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How to avoid talking head in pedagogical video

Jun 14, 2021

Some should have already drawn, but I am not talking about the band.

I work with video production for more ten years, and I have had dedicated the last few 6 years working with video as a tool to support teaching. Over time I realised that most of the pedagogical videos were boring and most of the time delivered by a stead person in front of the camera.

What I call talking heads.

Talking heads avoidance devices

For that matter, I started searching for and studying the term “Talking head”. I wanted to know why it was so difficult to insert dynamic video production in learning video formats.

I found that this term had has been used by authors of fiction books.

It’s used to define dialogue mistakes. When characters converse without any accompanying description of his action, of the setting, their gestures or sensory details.

*Elisabeth George speaks a bit about this subject on her book Write Away: Talking Heads Avoidance Device

I immediately made a parallel with the filmic language. But before going any further, I want you to understand that for several reasons, a video is not always the best medium!

When it comes to an online course, depending on what your learning goals are, perhaps the best option may be a book, a presentation, a quizz, an exchange between students or even a call or a feedback after an exercise may be the most advisable.

Another thing, to avoid talking heads in video is understand that the transmitter shouldn’t be everything. As though his performance makes the whole difference, a speaker can’t be the star himself. But the subject!

Structure to adorn

Good scripting is the solution. To avoid a talking head material you need to be strategic. Let’s go for another reference from the screenwriter, Syd Field. Who’s known to have developed this ancient storytelling tool unique for screenwriters in his book, Screenplay. The three act structure.

The three act structure is a narrative model that divides stories into three parts — Act One, Act Two, and Act Three, or “beginning, middle, and end”.

The first act is usually used to establish the main characters, their relationships, and the world they live in. In sum, we are giving the context. Once this has been explored, you can add an incident, known as the inciting incident, or catalyst, that occurs with the main character, serving to confront your reality…

The second act, also referred to as “rising action”, this basically pictures the protagonist’s attempt to solve the problem initiated by the “inciting incident”, only to find himself in worse and worse situations.

The third act features the resolution of the story and its cause-effects narratives.

Order and simplification are the first steps towards the mastery of a subject.

Thomas Mann
Play with your object

If you didn’t get the idea of structure, and you still wonder how to make a video sexier or how a bit of storytelling in what you’re doing, here it goes: Invest in details! Take a situation and describe what is happening. Talking about a learning aspect? Give some extra context and examples, adorn your purpose with images, graphic representations, ornamented with metaphors.

Having a lot of b-roll to hide the speech it’s not the solution neither.
For example, If you have something happening in a pool. You can describe what is happening pool, add interactions or even a snake!

I hope you enjoyed this first article on my blog, your feedback is more than welcome! And don’t forget this here:

I truly believe that sustainable change comes through development and learning.
That’s why I decided to put my services in favor of something that adds meaning and value to the world today as the digital learning .