Advice and resources for creating an engaging and accessible video presentation, including good script writing, giving engaging performance, selecting appropriate visuals.
Before deciding to record your video presentation, it might help to think about what makes an engaging lecture. A skillful lecturer will often move deftly between a range of delivery modes, and during a single lecture they might switch multiple times between instructing, discussing, demonstrating, debating, narrating and engaging the audience with questions or activities.
What makes for an engaging video presentation? Video presentations are primarily about creating a connection between presenter and audience. This is achieved through a combination of good scriptwriting, engaging voice performance, and confident body language.
The first step in planning your video presentation is to decide if it needs to be a presentation at all. In particular, consider whether parts of your content would be better presented as a discussion, an interview, a narration, or perhaps as a demonstration. Rather than try to reproduce the complete lecture format in the studio, think about an overall module design that combines small elements of video presentation along with all the other media options and online activities available.
Once you’ve broken down your lecture into logical chunks, think about the purpose of the individual presentation. Are you introducing a key topic? Summarizing a complicated area of study? Delivering pointers or study advice? If you’re having trouble pinpointing the purpose of the video, try breaking it up further into logical units or ‘chapters’. Video is an inherently difficult medium to access and navigate, so the more you can break it down the better. This has the added advantage of making your presentation much easier to perform in the studio.
Once you’ve broken your lecture into topics, and your topics into chapters, it’s time to start scripting. Scripting your presentation word-for-word allows you to concentrate all your time in the studio on perfecting your performance, and creating that connection with the audience. If you are not able to script your presentation, this is an indication that presentation is not the appropriate format for your topic and you might instead want to consider a narration, demonstration or discussion.
A good rule of thumb when scripting is to use 125 words per minute as a starting point. A good length to aim for is no longer than 8 minutes per presentation. This gives us an optimal length of (up to) 1000 words, with 3-4 subchapters of 250-350 words each. If your script runs longer, this is a good indication that you could break down the topic further – remember- a playlist of 5 x 8 minute videos on a single topic is much more accessible, navigable and bandwidth friendly than a single 40 minute slab of video.
Our subject matter experts have told us that it takes them between 2 and 4 hours of their time to write a good 8 minute script on a topic they are familiar with. Some presenters like to start with audio-to-text dictation tool and polish up the script in a second round.
This is also a good time to think about futureproofing. Rather than referring to specific modules, assignments or weeks of study, try and keep your video script focused on the key concepts, examples, principles or problems – this will help extend the useful life of your video and avoid costly rerecords when small details inevitably change.
Once you’ve drafted your script, practice reading it out loud. You can do this in front of the mirror, or using an online teleprompter. This will reveal which parts of your script need further work. Keep the language straightforward, use natural contractions like “we’re/you’ll” rather than “we are/you will”, avoid abbreviations like etc and above all, break down long multi-clause sentences into simpler statements.
5. Selecting visuals
Remember that during a video presentation, the main focus should be on the presenter’s performance. When selecting accompanying visuals, think in terms of imagery that reinforces the topic under discussion, rather than PowerPoint slides or onscreen text.
Find high quality images, use them full-screen, and indicate where they are to be inserted using your written script. Minimizing the use of text of screen is good for both student accessibility and to reduce cognitive overload and redundancy. If you find yourself relying heavily on text or slides, this is an indication that part or all of your video is better handled as a narration rather than a presentation.
Just as you ask your students to use references in their own work, we suggest you create a reference list of resources cited (or images/diagrams displayed) using the academic standards in your particular discipline. You can provide these at the end of your script and the video producer will make sure they are made accessible along with your video. The video team will also insert a copyright notice if required.
Also think about the future use of your video. If you anticipate making your video available outside of the university’s video management system, you need to limit your use of third-party content to copyright cleared, royalty free or creative commons material.
If you’re planning a series of video presentations, we can arrange to record a test script or prototype video for you. Once we have an example script and a prototype video, we like to schedule the rest of the recording once all of the remaining scripts have been prepared.
In general, we’ll advise that you allow one hour of studio time to record each 8 minute scripted presentation. This will allow for time to warm up, practice, and record multiple takes of each chapter, allowing the editor to create a strong final video.
If you’re recording multiple presentations, we might be able to squeeze three 8 minute presentations into a two-hour recording session. Any more than that and fatigue starts to set in.
In general we’ll leave the wardrobe choices up to you, but we recommend you avoid large amounts of solid black or white, and also avoid fine patterns of checks or dots, all of which can appear distracting on screen.
If you’ve followed our advice on scripting a presentation of appropriate length, you’ll find that performing your script from the teleprompter is very straightforward. To give you a head start, we’ve created a video covering some basic tips about feeling confident on camera:
As with all things, practice makes perfect, so we recommend you also try and attend one of our presenting to camera masterclasses for some practical coaching:
In general, we’ll deliver your video directly into your Canvas subject site using Kaltura My Media, which is integrated into Canvas. Usually, we’ll add the copyright notice and any accompanying visuals as a separate track, then transfer ownership of the videos over to you so that you can embed the videos into your own subject design and also update the material yourself in the future.
Once your video is in Kaltura, you can request an automatic transcription to create closed captions. These transcriptions vary in accuracy, so you will need to allow some time for proof-reading/checking against the original script.
It is also good practice to provide a transcript file as a separate download, and you can use our downloadable transcript template to create a .doc or .pdf. Students who may have bandwidth limitations or who spend a lot of time commuting have also reported that they love it when teachers also make a downloadable, audio-only version of the video available.
So, how will you know if your students watched the video? Another way to think about this is to ask yourself “what am I asking my students to do once they have watched the video?”. A good online module design shouldn’t just rely on a playlist of videos. Think about using the tools available in Canvas and Kaltura to construct activities around the video. Whether it’s a simple post-video quiz or a carefully staged reflective task, a well aligned learning activity will make sure the video remains meaningful in the context of your overall design.