Explainer Videos

6 Guiding Principles for Creating Successful Training Videos

Matthew Magain Chief Doodler
Read Time: 7 mins

If you’ve been tasked with developing a series of training videos for your company, you may be wondering what pitfalls to expect on such a large project (so that you can avoid them). Perhaps you’ve created video content for learning and development in the past, and hit a few snags that you wish you could have planned around?

Creating a library of quality educational video content and delivering it on time and within budget not only requires a creative, competent team, but it also requires a mature production process. Our guiding principles have evolved from creating hundreds of videos over the years; while every project has its own unique challenges, we believe that by following these principles, we put ourselves in the best possible position for the project to succeed.

Typical Challenges

In our experience, the major challenges that learning and development teams run into when developing training video content are the following:

1. Stakeholder buy-in
Investing in a repository of content that is to be used company-wide runs the risk of being derailed by executives who hold influence and are not part of the core project. We have seen many projects get developed and then hit a wall right before launch, because a senior person decided to get involved at the last minute and decide that the outcome needs to change, based on them not having been involved.

2. Stakeholder sign-off
In the same vein, often there can be too many “cooks in the kitchen”, which results in:

  • the message getting diluted via “decision by committee”, and therefore ends up being vanilla, lacking personality, which is not engaging. 
  • deadlines getting missed, because sign-off of key milestones is delayed due to so many people wanting to have a final say.

3. Employee Engagement
Internal videos can be notoriously boring for employees to watch. No matter how flashy or colourful the animations, if the story behind the message falls flat, the video campaign will fail. The story behind the visuals needs to be carefully crafted to hook people in, tell a story, invoke humour when appropriate, and demonstrate that the messaging is clear, authentic, and in the viewer’s best interest, while also piquing one’s curiosity for future messages.

4. Update-ability
Circumstances change, and it’s important to have the ability to update content should the next pandemic or economic upheaval dictate that the company’s strategy has changed. If video content is not created in a way that allows for easy updates, then these changes can be costly and time-consuming.

5. Long-term ROI
Content that is supported by management, delivered on time, engages employees, and is updapte-able will last for a long time, and is able to be used over and over again. Creating quality content that ticks all of these boxes is paramount to a successful campaign.

Guiding Principles

Some of the guiding principles that we follow to remedy to these challenges (and what we refer to lovingly as our sketchosophy™) are as follows:

1. Early involvement
In our experience, involving key stakeholders and decision makers early in the project is crucial in order to garner the support from senior management that is critical for long-term success. At Sketch Group, we have developed an activity that we call the Empathy Forecast, which we facilitate at the beginning of every video project. This two-hour workshop is incredibly effective at:

  • Understanding the target audience 
  • ​Identifying key messages to use in a story
  • Eliciting messaging that will resonate and be effective at driving behaviour change

The Empathy Forecast activity has become so successful, it received an entire chapter devoted to it in The World of Visual Facilitation, a best-selling book that Sketch Group founder, Matthew Magain, co-authored in 2019. And while these benefits are all valuable insights for shaping the end product, there is often one more (unintended) upside to running this activity:

  • By involving key stakeholders at the start of the project, the workshop becomes an extraordinarily effective tool for garnering management buy-in. Folks who have helped shape the video from the start, whether they come from the executive leadership team, brand/marketing, or elsewhere, go away with a sense of ownership. The result of this buy-in is that these participants are not only less likely to block the project down the track, but they in fact become champions for it, advocating the cause to their peers and subordinates.​

Coming up: Free Empathy Forecast Workshop
Are you interested in learning how to build a successful foundation for your next communication project? Why not register for our next free workshop? We’ll explain what the Empathy Forecast activity is, and step you through how to run it with your own groups. You’ll even get the chance to practice applying it in a small group, with each group having a different communication challenge to solve. Get in quick! These workshops fill up quickly—numbers are limited to 25 participants.

2. Single point of contact
Having one person as the primary point of contact is crucial for managing rounds of feedback and achieving deadlines. This point of contact should be responsible for collating all of the feedback from individuals who will help shape each video.

3. Visual consistency
We believe that campaigns with visual consistency will be longer lasting. In our experience, multi-video projects should be viewed as internal campaigns, and communicated as such—with each component complementing the other to support a broader message. A great way to ensure this is by using the same illustrator throughout the life of the project for example to achieve this consistency.

4. Visual/verbal balance
The content should strike the balance between visual and verbal forms of communication. Science shows that optimising both channels leads to higher retention and recall of information as well as improved focus. What this means for your trainees is that they will have an experience that is both memorable and engaging.

5. Character-driven
It’s no great secret that the key to successfully communicating your message is to do it through the telling of stories. However, it is important, as with the visuals that drive the stories, that the characters within them make regular appearances.

This consistency of a cast of characters allows the viewer to learn more about the personality of each character, and relate to each of them as they interact. They can identify with and form empathy for them, and anticipate their reactions in the various situations in which they are depicted. In short, character-driven stories are more relatable, because the characters allow the audience to form a personal bond with the message.

6. Modular Construction
There’s no telling what’s around the corner, so it’s conceivable that in one, two, or five years’ time, one or more of your videos may need updating to reflect the latest change in direction, acknowledge a new global pandemic, or communicate a different strategy that the board has decided upon. Building a video in a modular fashion will minimise the cost of making such changes. It’s helpful to begin a project with the expectation that there may need to be changes made down the track, to reduce costly rework.

Overseeing the creation of a large number of videos can become a time suck if not planned for or managed properly. As we’ve highlighted, by being aware of the common challenges that come up in projects like this and planning around them, you can ensure that your training video project becomes famous (and not infamous) for all the right reasons.

We’d love to hear your experiences, or any challenges or solutions that we may have missed, in the comments.

​And of course if you’d like to chat with someone about how to ensure your next training video project is a success, contact our friendly team:​

[email protected]

Previous article The Empathy Forecast: A Foundation for Communication Success
Next article Double Vaxxed: Wear it Proud

Ready to get started? Let’s chat.