If you take time to notice it, you’ll find that learning actually happens everywhere, all the time, anyway! Whether you’re intending it or not – and especially so when you’re reflecting with the intention of extracting some learning from that good/bad/awful/amazing experience you had.
Same goes with video. It’s everywhere. As soon as you start to notice it..
Visuals: pictures, drawings, videos, art, and objects can nuance beautifully with learning content – to take us deeper, to explore and understand complex ideas, to italicise specifics, or simply to try and render a window into a slice of reality that we might never otherwise encounter.
Learning content isn’t funny is it? It’s a terribly serious endeavour. At school we got bollocked for laughing in class, shushed in the library, and rarely (if ever) were there jokes in the textbooks we read. so on reflection I’m surprised because whenever I see learning being delivered in a real-time environment in the Land of Adults, humour is (usually) there in some form.
I’m not saying that L&D practitioners should go to comedy school, but let me tell you a story that inspired this blog post…
A few years ago I received a brief from a very admirable and lovely, but nevertheless massively conservative global organisation, to do a health and safety training video.
I met with the health and safety manager who was also going to present the video. He was a very nice chap, and for the sake of this story I’ll call him Bob, because that was indeed his name.
Bob knew his stuff and he went on to deliver a precise but very serious presentation.
Whilst I was watching it, I had a flash back to when I had to watch videos like this in the past – you know – the typical ‘off the shelf’ corporate induction video teaching you how to lift a box into the back of a car etc – and that drool-assisted feeling in the training room of life slowly ebbing away.
So we wrapped up the filming – that was that – and I did the edit. My god it was boring. I could foresee people rolling their eyes and mentally switching off the minute the film would be played. So I wanted to do something about it.
Now I had a friendly relationship with the L&D team and knew that whilst the very serious video would be the one they would go with, it would be worth doing an alternative edit as an experiment.
That edit involved Bob doing the same presentation, whilst using cutaways that were connected to the content, but at the same time I threw in some completely ridiculous shots. So I got a couple of friends to wear hard hats, and examine dangers such as banana skins on the floor, whilst measuring them with a ruler, and taking notes on a clip board whilst looking terribly serious.
This wasn’t exactly epic comedy, but the thing is the client told me the whole L&D department were literally in stitches, crying with laughter, when they watched it. It worked because the expectation was immediately set of ‘oh god it’s another health and safety video’ which followed the sense of relief where it detoured into something different but still relevant.
The thing was that whilst they indeed did not launch it across the organisation, the feedback was that the people who did watch it remained engaged to the video and still picked up the facts they needed.
And here lies the point I’m making really. I’m not suggesting that every L&D video needs to be injected with humour, but what I am saying is that I believe many L&D professionals are scared of even contemplating it, and here’s 3 reasons why, along with my thoughts:
Humour is a very subjective thing. Some people will not find it funny.
I’ve heard this a lot – not just in relation to video. This entirely depends on approach. Humour can be very simple, very subtle. The training video I mentioned above wasn’t exactly going to win any comedy awards, but it played off people’s expectations and that’s why it was funny.
Sometimes just the teensiest sliver of humour, that could simply be about grinding binary oppositions together or suchlike, is enough to send a wave of relief through the training room/computer screen – even if it’s just a blooper reel at the end of the video (everyone likes bloopers – although they tend to come at the end of a video).
What if the humour offends somebody?
I would say that it’s not like you’re going to be getting Roy Chubby Brown and Frankie Boyle in to script it. It’s perfectly possible to have non-offensive humour.
Humour isn’t offensive by default.
What if humour undermines the learning content?
I really don’t think it will if it’s well thought out and subtle. Humour doesn’t need to dominate the video, but can be used to simply break it up a bit. I think if it’s done right, it can actually increase the engagement of the content, even make it shareable (if your platform and course allows).
