15 Invaluable Lessons I learnt from creating 1,227 Online Video Tutorials

online courses, online training, ramgopal, video tutorials

I teach PowerPoint to Business Professionals.

I have a YouTube channel called Presentation-Process, with more than 500 Video tutorials on PowerPoint Tips and Tricks.

I have a Mastery Training program with more than 650 Step by Step Video tuts on PowerPoint Techniques.

When you count the videos on my other programs and blogs – you can easily find a couple hundred more tuts.

If the comments from my YouTube Viewers and countless paid students are anything to go by – I seem to have done a decent job of giving clear instructions in my video lessons.

YouTube Comments

In this post, I’ve listed the 15 useful lessons I picked up, in all those years hitting ‘Record’ ‘Pause’ and ‘Play’ buttons with gusto.

#1: Define a small manageable scope for the tutorials

It takes a lot of effort to follow along video tutorials. Especially when you are a beginner.

Your students need to watch your entire video once. Then watch it again while pausing the video multiple times at each stage. It takes a ton of patience and commitment on their part.

So, when you try to teach something fancy and elaborate on a single long video tutorial – you end up overwhelming your learners.

When they give up on a tutorial, they give up on you too. You don’t want that.

You want them to win, so they come back to you over and over.

  • Action: Define the scope of your tutorials carefully. Aim to teach one useful technique per video.

#2 Show them the end result – first

Did you ever try to solve a jigsaw puzzle?

It’s quite a frustrating experience especially when you are racing against time.

But, when you take a quick glimpse of the solved puzzle – your task becomes infinitely easier.

The same thing goes for your video tuts too.

Whether you want to teach them how to create a graphic, draw a sketch or program a code – when you start your lesson by showing them how the end result looks – you make the job of your learners a whole lot easier.

  • Action: Start your tutorials by showing the end result of what they’ll achieve by following your instructions.

#3 Always start from Scratch

I start every one of my graphic design video tutorials from a blank slide.

When you teach a large audience, you can’t assume any prior knowledge of the subject you are about to teach.

So, start from zero.

I know, it’s quite hard to do so, especially when you’ve mastered the subject. But then, ‘curse of knowledge’ is a real thing.

  • Action: Start your instructions from a blank slide (or its equivalent in your industry)

#4 Clearly mention the Steps as you click the buttons

In Techsmith blog (the company that owns the awesome Camtasia Studio – the screen recording software I use and recommend) – I saw an instructional video that said – “You don’t have to spell out every step of what you do, because your audience is anyway watching your screen”.

My experience however shows this approach is wrong!

Your audience expects you to spell out every step for them – no matter how small and insignificant the step may appear to you.

Every time I violated this simple rule – my viewers promptly let me know something was missing. It happened too often to ignore.

  • Action: Spell every step out. Period.

#5 Don’t just say the steps. Explain the Context.

As adult learners we all want to know the ‘why’ for every ‘what’.

That means, your learners want to know the reasoning behind your design decisions. When you choose to create a graphic in a certain way – tell them why you chose to do it that way and not in any other way.

This not only helps them learn the graphic that you taught in your video – but also helps them create their own graphics eventually.

Teaching the context empowers your learners. So, contextualize everything!

  • Action: Explain the context, before you press the buttons.

#6 Share the application of what you teach

This again is one of the adult learning principles.

As adults, we want to know the purpose behind what we are asked to do.

That means, when you teach your learners how to create a certain graphic – show them the different ways they can use the graphic in real world situations.

When you teach them a certain method – show them the use cases where the method is applied.

This makes your teaching valuable and memorable. 

Hint: It also shows that you actually have experience in the real world and know what you are talking about.

  • Action: Use examples, case studies and scenarios to connect your lessons to their world.

#7 Teach just the quickest and easiest way to perform a certain task. And stop.

I’ve seen instructors kill their audience with their overenthusiasm.

First, they teach their learners one way of performing a task. Then, they show them an alternative option. Then, another way and another… till they see their audience frothing.

For Pete’s sake. Keep things simple.

Do your homework and decide on the quickest and easiest way to perform a certain task. Then, teach them just that.

  • Action: Don’t confuse your audience with options. Teach them do one thing in one way. That’s it.

An online tutorial, should make it as easy as possible for the audience to learn and apply their learning!

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#8 Optimize your videos for Mobile

These days, people watch most of your videos on mobile. So, optimize your videos to the small screen.

For example, when you do a screencast video of a software interface – you might see everything very clearly on your large PC monitor. But, when you watch the same video on the small screen of a mobile – you can’t read a thing.

So, take advantage of the zoom functions of your screen recording software and guide your viewer’s attention to the area you want them to focus on.

This advice might sound too basic. But, it is surprising to see the number of instructors who botch this up.

  • Action: Use the Zoom, Label and Pointer tools in your screen recording software to optimize your videos for mobile.

