11 handy tips for writing truly awesome video scripts
25 February 2015
In recent years you will have noticed the number of promotional videos and explanimations out there has increased enormously. Often, this sort of script isn’t written by a copy-writer. Nothing wrong with that…as long as you keep a few basic rules in mind. In today’s blog we’re giving you a useful little toolkit of 11 tricks that give your script wings and let your message fly.
1. Be a little lazy
The novice scriptwriter has difficulty with deadlines. Often that’s awkward for those around us but, if you want to tell a good story, it can be a real bonus. Why? Because the longer you put off the writing the longer the tale has to ripen in your mind. So, when the time comes to sit and write the voice-over text you no longer have to think too hard about what you want to put down. Plus, with the deadline looming over your head, you’ll write it quicker and are less likely to fall into the procrastination trap. (See point 2.)
2. Stay alert to ‘writers block’
Let’s not beat around the bush – writing can sometimes be a shitty task. Just plodding along in Ariel body text, 11. Knuckle down. We are just talking about a script of around one and a half minutes. So, try a bullet point list of what you want to write down. Don’t fuss with it just take three minutes and get it on the screen. At this stage style and structure are not important. Nor is language use. A rough draft is all you’re after at this point; you can refine it later. Once you have this in hand you can really start to write.
3. Keep it short
For an explainer video a minute and a half really is long enough. Lengthy scripts that we receive often have way too much information in them. Short and punchy that’s what it’s all about.
4. Forget about winning the Nobel Prize for Literature
A writer writes; a talker…exactly. You don’t need to be Hemingway. Think more like your favourite columnist; yeah, that witty one. One who could narrate a fishing contest and still make it gripping. The way a columnist approaches such a seemingly dull task is not that different from writing your explainer script. First, sketch a problem out in a way that stirs the curiosity. Think of it like presenting a beautifully wrapped gift. Now, slowly, unwrap it for your listener, layer by layer.
5. Tell a story
In most explainer videos a problem is given and logically by the end of the clip you are shown the solution to it. This can be really dry. However, if you wrap your facts up in a story you greatly increase the chance that the audience will be drawn in.
This is Bart. Every day Bart is late for work. Yeah, his boss isn’t so pleased about that. But…since Bart started making use of the Espresso Drip, easily connected to his alarm clock via Bluetooth, he’s been bouncing in daily on the stroke of nine; raring to go.
After that the listener will not only want to know more about how it works but where they can get one.
6. Keep it short
Yep, we can’t emphasise that enough. Grabbing the attention of the listener is number one but to hold onto it is much harder. You might compare it to chatting someone up in a bar. A good voice over script has no more than eight words per sentence. If you’re making your sentences overly long there is a good chance that the listener gets lost along the way and gives up. Chop sentences into three if need be to keep it punchy.
7. Beware of cliché
You know them, for sure: the salesmen that you can suddenly see through. They know a few tricks and repeat them over and over. What you very often hear in explainer videos are summaries.
As financial service experts we specialise in blah blah blah. In order to reach this we blah blah and blah. We provide not only blah blah but…blah.
Yawn. Have you ever heard anyone talk like that in real life? Quite. Tell it as you would if you were telling it for real.
8. Does it flow?
That said, this can sometimes make a voice-over actor’s life hard. For example:
In our webshop which incidentally has just been completely renewed, you can order your products in real time 24/7 or manage your products and services where and when you want by logging in to our client portal with your own email address and a unique password which needs to consist of at least four numbers a capital letter and a punctuation mark.
You can laugh but this text once landed on my desk. For fun, try reading it out loud. Hopeless.
Recently, one of our American voice-over actors remarked that we Dutchies write great scripts. She told me that in the U.S. explainer video scripts are often completely stuffy. Interesting but how come? Perhaps our limited English vocabulary means that we use language that is easy to understand and try to tell a story in as few words as possible. So, keep it simple, stupid.
10. Try it out
When you’ve got the voice-over text finished it’s time to review it. The best way to know if you’ve got it just right is to read it out loud. Use your colleagues as a sounding board and afterwards ask questions. Can you tell me in two sentences what I was trying to get across? Were there spots in the text where I lost you? While you were listening did you have questions which remain unanswered? Was it interesting enough? After this, let the script rest for a couple of hours. You’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and can dot the Is and cross the Ts. Success!
10. Oh, wait! Before I forget – throw in some, um…
The best voice-overs in explainer videos sound natural. Sometimes, they give you the feeling that they work for the company themselves. How do they achieve that? They, uh, um…they…throw in the hiccups that occur in natural conversation. Which makes it sound as if they’re almost making the story up on the spot. So, when the script is finished throw a few of those sorts of words in. Do be aware that only the best voice-over actors can bring this off believably so choose them well.
In closing, a few particularly good examples of Explainer Videos.
Reading & Writing Foundation (producent in60seconds)
This script makes you feel that they’re talking to you personally.
Be careful with how much you want to tell. Even a minute and a half can feel long.
Panorama9 IT Man
On the other hand, if your video is engaging enough, length doesn’t matter.
Are you selling a product that can be used as part of the video – include it!
The choice of the voice-over actor can help dictate how you write your explainer script.
For every problem there’s a good story ; )
Has this post raised questions? You’re welcome to call or email Jente Kater.