After working with hundreds of teachers, here are my three top secrets to the perfect online English teaching introduction video: 1) write a script, 2) set up your lighting correctly and… 3) keep reading for the third (bonus) secret to make your video… well, perfect!
This guest post was written by Kate Zarb at Teach English Online (Australia and New Zealand).
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to use one of my links to make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This help me provide helpful posts for teachers. Thank you!
Before we begin, what is an online English teaching introduction video?
Some large ESL companies ask you to record a demo/demonstration video that shows your teaching style (such as Outschool) when you apply to work for them. Other videos are created to show your use of the company’s materials and online platform in a hypothetical classroom situation (before or as an alternative to a ‘mock’ class with an interviewer).
In these situations, it is best to type “Company X demo video” into your search engine. Look for examples recorded by other teachers and if certain teachers are popular and in demand. Don’t be afraid to emulate the type of video that they have made – remembering to put your own style into it.
It is best to follow any guides carefully, as many companies have a strict, particular criteria for demo videos and use of TPR (Total Physical Response), for example. If not, it is best to email your interviewer and ask for specific information about what they’d like to see.
If you are applying for a job with some companies (like Magic Ears) they will ask for a demo video as part of your application. But this instead refers to a broader, more general introduction to yourself and your experience. (Think “Hello, my name is X and I’ve been a teacher for X years” type of thing).
This is also often the case for any marketplace platforms where you create a profile with a video and market yourself directly to students and/or for your own website and private students. It’s the second type that I’ll be focusing on today. Yet, most of these apply to any video that you make.
Secret #1 – Write a script (using bullet points)
Although many people find reading from a script awkward and unnatural and others prefer to ‘freestyle/ad-lib’ introduction videos – my biggest secret is that a short script, practiced a few times, makes you sound much more focused and professional. It doesn’t have to be every word that you’ll say!
Actually, in order to sound more natural, it’s better to stick to bullet points. This ensures that you’ll say everything that you want to and you’ll stay within the time limit (if there is one). When writing your points, try and stick to this rule – it’s 50% about you and 50% about them.
It makes sense to say who you are, where you are from and your relevant qualifications and background. Beyond that, you need to communicate how that information is going to help your future students.
This is particularly important for attracting private students and those on market-yourself platforms and apps. Students want to know how you are going to help them.
If you are not given guidelines for your video, here are some ideas:
- Name, current location and/or country of origin (depending on what’s relevant).
- Education (try to keep it brief): “I’m TESOL/TEFL qualified” or “I’m a primary school English teacher” is usually enough and only mention relevant qualifications.
- Relevant experience (in years).
- Any other languages that you speak.
- Biggest teaching strength/specialty. How you can help students the most – and give concrete examples where possible. “I can help students increase their IELTS speaking score!” or “I can teach you to love English through songs.”
- Show off some of your teaching props or materials.
- How you have helped students in the past (if relevant) – give a concrete example. What’s your proudest teaching moment?
- Your teaching style – patient, fun, energetic etc. Don’t just talk about it, show it too.
- A fun fact about you. Can you juggle, sing, dance? Show it off! Especially if you want to teach young learners, having a fun and upbeat presence will put you way ahead of the pack
If the video is for a job at a company, think about who their students are. Do a little research and show them that you’re suited to teaching the ages of the students that they cater to and you’re someone that either parents or students will want to book classes with.
Smile, speak slowly and try to keep your language simple. Remember, both recruiters and students are likely to be English learners themselves.
If unsure, shorter videos are usually better – a few minutes at most. Record it, watch it back and re-record it as many times as you need to get it right. Speaking naturally in front of a camera takes practice, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect the first time – nobody gets it right on the first take! You’ll be great.
Secret #2 – Lighting is everything
Do you ever wonder why Instagram influencers or Youtubers look fabulous on camera – it’s lighting, baby! Eslteacher365.com has a great guide to classroom essentials from Amazon that will give you an idea of the best technology that you’ll need to teach English online and that you can use for your introduction video.
My advice is that good lighting and an ordinary camera (like the one in your laptop) will produce a better video than one with a great camera and ordinary lighting. A headset, camera, background, etc. is definitely necessary later on but to begin, I think lighting is the easiest and best thing that you can work on.
Professional videographers often recommend setting up two lights at 10 and 2 (on a clock) in front of you instead of one directly in front. Two covered lamps/lights will do. A single ring light is also a great cheap alternative and what I use personally.
Avoid overhead (ceiling) lighting and windows letting in natural light behind you. If you’ve only got window/natural lighting, I’d recommend having the light coming in from behind your camera/laptop and shining onto your face. Try and record your video when you’ll get the most time with the sun in the same place – midday/noon on a sunny day is perfect. Only record outside if you have no other choice, wind noise is a killer.
Dress neatly and appropriately for the age of your students. Choose either a themed, decorated teaching area or a tidy, plain background like a plain wall or office. Clean up anything in the background before recording. Shoot your video horizontally (phone turned sideways).
Record in the quietest place you can – preferably inside. If it’s really noisy, in a pinch, you can record your video on Zoom with background noise suppression turned on. Use a headset or microphone if you can for the best sound. If not specified, the most common video formats are .mp4, .mov or mpeg-4. Ask your recruiter if you’re not sure.
Oh and look into the camera! Not at yourself or your bullet points. Directly into the camera. It takes a bit of practice but I can’t tell you how many videos I’ve seen where people don’t look at the camera and it’s incredibly distracting. It’s worth getting right.
(Optional) Secret #3 – Add subtitles
Honestly, you can just follow #1 and #2 and you’ll have an excellent online English teaching introduction video. Especially if it’s for a job at a company, you might not need to do anything too fancy. If that’s the case, focus on looking fun, professional and being an excellent teacher because ultimately, that’s what counts.
…but I’ve got a third secret for the “extra” among you. Especially if you are trying to attract private students, you might want to give this a try – add subtitles to your video.
There are free subtitle add-ons/facilities available for most video editing software (but this depends on the program and your operating system). Search for “add subtitles + iMovie”, for example. If you are not confident, you can ask a friend or hire someone on a freelance website to edit and subtitle your introduction video. It’s a bit of work but students will really appreciate it, especially if you want to attract young learners and beginners or you tend to speak quickly.
If you’re trying to attract students privately, also remember to have a Call to Action (CTA) at the end of your video like “book a class with me”, “go to my profile”, “send me a message” – whichever is relevant to your situation.
Having a well-recorded online English teaching introduction video can greatly increase your chances of being hired at a company, attracting private students and even increasing your offered hourly rate. Writing a bullet point script will help you stay focused but remember to keep the focus on how you can help students as well as on yourself and practice until it sounds natural.
Lighting makes you look your best when it is in front of you, either artificially or naturally. Subtitles make for a super professional addition to your video, if you put in the extra work. Yet, all these secrets won’t work if you forget the most important thing: Be yourself. There is only one you and it’s the best you out there, so use your introduction video to showcase your amazing teaching and personality to the world.
Good luck movie star!
Kate Zarb is an TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher from Sydney, Australia who helps support Australasians to teach successfully online – either in a company, marketplace or to build their own independent freelance businesses at teachenglishonline.com.au