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How to Make an Effective How-to Video

Thea Neal.
By: Thea Neal  |   February 5, 2013  |   View Comments

So, you want to make a how-to video that people actually watch. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the good news is you don’t have to be a professional to make a great how-to video. Here are a few steps to get you started:

Pick a Topic

Picking a good topic is probably the most important part of the process. Because if it’s something that you’re not interested in, it's going to take forever and you're going to hate it. So, pick a topic that really interests you, something you find yourself talking about a lot, or maybe something you've helped other people do. You never know. A skill or topic you think is common knowledge could end up being a great how-to video.

Research

Research. Research. Research. Learn as much about the topic as you possible can. Check Google, Wikipedia, blogs, news sources, whatever you can find. Make sure you know it backwards and forwards, because if you make a mistake, the Internet won't hesitate to let you know. And be sure to find out if other people have done a how-to on this topic. If there are, don’t quit right away. You might know a better way to do it or cover something they left out.

Script

Now, it's time to write a script. It shouldn't be too difficult at this point if you've done your research properly. Take the most important ideas and make an outline. Then write out the steps, explaining them just like you would if you were speaking to a friend. Don't worry about memorizing the entire thing. You'll be able to fix that later in editing. Just try recording a few sentences at a time. Or even just one sentence.

Filming

Ok, you're ready to film. For that, you'll need a video camera. There are a lot of snazzy, expensive cameras out there, but if you're shooting in good conditions, you don't need one. Other than the camera, the two most important factors when filming are light and sound.

Make sure you have good lighting. Too little, and it doesn't matter how good your camera is, it's going to look dark and grainy. And for the love of Martin Scorcese, don't film in front of a window.

As far as sound goes, take note of any ambient noise like a loud air conditioner. If you're around it for a while, you might become used to it and forget about it until you go to edit and there's an annoying hum in the background. Don't forget, you can always use fun background music to drown out any noise. Just make sure you have the rights.

Make sure to show any products you might be talking about close enough to the camera for viewers to see. And try not to go over five minutes. Attention spans are short, so keep things concise.

Editing

Alright, you've filmed your video. Now it’s time to edit that bad boy. For that you’ll need a computer and some editing software. There a lot of free and pay-for versions. We're using Final Cut Pro to edit this video.

So, remember how I said you could edit your video so you wouldn't have to memorize long blocks of text? Well that is accomplished by taking a clip and trimming it down into individual sentences. Then you just stack each clip right next to each other so that it looks like this. Using a style like this that features quick cuts and transitions will help keep your viewers attention. Editing tools also allow you to speed through time-consuming processes like cooking or crafts. So, find that fast forward button and use it. And don’t forget to add titles for each step of your video. They’ll serve as nice little chapters when people are trying to scan through your video for what they need.

Publishing

Your video is finally finished! Visit a video hosting site such as YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, or any of the dozens out there. Create an account and start uploading. Then, while your video is uploading, enter in the title and a brief description. Be sure to include a link in your description back to your website if you have one. You can even use bit.ly to track how many people visited your website from the video.

When people search for videos, they rarely remember the exact title, but they do remember what the video was about. So, when it comes to using tags, think about how people would search for your video if they couldn’t think of the title. So, for example, if I made a video about how to style your hair, my tags might be words like: braid, hair, style, hairspray, salon, and of course how-to.

Once it's uploaded, you can embed it into a blog post. Just click "Share," then "Embed," then choose video size, and copy the iframe code. Then drop it in the HTML and poof, you’ve got an embedded video.

Now, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is Google scans websites for text so just having a video doesn't do much for your blog SEO-wise. But the good news is because your script has everything you said, all you have to do is copy and paste it below the video.

Well, there you have it. Now you're well on your way to making a great how-to video.


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Comments

3 thoughts on “How to Make an Effective How-to Video

  1. Amber Nicole Garza

    I am really glad that I read this post. When I was younger I was convinced I was going to be the next youtube sensation but I was utterly confused when came down to actually making a great video and picking a topic that was worth watching. I loved how simple this instructional was. I found it really easy to follow and understand. I think this will be useful to me in the future if I ever need to produce something for an internship or job. Thank you for sharing!

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