3 Steps to writing a video script

Statistics never lie – and going by statistics, video plays a very prominent part in our lives – be they our personal lives or business lives. According to statistics:

  • 54% of consumers want more video content from the businesses they support.
  • 87% of marketers use video as a marketing tool.
  • Video gets 1,200% more shares than text.
  • 97% of video marketers say video increases conversion rates

The list of statistics is endless – but it’s safe to say that it has been solidly established that video is more than a need today; it’s a necessity to get messages across in a manner that is engaging and memorable.

An important part of every video is the video script. One can easily assume that what a person has to say on video is not important, or that ‘voice’ is secondary to ‘image.’ That is not true. Watch any high-quality video, and you will find that the script has been created superbly and seamlessly. It is a part of the video that is given as much (if not more) importance.

FAQs about video script

What is a video script? 

A video script is a chronological run-down of scenes, shots, actions, and dialogues specifying who is saying and doing what and when they’re saying or doing it.

 

What is the importance of a script in a video?

A well-written script is one that flows and engages viewers. It helps viewers retain information longer and much more effectively than a video with no script.

Is it necessary to build a script before making a video?

You might think it best to just go with the flow and go extempore when creating a video, but creating a script beforehand has its advantages, and cannot be skipped when creating a high-quality video. Creating a script can:

  • Save you time and energy.
  • Help build a brand.
  • Lend professionalism to the video.

Here’s how you can write a script for video in three steps. But beware; while these are just three steps, each step is detailed, and you cannot afford to skip any of the points mentioned within each step.

Step 1. Planning

A. Know why you are creating the video

A video can serve a variety of purposes. It could be made to entertain, to help market a product or service, provide useful information or instruction, or even for reference. The tone of your script will differ for each of these purposes. For example, a video that is created to entertain can afford to have a humorous script, while a business video or a corporate video will need to be toned down to sound professional.

B. Understand the goal of your video

What should this video accomplish? Do you want people to buy a product? Do you want people to download a special report? Do you want your viewers to go to your website and read a specific blog post?  Perhaps you want them to sign up for a demo or subscribe to a newsletter? Your script’s narrative should build toward this end.

C.Know your audience

Who is your audience? What do they like? What do they hope to get from your video? What gets them to tick? Are they business people who don’t have the time of day for a video? – You will need to ensure your video script is short and to the point, if you don’t want to lose them. Are your viewers children? – You will need to tone down your language and keep it light and simple.

D. Know the topic and focus of the video

Finally, hone down on the topic and the focus of the video. What is the topic of the video? What will the key takeaway be?

Once you have all these details in place, you will have a fair idea of what kind of video you will be creating. There are different kinds of videos, and each of these videos is aimed to do different things:

  • Educational videos – Presentation and explainer videos. They demonstrate how to do something or explain how a product/service works.
  • Persuasive videos – Promotional and commercial videos. They explain the benefits and features of a product/service, demonstrate the differentiating factors that make your brand better than your competitors’ and showcase how a product/service can improve the customer’s life.

Step 2. Create your video script

Does every word that you say on the video need to be scripted? The answer is, yes. But this does not mean that you can’t go a bit off-script when shooting your video. You must put down every word that you intend to say down on a paper. This is so that you can read it aloud in step 3.

When you write down the entire script – word for word – you subconsciously practice your script. So, you sound natural, and not like a robot, in your video. When you write down your script, you will realise how easy it is to talk too much – much more than is necessary. In fact, so much more that you even risk losing your audience.

A. Craft your story outline

Start by creating an outline of your script. Sometimes, writers translate the outline into a script, but they forget to turn it into a story. If you want to achieve a specific goal, you must tell a story. Even if you are creating a corporate video – there must be a story. Why? Because stories have the power to capture and hold your viewers’ attention.

An explainer video might require a slightly different approach, but it can still do well with a story.

A great way to create a story outline is to write the core story in just five sentences. When you do this, you have a ‘story skeleton’ that you can flesh out later.

