Videos for training have become very popular. They’re liked by the people who watch them, they’re effective and needn’t be expensive. But if you’re considering using training videos for employees, what should you be looking out for?

In this blog we’ll look at what are sometimes called explainer videos. These are a far cry from the corporate training videos of the past, such as Who Cares Wins which was used in the Training Day episode of The Office.

Explainer videos often follow a similar pattern. They start out with a problem and then go on to show how that problem can be solved, often with a product or a piece of software.

This is a good example from CommonCraft. It’s about social media and how it’s changed the way we do things and think about information. One thing I like about it is that it takes a long time (in video training terms) setting the scene. In fact, it’s at 1’38” that we hear what the problem is – that’s nearly halfway though the video. The rest of the video explains how the problem can be solved used social media.

Some videos miss this important step and start with something like ‘In this video we’ll look at how social media can be used to sell ice-cream… It may sound more efficient, but it’s rarely engaging. And you want engaging training videos, right?

This type of video is used both in marketing and in employee training videos and they have a lot in common, but there are some distinct differences too.

Marketing videos

Marketing videos are generally explaining what a product or service can offer you, and they real point of them is to get you to do something – usually buy something.

With that in mind, they set out the problem, and their product or service is the solution.

For the most part, they do this quite quickly. It’s cheaper and it’s easier to keep an audience engaged for a short time. If you had a budget of £10,000, you could make a more impactful 1 minute video than you could a video lasting 10 minutes. Of course, long form marketing videos are used, and especially on television, there are many examples of infomercials.

Marketing videos often use music to create an emotion to go alongside the video.

Here’s an example of the sort of music which is often used.  This ones from Audio Jungle (you can hear the audio ‘watermark’ as this is only a demonstration).

It’s pleasant, easy to listen to, fairly inspiring and cheap as chips $39 for 2 minutes. There are lots to choose from, but they do tend to sound a bit samey and repetitive after a while. That probably won’t be important on a short video, but if the video lasts more than 2 minutes, I’d be cautious.

This type of music is sometimes used while you’re on hold for a telephone call and if you’ve ever been on hold for more than a few minutes, you’ll know what I mean.

Training videos

Training videos come in all shapes and sizes, but in general they have a different focus from marketing videos – they want someone to learn or understand something rather than have them buy something.

Music is sometimes used, but unless it’s done right, it can really distract from the purpose of the video. For example if it:

  • drowns out the voice over or makes it hard to hear (this happens a lot)
  • mismatched in tempo – the voice is at one speed and the music at another
  • is just incidental music and is not tied into the video in any way.

When we made this video, which explains what we do and why we do it that way, we wrote the music to match the video. The voiceover comes in on the beat, when the video explains the benefits of our product, the music changes, and it all comes together at the end.

Types of explainer videos

Chalkboard videos

Typically, there’s a voiceover and you see a hand drawing images and writing words on a ‘chalkboard’. Here’ a great example. It’s had more than 16 million views on YouTube!

It’s very well done, but the interesting thing for me is, if you just listen, it’s just as effective. In other words, and this may be a personal thing, the animation adds very little to the overall experience.

One reason for this might be that the voice part is Sir Ken Robinson speaking and it’s excellent – it stands on its own. That suggests a couple of things. The content of the ‘script’ is important and so is the way it’s delivered.

I’ve seen a lot of this type of video, but rarely does the visual add anything. They’re used a lot, but maybe for the wrong reason. They can be the cheapest videos to produce.

Animated cartoon

Another popular type is the animated ‘cartoon’ type. CommonCraft, of which there was an example earlier, use handmade cut outs for their images which gives them a unique, and now often copied, look.

examples of commoncraft's images

There are many which are similar in style to this one:

They use what’s called vector graphics which have a similar flat look. It’s not unattractive, it’s simple to animate, but again the question is, does it add anything?

Yes, probably. But how much and is that worth the extra cost of production?

One thing I think this type of video misses out on is the lack of information which can be carried in the visuals.

They’re stock images. You can see lots of examples on stock art websites like Shutterstock

example of vector images

We’re very lucky in that we use an illustrator (Jane) who has her own style and she makes our videos unique. How else could you get an image of a bored looking robot?

Our Data Protection video is one of our longer ones, but you can’t explain everything you need to know about data protection into a 3 minute video. We tried. The first video we made was about data protection before GDPR and that was 5’40” It’s had over 170 thousand YouTube views and let’s face it, data protection isn’t everybody’s favourite topic.