#9 Always go slow with your instructions

I find it excruciatingly painful to watch my own video tutorials.

Once I finish editing my videos – I never go back and watch them again.

The pace of instructions seems so slow and measured.

But, till date I never got a single complaint from my viewers saying that my instructions are slow. Never!

Waaay back, when I started recording these sessions, I used to rush things through. I didn’t want to waste time of my viewers with my slow-paced lessons.

But I got candid feedback to slow things down.

Once I heeded to the advice, there’s no looking back.

  • Action: Your learners may not have the same skill level as you do. So, be patient and go slow. If they want, YouTube gives them an option to increase the playback speed.

#10 Practice 3 times out loud before you hit the ‘Record’ button

I have recorded an insane amount of video tutorials throughout my career.  But, as a rule, I never start a recording session until I practiced the entire lesson 3 times - while narrating the instructions out loud.

You might know your subject – like the back of your hand.

You might be tempted to wing it – by recording your instructions on the fly.

But, when you do – you usually end up missing those small critical instructions and nuances that help your learners pick up your technique easily.

  • Action: Rehearse your instructions at least 3 times. Especially when you are too confident of what you are about to teach. 

On the other hand...

#11 Never script out your demo tutorials – word for word.

There is a place for video scripts.

They work very well for creating sales videos. They are a must for creating good explainer videos.

But, when you want to create a screencast video of a software demo – don’t script out your narration word for word.

Your teaching would sound too artificial. Your audience won’t connect readily to your instructions.

Practice your demo thoroughly and just narrate freely. Let your human side show. If you make blunders you can always edit them out later in the post production.

These kinds of videos are hard to follow because of their dry nature in the first place. You don’t need to make it even stiffer by parroting your scripted instructions.

  • Action: Practice your demos and talk freely. But, make sure that you are on point. After all, no one wants pointless rambling and boring back stories in instructional videos.

#12 Provide a handout with steps written in sequence

You may offer crystal clear instructions in your video tuts. But, it always helps to accompany your videos with a handout of step by step written instructions to perform the same task you taught in your videos.

I practice this habit for all my paid courses.

You might think that your audience always has the option of watching your videos any number of times to learn your instructions. Right? But unfortunately, in real life – it doesn’t work that way.

Download PDF File

Many times, your audience may want to take a print out of the instructions and follow them from the paper. To each their own.

It is your responsibility to support them in their learning.

  • Action: Go the extra mile in your paid courses and prepare a printable instruction sheet for your video tuts.

#13 Never talk down while narrating instructions 

Your tone of voice can endear or alienate your students.

No one wants to follow the instructions of a ‘know it all’ jack #ss who talks down to the learners.

When you assume the attitude of a Guru condescending from a mountain top – it shows in your tone of voice – no matter how humble you try to act.

Don't talk down to your audience ( like this guy)

Check your attitude before you hit the ‘Record’ button. Imagine a dear friend - who is keen to learn from you - sitting on the other side of the computer.

  • Action: A bad attitude is like bad breath. You may not realize it. But, it hurts everyone. So, ask your true friend to watch one of your tutorial videos and give you an honest feedback on your tone of voice. If your tone is anything but friendly – it’s time for you to get back to the drawing board.

#14 Learn from your learners

Yes. Your viewers and your students can teach you a ton of things, if only you are open to learning from them.

They can teach you by…

  • Giving direct feedback on your content by way of comments
  • Giving subtle cues on the kind of topics they want you to teach by way of the number of views
  • Telling where you lost them by way of ‘Watch time’ statistics and by...
  • Suggesting better ways to perform a certain task you taught them in your videos

It takes humility and honesty to respond to those learnings positively.

There a number of times I created videos based on the ideas suggested by my viewers (with due credits of course). My videos and teaching skills have improved as I incorporated their suggestions.

  • Action: Be open to learning from your viewers and students

#15 Show them where they can find additional information

Many instructors wrongly assume that they can’t expect anything in return from their viewers. It’s plain absurd.

As humans, we are not wired to just keep receiving help without offering anything in return. We always want to reciprocate in some way possible.

If you feel you have a valuable product to sell as a natural extension of what you taught them in your videos – make a pitch for that product by all means.

In fact, you are helping them by selling that product.

Of course, you need to genuinely believe that your product is a help. Otherwise, the pitch looks forced and inappropriate.

I ensure that I have a product pitch at the end of every one of my YouTube videos. A substantial amount of our product sales can be directly attributed to those pitches.

You can always watch any of the videos on the Presentation Process YouTube channel to see how I do the pitch.

  • Action: Offer your product as a way for your audience to get additional help. It’s a win-win for you and your learners.

Hope you found these tips based on my experience useful!

Have a tip that you would like to share? Please let me know in the comments section below:

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