Why Video Details Count

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Have you ever sold a house? If you have, you know how important it is to stage your home and present it in the best possible light. Literally. Turn on all the lights, make sure closets are lean, kitchen counters should sparkle, carefully arrange furniture, everything in working order, zero clutter . . . you get the picture.

Why? Because details count. And details, after all, leave impressions.

Imagine walls covered with nail holes, dirt smudges on the outside siding, and distracting nicks in kitchen appliances. These items will catch buyers’ attention, but obviously, not in a favorable way.

Instead, they call attention to themselves as defects and give the appearance of deficient care. Whether true or not, this can plant doubt in potential buyers’ minds about the owners’ lack of conscientiousness. The logic follows–albeit faulty–that there may be other issues wrong with the home then.

Impressions either place you in a credible light or they do the opposite.

This is also true for job interviews. We all know that a job candidate must put their best foot forward by dressing professionally and appearing well groomed. Language, demeanor, attitude, energy, professionalism, attire, and grooming all leave an impression–whether true or not. If we look professional, it creates the impression that we are professional. The logic that follows is that a professional-looking employee will contribute productively and positively to a company.

The bottom line is we create impressions. And these impressions lead us to believe other things about home owners and job candidates.

In the world of video production, impressions you create in the camera frame are created in a surprisingly similar fashion. When you present on video, you’re often selling yourself, your company, your brand, your message, your product, your services, etc. At some level, you’re selling something whether explicitly or implicitly. In doing this, you make an impression. Making a favorable impression on your video is essential because in order for viewers to choose to stay watching, you must be perceived as credible, interesting, helpful, or entertaining. To create this favorable impression, everything seen and heard in the visual frame counts.

So how can we create a positive impression on video?

As I mentioned earlier, everything counts. How you speak in the camera frame, where you look, what you wear, what your backdrop looks like, what is in the background behind you–all of these perceived visuals and auditory cues form an impression.

Viewers can get distracted looking at a video presenter’s hair if it’s not groomed well or calls attention to itself. Viewers may get distracted by a background if you’re shooting in a room unrelated to your content. For example, you wouldn’t want to shoot a professional video on how to build a firepit using the webcam on your computer in the bedroom. Also, is the baby dinosaur wallpaper in your video background competing with your video message on speaking with confidence? Perhaps shooting that video in an auditorium next to a lectern would be a better choice. Ask yourself if the background and foreground support or detract from your video message? Shaky cameras or poor audio leave a less than favorable impression. And a message that stumbles, repeats, and is full of tangents does not respect my limited time for watching video.

The simple truth is we will leave an impression whether we want to or not. So why not invest your video production time and effort to leave a favorable impression?

If it would help you, seek out a video coach or video consultant to help you come across with impact to be at your best and effectively reach your audience. Feel free to check out video coaching and consulting services at http://www.howlesassociates.com.

What video impressions are you making with viewers? What do you do to come across in favorable light?

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Leveraging Video for Learning

projector-361784_1280In today’s digital age, where technology is advancing exponentially, new opportunities for communicating across time and space are changing like never before. The use of video as a medium for communicating and connecting is exploding. In the midst of this rapid growth, video can be a great asset for learning and teaching. Let’s examine some of the benefits to leveraging video for learning which includes the ability to re-play and review content, establish instructor presence, and visually demonstrate how to do something.

First, video affords learners the opportunity to re-play and review content, as needed. For example, videos of recorded lectures, instructors’ introductions, or an employee assignment from a corporate trainer can all be paused, played and re-played for present and future generations to come. Video permanently records the learning. Many interactive videos also include built-in automatic pauses with intermittent quizzes as a way of administering knowledge checks and corrective feedback to accompany learning. Including repetition over spaced intervals of learning is also important, and can be administered through video. As educational neuroscientist Janet Zadina attests, repetition results in the repeated firing of brain networks and is a critical component for most learning.

