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How to get the most out of talking head video for learning

Video interviews are a widely-used device in digital learning. We spoke with Learning Designer, Laura Estrella Bowyer, who has conducted over 60 video interviews for our clients. In this blog, we explore how the format is now being reinvigorated and how to get the most out of using talking head video for learning.

Video is a powerful medium for communication and engagement. It’s often said that video viewers retain 95% of a message, compared to only 10% when read in text form 1. That’s why, alongside its popularity in marketing and social media campaigns, many organisations also use video to deliver learning.

Fosway Group’s Digital Learning Realities Research found that video was the top digital content growth area in the European L&D market 2. This increased focus on video may well be a recognition of our heavy consumption of video outside of the workplace.

YouTube and Netflix have capitalised on our appetite for high-quality, on-demand video. To follow suit, L&D needs to deliver similarly high-quality video, that is easy to access on the go.

Filming talking head video for learning requires expert skills to get great results

Our approach to creating a talking head video for learning

At LEO Learning, we create a broad range of video content in our dedicated Moving Image team, including immersive drama, factual video and VR experiences.

Yet talking head video is still one of our most commonly produced video types. It’s a familiar, well-worn format that learners have seen many times before: a single static camera that frames an interviewee speaking to someone just off-camera. But expectations of even these kinds of simple interviews are changing.

As mainstream documentaries become increasingly cinematic, learners now expect a level of polish and storytelling that will elevate the content to something more engaging. That’s why LEO Learning approaches every talking head video as a short film, hand-crafted to tell a story that will deliver the quality and impact that today’s learners demand.

Later in this article we’ll look in more detail at how we are reinvigorating this classic learning format. We’ll also cover some of the fundamentals of getting the best from the interviewee themselves. First though, let’s begin by revisiting when (and when not) to use talking head video in the first place.

Filming a talking head video for learning

When to use a talking head video for learning

Talking head video can be over-used or used in a context where it’s unlikely to have the most impact. We always take the time to consider whether video is the right solution to a particular learning requirement or if another format would be more appropriate.

Here are three strong use cases where we would recommend using talking head video for learning:

1) To lend credibility and authority to learning

A standard use of talking head video is to have a senior figure from the business introduce the course. This can lend a high level of credibility to upcoming learning.

Equally, calling on industry experts or highly-experienced people in the business to explain key terms, definitions or contexts can give a sense of authority that reinforces learning.

2) To add authenticity and relatability

Another good use of talking head video is to interview employees. This can offer a strong sense of authenticity. For example, employees talking about their career stories can be a much more powerful way of conveying a company culture than simply describing potential career paths and development plans.

3) To create emotional connection and impact

Talking head video is also a highly-effective vehicle for emotional engagement. It can communicate the ‘whys’ of a piece of learning: Why should I care? Why does it matter? What’s in it for me?

Storytelling using talking head video

In recent times, we have used talking head video primarily for the last use case: to create emotionally powerful video.

We harness storytelling techniques to add an extra dimension to a talking head video treatment and create a more dramatic result. This requires experienced and talented directors and editors who can weave together a powerful narrative.

Often using supplementary footage, this approach creates a video that goes beyond an interview, to tell a real-life story.

In recent projects for our clients, we’ve created videos to tell the stories of:

  • employees working with disabilities within a UK pub chain’s branches
  • leaders working in the health sector and patients – to provide a ‘360 view’ for the future generation
  • managers and employees working together to create a safer workplace

preparing an interviewee is key for creating a good talking head video for learning

Talking head video for learning: Getting the best results

A great talking head video should feel like a natural, relaxed interview. But this is easier said than done. A high-quality result requires advance preparation and effective interview techniques.

These are some of Laura Estrella’s key tips to get the best results on the day.

Know the content inside out

She explained that to be able to conduct an effective interview, learning designers (who often serve as interviewers) ensure they know the material inside-out.

Our learning designers also prepare alternative questions to help get to the heart of the subject matter.

The learning objectives will also be at the forefront of the interviewer’s mind, to keep the interview on track and relevant.

Prepare the interviewee

Laura Estrella also explained that an interviewee will never come in ‘cold’. Ahead of any interview, the learning design team will prepare an interview pack that has all the information the interviewee needs.

This includes things like the proposed interview questions, the context of the piece, the learning objectives and general advice about speaking on camera.

On the shoot day, the interviewer will also spend time with the subject to help them get ready for the interview. They’ll recap its purpose and be on hand to answer any questions the interviewee may have ahead of recording.

Use active listening techniques

She highlighted the importance of active listening skills. A great interview isn’t just about the questions asked. Active listening skills are critical to getting the right response.

Interviewers listen carefully to responses and use open body language and non-verbal cues to signal attention and understanding. A good interviewer should also never interrupt – it’s important to give interviewees time to think before they respond.

To help set less experienced subjects at ease, our interviewers always let them know that any pauses or stumbling points can be edited out. This often helps interviewees settle into a more natural way of speaking rather than trying to memorise and repeat a lengthy set response.

Although some interview subjects may have had media training, it’s often the case that less experienced interviewees create a more engaging end result. Their responses tend to be more natural and less rehearsed.

Using talking head video for learning in your next project

Hopefully this blog has given you a thorough understanding of the potential of using a talking head video in learning, and how this format can be used for maximum impact.

Talking head video is a cost-effective way to increase the effectiveness of your learning. With expert help, you can create video content that emotionally engages and motivates your learners.

LEO Learning has expertise in creating talking head video for learning

LEO Learning’s in-house Moving Image team has extensive experience in creating high-quality video solutions, including talking head video for learning. Contact us today to find out more.

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1. Pop Video (2016), ‘Looking at the Facts-Why Video Content Has the Highest Retention Rate’
2. The Fosway Group (2018), Digital Learning Realities Research