Another benefit with using videos like this is that you can, and should, add captions.

These are used by people who have hearing loss, or where it’s not possible to listen to audio, for example, in some office environments.

They are also useful if you have people who don’t speak English as you can add captions in different languages. This one has captions in 17 different languages and has been used by global companies to explain what data protection is and how they must comply when dealing with European organisations.

You can also add ‘chapters’ and time markers to videos like this which allow the user to skip to different parts of the video with a click or a tap. You can see these links in the description if you watch the video on the YouTube page.

Distributing videos

When it comes to deploying or distributing videos, probably the best way is to embed them on a web page or intranet page, or within a piece of elearning as part of an online course. The videos that are on this page are all embedded.

The way I think of it is like this. It’s like putting a window in your page which shows an image or video which is actually sitting on a different website.

It’s really easy to do and we’ve created a video about embedding videos on our website here

Apart from being able to add captions, another big advantage of embedded videos is that they can use adaptive streaming. There’s also a video about this on the same page about embedding videos – just scroll down.

In short, clever software on the video server knows what type of device you’re watching on (e.g. smartphone, tablet, desktop) and also what your connection speed is. It then serves up the best size video for that device and speed. But there’s more…

If the connection speed changes, gets faster or slower, then it changes (adapts) the size of the video it delivers so you always get the best quality video for your device at your current connection speed.

You can see in the settings panel that the Quality is set to Auto. This means it will adapt automatically. You can also choose the quality from 240p (poorest) to 1080p (HD)

thumbnail of video showing quality settings

It’s the way YouTube works.

And you can also just send round links to people so that they go to the page where the video is embedded.

Of course, you can put a video file on a website, and it will play, but unless you have a special video server, you won’t be able to take advantage of adaptive streaming or captions.

It will mean that everyone, no matter what device they’re using will get the same version of the video which can mean a lot of bandwidth being wasted.

Be careful. Many people refer to what’s called a progressive download as streaming. Progressive download means that as you watch the video, you’re downloading the rest of the file. It’s not true streaming.

The cost of using video

The initial cost of having a video made can be expensive. But because we make training videos which focus on information that everyone needs to know, we’re able to offer our videos at an extremely low price. It saves waste.

A car company in Germany was having short 3 minute videos made at a cost of about £7,000-8,000 each. No one else could use those videos and they had a very limited usage. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’ve got the money. It’s just not a very efficient way of using that money. Which is ironic as the company is known for its engineering to be very efficient.

Similarly, in the UK a High Street in the UK paid over £10,000 for a 3 minute chalkboard video about money laundering. I wrote the script for that one and it didn’t have as much information about money laundering as our video does, and which would have cost hundreds instead of thousands.

Training videos can also save costs as they are able to get a lot of information across in a short amount of time, and therefore viewers need to spend less time away from their desk (i.e. not doing their normal work – it doesn’t mean literally away form their desk).

For example, say a standard piece of elearning lasts 25 minutes and the video equivalent lasts 5 minutes. By watching the video, each user would spend 20 minutes less ‘away from their desk’. That’s one hour for every 3 users. If there are 3,000 people who need to do the training that’s equivalent to 1,000 hours.

Here are some interesting figures from wyzowl about the costs of creating training videos.

Survey in February 2018

Price of a 60 second explainer video:

Lowest price $700

Highest price $72,000

Average price $7,972

This shows the distribution of costs across which companies are paying for a 60 second video. For example, 16 of the companies surveyed paid between $5,000 and $10,000 for 60 seconds of video.

grpah showing mhow much people people on videos


Engaging training videos can be a great asset to any training offering. But just because it’s video, doesn’t mean it’s great.

There are good and bad things to look for, and some of these are a question of taste.

Videos tend to be distributed to large groups of people and keeping costs down, if it means keeping the quality down, can be a false economy.

If you don’t have a massive budget but want to be able to use high quality videos as part of your training mix, have a look at the ones we have on offer on our Showreel page. You can watch them in their entirety and subscribe to them all, or to groups of videos.

If you would like any more information please get in touch, or a leave a comment below.

This is one of my all-time favourites. You learn a lot about how the echo feature works, it’s easy to follow and amusing. Is it marketing or training? I’d say both.