Second, video helps to establish a sense of instructor presence. One of video’s greatest assets is its ability to convey affect, personality, and human presence virtually. In online learning, the absence of a “guide on the side” can impact progress and deeper levels of knowledge construction and application. However, a facilitator whose presence guides the learning, challenges learners, and encourages attendees can facilitate deeper thinking and learning. Anytime an online course or workshop is offered to employees, it’s important to establish this sense of instructor presence. There are other ways to provide presence without video; i.e., threaded discussion boards, course announcements, audio or written feedback on learning assignments, etc. However, both recorded and live video can be ways to establish presence. Recorded video can be used for instructor introductions, to record an instructor’s response to previously submitted learner questions, to facilitate online pre-work before attending training, or to provide opportunities to hear experts or best practices online.

Live video, then, also has its place. Occasional use of live video in a synchronous web conferencing platform by both instructor and attendees, for example, can be used to convey personalities, leverage connection among learners, and provide visual connection cues in a virtual space. Feeling instructor support in training or learning workshops, whether you are in professional development, higher education, or corporate training helps to aid the learning process.

Third, video provides performance support by demonstrating how to complete or do something at the moment of need. When my husband wanted to complete home fix-up tasks like caulking the sink, bathtub faucet and counters, he found helpful videos on YouTube to learn the tips and tricks from experts who caulk professionally. When children need to learn how to create a hairstyle from Star Wars’ characters for Halloween costumes, they search for a “how to” video. Video provides both the visual and audio cues to understand and apply the “how” “where” and “what” for an immediate task at hand. Traditional print instructions are helpful to some, of course, but cognitive resources can be taxed more with print. But the powerful blend of hearing, seeing, and doing result in greater probability of transfer to long-term memory for cognitive storage and retrieval.

Overall, there are multiple benefits to leveraging video for learning. Just a few of those include the ability to re-play videos and reinforce spaced repetition of content, to foster instructor presence across time and space, and to leverage both visual and audio cues to efficiently teach how to do something at the time of need.

How have you used video to learn? What say you?

 

 

Backward Design Your Video Scripts

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Have you struggled with where to start when you script your video? It’s easy to get caught up in the myriad of “to do’s” for online videos. You need to set up good lighting, ensure you’re using quality video equipment, find the appropriate backdrop to your content, etc. However, there’s one “to do” element that should take front stage in video planning.

Your video script.

Your video script not only facilitates careful design ahead of time–which will save you a lot of time on shooting day–it also serves as your production blueprint. During a video shoot, it’s okay to not actually speak from your script so you can maintain a conversational and spontaneous feel, but regardless, it’s still helpful to script out your message ahead of time so you know where you’re headed.

Some individuals insist they can successfully “wing” their video productions, but this is quite rare because without pre-production planning, scripting and rehearsing ahead of time, your shoot will likely require many more re-takes. This translates into more cost and more time.

So how should you begin scripting?

A helpful technique to guide your scripting is backward design, which has been useful in other applications as well. As the name implies, this means the scriptwriter or designer works backwards. For example, you would first identify what kind of impact you want the video to produce? Do you want viewers to buy something, thing more highly of your brand, associate you with a unique message, learn something, be able to apply XYZ? Whatever it may be, identify the impact clearly and document it in writing.

Then based on the impact you want to have, identify what goals need to be accomplished to be successful. Keep goals limited to two-four in order to keep the scope manageable and achievable.

Your goals then drive the creation of an outline. As you write the outline, ensure your outline includes the call-to-action at the end or a memorable take-away. The outline should also include key points and sub-points to support your key message. You can use cut-away shots, testimonials, interviews, B roll, slide visuals, demos, and other types of visual content to support your message. In your outline, you also want to suggest how you will grab your viewer’s attention at the beginning. After all, you only have a few critical seconds to win viewers over, make a good impression, intrigue their curiosity, and keep them watching.

Now that you have an outline aligned with your desired impact and goals, set aside time to write your script from the outline. Your first attempt will be a rough draft for your eyes only. After completing the first draft, take a break for a day or so to let the script “breathe.” When you come back to review and edit your script with fresh eyes, you will find ways to improve concision and clarity. Once this editing is complete, it’s time to share the script with others.

Every piece of writing improves when it is reviewed by others, so make sure you ask one or two other people to do so. Remind colleagues to help you identify sections that may not flow well, do not make sense, are too lengthy or unclear, etc. Even the Declaration of Independence in 1776 named a lead writer, Thomas Jefferson, but the document benefitted from reviews and edits by other committee members as well, such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (patriotic peer reviews).

