4 Tips for Filming the Best How-To Videos

A well-made and innovative how-to video will do more than just explain your product or service – it will introduce and personify your brand for a new audience. When you’re selling an interesting product or useful service, a smart, effective video can help bring your business to life and ultimately close a sale.

Thanks to the well-known format and style of a how-to video, a creative business can even turn the idea into comedy gold. For example, Sony made a splash with its unexpectedly short Used Game Instructional Video. Even if your company’s wares don’t really require a how-to introduction, this approach can be used for more light-hearted projects such as contest announcements to troubleshooting videos.

The usual rules to good video will apply here: plan ahead, get good cameras and lighting, and pay for quality editing skills. But if you want your how-to video to stand out from the crowd, keep these additional points in mind.

1. Start at the Beginning

Think about tying your shoes. For an action that’s become second-nature to most people, it might be hard to break down the steps clearly enough for somebody learning the task for the first time. So rather than begin with “cross one lace over the other,” you’ll want to start even more basic: “Slide the shoe onto your foot.”

When you’re drafting the script for your how-to video, consider whether you need to start at that most basic level. Let the decision be guided by your expected audience. Depending on who you want to reach, you might have different expectations for knowledge of your product or service. But if you’re simply putting a general how-to video out into the world, then make sure it will be useful to the least expert viewers.

2. Use Small Steps

When writing out your script, be sure to list the how-to steps as thoroughly as possible and break everything out into bite-sized pieces. Cramming multiple steps into a single one runs the risk of confusing your viewers, and the important point of these videos is to educate. Remember, you and your team know this process inside and out. To make a successful how-to, put yourselves in the position of knowing nothing about the product and industry.

In addition, make sure to edit your video script thoroughly. Choosing the right words can impact how effectively your steps communicate with viewers. If you don’t have a skilled writer or editor in house, then hire an outside expert to review the work. A few small changes can make a huge difference in how well your viewers process the information.

3. Choreograph Your Shots

If your how-to video involves a mounted camera that never moves, there’s a good chance the final result will be a flop. You already have a thorough understanding of the inner workings of whatever your topic might be so think through an innovative way to bring that to life and show it off through videography.

If one of the steps is especially complicated or difficult, don’t be afraid to use the camera to help present it simply. Experiment with close-up zooms and multiple angles. Try out several different approaches before you film the final take. Editing the video is a necessary step in just about every video project, and how-tos are no different.

4. Be Mindful of Learning Styles

The point of a how-to video is to inform. Since you want your viewers to absorb and retain knowledge, it will help if your team is aware of the range of ways that people learn. Some do best when they hear information, others learn kinesthetically, and others prefer to read. The more approaches you can include in your how-to video, the more people you’ll reach.

Having a person speak directly to viewers will help reach audio learners. Visual learners might be able to walk through the steps with you from their home or office. The extra bonus to keeping your points short and concise is that you can easily add a text overlay of each step to your video, which is a big help to readers.