How to edit simple talking head videos

Every day in your email box you probably see blaring headlines saying things like “you must do video,” “all millennial‘s only watch video.” “the world is turning into video,” “Facebook announces more attention on video,” and “YouTube growing and influence.”

And I admit I’m a part of this trend, I’m always emphasizing to people that they need to be creating their content in video, creating online courses in video, creating proposals in video, and answering frequently asked questions on their website in video. All of this is true, and it often  brings up the question “how do you edit the video?” What is the best editing program? How can you edit more quickly? How can you add more special effects in your editing?

I want to give you a new perspective on editing right here. And it’s somewhat contrarian again. Before I do, though, I have a few questions for you:

Think of the best teacher you ever had in high school and/or college. Was this teacher a great teacher because he or she never said “uh” or “um?”

Was the teacher great because he or she never scratched his/her forehead?

Was the teacher great because her or she ran video and text and special-effects throughout the lecture in each classroom?

Did this teacher re-do or start over lectures 5 or 10 or 20 minutes into the lecture if something was less than perfect?

Was the teacher great because every presentation was flawless?

My guess is the answer for you to all those questions is no, no no, no and more no.

Great teachers are great communicators because they speak with passion, and conviction, and they are interesting, and give important useful information. They weren’t great teachers because they never said uh or um or stumbled over words or coughed in the middle of a lecture presentation. Chances are they did all of those things, and you didn’t notice or care. Because the power of their message and their passion and their insights is what stood out. That’s why I believe, and here’s the contrarian part, that most of the time when people create videos for online courses, for YouTube, for Facebook, and for their websites they should not edit at all.

Let me say that again because some people will think I’m crazy. I don’t think most people should edit their simple talking head videos at all.

I am suggesting that unless you’re making a Super Bowl ad or you’re trying to do some branding video that goes viral, most of the time most people in the professional world who are trying to convey ideas and information should not edit their video at all.

For example, I have more than 100 online courses on major platforms around the world including I have half a dozen of the best selling courses in the world on communication skills. Guess what? I do literally zero editing.

Again, literally zero editing of my videos.

And guess what, my ratings on my best selling courses average a very high 4.6 on a 5.0 scale. There’s simply no evidence that consumers like educational videos with straightforward factual information to have lots and lots of editing.

There is one sort of editing I do, it’s called hitting the delete button.

I have created more than 10,000 how to videos for my YouTube channel and online courses. 99% of the time I do everything in one take. The other one percent of the time, if I feel like I made a mistake or blunder, especially in the first 10 seconds, I just stop. Then I hit delete. Then, I do the video over again.

So, to restate, my editing, if that’s what you want to call it, consists of hitting the “record” button with a remote control in my hand, seeing the red light go on, and then I talk. When I’m done talking, I hit “stop record” button and the red light goes off. I now have a video, that I can label, and upload to my online course, and any place else I want. That’s it.

Some of you may be thinking, “well TJ you’re a professional at this, it’s easy for you to do, you can do it in one take, but that’s insanely difficult.”

No, it’s not difficult, it’s just talking. Really, it’s just talking. If you ever had one successful meeting with one client, customer, client, colleague, or a friend, and it went well, and you communicated your messages to that person, then you have all the skills you need to make a videos in one take.

What else made your best high school teacher or college teacher so memorable powerful and effective? I believe it’s because they showed up every single day, in the case of high school, and delivered interesting lectures or moderated discussions or gave exercises 180 days in a row. In the case of a college professor it was at least twice a week, for an entire semester.

Where am I going with us? The best teachers speak to us not just with quality but with quantity. They give us dozens and dozens and dozens and in many cases hundreds of hours of instruction. That’s what I think great online instructors should focus on, not editing special effects, adding gizmos, and wasting time deleting ums and uhs.

But you are probably thinking “TJ isn’t this going to be a problem especially with paying customers for online video-based courses? Surely people have been conditioned to expect high production standards? Right?”

All I can do is share with you my personal experiences, I’ve had nearly 400,000 enrollments in my online video-based courses consisting of nothing but un-edited talking head videos for me over the last five years. To date, I have had exactly 2 people complain that I didn’t have enough editing in my videos.

Am I suggesting you should never edit video again? No, what I am advocating is that automatically  editing a video should no longer be your default position. You should ask yourself “is what I am doing going to create the most benefit for my online students, or clients, or prospects, or am I just doing this out of some base insecurity? Am I perhaps better off using the time I’m spending editing just actually creating more interesting useful content?”


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