The BCM Blog
Thoughts on Making Media Work Better
Video used in the training of employees is all the rage now. And, it should be. Video with sound is an effective training tool when done right. A few companies make good use of the tool and bother to approach the task with the seriousness required. Too many trust the job to the kid in the mail room, who has a Go-Pro or a phone cam. Here are five mistakes companies and their video training producers make that leave them open to all manner of problems, not the least of which are legal issues that arise from some of these errors.
No Script – I can honestly say I have never shot a training video without first writing a script and getting everyone involved, including legal, to check off on it. Without an approved script you’re flying blind. Production costs are higher because of missed shots, retakes, extra shooting time, and pure unadulterated screw ups. You would not try to build a new office building without first doing a set of plans, why do it with a training video. The video is just as important as that office space.
Missing The Target Audience – Too many training videos totally miss the audience for which they are intended. Script and Production decisions are, many times, made according to the likes and dislikes of an executive or team in charge. In reality, other than brand adherence and production values, the content and direction of a training piece needs to be tailored to the people who will watch it. Sometimes it is a good idea to engage some individuals who are in the target audience to find an effective way to communicate with them.
Using Employees and Executives as Actors – If an executive is delivering a message to the trainee, by all means use him or her. But using exec’s and employees as actors harms the credibility of production. Training video “customers” need to be people who come from outside the family circle. I have shot my share of “employee actors” at the request of clients, and believe me when I say it almost never works.
Using Unlicensed Material – Way too many in-house productions use current unlicensed popular music (as well as pictures gleaned from the Internet) in their videos. That is wrong on more than one point. First using copyrighted material without paying royalties is wrong, it is illegal, it is stealing. Let me put it this way, you would not like it if someone ripped off your trademarked logo and used it as their own. You would probably sue. Some artist wrote and produced that music and it belongs to them. There are too many in our industry who don’t honor that trust. I had a corporate legal executive tell me it wasn’t an issue because there was little chance of getting caught. But that is not the point. Is robbery still a crime even if you don’t get caught? If you do get caught the numbers can add up pretty quickly. ( See www.ascap.org ).
There is another reason not to use current popular music: It blocks the effectiveness of the message by distracting the viewer. If the viewer likes the song, they will remember it, but not the message of the video.
Poor Audio Quality – Among production professionals, it is often said than minor glitches in the video quality can be overlooked if the audio is great. Voices are the main issue. Unless a room is completely dead (no echoes) lavaliere or lapel mic's are the only answer. Do your voice overs in a clothes closet if you don’t have a booth. Be careful when mixing music and words. The editor should trust the meters, not his ears. For the final cut, the video ought to be run through a program like Premiere Pro’s, Loudness Radar to set the final level of the overall piece.
There are more items that could be on this list, but these five come to mind first when I’m producing a training video. I would love to hear from other producers with their thoughts. Comments welcome at email@example.com
I went to a Sears Parts and Service store not long ago to get some chainsaw parts. I had one of those special moments when observing the manager of the store deal with a new employee. She had first impressed me with the fact that she knew the obscure part I needed and where exactly it was among about a billion other parts in her stock room, But, it was while waiting for her while she helped her new hire that I was really taken.
She was dealing with the point of sale (POS) and inventory control system, which is part of check out system in that store. She carefully walked the gentleman through the procedure for ringing up a sale with a special discount. She used plain English, simple sentences, and -- wait for it -- she stopped the dialogue twice to explain WHY a certain function occurred. Those steps were out of the normal data entry work flow and she felt she needed to explain. The trainee, a middle aged man, who new his way around hardware, but not this POS system, nodded like a kid who had been asked if he wanted more ice cream. He got it, first try.
After the lesson, she stepped away to help someone else, multitasking like an octopus on meth' (don't think about that image too long). She was one of those managers everyone wishes they had. I said to the trainee who was now ready to check me out, "Wow, you are learning from a great teacher."
"She sure knows her stuff," he affirmed, although I am not sure he fully appreciated what had just happened.
Too many times in the process of producing training videos or writing manuals, I have seen people go for "this is the way you do it--period" approach. They do it quickly and often with jargon the new employee doesn't understand.
What this Sears manager had learned, was to communicate clearly and with purpose. She also knew that when a person understands how and why they do something, two things happen.
Because they know why something is done it helps them retain how it is done. If you learn that unless when you punch button "A" and "B" a certain function won't occur and you will get an error before the transaction is over, it raises your consciousness about punching both buttons. If you are learning to prepare a cocktail, it is better to know why certain ingredients are added as opposed to just knowing they need to be in the drink. Why does the bartender use sea salt, instead of kosher is as important as using an ounce and a quarter of tequila.
And, I think more importantly, passing on why tidbits makes the student feel like the are really part of the team as opposed to a gopher doing rote tasks. Let's go back to the Sears store. Here is a middle aged man, under a somewhat younger female manager. No matter how good she is that could be tinder waiting for a spark in some cases. By including him in the why, a making sure he knew what she knew, he was more than willing to learn and live on.
While writing that manual or producing a video or doing live training, why might seem like a pain in the posterior, but it sure makes your job easier.
One more thing, my hero manager did give me the right parts for my chain saw. But they didn't help. It never ran again. Even my wife suggested I get a new one. So I did. Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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