Author Audition Guide

Helpful hints for a successful audition

Welcome!

We’re excited to walk you through your author audition. This guide will provide the information and tools you need to create a successful audition. Your audition should highlight your teaching skills and simulate our course production experience through the use of Pluralsight tools, processes, quality criteria and review/revision loops.

Before we dive in, here are four important takeaways:

  • Submit original video auditions. Video content produced for other purposes will not be accepted.

  • Deliver videos that are between six to eight minutes in length; ten minutes is the maximum.
  • There’s no need to purchase any hardware or software for your audition. Use free software, trials and what you already have.
  • Talk to your acquisitions editor if you have questions or send a request to acquisitions-editors@pluralsight.com.


A Talent for Teaching

The key to an outstanding audition is technical teaching. Technical teachers empower and enlighten learners through purposeful explanation. They also reveal the “how” and “why” of their subject matter.

Ultimately, your audition should convey how you can inspire learners with new knowledge, abilities and skills.


Planning & Design

Choosing a Topic

Very specific technical topics that feature real-world, problem-solving applications and clear objectives are key to a successful audition. The topic you choose will give us a general idea of the type of courses you will want to author. Newly approved authors will partner with our Curriculum Team to review options.

To have a successful audition, we recommend that you avoid:

  • Broad topics (e.g., “Learn Java Start to Finish”)
  • General feature overviews
  • A recitation of a list of facts (e.g., an information dump)
  • A “watch-me-do-this” walk-through
  • Obvious or irrelevant points

Know Your Audience

Think about a target audience and develop a “persona” for it. Whether the persona is a beginner, expert—or someone in between—organize your audition in a way that’s relevant to that audience. With the time constraint, you'll likely need to assume your audience already knows the basics, so skip the mundane exposition that a full course might have.

Simply put: Get to the point. Focus on the learner’s goals, expectations and aspirations.

Titles Matter

The consistency of your content extends to your title. Make it descriptive and intriguing. Consider including specific tools, purposes and goals. You could also use a combination of any of these points.

Examples of successful titles:

  • “Using CSS to Change Button Styles: An Online Shopping Cart Example”
  • “Mapping Dependencies with Spark In-memory Analytics”

Examples of titles that need work:

  • “Introduction to Code” (too general or without a purpose or goal)
  • ”Serverless Architecture” (lacks focus on a target audience or persona)

Introduction, Story & Context

If content is king, then context is queen. Consider the learner’s context. Motivate and engage them early (and often) with a storyline that includes a particular context for technical learning.

Make your audition memorable by being creative. Ensure that any examples, file names or variables directly relate to your specific topic. Use analogies and stories when applicable.

Technical Depth

Being creative can be a challenge when you’re trying to showcase your technical ability. Here are a few tips:

  • Dissect a problem and solution
  • Get into code details
  • Explain your topic’s inner workings and what makes it tick
  • Describe the cause for an error, how to avoid it and how to fix it
  • “Connect the dots” for your learner and create “lightbulb” moments

Pick Visuals with Intention

Diagrams, pictures, images, colors and other visual assets should complement and reinforce your narrative. Use our attached slide template, sample icons and general brand theme. Use text and bullet points sparingly. In most cases, a few words are sufficient visual support. If a viewer must stop listening in order to read, it's too much text. For ideal visual flow, change something on screen, even if it’s minor, at least every 30 seconds.

Avoid overdoing it with cheesy graphics and animations. Make sure your visuals and animations are engaging, and more importantly, provide a learning purpose.

Demo & Screen Capture

Use callouts (e.g., boxes, blurs, lines and arrows) to call attention to critical information, especially on “busier” slides or screens. Be consistent and professional. Keep a first-time learner’s experience in mind. Never use the cursor as a callout and never zoom. Only capture as much of the screen as necessary. Use a readable font (typically 16-18 font size). Minimize visual distractions, such as a code editor’s popup suggestion box.

Voice Track

Deliver narration with engaging energy, natural pace and conversational tone. Avoid awkward silences, overly frequent “crutch” words or phrases and “thinking out loud.” Edit or re-record if background noises are noticeable enough to be a distraction. Listen to your voice track from the perspective of a learner expecting professional instruction and adjust as necessary.

Conclusion

Summarize the highlights, including key learning points and new skills. Provide closure for the story and context. Don’t restate the agenda.


Technical Requirements

Extensive experience with video production is not required, but a few basics are necessary for a successful audition. They include:

  • Access to a computer (Mac or PC)

  • Video editing and production software

  • Slide presentation software (e.g., PowerPoint or Keynote)

  • Screen capture recording

  • Microphone or a recording device

Reminder: There’s no need to purchase any hardware or software for your audition.

Editing Software

We recommend TechSmith’s Camtasia because it works on both Macs and PCs. A free trial version with a watermark is usually available and sufficient for your audition. 

Other options are available, and when it comes to your audition, we’re fairly flexible. Talk to us about the possibilities.

Working with Slides

Download and use the Pluralsight slide template, which is on Keynote for Mac or PowerPoint for PC. We prefer that audition videos include a mix of slides and recorded screen capture. Slides may be modified or selectively used to fit individual teaching style, but we recommend that you keep our general branding and theme intact.

Recording Slides

In most cases, it’s not necessary to adjust default hardware resolution when recording your slides. Here are some quick tips for PowerPoint:

    1. Run your slideshow in a 1280x720 window.

    2. Click" Browsed by an individual (window) under "Set Up Show".    

    3. Ensure the window captures the entire slide. Exclude the title bar and other unnecessary navigation bars.

    4. Keep the cursor out of the window while recording—this is extremely important.

Recording Demos / Screen Capture

    1. Record at a 1280x720 resolution.

    2. Set your local machine resolution (with screen capture) to 1280x720 or record a virtual machine set to this resolution. Do not record a higher resolution and then scale down during editing.

    3. Ensure that you have excluded or hidden unnecessary clutter, such as taskbars, app icons, notifications and the system clock.

    4. Set your desktop background to a neutral, solid color.

Recording Audio

Monitor software input volume for consistent level. Audio should be loud and clear, free of clipping and distortion.

Editing Video

Professional-quality video means clean edits, transitions and callouts. When the track cuts from slides to video, leave about one second of silence. This delay gives the viewer’s eyes time to adjust to the change. Refrain from zooming or drawing.


Final Steps

Produce

Render and output at a 1280x720 resolution using 15 frames per second (FPS). Export to MP4 format. Consider asking a peer or someone who will offer honest, constructive feedback to watch your audition.

Share

After you have made any necessary adjustments, upload your video to the Dropbox folder that your acquisitions editor shared and let them know it’s ready to review.


A Few Things to Consider

  • Deadlines—While there aren’t any deadlines for you to complete your audition, check in with your acquisitions editor if a few months have passed. We will need to make sure the content is still relevant and necessary.

  • Timelines—Track the time it takes to produce your audition video. It gives you a good idea of how much time you’ll need to invest in production of your first course.

  • Equipment— Using cameras and producing live footage can be effective, but not necessary. Keep your audition simple and focus on the content.

If things get tough, hang in there! Remember that Pluralsight’s world-class content—and fantastic authors like you—are what set us apart from the rest.

Thank you for auditioning to be an author!  We’re excited to review your video. We will reach out with feedback and a decision within seven business days of your audition submission.