6 tips for lingcomm videos

These tips were distilled from a discussion among the following panelists at LingComm21 in April 2021:

Know your motivation. What are you hoping to accomplish by making lingcomm videos? Maybe you’re explaining topics in a way that no one has before, or connecting with an audience that hasn’t seen someone like you teach before, or simply demonstrating a shameless, nerdy enthusiasm for the discipline that might inspire someone to devote some of their free time to learning about it. Whatever your goal, make sure it’s clear to you so you can use it to guide further decisions.

Consider the audience you’re likely to get. You might have in mind a core group of followers who will eagerly await the release of each new video. However, video, more than many other formats, makes it easy to reach broad audiences who are not necessarily looking actively for your content. Many video platforms “recommend” videos to users or even start playing them automatically. Video resources are also used sometimes by educators in classroom environments to supplement more traditional learning materials. What is the entry point for your videos? Can viewers get something out of watching an isolated video, or do they need to start from the beginning of the series for things to make sense? And how do your video title, end card, and other information guide people toward a particular watching order or let them know that any order is okay?

Be accessible, but don’t be condescending. You’re not “dumbing down” the content; instead, you’re drawing on your expertise to present it to viewers in a way that’s efficient, understandable, and only as detailed as necessary. It’s hard to be both accurate and concise while speaking extemporaneously, so consider scripting what will be said during your video. And don’t shy away from a script just because you’re concerned about the video feeling boring! If you’re genuinely excited about the content, that’s going to come through even if your expressions of excitement are prewritten.

Think about what’s on the screen, but prioritize the audio. What viewers see is, of course, a major component of a video, and you should ensure that it supports the experience you want to create. However, viewers are much more forgiving of low video quality than low audio quality. If your resources are limited, devote them to audio before video. For instance, you might record video using the camera built into your cell phone, but audio using an external microphone that provides clearer sound.

Make a finite, repeatable commitment. Rather than releasing videos on a regular basis indefinitely, consider structuring a video series as “seasons” of a set length. This format allows you to take predictable breaks and provides organic opportunities to revamp anything about your process that isn’t working optimally. And if and when you choose to stop making videos, a series that ends with the conclusion of a season can feel more satisfying to viewers.

Just press record. It can be easy to feel intimidated, especially if your points of reference include videos created by professional production companies (like Crash Course Linguistics). Resist the temptation to compare your first video to someone else’s fiftieth video—and go back and look at some of the very first videos from channels you admire to see how they grew and developed with their audiences. You may not have the experience or the budget of established creators, but you can still have something great to offer.

This post is part of a series of resources from LingComm21:

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