How To Make Video Lectures

What’s the best recipe for a captivating video presentation? Great content, brevity, smart effects, call to action? How can Office Mix help with video and narration? Find a few authoring and technical tricks that will make your lecture a hit.
Educational video is gaining immense popularity these days. With the right software, an engaging lecture is just a few clicks away from conception to delivery. That is, if you’ve got your content streamlined and ready. In this article, I’d like to share a few tips on how to make a good video lecture. There is an organizational and technical part to it. Remote presentations have certain downsides for instructors, since it’s not possible to adjust them to the viewers’ response on the fly. To this end, there are special aspects to take care of, such as tone, pace, logical pauses and so forth. On the tech side, it’s great to know and use appropriately a few tricks that will help your video presentation look glossy and professional. Most importantly, we always need to tailor the content to the audience. How to do that right? Let’s take the plunge and go through the key points!

Content tips

Here are some pointers for preparing your deck and narrative.

1. Brainstorm and define your strategy
It might be tempting to dive into the process and play it by ear. However, once your content is ready, with the vast creative and technical effort invested, it may be too late to revamp the key concept. Better write down in advance the thoughts, ideas and pieces of knowledge you’d like to share with your viewers. Give your message a test run, ask family and friends for feedback. If it seems viable, get down to a detailed speech plan as well as concise bullets to highlight the fundamentals. Make the video presentation granular, transform a single idea that could fit a small sticky note into a single PowerPoint slide. This way, it will be much easier for your learners to follow the narration.

2. Make a script and practice
It’s vital to make a script of your video lecture. That said, don’t try to spell out your entire message. Otherwise, you might become hostage to your own text, neglecting the trump card of improvisation. Always go through your content to pinpoint weak links and see whether you should make amendments.

3. Focus on your audience
Let’s face it – lectures don’t have any immanent value, they are only as good as their impact. That’s why seasoned instructors always keep the learner in mind when they design and render content. Some practical advice here is to stick to the point and eliminate all unwanted distractions.

Text and visual effects ought to have a specified goal. Before choosing the right creative elements, measure them against the objectives of your lesson. Do they go along?

By the end of the lecture, your audience should receive their call to action or food for thought rather than ‘just information’. A good tip here is to capture your viewers’ attention from the very start. For instance, open up with a relevant story or fun fact rather than a formal introduction.

4. Make your story matter and keep it brief
Indeed, a consistent storyline is key. Making a video, even a good one, just for the sake of it doesn’t fly anymore. If the video is a way to illustrate your ideas, make sure you don’t get carried away. Feel like some of the parts might sound redundant? Take them out.

This just can’t be overemphasized: ‘succinct’ and ‘clear’ should become your buzzwords. Consider bullet points and leave behind superfluous details. Think of the emotional effect your content produces and overhaul your workouts to channel it the right way.

5. Balance your content
Once the content is prepared, think of the perfect way to convey your ideas. Some data might look better as video, some as images and diagrams. Is using pictures a good option, and to what extent? The general advice here is: if you’d like the audience to focus on a select part of the speech, go light on visual effects and other frills in this fragment.

6. Control the time for each slide
To ensure smooth content flow, try not to exceed 30 seconds spent on each slide. You want your video lecture to run seamlessly at a good pace rather than get stuck on a single screen, however, important it may seem. Remember the golden rule of ‘one idea for one slide’ to avoid cognitive overload and outright fatigue for your recipients.

7. Blend video and audio
You may choose to embed an existing video or record an ad-hoc narration. A combination of audio and video is ideal. However, make sure audio effects like background music do not meddle with the tone of your lecture. Look right at the camera as if you’re keeping direct eye contact with the viewers. Use gestures carefully to stress a specific point, demonstrate an important chart or relevant figures, etc. Once your clips are ready, perform the necessary edits and sync up with the slides and effects.

8. Use consistent branding
See to it that applied styles match your content. Your presentation can’t afford to look like it’s been designed by several different people. Don’t misjudge the importance of fonts, colors and overall branding. It’s part of your image and, to some extent, your methodology.

9. Review and assessment
Video lecturing is just a fragment of the e-Learning process; it’s crucial to factor in recaps and assessment. Can your students keep up with the material? Better be on the safe side! It’s a good idea to summarize ideas after a few slides or include a quiz at the end of a presentation.

Interactive quizzes, YouTube or Vimeo videos, and links to other resources may add aesthetic and logical appeal to your deck.

10. Include references
Speaking of links, refer your learners to other articles and web resources on the subject. Let them broaden their horizons and think outside the box. By guiding them through the right resources, you’ll save your students a lot of time and trouble.

These general tips have a wide area of application, regardless of your broadcasting preferences. You can choose to record a lecture with a simple digital camera and blackboard. Alternatively, you can grab your screen actions with a dedicated program, or face the audience using a web cam. The latter two scenarios work great with a bunch of software solutions.