After you’ve received edits from others, it’s time for a final round of revisions. What works best at this stage is to read your script aloud. After all, the script will be delivered orally, so it should be rehearsed in the oral medium. When you read out loud, you will immediately hear phrases that sound awkward, are not conversational, or stick out in a distracting way. Make your final revisions, and then write the final script. Using this process, a script could endure at least three rounds of editing to trim the fat and ensure your script achieves its intended goals.

Backward design is a brilliant way to ensure your video message achieves what it set out to achieve. Script your videos with this process to place you well on your way to powerfully impacting your viewers.

What scripting tips have worked best for you? Let us know your thoughts below.

 

 

The Top 5 Online Video Mistakes

A  friend of mine recently shared how she conducted a job interview with a candidate in a non-traditional way.

She and her team interviewed the candidate online . . . using video.

The candidate used the built-in camera on his laptop to connect visually, and my friend and her colleagues used video conferencing equipment at their workplace. As the interviewer, my friend shared how pleased and surprised she was with how well the interview went using video technology.

But then at the end of the interview, the unthinkable happened . . .

Apparently, both parties had said their “thank you’s” to close the interview. But instead of the interviewee turning off his video, he unintentionally kept the video live and used his hands to half close the laptop while remaining seated to do other work.

The result?

The laptop’s video camera was now directed solely at the candidate’s lap, and suddenly his job interviewers found themselves staring directly at a crotch onscreen.

ONLINE VIDEO MISTAKES

Not exactly how you want to end a professional interview, right? Let’s just say, it was . . . well, awkward.

Because video is being used more and more for video conferencing, job interviews, video tutorials, corporate messaging, e-learning, telepresence conferencing, there is plenty to learn as we move toward becoming a video literate society.

Below are some common mistakes people tend to make when on-camera. Knowing what these errors are can help you avoid them, so your onscreen time can leave audiences with a powerful impact, and not the opposite.

TOP 5 COMMON MISTAKES

5. Long Openings 

Nothing says boring like a long introduction, a lengthy bio, a drawn out welcome, etc. Think about online video as brief snippets of information. Everything you say should be concise and relevant. Remember, viewers can always go back and view it again, if needed. Keep those first few seconds short and to the point, afterall, this is when you make a first impression.

4. Mellow Energy

Even normally energetic personalities sometimes lose their energy when placed in front of a cold, lonely camera lens. Remember, your energy as presenter is contagious to those watching. If you have come across with low energy and no passion for your content, we will feel the same way.

3. Deer in Headlights Expression

There’s nothing like a semi-coma look to energize viewers on the other end of the screen. Facial expression cannot be blank on-camera. Remember, video is all about movement. Natural facial expression and subtle movements keep us interested and attentive. We don’t want to watch a presenter who doesn’t look delighted to be there.

2. Irrelevant Tangents

Although you do want to come across with spontaneity, you want to curb the topical tangents. True, these can be cut in post-production but that requires more editing time and time is money. Prepare your video presentation ahead of time with a script or talking points, so you can keep yourself on topic. Think about talking in sound bites on topical chunks. Your viewers will thank you.

1. Camera Know-how

The most important part is realizing when your camera is on, when it’s off, how to turn it on, and how to turn it off. It’s also about knowing what’s visible to viewers and what’s out of frame. Where is the camera targeted and can viewers see you scratching your belly right now or is the camera really off?

Let’s keep all these common errors in mind, and allow them to inform the success of our future video presentations.

Please let me know in the comments below what memorable mistakes you’ve observed with video users?

What say you?

 

The Case of Shaky Cam vs. Steady Cam

User Question:  “Is it okay if I hold my video camera to shoot videography?”

If you’re a YouTube junkie, you’ve undoubtedly watched some of the published videos that unintentionally make you feel like the video is being shot right near the San Andreas fault line. You know the ones I mean, where the videos are so shaky, pan too fast, or move up and down so quickly that the effect on viewers is well, . . . not pretty.

There is another way.

These “earthquake” videos are caused by well-intentioned handheld videography. When you simply hold your video camera yourself, there will be horizon lines that are off, quick movements that are hard to watch in succession, jerky visuals, and the list goes on. The shortened term for this is “Shaky Cam.”

