The answer is yes. But only if you have something worth saying visually.
This year, I produced and collaborated on three video projects:
- A five-part informational series about the Internet of Things.
- An instructional video about programming for Micrium’s RTOS, together with Jonathan Blanchard.
- And the one I’m most proud of: a short educational film about astronomy, called “The Rainbow and the Stars.”
Each of these projects has a different audience, a different message, and a radically different style. What they have in common is that each of these presentations would have been far less effective if presented in a different medium.
If you’re thinking of using a video to reach your audience, you must make the effort to communicate visually. Judging from the stuff that gets put on YouTube, it’s surprising how many people fail to grasp that.
For example, the egregious failures in the way people use visual tools like PowerPoint are legendary. Bad PowerPoint presentations — slides that contain nothing but bulleted speaker notes — not only bore your audience, but the mangling of information found in bad PowerPoint can actually kill. Sometimes, the written word really is the way to go.
If you’re considering a visual medium to communicate your story, there are a few rules of thumb you can follow that will tell you if you’re on the right track.
- Is the subject difficult to understand without multiple visual aids such as charts, photos, or illustrations?
- Is the subject about a process with before-and-after states that would be more understandable when shown?
- Is the subject about a procedure or way of doing something?
If any of the above are true, then a video is a useful and powerful tool to reach your audience.
Above all, you should tell a story. Even for highly technical subjects, a video should not be an information dump, but should contain a narrative that shows how the audience will be changed by the information presented. Show the before and the after.
Solving a problem for the audience is often the best way to deliver technical information. No one watches a video to locate a button in your software. But a video can show people why they should use the button, using real-world examples.
On the other hand, if your project consist of:
- Nothing but a talking head? Unless your speaker is a riveting storyteller, don’t make a video.
- Nothing but PowerPoint slides (especially bullet points)? Don’t make a video.
- Nothing but a narration with mood imagery? Again, unless you have a truly compelling speaker, don’t make a video.
Making videos — like any other form of communication — isn’t about the tools. It’s about the story.