Do you create how-to videos for your YouTube channel, or online course? In this video, I share the 5 biggest mistakes people make when creating how-to videos.

1. Not Listing the Ingredients Off the Top

Show the viewer all the parts and tools they’re gonna need to complete the task. And do it near the beginning of the video, before you jump into the steps. Doing this will prevent frustrating surprises for your viewer, and help them get in the proper mindset to effectively follow your instructions.

2. Bad Sound

I can’t tell you how many how-to videos I’ve watched where the sound was either too quiet, or too echoey, or just too distorted. Good, clear sound is important to any video, but when it comes to how-to videos, it’s vital. The soundtrack (narration, sync sound) carries the bulk of the information. Our brains can work with less-than-perfect visuals, but horrible sound is just way too distracting.

3. Going Too Fast

I see this a lot: how-to videos that rush through the information. I get it, you don’t want to be boring. But you’re doing your viewer a disservice, if they can’t follow your video. Slow down your delivery, and pause between complete thoughts to give your viewer a chance to absorb the information. Approach creating your video as if the viewer has only one chance to watch it, and they can’t pause it, or rewind it.

4. Not Enough Close-ups

I’ve seen far many how-to videos that consisted solely of one, big wide-shot for the entire video. No close-ups. Without close-ups we can’t see the necessary details needed to complete the task. From an instructional point of view, a how-to video like that it essentially useless. So, don’t be lazy. Don’t rely on the spoken instructions to carry your how-to video. Get in there, reposition the camera, record the close-ups, capture the necessary details of the task. Your viewer will love you for it.

5. The Words Don’t Match the Pictures

If you’re talking about one thing, but showing something not quite related, your viewer can easily become confused. Confusion leads to stress, which disrupts the learning process. As much as possible, you should be talking about what your viewer is seeing. And a way to do that is to let the visuals dictate the words. In the broadcasting business we call this “writing to picture.” There’s a reason we say “show and tell” as opposed to “tell and show.”

There you have it. Avoid those 5 big mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to creating engaging, and effective how-to videos.

Michael Kinney

Michael is an award-winning media creator with 30 years of professional video production experience. He's written, produced, directed, hosted, recorded, and edited a variety of media projects - from TV documentaries to interactive learning.

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  • Excellent advice, Michael, as always– but if I may, I’d like to add a sixth. A musical background on what is basically a tutorial is incongruous. Music is used to set a mood or to enhance an emotion, and mood and emotion are far separated from whatever you’re teaching in a tutorial. Worst of all is those producers who insist on ear-blasting rap music which is totally distracting, sometimes even aggravating and it runs completely counter to the learning process. It creates more of an impediment than an aid.

  • Hi Michael,

    My daughter asked me earlier to help her with a ‘How To…’ video, so this comes in very handy. Perfect timing!

    If I may ask, how do you get the currently playing video (small screen bottom right) to scroll along with the page? Are you using a plug-in?



    • Hi Dirk,
      Glad my video came in handy. That persistent video effect is actually a feature of my WordPress theme (Vlog by Meks). But there’s got to be a WordPress plugin out there that can do the same thing. MK