If you want to have a professional-quality successful screencast video, you do not simply hit the record button on your screencasting software and go.
Unless, of course, you want to look like a total idiot.
But if you want to look like a confident pro, a bit of planning is in order.
Planning a screencast is easy when you simply ask the right questions, which I’ve conveniently listed for you below. Don’t say I never did nothin’ for ya.
Questions to Ask Before Before Creating a Screencast So You Don’t Look Like a Total Idiot
- What specific task or series of tasks do you intend to demonstrate, or what specific information do you want to communicate?
- Is this going to be a singular screencast or a series?
- How long is the video going to be (or each in a series)?
- What are the specific steps you want viewers to be able to replicate on their own after watching your video? Or, what is the specific action you want viewers to take after watching the video?
- What is the big benefit for viewers if they follow the steps in your video beyond accomplishing the task? Does it address the need viewers have that causes them to want to watch your screencast in the first place?
Let’s break these questions down so you understand why they’re important.
What specific task or series of tasks do you intend to demonstrate, or what specific information do you want to communicate?
If you’re demonstrating software, you need to break down into steps all the actions needed to accomplish the learning objective.
If you’re creating more of a slideshow speech, then what is the informational objective?
Is this going to be a singular screencast or a series?
This has implications for how you time, pace things and do stuff like titles, introductions and conclusions. In a series of videos, for example, you’ll want to remind viewers which part in the series they’re watching and what was in the previous and next parts to the series. But reminding viewers to visit your website or having a long piece of intro music would quickly get very annoying to anyone watching the series. These kind of elements belong only in the first and last videos when part of a series.
How long is the video going to be (or each in a series)?
Many folks who create a lot of video will tell you that shorter is better, and by short they mean less than 5 minutes long. I’m not gonna argue with that: if you can do it, great. But if you can’t contain it to less than 5 minutes, don’t worry about it. There are tons of screencasts that are 30 minutes long or even longer and people will still watch them.
Because they need what’s in it and they’re very committed and interested in its content.
A single stand-alone video can be much longer than videos in a series. When creating a series, you’ve got to balance out the duration of each video against the number of videos in the series. For example: 5 10-minute-long videos is probably better than 10 5-minute-long videos. Watching 10 videos sounds like way more work than watching only 5 videos regardless of individual video length.
What are the specific steps you want viewers to be able to replicate on their own after watching your video? Or, what is the specific action you want viewers to take after watching the video?
You may have a learning objective: How to do X. But in order to accomplish X, you have to have a series of steps and possibly some preparation work. Think about how the information in recipes is organized:
- Ingredients you need and in what amount.
- Tools you need.
- Preparation, if any.
- Steps to create the dish.
- Steps to serving the dish, if any.
You have to figure out the “recipe” for your screencast: write down the preparation and the steps and number them. That way, in your narration and/or your title you can say: The Six Steps to a Perfect X, Every Time or some such thing.
There’s no need to over-think this, but try not to let your existing knowledge and assumptions get in the way of what beginners have no clue about (this phenomenon is called the curse of knowledge).
If you’re giving what is essentially a speech via PowerPoint, you may not be instructing anyone step-by-step. However, you still want the viewer to take some kind of action after watching the video: you have an objective. What is it? Write it down. You’ll be telling viewers this in your video.
What is the big benefit for viewers if they follow the steps in your video beyond accomplishing the task? Does it address the need viewers have that causes them to want to watch your screencast in the first place?
Don’t assume everyone will want to watch your screencast, even if they’ve already bought your course (if you’re selling one, that is). Each video has to sell itself all over again to remind buyers why they bought your course and what they’re continually getting out of it.
If you’re not selling anything, well, there’s only 500 squiddelymillion other free videos out there competing for attention. Why should anyone watch yours?
This benefit I’m talking about is not accomplishing the learning objective. It’s not “learning X,” it’s what learning X will do for viewers. You need to know this so you can get people to even watch your video, and you’ll want to repeat it within your video at the beginning and the end (sort of a “here’s why you’re watching this,” and “here’s why you watched this” kind of a thing).
Now That You Have Your Questions Answered…
In the next post, we’ll take a look at Scripting and Recording Screencast Audio, in which I will teach you steps the pros take that the amateurs don’t. Such as writing a script and recording audio separately from the video. That way, you can sound confident and cause the viewer to have confidence in you as you lead them along, rather than sound like a hesitant, blathering idiot (which, sadly, a lot of people do in their screencasts).