But rather than make your viewers dizzy, here are some things you can do to ensure that your videography produces a more–shall we say–pleasant effect on your viewers. To shoot video with a steady cam, consider the following:

Tip #1 – Secure your video camera on a tripod. 

If you’re shooting videography with a mobile device, there are so many available online resources now. For example, it is fairly inexpensive to purchase an attachment for securing your recording mobile device to a tripod when recording. If you’re shooting video on a traditional video camera, there are tripods readily available for purchase.

Tip #2 – Place your video camera on a table or steady platform.

Even placing your recording device on a raised knee if you’re sitting, or on a colleague’s shoulder if you’re interviewing a subject, is still better than a handheld shaky cam. If a high table is accessible, this is preferred. Just ensure the eye line of your video presenter or subject aligns with the camera lens, so viewers don’t feel like they’re sharply looking up or down at the video presenter.

Tip #3 – Brace your arms against your body to shoot handheld video.

If you absolutely must use a handheld video camera for whatever reason, brace your arms against your body and hold your arms tight to your chest while shooting video. Resist the temptation to hold your mobile device out with your arms, as most people do when taking photos. This takes the pressure off your arm muscles, provides more of a steady frame, and reduces some of the shakiness.

Remember, you want you viewers to be pay attention to you and your message. You don’t want them distracted by the shaky scenery that leaves them feeling motion sickness, among other things.

With just a few extra steps and an openness to being resourceful, you can transform your videos from “shaky cam” to “steady cam” rather smoothly. And “smoothly” here, is definitely the point.

Shake, anyone?

What You Should Know About Being On Camera

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As a former model, I know that there are two important facial features that sell print ads.

Eyes and mouth.

This is where personality, intrigue, attitude, emotion, interest, and curiosity emerge from. These human dimension features either pull us toward the ad and the product or push us away.

When you present on video, these same two facial features are also critically important. If we cannot see both your eyes or watch your mouth moving, we will not connect as well with you as viewers. Why is this important? Because you are the carrier of the message. If we are not drawn to you, we may not hear what you have to say. This week we’ll  focus on the importance of making sure both eyes can be seen on camera, and next week we’ll focus on the importance of not blocking your mouth in the camera frame (happens all the time when people lean forward or gesture excessively).

As the old adage says, the eyes truly are the “window to the soul.” By establishing eye contact with another, we can sense mood, attitude, emotion, enthusiasm, apathy, energy, engagement, disappointment, interest, disinterest, and the list goes on.

The same is true for video.

When you present on camera, we want to be able to see your eyes to make that vital connection. As babies, we are drawn to faces to sub-consciously determine cues about what is happening. Obstacles that may hinder this connection include poor lighting, poor positioning on camera, inappropriately placed rollover text or icons added in post-production, or hand gestures or body movements that block viewers’ contact with your eyes. Let’s explore these one by one.

Lighting is really important, as good video requires lots of light. When you’re recording yourself on video, make sure your face is lit well from the front, which will likely require a side light to remove shadows from the face. If the presenter is in the dark, viewers won’t be able to make that “invisible” eye contact or feel like you’re looking at us.

Another obstacle is that some presenters may also have awkward positioning that doesn’t allow us to see a presenter’s eyes all of the time they are speaking on camera. If they are turned to the side, or worse, their back to us in parts, we are missing vital communication cues with the on-camera presenter. So make sure the presenter is looking at the lens, and viewers are able to see both eyes within the frame.

In the editing process, sometimes text or other images also get added to the bottom, top, or sides of the screen. Or if your video is overlaid on a video platform frame, certain icons may be added as well. Again, test the playback to make sure your eyes are not covered by these emblems, or modify if they are, as this can be a frustrating experience for viewers.

One last obstacle I often see is unintentional gestures. Unknowingly enthusiastic or presenters who gesture excessively may cover portions of their face when they speak on camera. People easily foget that they are talking within a framed boundary and that by moving their hands as they normally would, they actually may raise them too high and partially cover an important source of connection with viewers — their eyes. When you first come on a video set, ask how big your camera frame is so you know approximately where to place your arms when you gesture. Then, keep gestures below your neck so viewers can always see your eyes when you’re speaking. Adding add cut-away shots, B roll, and supporting visuals into your video add many benefits to your overall video, and obviously, these segments would not require an on-camera presenter to provide eye contact with the lens, A.K.A., the viewer.