B. Build out the story

This is the fun part, when you flesh out your ‘skeleton’ from the previous story and give your story life. This is the step when you add in the details and create a piece that is cohesive. Here are some tips for building an engaging script:

  • Gain your viewers’ attention from the start. Start with an emotional punch. You could start by narrating a story, an anecdote, a statistic, or a very unusual perspective. The idea is to give your viewer a reason to keep listening while watching the video. A punchy start can create the impact you want in the shortest amount of time. Studies have shown that watching even a couple of seconds of a brand video could influence a viewer to buy that brand.
  • Focus on a single message. Keep your message focused on not more than one or two points, and do not overload your message with information.
  • Use every aspect of the visual elements of the video to reinforce your message. You could use imagery, animation, data, statistics and text as well to reinforce the script.
  • Provide context – especially when you are presenting complex data or ideas. Don’t just assume that they know what you are talking about. The context will help viewers to relate to what you are saying. You must go about connecting the dots and providing adequate insight where necessary.
  • Set up and payoff. Set the stage and ensure your story – or the script – tells the viewer where the story goes next. Ensure a strong takeaway. This will make your viewers feel invested.
  • Ensure the ending is as good as the beginning. A good ending is one that pursues your viewer to take action. The ending will be influenced by what you want your viewer to do or the key takeaway you want them to walk away with. The narrative should build up toward the end.

 C. Flip the story and pretend to be the viewer

Once the core story is created, it is time to take a break and read the script as if you were the audience/viewer. Play the part of a hard-hearted critique and read the script from the viewer’s perspective.

The success of the script will depend on whether or not your viewer/audience can connect to it. Here are two questions to ask yourself as you read the script from the viewer’s perspective:

  • Is this relevant to them? If the script is interesting, you could have a big advantage. But, if the script is not relevant, you will need to make changes to the script.
  • Is the vocabulary appropriate? The type of language you use will depend on the type of video you create and the audience the video is created for. For example, a business video for a particular industry gives you the freedom to use common jargon used within that industry. (However, it’s best to stay on the safe side and use non-technical and simple language to ensure the message is understood loud and clear by everyone.)

D. Pay attention to the tone of the script

Tone conveys emotion, and that is why is it is a very important part of the script. Tone can communicate a lot about you and how you feel about what you are talking about. You can experiment with the tone if it is appropriate to your brand and message.

For example, a serious subject can be dealt with mildly. Entertainment videos can have quirky text. However, be careful about the use of humour in your script – there is a fine line between something being funny and insulting.

E. Be merciless and cut!

Write as if you are speaking to a friend; one who is going to buy your product or service.

Make sure you say everything you want to say. Once you are done, it’s time to review the script in its entirety and cut it down to the basics. So, don’t be afraid to remove unnecessary words, words that create confusion, long words and extraneous information.

Check the word count. A good idea is to ensure 125 to 150 words of dialogue per minute. If you are making a three-minute video and have over 1000 words, it’s time to start axing.

Step 3. Align the script with the video

Finally, it is time to align the script with the video. This is the tricky part and must be followed carefully.

A. Write out the visual and audio elements

This is especially important if you are doing a voiceover with visual cuts. But it’s equally important if your video is just one single shot.

Create a simple, two-column table. This is an easy-to-read format. The first column is for the visual, and the right side is for the corresponding audio. Here is an example:

Audio Visual Direction
Lights! Animated text displaying the opening line: Lights!
Camera! Animated text displaying the opening line: Camera!
Hi Everyone! My name is Mike. Video of me looking into the camera saying the audio text.
This is my cat, Garfield. Hold up Garfield to face the camera.

B. Practice. Readout aloud

Read the script aloud with a timer, as if you were recording. You might require several dry runs before you get it right. In fact, it is recommended that you do several dry runs before actually shooting the video.

C. Make final adjustments to the audio and visual directions

Finally, ensure that the ‘audio’ and ‘visual direction’ are in seamless sync. It’s great to stick with the script completely; however, that is not necessary, and you can always make modest changes even while you are recording. Feel free to further cut down your script even at this stage. You can always go the extempore way when you are shooting the video.

Finally, here are a few key points to keep in mind when writing a script

  1. Focus on your opening statement.
  2. Speak directly to the audience.
  3. Write it the way you would say it.
  4. Remember the concept of your story.
  5. Pay attention to transitions.
  6. Get the opinion of a third person.
  7. Ensure it is in line with the title and thumbnail.
  8. Wow the viewer within the first five seconds.
  9. Don’t forget to add a CTA if you want to engage your viewers.

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