How To Make A Great Tutorial Video

Ahh, the tutorial video: thanks to online video we can now learn how to do anything with only a Google search and a click of the mouse. Whether you want to learn how to play the tuba, brush up on your Photoshop skills, or jailbreak your iPhone, your skills will only be as good as the tutorial itself. Although tutorial videos are abounding on the Internet, not all are created equal. So if you’re thinking of sharing your vast knowledge with the world, these seven keys will take you from tedious teacher to viral professor.

1) Nail the basics.
These days you don’t need the highest-quality equipment to produce the best results, but you do need to make sure all the elements of good filmmaking are covered in your video: a succinct script, proper audio levels, good lighting, quick pacing, no distracting backgrounds (nothing screams “amateur” like a faulty mic or shaky camera). Review your video with a critical eye before releasing it to the critical masses. As you can see here with this Python instructional course, Udemy’s instructor Zed Shaw properly frames the content to feature what’s important.

2) Talk to your audience.
This doesn’t just mean look at the camera (If you are creating a demo video of yourself). This means you must identify the viewer you are attempting to instruct, gauge their knowledge level, and tailor your tutorial to them. If you are talking to beginners, avoid high-level vocabulary. If speaking to experts, don’t oversimplify. For example, if your video is on Adobe Flash CS4, you can assume your audience will already be somewhat familiar with the language. Consider your general tone, too. You wouldn’t use the slang you use with fellow hobby flash developers if your video is for older industry professionals. And don’t waste time with obvious info — like telling viewers they will need to install flash before they learn to use it.

3) Break it down into steps.
No matter the subject, designating specific steps helps enormously. Instead of throwing a ton of information at your viewer, open your video with a brief overview of what you are going to cover (such as Amir Khella’s “Design Your User Experience in 7 Simple Steps“) and start with step one. Not only does this help you write a clear, streamlined script that will be easier for you to shoot and edit around, it lets the viewer know exactly what they will learn and where they are in the process.

4) Use visuals appropriately.
A good tutorial video has one goal: to teach. And because video is a visual medium, any techniques used should complement the instruction and help inform viewers. So in addition to narration, call out important information on-screen. This helps auditory and visual learners make a connection.

5) Engage or go home.
If you care enough about the subject to create a tutorial, the video should reflect that. Your video should be professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spice up a potentially boring subject or present it in a unique way. Cathy Erway’s course “Healthy Cooking Fundamentals” makes shopping and cooking with healthy food fun and entertaining.

6) Keep it short.
Most online viewers don’t have a huge attention span, nor are they interested in sitting through a lecture to learn what you’re trying to teach them. To make your tutorial effective, keep it short and sweet. Though some tutorials may cover complex subjects (in which case it’s best to break it up into part 1 and part 2), try to clock in under 10 minutes. Note: The average YouTube video is 4 minutes, 12 seconds, according to social media marketing company Sysomos, so use your time effectively.

7) Create a call to action.
Once viewers are done watching your video, don’t let them just click away. Encourage dialogue by asking them to leave you questions/comments, offering additional resources, providing your contact info, linking to other videos, or requesting they subscribe to your channel.
The example below, though not a video, demonstrates a great call to action: Join the Founders Institute!  All the details are there.

Read our complete guide to screencasting like a pro.