What to look for in training videos

There’s been an increase in the number of training videos being produced recently. So here’s a quick overview of what we we think is important and why.
Just to be clear, we’re talking about videos which are primarily used for training. There are a lot of videos which look very similar, but are basically marketing or promotional videos. In fact our promotional video has many of the same features as our explainer videos, but there are some distinct differences which we’ll go into later.

Generally speaking people like to keep training videos short. Three minutes is a good length, ours often go up to five minutes, but we do cover quite a lot material. If the video goes over five minutes make sure it’s got something to say. Actually, a lot of videos run out of steam after about a minute. The important thing, rather than the length itself is whether the video is keeping your attention.


Probably the hardest part of creating a training video is getting the content right. We spend a long time making sure a script covers the material we feel is important to everyone, that it flows from one topic to another – and we can do this visually.

A video with a voice over has uses about 200 words a minute, so that’s about 600 words in a three minute video. Having a clear idea of what the video needs to get across and then explaining it clearly and efficiently is what we aim for. Don’t be afraid to ‘kill any darlings‘. A lot of darlings are killed in the making of our videos!


Images are clearly important and all ours are hand drawn or created. We reuse some, such at the smartphone image, but generally use as many unique images as are needed. There are two things that we try and avoid in our imagery.
The typical, smart, attractive, smiling person used in a lot of elearning courses and perhaps epitomised by the image used in this blog. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just been overused. This type of imagery is often said to have a serious, professional, corporate look.

The obvious metaphor. It’s sometimes very tempting to go for an image which suggests itself and is very obvious, but if it’s that obvious, is it actually adding anything to the story?

Look for videos where images really help illustrate what’s happening and are not just there make the video look nice – nothing wrong with it looking nice, but images can do so much more.


Strange though it may seem, the voice over is probably more important in a video than the actual visuals. A poorly recorded audio track can be hard to listen to, if it sounds like a person is reading a text they don’t really understand, listeners won’t believe what they’re saying. I saw a very impressive video recently which obviously took a lot of time and large budget to produce. About a minute in the audio said something like ‘if you work with desperate systems’, when if should have said ‘if you work with disparate systems’. It’s hard to then believe what you’re being told – even if you want to.

Many people like the RSA videos such as this one http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc and I do too. Personally, though it’s the voice that makes the video, not the animation. When you get a really good speaker such as Dan Pink or Sir Ken Robinson, they are masters at delivering interesting talks and that’s what, in our view, really makes the difference.

Something which we’re seeing more and more is, in our opinion, the overuse of animation. Images flying in and out very quickly, and often for no apparent reason. This can soon become very distracting. The power of images comes when they are reinforcing what is being said.


Pace is a really tough one, but it’s not just about the speed of delivery, it’s also about the speed at which information is presented. You can put a lot of information into a very short video, but the viewer can soon become overloaded.

Sound effects

There’s good research that shows that sound effects distract listeners and make learning harder, yet people still use them. There’s a difference between background, ambient sounds and sound effects, so again, do the effects add anything – really?


This is one area where promo and training videos vary. Promo videos generally want to create mood – banjos are often used for this as you rarely have a sad piece of banjo music! Training videos can benefit from this but here are some considerations.

One piece of music might inspire one person and out another off. In terms of: like, neutral and dislike, there will be more people who are neutral or dislike the music than like it. So there’s a good chance you’re more likely to alienate people than help them.

Unless music is written especially for a piece, it’s likely to be very repetitive. This might work for a short one minute video, but repetition can become annoying very quickly.

Don’t let the music dominate the speech. I know it sounds obvious, but it happens. It’s always a good idea to monitor audio through different speakers and headphones so that you can hear what others will hear. Also, get someone else to listen to your work before publishing as your ears are like colanders and can let through what you know – if you’re familiar with what’s being said, you can hear it clearly, others may not.


Captions are really important. They make it possible for people with hearing loss to access your training, will improve your ranking on websites and also make your video easier for people whose first language isn’t the same as that used in the video

YouTube will add captions based on voice-to-text software. These are useful as they do most of the work, but you will need to correct these before sharing your video or run the risk of 1) showing that you don’t care enough to do the job properly 2) appear as though you’re saying something insulting or ridiculous. To see examples search Twitter for #captionfail