5 Quick Tips for Making an Effective How-To Video

Jenny Coppola


We know what you’re thinking — a “how-to” post on making how-to videos? Seems a tad Inception-like. But trust us, this won’t be nearly as confusing.

You may already be familiar with the many benefits of using video throughout your marketing efforts, but have you ever really thought about what makes a how-to video great? If you’re even toying with the idea of using video in the awareness stage of the marketing funnel, then this post is for you. When executed well, how-to videos have the power to engage, delight, and establish trust in a way other mediums can’t.

With these tips in your back pocket, you’ll be on your way to making stand-out how-to videos in no time! Let’s get started.

1. Start with a great idea

When it comes to how-to videos, the world is your oyster. There are seemingly endless topics your business could create content around that meets the needs of your target audience. However, focusing on topics that showcase your expertise in the field is one of the best ways to build awareness. Not only are you providing relevant content that interests your viewers, but you’re also establishing your brand as a trustworthy and knowledgeable resource in the industry. It’s a win-win for you and your audience.

“However, focusing on topics that showcase your expertise in the field is one of the best ways to build awareness.”

For example, as a video software company, naturally we want to show people how to make videos. More people making videos? More people using our software to help them do better marketing! With that in mind, we set out to teach people how they can create video content by (get ready for it) making videos about making videos. The main takeaway here? Do your research. Find out what people are searching for online, and make helpful content that helps answers those questions.

Check out this video we created to help folks answer the question, "How do I shoot my laptop screen?"

2. More how, less why

If your viewers are interested in your video, chances are they understand why the content you’re providing is valuable. So, don’t waste time getting into a lengthy explanation about why they should watch or why the topic is important. Instead, cut to the chase.

Introduce the topic and then jump right into the nitty gritty details that will help them solve the problem at hand. This will save your viewers time and make the video more digestible overall. At the end of the day, your goal with this type of video content is not to convert your viewers into customers — it’s to answer their question or solve a problem.

“Introduce the topic and then jump right into the nitty gritty details that will help them solve the problem at hand.”

So the next time you set out to make a how-to video, make sure you focus on the how, not the why — and that all starts with a great script. Here are some tips for keeping it informative:

  • Keep it short — jump right into the topic at hand.
  • Avoid jargon. Try to keep your content conversational.
  • Speak directly to your audience. You want your content to feel personal.
  • Stay true to your brand’s voice and tone.
  • Don’t assume your audience knows it all — explain complex or confusing subjects.

3. Simplicity goes a long way

Raise your hand if you’ve ever dozed off in class.

If your hand isn’t raised, we forgive you for lying. The point is, bombarding your audience with too much information at one time never ends well — they’ll go elsewhere to find the answers. So don’t overload your viewer with lengthy, dense, or confusing instructions. Instead, try simplifying the steps of your how-to video as much as you can without cutting out any valuable information. This will make it easier for your viewers to follow along and see the tutorial through to the end without feeling defeated, or worse, bored.

Take this post about how to make a stop motion video for instance. Since this topic is a bit complex and requires multiple steps, our video producer Trevor decided to create several separate videos to help explain each stage of the process. Instead of making one super-long video that covered it all, these individual videos help break things down in a more digestible way.

Here’s an example of one of the videos he made that covers one component of stop motion animation — editing.

This lengthy, in-depth post suddenly turns into an easy-to-follow, crash course in stop motion animation thanks to the help of smaller videos.

4. When in doubt, retrace your steps

Here at Wistia, we like to think of how-to videos as mini adventures we constantly embark on with our viewers. Hopefully by the end of it, they walk away with some valuable and memorable learnings, but as their guide, it’s our responsibility to make sure they don’t get lost along the way.

So, as you’re using video to walk your viewers through a multi-step process, be sure to check in every once and awhile to make sure they’re still on track. You can easily do this by recapping your steps throughout. Summarizing where viewers are in the process will help keep them engaged and reinforce the main takeaways of your how-to video.

“Summarizing where viewers are in the process will help keep them engaged and reinforce the main takeaways of your how-to video.” Chris does a great job of reinforcing the key tips he shares throughout the video by repeating them once more for the audience at the end of this how-to video.

5. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it

You have a great idea, you’ve planned out all your key steps, written your script, and are now ready to start shooting your video. But there’s just one thing missing — you! The content you share will obviously be the star of your how-to video, but adding a personal touch will bring it all to life.

Whether it’s spicing up parts of the script, putting a fun spin on the demonstrations, or adding simple effects in post, there are plenty of ways you can give your how-to video some personality without distracting from the main content. This way viewers can learn how to do something new and have a little fun along the way. It’s also a great way to show new viewers what your brand is all about without having to go overboard.

Check out how we utilized the personalities of some of our very own Wistians to give this how-to video some extra pizzazz!

Put it all together and what do you got? Hopefully a stellar how-to video that’ll inform your viewers in a unique way and keep them coming back for more.

What are some other elements you think are crucial for a successful how-to video? Are there any other brands or businesses that do a great job with this type of video? Share with us in the comments!

Jenny Coppola


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