I’ve got a blog in the pipeline at the moment about ‘serious video’ – not just for L&D but also marketing. Aside from video for social media, video is a very serious endeavour, but when it’s not taken too seriously, or even if just for tiny little moments when humour appears, it can make a production feel more human.
Have you ever used humour in learning content you’ve created? We would love to hear some other real-life examples!
If you’re reading this blog article, then you probably saw my talk at WOLCE, so thank you for clicking through!
Here is the list (with links) to the three things you need to help boost the overall quality of video shot on your smartphone.
I was just hit by a rush of inspiration.
Ahead of World of Learning #WOLCE2014 where I’ll be both talking and exhibiting, I’m in the process of pulling together a selection of longer-form video clips to play during the exhibition on our stand.
One of the buzzwords at the moment is ‘story’. It makes sense really. I believe that over the last three years or so, as more and more organisations move towards, and appropriate, the highly personalised and crafted space of social media to build relationships; they’ve had to change.
They’ve had to change by creating an illusion (or not as the case may be) of cracking the veneer of the brand image and showing what’s behind it. It’s all a little bit ‘Wizard of Oz’ in reverse. The pre-social media approach of “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” and just buy our shit, has become “hey! look at us! We’re authentic and want to be your friend”
[Note: the web gremlins are out today, if you can’t see a video below, hit refresh and it should appear]
The truth is of course, that organisations of all sizes have always told stories about themselves that are completely true, total crap, or somewhere in between.
The importance of story
Of course, the reason why organisations have always told their stories, is because behind that starchy logo, there be humans – and in front of it, humans too.
One of the things that makes us human, one of the things that lights up our cerebral cortex, one of the things that created the glue for community formation way back when, our rules, our cultures, our incredible capacity to invent, create, and strive-for; and that minor thing regarding the overall development (or some might argue, fall) of humanity…is the story.
And by that I mean telling stories about ourselves, to ourselves, and about others.
In many ways I think organisations are being re-presented with the opportunity for storytelling – and remember telling stories doesn’t mean telling lies (which is how I think some people might define it).
To tell stories through film, photography, and even words, used to be in the realms of the larger organisations until the internet came along. This is because they had the resources, but also the networks across which to distribute (be that internal comms, print, broadcast, or radio).
And then digital happened and created the most incredible opportunities for self-representation we have ever seen. Production resources got cheaper, and the means of distribution flooded offices, homes, trains, park benches, the street, and into the laps of L&D professionals.
L&D professionals are suddenly able to think twice about off-the-shelf video learning, and create bespoke content relevant to their own organisations. That’s a huge deal.
So anyway, what does this mean for L&D?
What stories can we actually tell? What if you feel your organisation isn’t ‘story friendly’?
I think this is ultimately about video for blended learning and learner engagement. It is also about how we think about using video – because video in learning is not just about creating the learning content, but can actually be extremely useful for simply signposting learning content – to let people know the content is there, and how they can benefit from it.
Think about a learning initiative you’ve got on the horizon.
Do you present ‘the facts’ in a very listed, bulleted, conventional approach that may or may not be woven with corporate rhetoric; or do you reframe all of that within the context of a story that might be fact or fiction, but actually takes us on an emotional journey, told with energy and passion, that weaves us through the same themes but at a deeper level.
This does not mean that you should not present ‘the hard facts’ – and indeed most learning initiatives will demand it. But if it’s about engagement, if it’s about taking people to a different place where the relevance remains, if it is about ‘exploring the blend’ and engaging learners, and actually the rather important exercise of looking at what you do through different eyes; then do it – by pen, by photograph, by drawing, by video – or even (to hell with it) by song!
Whilst I’m tempted to argue that every learning initiative could incorporate story in some way, I’m holding back. That’s probably another blog post.
But for now, I’ll say that the beauty of story telling is that you can let your imagination fly. Sometimes you might need to pull it in, but if you don’t let it go crazy for a bit, you might not find the paths where the best stories lie. Either way, I can guarantee that it will impact the learning content you are producing in lovely ways.
