July 2014 Meeting Discussion: Video Tutorials

Presented by Dean Atchison and Michelle Sharon, and reviewed by Hallie Sinor

When stumped, customers prefer viewing targeted “how-to” videos over an A to Z reference source. So much so that your customer support satisfaction ratings can soar once you begin providing these gold nuggets. So how does a doc team or tech writer begin? To guide us on this journey, trail blazers of salesforce.com’s video effort shared best practices from their own experiences creating user assistance videos. Dean was the team’s first video specialist, and Michelle led the doc team’s video effort for the past two years. Spencer, the newest team member, specializes in motion graphics.

Video creation is time intensive–prioritize. Every narrated 2 – 4 minute video takes approximately 40 development hours to create, including review signoffs, etc. Once word spreads that your team is creating “how-to” videos, expect to be swamped with demand. How to best manage the onslaught of demand?

  • Select requests which will have the most impact.
  • Choose pain points with simple, direct answers over complex topics involving decision trees. Trainers and the Customer Service Team can help you identify your top pain points.
  • Determine learning objectives first to keep videos succinct and targeted. What problem are you solving, and what would you like users to walk away being able to do?
  • Create and share style guides, script templates, and audio tips to leverage subject matter experts.

Grow at least one member of the documentation team to be the video expert who will support other writers on the team. Why? Because acquiring expertise in scripting, audio recording/editing, screen capture and syncing involves a learning curve. It is difficult to simultaneously capture screen capture and audio narration. It’s easier to focus on developing quality ingredients which you sync together into a final video at a later time.

Our speakers recommend Camtasia screen recording software with its accompanying tutorials and sample script. It’s easy to use, and has smooth zooming and panning. Capture large, HD 1080p (1920 x 1080), and save to the MP4 file format. Camtasia’s extend frame feature speeds syncing a longer audio with shorter screen capture. A resource slide may be placed at the end of the screen capture to direct viewers to associated help resources.

Write an outline and script prior to recording audio. Once you select and determine objectives, time spent scripting will save you hours down the road editing. To expedite scriptwriting, you could do an informal Q and A with the subject matter expert (SME). Most importantly, require stakeholder review of the script (including SMEs, support, PM, Marketing, etc.) for accuracy prior to recording. It is best to record on the same day, taking multiple takes if an item has the potential to change. You may wish to update the script while recording if you’re making changes on the spot.

Good audio can make or break the video. Record in a small space without concrete, windows to the street, or brick. You can construct your own sound booth or use Porto-Booth Pro. Two microphones the team suggests are Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone ($100), and Creative Labs HS-1000 Fatal 1 ty USB Headset ($40).

Require a draft of the video for review, and let users review the usability of the video prior to posting. You can host your video on YouTube or Vimeo-Pro, or bundle with your product. Each has its pros and cons. Each time you update a video on YouTube it will get a new url. A workaround would be to upload the new video to a YouTube playlist url.

Video will give your documentation team high visibility. If you keep your how-to videos well curated, maintained, and current, they will develop a reputation with users as the place to go. Partner with your Marketing and Support departments to promote your videos. Link to them from customer communities, online blogs, and social media sites to spread the word to your customer.

For more detail, refer to the webinar link from July’s meeting.

Hallie is a learning consultant who helps organizations learn faster than their competition does. How? She collaborates with your subject matter experts, creating performance-based learning experiences yielding the competitive edge.
Hallie actively volunteers with STC’s San Francisco chapter.

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