How do you create video lectures in PowerPoint? Pretty easy. Even more so if you install a special add-on like Microsoft Office Mix. I’ll use this example to give you a bit of advice on shaping up video presentations.

Throw some ideas in the Mix
Microsoft Office Mix is nice software for making video lectures. A PowerPoint add-on, it allows you to record video, add narrations (screencasting with voice over), polls and simple analytics. Grab the video and upload it online or save the lesson for offline use, e.g. in a classroom for quick review. Feature-packed and totally free, Mix is really giving a hard time to paid content authoring tools. How do you make online video lectures with Office Mix?

First of all, let’s clear up the requirements. To take advantage of Microsoft Office Mix, you will need to use it with PowerPoint 2013 or Office 365. If you go with the former, make sure you have Office 2013 Service Pack 1 in place, as well as .Net Framework, from ver. 4 onwards.

Making lessons with Office Mix is pretty straightforward. You can start recording a video tutorial by clicking the Record button on the Mix tab. See the screenshot below.

Microsoft Office Mix ribbon. Intuitive features in a familiar interface

In addition, there is a bunch of custom tools such as Whiteboard or Marker. Naturally, you can embed multimedia and interactive content like videos, quizzes or apps to your course.

Check out some tips below to ensure your recording plays back as you intended.

The built-in mic is fine but not perfect
For high quality podcasting as part of the presentation, better get yourself a standalone microphone or headset. The mic on your laptop might be OK, but don’t bet your life on it. You surely don’t want your audience to have to decipher a barely audible message.

Avoid embedding more than one video on a single slide
In case a slide contains two videos, Office Mix won’t be able to determine which one to play first. However, you may resort to a workaround: create two identical slides; on the first one insert Video A along with an image of Video B, and on the second slide do it vice versa. As a result, the user will be positive that the second video plays right after the first one on the same slide.

Avoid inserting animations on a slide with video
This is basically the same issue as discussed above, and with a similar solution. Make two slides, choose the right order for your elements, insert a bundle of element + image, and create the illusion of seamless subsequent playback.

There is no way to create a recording of a hidden slide
Want to record a slide? Make sure it’s not hidden. Office Mix does enable publishing a mix with hidden slides, yet you need to keep in mind this will enlarge the output file size.

Adjust the size of your video after the slide recording
Initially, the user has to pick either Thumbnail or Full Screen mode. After recording is over and the video appears on the slide, you can easily resize it like you would resize any other object or shape.

Set the right audio and video settings before you click “Record”
Unless a different option is selected, Office Mix will record video with low resolution, which is perfectly fine for most scenarios and helps to keep the output file size within limits. However, if you are after HD quality, don’t forget to tweak the settings (Audio and Video pane – Settings – check Record HD Video (not for web)).

The same applies to audio. If audio quality is a priority (e.g., you plan to record a music piece), make sure you clear the Audio for voice (noise reduction and auto-adjust volume) option in the settings.

Pretty inking demands sacrifices
Office Mix gives you an opportunity to draw on slides just like you’d do on a board. In this case, it’s better to use a pen or stylus that will give you more control than a mouse.

Don’t include a video of yourself inking (unless there is any artistic value in the process per se). However, it may be a good idea to include audio describing your actions and steering the audience to something important on your slide. To prevent background noises, make sure you move the microphone away from the pen or whatever input tool you are using.

Saving and sharing is easy as pie. With Office Mix you are free to export videos offline, as well as upload the content to the Office Mix website. Alternatively, boost your lesson via social media or simply save it offline. Learn more in my other blog post.

Mix is highly flexible and compatible with all major learning platforms. Here’s an example of how you can embed Office Mix lectures within the Open edX courseware.

Not surprisingly, certain limitations arise when you convert slides to video. PowerPoint supports a load of effects, animations and transitions, but what happens when you make a recording of a content-rich slide? Does it mean you have to bid adieu to all the bells and whistles? To avoid frustration, bear in mind that Office Mix won’t record triggered animations, sound effects (not recorded in Office Mix but added to a motion path) or hyperlinks inside a table.

If Mix doesn’t fulfill your needs, check out my review of 10 software solutions for creating presentations and animated video.

In conclusionThere is a common saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. In our days, we should probably extrapolate this adage to video as the most captivating and motivating format in e-Learning and business training. Luckily, there is a diversity of content authoring and slideshow creation programs that enable you to produce effective courses and lessons. A remote video lecture saves tons of cash, making physical facilities or costly travel unnecessary. Besides, the outreach is immeasurably higher with online video. Just think of it: very few people saw Steve Jobs unveil the first Mac live in 1984 – now millions of people share this piece on LinkedIn and other business and social media.

I hope the article gives you a better idea of how to create video lectures. Feel free to share your own experience and keep me posted. Good luck with your presentations!