If you’re thinking about using an autocue, or feel like you need a script to read from directly, then the chances are you’re feeling nervous about being on camera.
Many people will try and reach for the autocue or script to help prop them up, but the reality is it can actually make the experience even harder, because to read naturally from an autocue takes a great deal of practice.
Here are my thoughts – and of course it all boils down to confidence and preparation:
- The chances are, if you’re going to be on camera, then you’re an expert. You’re there because you are the go-to person – which means you already know everything. It’s all in the preparation.
- People always ask about bringing scripts to the shoot. My advice is write the script out as far ahead as possible so you can work out the structure of the content.
- When writing your script, keep the words as close as possible to how you actually speak.
- Never get someone else to write the script for you. It has to come from the person who is presenting.
- Next stage is to drill that script down to bullet points and keywords. Write these down on a separate piece of paper.
- Read through the script until you feel you’ve ‘got it’, and then put it away and then bounce off the bullet points. This will help you break away from the ‘wordiness’ of the script, but retain the facts and core messages you want to get across.
- When it’s time to film your piece to camera, take the script and the bullet points with you and give them to the producer – but don’t keep them in view. You know what you need to say, but you might need the occasional prompt
I am a firm believer that the only time you need an autocue is if you’ve got a ton of information-rich content to cover in as few takes as possible.
If you go through the above steps to prepare, and recognise that you are the expert, you will deliver a much more compelling and natural presentation than rolling off an autocue.
Every now and then a client will ask me if I can provide an autocue for their shoot. I have mixed feelings about them because on the one hand they are great if you know how to use them properly, but on the other, they can really hinder a production.
Using an autocue tends to mean that the presentation is happening directly to camera – which for many people is much harder than talking to an interviewer.
If you’ve got a video project coming up and you’re thinking about using one, here’s some things to consider before you invest the time and money into hiring or buying one.
Autocues take time to master.
It’s rare for someone to be able to ace it on camera using one for the first time. Typically, people come across as more wooden, and (if I’m honest) slightly stoned and confused, as they try to read the script as it rolls on the screen.
Don’t underestimate the learning curve you need to go through to deliver a natural presentation using an autocue. Think about how much newsreaders practice!
It’s all about practice
If you’re an ‘autocue virgin’ then I would really recommend making sure that the scripts are finalised way before the shoot, and then download one of the autocue apps that work with an iPad (there are a number of autocue systems where you connect the iPad to use for the screen which makes them more affordable). Load the script up onto the iPad and then use that for your practice run.
Many of the apps will allow you to sync up your iPhone via wifi with the autocue so you can adjust the scrolling speed on the fly which will help you find your comfortable reading pace – a great feature.
Autocues generally suit specific types of videos.
If you’re creating lengthy, information-rich videos where the presenter will be on camera for long periods of time, and no b-roll to cutaway to, then autocues can be great for keeping the content ‘on message’ and not deviating from the script. In terms of producing video content for L&D then, there are some clear advantages.
However – there is more focus these days on shorter ‘bite-sized’ videos – so it’s worth thinking about whether or not the presenter can get through the video without an autocue. Worth bearing in mind if they’ve not had time to practice.
Use experts to present.
If you’ve looked at my website, you would have picked up that I’m quite vocal about the importance of using experts to deliver core learning content in videos. Experts know their stuff – it’s what they do day in and day out. If you’ve got the right person in front of the camera, then with good preparation and encouragement, they will be able to deliver a presentation that is more authentic and nuanced than working from a teleprompter
If I’ve managed to deter you from going for the ‘safety net’ of a teleprompter, then you might want to read this blog post ‘how to avoid using an autocue for your video’.
Yesterday I had the privilege of talking at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in Olympia, with a presentation on ‘why you should be filming video for L&D on your smart phones’.
Here’s the very basic kit list you need to start shooting your own high quality video content. Just to be clear, there’s no affiliate shenanigans going on here – just raw linkage!
See Learning Films, 4 The George