Want to Make Great Videos? Punch Perfectionism in the Face

If you want to make better, more effective, impactful, meaningful videos—push the record button. And then do it again and again and again. And every time you do, purge that urge to have everything be perfect, while methodically and purposefully getting better.

Everyone wants to look like they know what they’re doing. Being seen as an amateur or feeling like you can’t produce something as good as someone else is a huge barrier to trying anything new. And when you’re thinking of dipping your toe in the water of creating videos for training, that need to be perfect can make you think twice about getting started.

I know that feeling. I haven’t always been confident with my video skills. And, the truth is, I’m still learning every day.

So many of us have been in this position: You need to make a video, but you’ve never done it before—or you’re still early in your learning curve. It’s daunting. It’s overwhelming. It feels like climbing a pretty high mountain and you’re not sure you can reach the summit. 

Perfect Is the Enemy of Good

Here’s a little secret: Perfectionism is getting in the way of you getting started—and getting good at—making videos.

Sean Cannell is a successful video creator with a sizable YouTube following. I recently interviewed him for TechSmith Academy and I’ll never forget the exact moment he said these words: 

“Punch perfectionism in the face. Punch fear in the face, and just hit publish, because you just have to put out your first videos. And the reality…is your first videos are going to be your worst videos. We all start horrible, and I think that’s the fear. We’re afraid of putting out some bad videos…just accept the fact they’re going to be bad, and get them out there.” 

Sean’s words rang true then, and they ring true now.

You can’t let the fear of being bad stop you from getting good.

Listen, I understand. Even after nearly 14 years making videos, I still worry about quality. In fact, yesterday I posted a video and realized it wasn’t perfect right before I published it. I published it anyway.

Guess what? I didn’t die. The world didn’t end. The sun rose the next day and all the days after. No one stopped me on the street (or on social media) to mock me over the mistake.

It’ll be the same for you.

“But,” you may be thinking, “I have stakeholders, clients, learners, or another audience who will reject my message because it wasn’t perfect.”

I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. In fact, a recent TechSmith study on video viewing habits found that of all the reasons people stop watching a video, only 4 percent stopped watching because of video quality. The No. 1 reason was the content wasn’t what they were expecting.

At the end of the day, it’s about what your viewers need and what you want your video to achieve. Teaching on-the-job safety protocols? Make sure THAT is what is clear. Want someone to see how a new process works? Focus on making the message clear and effective. Want them to connect to you as a person? Be engaging.

Do the Work

It all starts with starting. There’s just one path to getting better: Do the work. Here are a few tip to help you get started:

1. Set small goals. 

No one is perfect their first time out. You can read all the tutorials, watch all the how-to videos, and listen to all the experts talk about how they do it, but the reality is you have to put in the work. 

But start small. Maybe your first goal is to just get a video made and published. You don’t even have to share it with anyone (though I think you should). Then keep setting small, attainable goals for improvement with each video. To steal an idea from Jeremy Vest, each time you make a video, strive to get 1 percent better. It won’t be long before you’re making videos that look, sound, and perform way beyond your expectations. 

2. Unlearn what you have learned.

Forget about what you think you know about what makes a great video. Stop thinking about how perfect it has to look and, instead, focus on the goal you’re trying to achieve. A simple screen capture video with voiceover requires very little equipment and often can be just as powerful and instructive as a full-fledged video production.

3. Use what you have.

You can make incredibly effective videos with nothing more than a screen recorder and cheap microphone. Most of today’s smartphones can shoot at least full HD-quality video, if not 4K. Don’t worry that you don’t have a professional camera, lights, and audio equipment. Be real, be you, and make it the best you can. 

You have to push the button

We all want to be good at what we do. We want our videos to match what we see on TV or even YouTube. But those high-end, experienced video creators started exactly where you are now. They had to put in the work to find their style and develop their skills. No one starts as an expert. But you can start by creating things that are good enough and building your skills from there. 

The bottom line is this: If you want to make better, more effective, impactful, meaningful videos—push the record button. And then do it again and again and again. And every time you do, purge that urge to have everything be perfect, while methodically and purposefully getting better.

Matt Pierce is Learning & Video ambassador at TechSmith Corp., the go-to company for visual communication. TechSmith empowers people to create remarkable content to share knowledge and information. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Pierce has more than 10 years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith.