It's time to record your video, and you want to make sure it looks good (and doesn't take all day to finish). Whether it's for training, tutorials, demos, or presentations, here are seven mistakes to avoid when you record your computer screen.
Mistake #1 - Have too many programs running
How can you possibly guide viewers succinctly through a task when you have 35 unrelated windows open? Clutter on your computer screen is distracting. And there's nothing worse than having to fumble through unnecessary apps and programs to get what you actually want to show in your video.
A better way: Tidy up your desktop beforehand. Only keep open programs and windows you plan to show during your video.
Mistake #2 - Forget to turn on your mic
We've all done this at some point. It's beyond frustrating to deliver a rousing rendition of your entire presentation only to realize that the mic has been off the whole time. Or, that the mic was on, but the volume wasn't up enough. Or, it was up too loudly (ouch).
A better way: Make a point of checking your audio levels before you start recording. Do a short (30-second) narration test run, then review it to confirm that the correct mic is on (are you using your built-in mic, or an external one?), and the volume levels are correct.
Mistake #3 - Stumble over your passwords
Showing on-screen workflows includes logging in - which is suddenly tough to do when you're used to relying on password-autofill to do it for you. The same goes for usernames and other qualifying info. Hunting for your login information can mess up your momentum.
A better way: Know all your passwords before you begin recording (and make sure you know the URLs of the login screens, too - especially for websites that you have open indefinitely and don't readily know the "start screen" URL.
Pro tip: Sometimes it's actually better not to show the 'typing' part of logging in. Why? It's kind of boring. You can easily trim it out. In your finished video put a "wipe transition" on the typing - show the first few characters of your user/pass, then jump to the end, when you're ready to press "login." Your audience will get the idea, and won't have to sit through a straightforward process they already understand.
Mistake #4 - Forget you have a roommate
Whether it's your kids, spouse, housemate, or dog, Murphy's Law guarantees they will unceremoniously pipe up at an inopportune time during your recording. Any of these background noises - crying, laughing, sneezing, yipping, or inquiries into "Who ate the last of the cornflakes?" - distract from your presentation and are a pain to trim out. This goes for workplace noises, too, such as hallway chatter, printers, and ringing phones, as well as sounds coming in from open windows - trains, motorcycles, birds, and lawnmowers.
A better way: Record in a quiet room, with the windows closed. Put a sign on the door that lets people know you're recording, to avoid unnecessary barge-ins.
Mistake #5 - Get 'dinged' every two minutes
Notifications are great, except when you're in the middle of a recording. Hearing your email chime every few minutes is annoying at best, and takes away some of the polish from your video. With more apps than ever getting in on the notification game, it's almost inevitable that you'll have some unwanted "ding" come through, or an annoying pop-up alert box,
A better way: Turn off all your notifications (email, apps, etc.) before you start. If you don't need to record sounds from your computer, turn off your system audio altogether.
Mistake #6 - Go too fast
Maybe it's because we're just a little nervous. Or maybe it's because we know the workflow so well that we talk waaay too fast when we're presenting. Especially when we're showing detailed digital processes on-screen, it's easy to overwhelm viewers by slinging your mouse across the screen and clicking too fast.
A better way: Slow down your explanations. What may sound slow to you is probably just the right speed for your viewers to understand what you're explaining. That goes for your mouse, too. Point and click with purpose. Consider using a screen recorder that has a cursor highlighter, to more clearly show your movements.
Mistake #7 - Wing it
You've done this workflow a million times before. But....once you get off auto-pilot and start actually explaining all the steps, the words don't seem to flow. Or, they flow too much and you end up rambling.
A better way: Write a script ahead of time. It's not as hard as it sounds. Even a rough outline can help a lot. For extra credit, do a dry-run walk-though. You might be surprised how a quick rehearsal changes your strategy on how to present your material.
Of course, there are other ways to mess up a recording (ever run out battery while recording?), but this list covers some common ways. When you know how to avoid these pitfalls, you'll finish recording with fewer retakes, and be more happy with your overall video-making process.
Ready to start recording? Camtasia is a great screen-recording and editing tool.
What are some funny (or not so funny) mistakes you've made when recording? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.
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