A while ago, in our Internal Company Videos blog, we mentioned that “training your employees with video is powerful and cheap.”

While this is true, we all know the horrors of a poorly designed tutorial. Although video engages more than text on a page, you can still make a boring video that doesn’t get information across well. Since there are so many different kinds of  “How To” videos floating around, we wanted to ask:

What actually makes a great training video?

1. Story

The human mind is wired for stories. Think of the game Space Invaders – I could spend hours telling you about how it works (i.e. you press this button and the graphic on the screen does this…) or I could say “you’re a spaceship shooting rocks in space.” Both methods communicate the same information, but you retain the latter much better because of the context of story.

According to Vox’s Explained documentary series, memory “experts” (people who compete in memory challenges) remember things much better when they think of them in the context of a story. Rather than brute-force memorizing a list of 100 numbers, these people stitch together a bizarre story that helps them remember these numbers in the proper order.

Thus, the first order of business when you’re creating a training video is to give it a story. Check out the YouTube premium video Could You Survive Ghostbusters? – the story that enwraps the learning experience is nicely suited to help you retain the information. If you only take one thing from this article, this may be the most important point.

2. A Strong Script

I know it’s basic, but don’t just improvise in your video. Make sure that you’ve nailed down and thought through all of the content that you need to cover. Much like developing a powerpoint for a public presentation, you want to have a nicely written script to guide your training.

Write with purpose and directness. Speak clearly. Spice it up by tossing in a few jokes. Make sure it’s clear and concise. Then, you’re ready to go.

3. It’s Short

Videos that drag on are the worst. Especially without a story or engaging script, you’ll find yourself checking your watch and hoping to be finished soon. Therefore, it’s essential to keep your video short.

The video that introduces our blog page is only 32 seconds long. Whatever you’ve got to say, tighten it down to the essential bits. And keep it short.

4. Multiple Angles and Engaging Edits

We’ve all seen videos that are shot from one angle and go on for 16 minutes straight. If the presenter is engaging, you might stick around, but you’ll more than likely begin to doze off. Video is a visual medium, after all, so use it to its fullest for the best results!

Use interesting visuals and a variety of angles. It’s boring to just look at someone from the waist up for an hour – why not experiment with a few wide shots and close ups? If you’re doing a video on food, for example, why not give us some really tight shots on the food itself?

Use video the way that you expect a movie to look. This will guarantee that your training video rises above the masses of boring, one-shot tutorials. The YouTube channel Crash Course does a great job of this in their series on Navigating Digital Information; check it out!

5. A Non-Distracting Environment

A simple point, you want to ensure that wherever or however your video is filmed does not take away from your content. You want a simple, nice background with good lighting and audio (as opposed to filming outside next to a highway).

Take care that viewers won’t look at your background and ask “why’s that thing there?” or “is that a wall socket?” Don’t jump in to your video with a spaghetti stain right in the middle of your shirt. Even take care that any picture frames in the background are exactly horizontal – a slight tilt can be infuriating.

6. Graphics (if possible)

As I said before, video is a visual medium, so don’t just talk at your audience. Rather, make an effort to make everything as visual as you can. Whether this means a well-made animated video, like Kurzgesagt’s “In a Nutshell” series, or something else, you want to build visual grammar that will communicate your points well.

Use visual principles to engage your audience. Use colors and framing to pull your viewers in rather than pushing them away. If you do this, you’ll guarantee that your video stands out in a good way.

So that’s what makes a great training video. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a great place to start. If you take these 6 pieces seriously, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where most tutorial videos currently stand. Happy training!