3 Skills You Need to Train with Video

Video guru and ATD Master Trainer Jonathan Halls shares the 3 skills needed to start using video for your training content.

Published on 8 July, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022

Video offers powerful opportunities to make learning available anytime, anywhere and on any device.  Yet creating content for instructional videos requires a set of skills that the average instructional designer or trainer probably wasn’t taught in college. But fear not!  Most have already learned some of the basics.  

Instructional design provides the perfect grounding for planning video, especially breaking content into chunks, and structuring so it’s easy to learn.  Without these skills, no matter how good you are with technology, you’d be struggling to create engaging learning video.

If you’re starting out making video or are just keen to refine your skills, here are three principles to help make content that leads to learning.

Skill #1: Use pictures to tell stories

The first skill you need to learn is how to use pictures to tell stories. Good training already uses stories, so now you just have to translate the stories into interesting visuals.

This is storyboarding. Map out each shot of your video so you have a clear picture of what you want it to look like and note how the action should move in each frame . Do this before you even pick up a camera.  This will train your mind to think visually and save you time when shooting the video.

Skill #2: Write for pictures

Remember the last time you watched the weather forecast on the news. Do you remember what the weather person said? Now, do you remember what you saw on the screen?

I asked this question recently at a conference.  About 500 people put their hands up.  They told me they remembered the rain clouds or little suns on the screen. However, only four people put their hands up to say they could remember what the weather person actually said.  Pictures in video carry most of the message, not words.  People pay far more attention to the visuals than to the audio.

So get into the habit of relying on your pictures to get your message across.  This is not easy if you’re a good writer because your instinct will be to focus on the words.  But you viewer won’t be focusing on them so perhaps it’s not the best use of time.  Ask, is this the best picture to get my message across?  Can I add to it or take something out of the frame to make it quicker to understand?  Telling stories with pictures is one of the more difficult skills to learn, but as you practice, the better you’ll get.

Story in Video for Learning and DevelopmentSkill #3: Video grammar

Languages have grammar to help us understand each other. TV and film have created a similar grammar for video over the past 80 years to make the viewing experience smooth and easy to follow.

It‘s important to learn the rules of visual grammar which will help you frame your shots so they pack a punch and are easier to understand.  These rules will help you cut them together so your video is more powerful. You can find these rules online, in books and of course I teach them in my workshops.

L&D professionals come into video with perfect foundational skills that makes it less of a steep learning curve than it is for other disciplines. What’s important is to take those skills of chunking and structuring content and learning the language of pictures.  

– by Jonathan Halls, Founder, Jonathan Halls & Associates

Hear more from Jonathan Halls on our webinar, “How to Create Fast and Affordable Training Videos” or from this blog post.

Jonathan Halls is the author of Rapid Video Development for Trainers (ATD Press 2012) and Video Script Writing (Talkshow Media 2015).  He is a trainer, coach, and consultant on digital media, leadership, communication, and learning. Formerly a learning executive at the BBC, Jonathan has worked as a journalist, talk show host and trainer. He has delivered seminars & speeches in more than 25 countries. He delivers seminars and keynotes around the world and teaches at George Washington University in the USA. He is currently working on a new book due out in the fall published by ATD Press on creating digital media content for learning using audio, video and text.

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