Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, responds to a request for a meta-tutorial on how to make Khan tutorials. In it he describes four guiding principles for making “KSVs,” or Khan Style Videos, as they are now called.
Maintain a Conversational Tone
Talk the way you would talk to another human being – the way you would actually have a conversation with another human being. Avoid highly scripted, highly polished, emotionless style. In Khan’s opinion this is not what human beings want to hear.
“The listener is highly sensitive to what is going on in the speaker’s brain. If the speaker’s brain is not thinking in real time – if he is just reading something – the listener’s cue is why should I be thinking it through? Why should I care?”
If the speaker does not care about the topic and betrays as much through his speaking style and voice, it’s a big cue to the listener not to care as well.
In addition to a lack of affect in the presentation Khan cautions that negative affect is a danger as well. Never talk above or below the listener. Don’t be patronizing. Don’t pontificate. Be respectful of the student but don’t talk above him. Speak as though you see that the student has come to the topic for understanding and mastery and you both agree to work through it together.
Use Colors and Visuals Sparingly
Khan feels that hand-drawn pictures and diagrams (which he greatly favors) resonate better with the brain. In addition the presenter benefits from more output: It takes more time to do computer graphics for presentations ahead of time than it does to construct sketches on the fly.
Prepare Your Mind
Make sure the concepts and ideas are “distilled” in your mind. Speak directly from your mind and your heart (once prepared; noting the emotion again, which Khan takes as a positive element). Interestingly Khan notes that while he is not a fan of scripts as an end product the writing can help prepare the mind.
Keep It Short
Initially forced by YouTube, Khan considers about ten minutes to be the right length to articulate a concept. Given a large topic, chop it to small pieces and make a separate presentation for each piece.
Thanks to Anya Kamenetz and Fast Company for bringing this presentation to the fore.