This year represents something of a high watermark for the video content training market. Almost every company and organization now see the value in video and animations for training and are beginning to adopt them more broadly. Indeed some organizations have totally embraced the idea and are converting significant amounts of the training over to either animation, video or a combination of both. But it’s not all plain sailing. We take a look at some common mistakes and how to avoid them.

The overall level of understanding of this medium for training has increased, metrics have been gathered, and  the jury is in. Video delivers significant benefits over conventional training with little downside. It also can scale without cost penalty and fits in nicely with the modern learner’s enthusiasm for video content and learning at their own pace.

So what could go wrong?

As we do projects for companies, we begin to see trends and have a chance to see how projects work out in terms of actual courses in the field. It is surprising many of the companies that we work with are making the same mistakes and avoidable errors that can lead to both poor training performance and a sense of disappointment among the trainers.

I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained – Walt Disney Company

Let me break down the common issues

Some very simple mistakes are avoidable:

Taking the easy way out
– nobody likes to have to redo the course they spent a long time polishing. Moving old content to a new medium often means that the content needs to be radically altered to fit (e.g. that eight-hour course of several hundred slides doesn’t quite fit into five-minute modules).

What happens is the training staff try to massage the material into an informational video with a minimum of changes. This leads to incredibly turgid, dry, text-based animations that frankly don’t deserve to be called animations and really could’ve stayed in PowerPoint.

The solution – leverage the agency or production company that you are working with and allow them to re-visualize your content for the medium. It is a different way of developing good content. We focus on what you’re trying to communicate and then mapping that onto the wide range of ways of visualizing information that animation and video offer.

Losing sight of the audience
– text is universal. No matter what demographic you are after, text-is-text, bullets-are-bullets. But when it comes to visuals there’s both an opportunity and a risk. If your audience is made up of millennials for example, you want to use images and styles that will resonate with them. If you’re working with baby boomers then a wholly, different style applies. Get it wrong and your audience will assume that the content is boring or not for them because they can’t identify the style.

The solution – ensure that the organization you’re working with is prepared to create samples of their content design so that you can “focus group” it, even if just informally, with your intended audience.

It’s also crucial to ensure a high level of ethnic diversity among the characters in your animation or video to make sure that you can connect with the broadest possible audience among your intended demographic.

An animation about entertaining viewers

Training can and should be  entertaining

Not being prepared to entertain – training is serious stuff right? Great training does three things, it engages, entertains and educates – in that order. Being afraid of entertaining is a common problem. Organizations worry that the training will not be taken seriously and that precious training time will be wasted on something that is “light and fluffy.” Obviously, you have to match your organization’s tolerance for less than deadly serious materials. It is true that if you entertain a learner, they remain engaged and learn far more than if you stick to dry serious content. It doesn’t have to be slapstick; it just has to be entertaining.

The solution – trust in the experience of your production company. Describe to them your corporate culture, detail your tolerance for less than serious training and look for examples online that you think your audience would enjoy within your tolerance.

But an inferior talent can only be graceful when it’s carrying inferior ideas. And the more narrowly you can look at a thing the more entertaining you can be about it.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful And Damned

How to avoid these pitfalls

We’re going through a period of transition, companies and organizations are not as expert at digital content as their production companies. That will change over time, and we have already see an increasing level of knowledge that allows us to work collaboratively with internal groups to develop content.

For those new to using these tools to develop training it’s important to lean on your production company and take advantage of the experiences they have had with other organizations.

Finally, be prepared to give up on some of the time-honored traditions and workflows that have worked in the past. It is a new age, which for some things mean starting over, but it also provides an opportunity to develop compelling and effective training content that engages entertains and educates – and that’s what we all want.