Overall, when you present on video, remember the importance of eye contact when you first establish a connection with others – even if your audience is off camera.

So don’t start speaking, until your videographer says he/she can “see the whites of your eyes.”

What say you?

Online Video: The “Slight Shift” Difference

I had an editor once request I change a word in my title because, as he explained it, a singular word can either “kill or boost readership” depending on the word, of course.

Now that’s powerful.

Most of us would be in a hurry to shrug off any difference a slight adjustment might make on a bigger outcome. Yet analytics tell us a different story. Research studies prove otherwise as well.

Apparently, one word can make a difference.

Magazine editors know this truth well. The image selected to grace the cover of a magazine can determine whether or not a magazine sells well. Book editors know that a book’s title can make the difference in whether or not the book has the potential to be a bestseller.

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These minor adjustments are all slight shifts and may seem minute, but ultimately . . . they can make a big difference.

Let’s apply this notion to online video. Some of the widespread beliefs about video are: “online video doesn’t have to be high quality”; “just get it done and post it on YouTube”; “don’t sweat the small stuff”; “viewers of online video are used to low quality”; “just turn on the video camera and start talking”; etc.

Yet there’s definitely something missing in this thinking.

As it turns out, little things can make an impact. For example, by directing your eye contact right at the camera lens, you can connect with viewers in a more powerful and compelling way. By smiling when it’s appropriate in your content, you establish rapport with your viewer, increase likability, and may be watched longer because you’re perceived as inviting and friendly. By taking the time to frame your shot and remove potential distracting background items from view, you help to direct focus on the speaker and his/her message.

Have you noticed a pattern?

All of these adjustments are slight shifts. Slight shifts in the way an online presenter on video comes across, slight shifts in on-camera presence, slight shifts that don’t take that long to make . . . yet, which ultimately . . . make a big difference.

 

What are the collective “slight shifts” you can make in your video presentations?

Why You Need to Invite Viewers (of video) To Participate

Last week, we explored the power of fostering a participative community in today’s multimedia-rich age. Today’s consumers, customers, and users now expect to participate in the process of learning, viewing, voting, competing, entertaining, etc.

Period.

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Our technological age has ushered in this desire for end-users to connect and participate with those “inside” the media they consume. Time and space are no longer barriers in our virtual world. Also gone are the days of passive observers. Because the technological capability is available, we expect to be given the opportunity to participate.

So how does this apply to creating online video presentations?

When you present on video, whether you are teaching, selling, informing, or entertaining, you are addressing a virtual audience that wants to be part of the experience. Let’s explore some of the ways you might involve viewers.

  1. Ask Questions in Your Video
    Asking rhetorical questions in your video presentation and pausing briefly to allow viewers to think about their response is one way to involve viewers. Rhetorical questions can be useful on the front-end, as closing punctuation, or even throughout your video.
  2. Invite Posts and Comments
    Requesting viewers communicate what they want to hear, comment on what you’ve discussed, ask questions, and add their own suggestions to your ideas are all ways to solicit comments and engage viewers.
  3. Request Photos from Viewers
    You can also request viewers send images of how they’ve applied what you’ve shared. For example, if you’ve created a video to show customers how to make a gluten-free cake, ask them to send a photo of the cake they made using your instructions or encourage them to post the image on social media.
  4. Encourage Viewers to Create a Video
    In response to what you’ve shared on your video, encourage viewers to create their own videos to demonstrate ideas, showcase what they’ve learned, or ask direct questions.
  5. Notice your Language – Keep it Personal and Informal
    When you are presenting on video, you can include more personal pronouns in your delivery so we are once again reminded that you are really talking to us. Additionally, you can include phrases such as “now you might be thinking, . . .” In this way, you are reaching out to viewers and including what they might be thinking in your video.

Just because we can’t physically see our audience in video, doesn’t mean we can’t involve them, invite them to participate, and of course, connect with them. A virtual audience member for online videos is still a real viewer.  And yes, they want to be part of your video experience. So make sure . . . they receive an invitation.

What are your ideas for including viewers in online video presentations?

