8 tips for producing engaging videos at home

In March when all Trevecca classes were moved online for the remainder of the semester, many professors like Dr. Dean Diehl, dean of our School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, were in a bit of a panic.  There's so much that teachers do in the classroom that is made more difficult in an online format. Like telling stories, giving illustrations, working examples on the board and so much more.  Trying to figure out how to still do your job as a teacher well when you are no longer with your students presents many challenges. One of the solutions that a lot of teachers came up with to face these challenges was to create video lessons. But even videos present their own challenges. Follow along as Dr. Diehl gives us 8 tips on how to produce good videos at home and make your videos more engaging for your students.


  1. Keep it short and keep it moving. 

    The first thing you want to look at when producing a video is your time. The research tells us that the most attention span you're gonna get out of somebody in this particular format is going to be three to five minutes or at the most, seven minutes. So, if you've been just going through slides and talking, or you've just been going on for 10, 15, 20 minutes thinking, "I'm used to having them for an hour.", there's gonna be dramatic falloff in how long they watch your videos. You want to keep the video short and you wanna keep the pace moving. You don't wanna have long pauses, you don't wanna have a lot of thought as you're clicking around and trying to figure out how to bring up a slide. You wanna make sure that the pace of it keeps moving. When I'm doing a video, I've got a little clock in the back of my mind that tells me, "All right, I need to get moving." 

  2. Lighting matters.

    With all the light behind me and nothing coming from up front, I look like I'm in the Witness Protection Plan except you can still hear my voice. Make sure you have  good lighting coming from the front, not from the back. Cameras work better when there's lots of light. If you're looking at your video and you're getting a lot of grainy videos or you can't understand why it doesn't look good, the more light you have, the better the camera can do its job. 

  3. Sound matters.

    Background sounds such as fans, people playing music, and people mowing lawns all can be very distracting. One really simple fix for all that background sound is I've invested in a little lapel mic that works with my camera. You can also get these that work with your phone. These mics are specially designed to pick up sounds that are close and ignore sounds that are far away. So think about investing in a mic. 

  4. Framing the shot matters.

    Take a look at your camera, and take a good look at what's showing up in your shot before you start filming. There's a classic video going around on YouTube right now of a newscaster who's broadcasting from home and doesn't realize he's got a suit on from the waist up, but just in the corner of the shot you could see a bare leg where he was wearing shorts because he didn't pay attention to what was in the frame. 

  5. Invest in a video editing program.

    You might wanna look at some sort of video editing program. If you're on a Macintosh, it's easy. That's got iMovie, and it's real easy. I use a software program called Movavi. It costs $50.00. It's supported by tons of tutorials online, both from Movavi and from user-generated content. But Movavi's not the only one! There are dozens and dozens of video editing software programs that are very easy to use. In a few hours, you could be up and running and move on from just shooting a video on your phone that has no graphics, no intro, outro, and has all of your mistakes, to a clean, edited video that looks good, is engaging, fits time lengths, doesn't have mistakes, and makes you look like a pro. 

  6. Include characters.

    There's no question that people pay attention to some videos more than others, and if it looks like it's going be just a talking head or narrated slides, students can check out pretty quickly. So one thing that I use in particular is creating characters. It's amazing. I'll change my shirt, put on a different hat, take off my glasses, and low and behold, I'm Tex, the real estate agent. Put on a different shirt, different hat, all of a sudden, I'm Joe, the really bad customer support rep.

    If you are not comfortable being the characters yourself, another technique I've used is bringing in movie clips. There's very easy screen-capture software that will allow you to take a movie clip on YouTube, capture it and drop it into your video. If you can find that clip, meme, or GIF,  you can find those things that are part of their culture that help them lock into the key point and then you can get higher engagement. The goal here though is to be you, not to be somebody else, but be the most engaging version of you. 

  7. Incorporate multiple learning styles.

    Not everybody can learn with just someone talking. Some students don't process auditory language in a way that sticks. They hear someone talking, they understand the point in the moment, but it's like holding water in their hands. It drips away. We need to help those learners by incorporating text. The simple use of text can make a huge difference in helping lock in key points. And we don't have to put up script of everything we're saying, but we do need to reinforce key points with text. And if you can't do that high-tech ways, then let's find a low-tech way to do it.

    So we've got auditory learners and we've got visual learners that need the text. What about those people that are more tactile and neither auditory or visual work? I find the use of graphics, images, photos, clip art, the movie clips that we've talked about, dressing up as different characters helps that third type of learner, the ones that are more tactile. Rather than telling them or having them read it, show them what you mean. Through graphics, images, video clips, playing a character, whatever it is you do really helps that third learning style lock in and go, "I get the point, I get the point." Now remember, the goal is not to be funny and the goal is not to be entertaining. The goal is to reinforce your key point for those learners that just listening to you say it doesn't get it, just reading it doesn't get it. They need that illustration, they need that story, they need that other element.

  8. Keep it simple.

    The last thing I'm gonna mention is simplicity. A simple plan well executed is going to beat a complicated plan that falls apart every time. So don't reach for too much. Stretch yourself, try to be more engaging, try to bring in these elements, but do things that you can do well, and keep things simple. These are home videos, and your students know you're gonna be creating these videos in a home environment. They're not expecting Steven Spielberg. Just the littlest effort can go a long way by trying to make your videos more engaging.




Take your teaching career to the next level!

Learn more about our advanced degrees for educators:

icon_light bulb Get more specialized skills

icon_increase Increase your earning potential

icon_search Enjoy more job opportunities

Get More Info