation; decide on one of the following generic categories before preparing your video narration (script):

  • Decision makers – general audience seeking information, prospects, executives, analysts, e.g., Your product capability, Cooking basics (flavors, shapes, preparation time);
  • Experts – technical audience seeking an explanation, consultants, developers, e.g., Module configuration, A deep dive into the chemistry of al dente pasta;
  • Doers – business practitioners seeking guidance, end-users, e.g., How to use an application to achieve business tasks, How to cook pasta;

 

Be on point

Impatient learners (your customers!) demand that you condense and fragment your content. You must be very disciplined, on point, and engaging. Don’t go off on tangents, state exactly what learners have to know, in as few words as possible. The longer your video is, the harder it becomes to keep your audience. Stick to this rule of thumb for video lengths:

  • 12-14min if you introduce a new topic, a complex topic, or you want comprehensive coverage, e.g., Promotions Overview, or Cooking;
  • 5-6min if it covers a known topic, or is part of a bigger module, e.g., Configuring Promotion Bundles, or Cooking Pasta; 
  • 2min if it’s an objective-driven video, part of a video series, or an online course, e.g., Create A New Promotion, or Boiling Noodles. 

 

Standardize your production values

With the abundance of information, learners have a choice, and they’ll opt for convenience over knowledge accuracy. They will consume any content, even without your corporate context as long as it’s easier to consume. We have found that the best performing (most engaging) videos have the following traits:

  • Good audio – no background hum, no clicking of a keyboard or mouse, no other random noises, breaths. Make your audio sound very professional through a good mic and recording in a quiet place; Then use Noise Reduction, Compression, and Normalize (to -3db) effects in your audio editor;
  • Clear structure – make learning comfortable by having a short non-invasive intro, subtle branding, consistent flow, style of icons, diagrams, etc. Use a template to keep it consistent across all videos, e.g., First, this is what the feature is for, second, here is why or when you would use it, then, here is how you use it (steps involved/demo), and these are the results;
  • Good speaker’s pace – slow down and use intentional voice inflection, especially when delivering a key message. Avoid speaking too fast and with a monotonous voice;
  • Unique thumbnail – this is the proverbial “picture that is worth a thousand words”. Pick a picture that highlights the key message of your video. Don’t create a clickbait that doesn’t relate to the video content.

 

Continuously analyze your audience

Observe, learn, adapt, repeat. You constantly need to improve your delivery to keep learners’ attention. If your platform doesn’t have analytics, get one that does. This will allow you to test your ideas by running experiments. E.g., A/B testing for new templates and descriptions. Turn every successful experiment into recommended practice. The following metrics will help you measure the quality of your content:

  • Play to Impression – i.e., Video Plays vs. Video Page Loads. Reflects how appealing your title, thumbnail, and video description are.
  • Average Video Completion Rate 0-100% – i.e., how much of your video learners watch before they leave. E.g., 50% of 1min video means learners only watched the first 30s and then left.
    • Early drop-offs (under 20%) usually indicate a mismatch of expectations and content, e.g., wrong thumbnail or title;
    • Late drop off (30-50%) usually means boring content;
    • 75%-100% is the sweet spot, learn from these top performers;
    • Some video platforms provide values over 100% when learners re-watch sections of a video. That could mean an important content but an unclear explanation;
  • Watch the Trends – check how many viewers dropped off between 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, and 75-100% of each video (don’t average!). If you see uneven distribution, i.e., a significant number of viewers dropping off in one of the sections, that usually indicates a content flaw in that part of the video.

 

The summary:

This is not an exhaustive list. In the fight to keep learner attention, you will have to pull more tricks out of your sleeve. Sticking to these key principles will give you a head start. To see our examples, visit our enable.cx video platform.

Oh, the irony! This post is too long.

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