Creating Engaging Training Videos That Will Still Be Useful in 5 Years

Since entering the public sector 10 months ago, I’ve been exposed to a wide swath of education materials used for training employees and getting the word out about new programs and services. I’ve been impressed with the creative ways videos have been used for ads and informational videos, but there is a severe lack of creativity when it comes to most training videos.

Boring Videos of Years Past

Picture the early 90s HR training videos we’ve all experienced as new employees: the iconic sexual harassment videos, the office ergonomics video and department-specific instructional videos. Commonly used to demonstrate how to use a program, often screen recordings with a voice-over droning on and on for an hour while you watch an I.T. expert navigate a program.

All of these are important and contain valuable information, but the acting and production value are horrible nonetheless, and viewers will not retain nearly as much information if they are bored.

Videos with a Short Life-Span

With such a strong emphasis on creating timely content, the lifespan of a video quickly diminishes and becomes obsolete, often in a matter of 2-3 weeks/weeks/months.

As a communications/media department it is very difficult to pitch a larger budget, high production value project if the video will only be viewed for a short time.


Videos with Stay-Power

So how do you create an engaging and relevant training video that won’t become both aesthetically and informationally outdated by next year?

Keep the video style basic, clean and simple – it’s the best choice when trying to make a video that is relevant for as long as possible. Having an overly-stylized, trendy video could be great for a couple of years; however, when your actors’ clothing, backgrounds, and graphics are all outdated, your expensive video ends up looking as cheesy as a low-budget 80’s action movie.

Extend a video’s useful life by covering generally held truths about the topic at hand. It may not be as catchy or exciting as the latest industry buzzword or policy issue, but think of it as an investment with the best return. If a project doesn’t have a larger budget than a another video, it still might have the best ROI if it has a longer shelf life.

Here’s an example of the latest 10-part video training series AWC did for training Washington State city officials on Budgeting Basics for cities:

Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to training videos. To use a cliche film school 101 concept, figure out how you can show, not tell, what the video’s message is. At AWC, we wanted to share the power of volunteers within city government and how a group of passionate people can aid a city, not just in small tasks, but in large projects, too.

We could have just made a video with a person talking about how volunteers are important but we decided to create a mini-documentary about a group of volunteers literally working to save their entire city. The resulting video received five times as many views as our best talking head training video, is half as long as the average training video AND is by far more impactful:

I wonder how your organization uses or could use training videos? Does your organization have a niche expertise that it could be sharing with others? If you do and you’re not capitalizing on become a resource, you’re missing out!

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