Video: The New Literacy

In an address last year, Bill Rankin (Apple’s Director of Learning) said “making videos is a new literacy.” With the explosive growth of video in the last few years and its trajectory for continued growth, video is quickly becoming the dominant communication medium. According to Syndacast,  74% of all Internet traffic by next year will be video.

This notion of being “video literate” is intriquing. Ages ago in the Egyptian culture, only 1% of the population could read or write. These literate scribes were entrusted with writing and reading skills, as well as translations on behalf of their citizenry. Then in various cultures over the ages, literacy began to grow at variable rates. The advent of the printing press and the wider distribution of books also accelerated the spread of literacy. Benjamin Franklin’s idea to create lending institutions for sharing books without fees (our modern day library) also contributed to the cause, as did many other educational variables, and cultural shifts.

Today, we are faced with a need for a new literacy – video literacy. Many professionals have not been trained as videographers, cinematographer, on-camera talent, lighting specialists, and video script writers. Yet in the age of digital media, almost everyone has access to HD video cameras on smart phones and tablets. Publically accessible video platforms such as YouTube and vimeo have made it easy for us to record video ourselves and distribute them with relative ease to a global audience.

However, after watching many of the videos available to global viewers, you may notice some interesting trends. Videos are often handheld creating the “shaky cam” syndrome which is difficult for viewers to watch. Other videos are shot in the dark or backlit, as video requires lots of light. Some video messages ramble on and lose viewers within the first 30 seconds. Other videos showcase very poor audio quality. Some presenters on video aren’t sure where to look, how to move, and reveal their discomfort on-camera, and the list goes on.

So is recording a quality, effective video a new literacy?

Absolutely. As we transition to this age of dominant video communication, there are slight shifts all of us can make to raise the quality and improve our effectiveness. From technical aspects to visual framing, and from message design to on-camera presence, competencies exist that many professionals don’t yet know that they don’t know. By learning how to change a few things in video in order to create a greater impact, we align ourselves to reach our video message goals.

Video literacy begins with learning what those slight shifts are that we need to make. We need to learn and practice how to improve our ability to communicate effectively in this new medium. It is an exciting time for pioneering . . . are you ready?

What’s one thing you’ve noticed recently that video presenters could improve? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.

The Rise of Online Video Tutorials

Need to make a quilt, but need some guidance? Youtube can help. Interested in learning the secrets to performing on stage from someone who has been there? Masterclass.com is your answer. Wish you could learn how to better prepare for acting auditions? Check out curious.com. Want to learn how to set up a video shoot? Visit lynda.com.

Video tutorials are on the rise with competitors targeting both corporate and academic sectors. Essentially, these are courses you watch. Leveraging the popularity and convenience of learning anytime and anywhere, why wouldn’t you consider purchasing a subscription for you or your staff to view video tutorials on your topics of choice? The beauty of video tutorials is that they are available when and where you need them, and yes, right at your fingertips.

There are certainly benefits to learning via video. Some of the obvious ones include the ability to easily replay them, their on-demand access, the opportunity to pause when needed, and the luxury to complete them at one’s own pace. The challenge may be ensuring learners’ real-world application of concepts and principles as close to the time of learning as possible. Additionally, the ability to talk and write about what one has learned is essential for transferring new mental models from working memory to long-term memory. However, these activities are not always included with online video tutorials.

Each provider of video tutorials offers their own niche for potential buyers of lifelong learning. For example, curious.com, offers brief previews for free so you can get a taste of their offerings as diverse as media negotiation to body language for public speaking. Lynda.com offers video tutorials on a variety of subjects as well, also providing handouts and outlines and the opportunity to take notes online. Masterclass.com affords the opportunity to interface and learn from celebrities the likes of Serena Williams or James Patterson to teach you tennis or how to be a novelist respectively. For educators and students, atomiclearning.com offers videos for K12 and Higher Ed faculty, staff, and students, including how to use popular software for teaching and learning.

In today’s digital age, learning from video tutorials is clearly exploding. Video’s accessibility, the ability to chunk visual content, and self-directed replay and review all combine together to make them, well, . . . absolutely irresistible. Let’s do our part to ensure that they are the best video instruction possible so we can set the standard for quality instruction via video.

What say you?