Do It Right or Stop It!

We are very sophisticated consumers of video content. If you are reading this, it is almost certain that you have consumed video content since you were a child. With this exposure comes an intuitive ability to discern good video content from bad video content. In fact, even very expensively produced video content fails season after season for a variety of reasons.

If you accept this reality, it should bother you, as deeply as it bothers me, that training departments far and wide continue to create a distribute horrible video content. This content is so bad that it would never even make it through the evaluation process of any network, maybe even public access TV.

Can you do better? Sure, the first step is to stop producing bad content. Just stop! No more. In fact, pull down what you already have. Ever wonder why the view rates for your training content is so bad? Even if people start viewing it, ever wonder why they never complete it? It is bad. It is unwatchable.

Please, you are destroying your own personal brand and the brand of your training organization. No one celebrates bad video content except to poke fun of it in viral videos. As training professionals, we often lack the time and money to produce excellent content. You can help yourself and your organization by stopping any spending or wasted time by simply not producing the content.

Stopping is just the first step. What can you do to actually produce valuable video training content? If you want to start with the research basis for this critique, you might start with reading The Media Equation. It will give you insight into a depth of research that supports critique. If you want to start with the practical basis for this critique, there are a number of excellent books, videos, and even training courses. I would start with No Film School, and go from there. If you want specific recommendations, just message me directly.

But, in general, here are the things you can do.

  1. 50% of video is good sound. Do not use on-camera microphones. They are horrid. Get a high quality sound recorder (like a Zoom H2n, Zoom H4n, or Zoom H6) (Note: There are other recorders, but I like the Zoom’s for the price.) Also, get a lavalier microphone (or two or three). Turns out that based on evaluations, that just about any of these work well, regardless of cost (see No Film School’s evaluation of lavs.)
  2. Put your video cameras on tripods. Shaky video is horrible.
  3. Light your video subject. Dark video is horrible.
  4. Rehearse your video. Unrehearsed video is horrible.
  5. Audition your talent. Not every who is an excellent trainer is an excellent trainer on video. As well, you might find excellent video trainer talent that is not even a trainer. Videos are not interactive, as classrooms, and video requires a different set of talents. A keep part to making it work is rehearsals.
  6. Do not post raw video. Raw video is horrible. Edit your video to add effects, make cuts, mix in your excellent sound track, and otherwise improve your video.
  7. Avoid PowerPoints in your video. There are much better video resources, like titling and video effects, that are much more appropriate to video content.

This will get you started. But, the most important thing that you can do is to unleash your inner TV critic. Watch your video, and answer the question. Would you watch this video again? or for fun?

You will be surprised at how far the video world has come, and what you can produce for a minimal budget. But, a minimal budget is not a $0 budget. If you cannot afford to do it right, you are better off not doing it at all.

Saying No to Change

I know my title is provocative, and I hope it made you stop to come read this. What I really mean, and well beyond a simple title’s ability to explain, is that not all change is good, and there are many times as a performance improvement professional that you should just say NO!

Here is a simple example. When someone first learns to drive, even little twitch of the car causes them to react at the wheel. What happens as a result is an oscillation down the road, and more importantly a diversion of attention. This is why new drivers are more prone to accidents, because they are focusing on the mechanical aspects of the process.

We often do the same thing with business change. We make changes without understanding the root cause. We change simply because we are asked, ordered, rewarded, or threatened. We change without understanding if the data is telling us that we are operating within the normal oscillations of the system. Data can tell us if we are seeing something remarkable, that should be duplicated, or something that is just a normal random fluctuation in system as it is setup. It will also tell us who will have to make the changes.

Here are some examples that I hope will add to this discussion.

1. Your new software release has serious bugs. Customer support scores are dropping. You implement a new customer satisfaction process with training for the support analysts. Is this a good change?

2. Your new software release has serious bugs. You analyze the data, and while customer support scores have dropped, one support analyst is consistently satisfying customer at a much higher rate than their peers. What would you do next?

3. Your new software release has serious bugs. Would it stop you from releasing the software in the first place?

All three (3) of these questions are meant to provoke thought, and to encourage you to want to dig deeper into the data. While each question might have an “obvious” answer, it might surprise you that there are deeper answers.

Thoughts on Question 1: Would you think this is a good change is the serious bugs already have simple patches that can be applied by the time the customers get the software release? Would it change your mind if having a better customer satisfaction process allowed you the possibility of salvaging your customers from this unfortunate software release? What if the software is so poorly written that customer satisfaction skills are essentially meaningless?

Thoughts on Question 2: What if the high performing support analyst is manipulating the data to improve their bonus? What if the manipulation was intentional? unintentional? Research tells us that asking someone who is rating you to give you the opportunity to improve or keep your rating at the highest level will improve your scores. What if the analyst is using this knowledge. Should you teach this skill to all analysts? If you do, is your customer satisfaction score an accurate representation of how customers actually feel or act?

Thoughts on Question 3: What if your company was under threat of take-over, by releasing the software you could buy the company time to respond to the take-over threat. Would you release the software? What if the fixes were simple and patches were already available by the time the software got to customers, would you release it? What happens if the bugs were really bad, but it didn’t impact your four (4) largest customers, who account for 80% of your revenue. But, your other 96 customers are badly impacted. Would you release it?

Hopefully, this gets you thinking. Thinking in systems. Thinking about change, root causes, problem analysis, and change management in a whole new way. For sometimes, the most important change you make may be to make no change at all.