Outlining Can Be an Effective Tactic for Producing Better Work, Faster

“Before I shoot anything, I always outline it. It gives me a plan of attack and helps me get my thoughts in order.” – Casey Neistat

We’ve celebrated the virtues of outlining before, when it comes to your course and course modules. Now we’re back at it one more time, to talk about outlining from the perspective of the individual videos that make up your modules.

Outlining your videos pays dividends in the form of a lot of time and effort saved. And it has other, related benefits as well.

Research has shown that students who outline as a study strategy tend to have better academic performance and recall of information. In one formal study, students who used an outlining strategy performed significantly better on a comprehension test compared to those who did not.

In a separate survey of professional writers, 72% of respondents stated that they used an outlining strategy to plan their writing projects. Among the same group, 90% of those who outlined their work said it had a positive impact on their productivity.

Lets bring this type of focus and efficacy to your own course videos, via a sound outlining strategy.

Why Outlining is Important for Video Course Creators

Outlining is a foundational tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas. 

By breaking down your video into smaller parts, you can focus on each section individually and ensure that your message is clear and concise. It’s also a way to skirt writer’s block or procrastination. 

Instead of worrying about scripting your entire video, start to finish, outline one subsection of one video in one module. Repeat this tactic until you’re done with your outline. Trust us, you’ll feel much better afterwards about your content plan and your ability to execute it fully later on.

This approach can also help you identify any gaps or inconsistencies in your content, allowing you to make revisions before you start recording. 

Paper is cheap, as they say. Video, less so. 

Identifying mistakes in your outline, and fixing them before time and money has been spent on recording, is a more cost-effective way to perfect the messaging in your video(s). When you have a clear plan to guide your video creation, you’re less likely to end up with too much excess footage, or content that’s so off the mark that it needs to be cut (or worse, re-recorded). 

This means you’ll spend less time sifting through footage to find the right shots, and you’ll be able to edit your video more efficiently. Even if you plan to use your outline as the basis for scripting your video(s), you’ve still taken a big step towards greater efficiency. It can be easier to spot errant tangents within the clean and simple structure of an outline, as opposed to the more dense structure of scripted paragraphs.

How to Craft an Effective Outline for Your Course Videos

Here’s a replicable framework for crafting an effective video outline.

Step 1 – Start with an introduction: Clearly state the topic of your video and provide a brief overview of what you will cover. Examples of end results that viewers can expect by the end of the video, and/or metrics or testimony highlighting what success will look like later, can be helpful to include here as well. They’ll help excite and motivate your students.

Step 2 – Section out your video: Divide your video into sections based on the main points you want to cover. Each section should focus on one key concept or idea. Anything that doesn’t point back to this idea should be included elsewhere, if important, or else it should be cut from your outline.

Step 3 – Subdivide each section further, down into bullets: What details are important to include in each section? Jot them down in bulleted form. Be as specific as you feel you need to be, but remember that you can flesh your bulleted ideas out later in the scripting phase.

Step 4 – Write down transitions: This is a tactic that’s not always included in outlining, but merits some consideration. It’s simple to go back and add transitions in text content. For video, you’ll want o know ahead of time how you want to handle transitions. Note that we’re talking about ideas here, transitions that help trace a line from one idea to a new one. Editing transitions, when you’re assembling your actual finished video, are different. The point is to have a clear plan in your outline for how you’ll move from idea to idea, within your video and across videos.

Step 5 – Finish with a conclusion: Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to recap everything your students just learned with a concluding statement. They literally just watched the video, and can probably remember. However, a line or two that indicates where you’re going next (and why) will put a neat button on your video. Consider adding a call-to-action (CTA) here, even if it’s to hit play on the next video in the course module.

Conclusion: Outlining Can Seem Boring or Unnecessary, But You’ll Be Glad You Did It

The best case we can make for outlining is that, if you do all of the above, it will almost certainly take you less time to record and edit the videos that make up your course. 

This also means things like scripting and editing will cost you less, if you’re outsourcing any of that labor. 

Even if you’re not outsourcing, you’re saving your own time, that can be invested elsewhere. That leaves more time that can be devoted to other important elements of your video course, like optimizing the videos themselves from a technical point of view, and marketing and selling to your audience. 

The peace of mind that outlining can bring shouldn’t be undersold either. 

Outline in as much or as little detail as you feel is appropriate for your course and your personal tastes. But give it a try if you haven’t before, and we bet you’ll be glad you did.

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