When is Video the Answer (and When Isn’t It)? by Ken Circeo

Yesterday, I attended the STC Technical Editing SIG sponsored Webinar titled “When is Video the Answer (and When Isn’t It)?” given by Ken Circeo, a senior video producer at Microsoft.

Here are my notes, which my team found rather useful, so I thought I’d share them all with you, my faithful blog readers. I present them as my general takeaways and my golden nuggets, of which I only had one golden nugget.

General takeaways:

  • Video is not always the answer.
  • Video appeals to multiple learning styles (see, hear, & do)
  • Video almost always scores higher than text; it delights them more… but only if it answers their question
  • Video has come to be expected; much higher demand for it as it becomes more ubiquitous (thanks, YouTube!)
  • More low quality video out there, because anyone can shoot and upload video; must distinguish ourselves by producing high-quality video
  • Ask this one question: what problem are you trying to solve? it is the only question that matters; audience does not matter!
  • Developers want a different kind of video than administrators do, and that managers do, etc. (see, audience does matter!)
  • The context matters, too; where you embed it or include it (such as in an installation process, as an animation of where to find a feature)
  • When should you NOT use video? when procedures are short & simple, or when procedures are long & complex; Goldilocks anyone?
  • Level of detail is important
  • Shorter the better; ideal time? 2 mins, 48 secs (he said that time as a joke, before he said: “as short as possible”)
  • Never “force” a video; no video for video sake
  • Skip the background music; most users don’t notice it
  • Try to solve the problem with other ways first (redesign the UI, write a procedure, etc), and only after other avenues explored do they create a video
  • Deliver video alongside of other docs; video doesn’t replace other docs, but supplements it
  • Uses .mp4 format, standardizes on it for its reduced file size
  • Spend the most time on the script, and get that right before you start on the actual animations, graphics, and video production.

Golden nugget:

His final concluding slide provided the golden nugget of the 1-hour session.

Here are the 5 types of videos that he’s found most useful:

  1. First run — the hook — like our author intro videos?
  2. Getting started — introduce —
  3. What’s new — reveal
  4. Overview — simplify something complex, simplify complex concepts
  5. How to — show or demonstrate how to do something
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