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Andrew Jackson

Pacific Blue Solutions


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Multimedia E-Learning: Cut That Introductory CEO Video Right Now


Video, we are constantly being told, is the solution to all our learning problems. Look at You Tube, the advocates say. All the proof you ever need that video is the way to go.

Refreshing then, to hear some common sense in the midst of this frenzy, from someone who knows a thing or two about creating videos and their potential impact on learners. I recently listened to a great interview with Jonathan Hall. Jonathan spent years working in TV, starting life at Australia's ABC. Later on, he worked as a learning executive at the BBC.  These days, he teaches and advises people in learning and development about how to make great videos for use in training. 

If you've ever been involved with using multimedia in e-learning, at some point in your career you'll almost certainly have come across the senior person in the organisation who is determined to get his or her face onto the start of an e-learning package. 

You know the kind of thing. One of those 'inspirational' pep talks that is supposed to motivate the learners to work their way through the deathly boring e-learning that's about to follow.

Now, we all know, most leaders are absolutely c**p at these kinds of videos. Cheesy doesn't even come close to describing how embarrassingly bad most of their efforts are. 

But because the person in question is the leader, no- one can tell them the awful truth. (Or worse still, deep down, they know they are c**p, but the bevy of obsequious lackeys who make up their inner circle just egg them on to do the deed).

Jonathan had some very clear advice for anyone thinking about doing one of these introductory videos: don't. Unless you are an absolutely gifted speaker or your message is so utterly compelling and relevant that people are desperate to hear it, you are wasting everyone's time.

And the reason for this? These videos are plain boring. Most people will lose interest within about 8 -12 seconds. As Jonathan explained, there is no way you can make these videos interesting - only moderately less boring.

Another reason for not using a talking head -  people quickly forget what has been said. Jonathan cited the example of a weather forecast. Apparently people do remember the maps and the graphics they see during the forecast, but most can remember very little of what the forecaster actually said.

This is because, surprise, surprise, video is about showing things happening. And with a talking head, nothing much is happening. People don't watch a video to see nothing happening. Hence the low retention and rapid turn off of interest.

And TV people know this very well. Mostly, when a talking head is used in a TV programme, either, the shots will be very short; or, you'll hear the voice of the person, but see shots that illustrate what they are talking about.

So next time you are faced with the prospect of including a talking head video in your e-learning, try using Jonathan's advice as an argument for not going that route.

And if you are absolutely forced to include one, here are a couple of tips. First, make sure you shoot with two cameras - one with a long shot and the other with a close up. That way you can at least cut between the two shots to provide some kind of movement and interest for the poor old viewer. Second, see if you can shoot some interesting footage that illustrates what is being said, so you can cut to these illustrative shots at various points during the video.

Need help with multimedia or any other aspect of developing your e-learning? Check out our popular Instructional Design Training programmes.

3 Responses

  1. Inconvenient Truth

    Great article and I agree with most of it but a "talking head" is better than no talking at all in my opinion.

    Production costs and technical expertise also rise dramatically when you start moving on from the talking head.

    The best example of talking with images I have ever seen is An Inconvenient Truth where Al Gore gives a master class in how it should be done.

  2. I really liked it. Keep

    I really liked it. Keep sharing such excellent post like this in future too. Informative and good article. I like it very much. Have very interesting content to read out.

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  3. Yeah! I definitely agree with

    Yeah! I definitely agree with you Steve Robinson talking head is better no talking anymore. Anyway your article give me so much of knowledge an I would like to give you a very big thanks for the impressive work you've done. A job well done admin! Reverb Services

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