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Six Tips for Writing a Solid Video Script

June 1, 2016 / by Jackie Clews-Connors

So, you want to make a video? There are many parts to consider here like goal, visuals, type of video, where it will be primarily played, length, and more. One of the most important pieces once you get the rest figured out is the script.

Writing for video is very different from writing text for reading. To be concise, it's much more...concise. Here are some tips from the news business I learned with that handy dandy Journalism degree (with an emphasis on video) that should help you out:

1) Keep it Short

video on smart phoneI remember going on a shoot with CNN Money as an intern and after the editors finished developing the whole package that ran just a few minutes in length (remember those?) the executives said no one watches full packages anymore so it needed to be chopped up into smaller bites that the reporter could comment on in between during the TV broadcast instead. That shows you how simultaneously short and fast paced it needs to be in this Internet Age where we all have horrible attention spans and there are some many things competing for our attention all the time. A good trick to help you write a concise script that gets to the point quickly? WRITE IN ALL CAPS. THAT'S WHAT ALL BROADCASTERS DO BECAUSE YOU NATURALLY WRITE LESS THIS WAY. Another tip is to write one sentence per line, with a space in between each sentence, more or less like:



2) Don't Over-Think It

 What are you trying to tell someone? Just write it down how you would literally say it out loud. To some, this comes more naturally. If it doesn't come naturally to you, go back to basics and tell someone what you're trying to say. Maybe even record your *brief* conversation. And then write it down. Once you have the meat down, cut out the fat to again, keep it concise and only say what you need to say to make your point.

3) Write to the Visuals

What the heck are you going to show on the screen while someone is reading the script, or doing what we call, a voice over (VO)? This is called writing to the visuals. A boiled down tip they say here is "see dog, say dog." If you are talking about a dog eating ice cream, you should try and getting footage or pictures of that to show while you're talking about it. If you are talking about new product features, you should show what you're talking about during that part of the script. While it might sound obvious as a viewer, this part can take more than a bit of effort (and budget) depending on what types of visuals you need. And with script writing, the visuals should be the first thought, not the after thought when possible.

Think about the visuals at your disposal before you start writing and then again after you have it down on paper and make tweaks as necessary. The more compelling the visuals are, the better. Some ideas here are footage of yourself talking, original pictures, stock photos on sites like ThinkStock, original video, stock video, you can also add screencasts of websites that match the script with tools like Screenr and Screenflow, Even some simple "b-roll" footage, as it's called in the industry, of someone working at a computer laid over their regular script or interview can be much more visually appealing than just watching a talking head for a few minutes. 

To lay it all out, you can make notes within your script of the different elements you want to insert by color coding like this:


FIRST, YOU'LL WANT TO LOG INTO YOUR DASHBOARD. Screencast of website X dashboard.

4) Read it Out Loud

Once you have it all laid out, you'll want to read it out loud to #1 make sure it all sounds natural and #2 to time it. Did your one minute online product explainer video just turn into five? Think about how long you watch them for online, your goal, and see if there are some parts you can condense and then maybe flesh out some of those details in separate, more in depth ones. You'll also want to make sure the words don't sound awkward or too formal as people speak much differently out loud than people write in a novel or newspaper. For example, "NOW I'M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW TO DO THAT" would never fly in a paper but can sound much more normal out loud than "NOW I'M GOING TO SHOW YOU HOW TO DO THAT," which conjures up visuals of a robot talking instead of a human. 

5) Note Ways to Say Things

So you have your script with only the best, most essential parts remaining and you have all of your visuals noted. Hooray! The last thing to do is note how to say things. For example, pauses, annunciations, or even spelling things out differently and phonetically can help you read your script perfectly on the first or second time of recording it. 

For pauses,  you can use...dots like that.

For a-NUN-cia-tions you can write a word like that to help remind yourself or the reader how the word should be articulated.

And it's totally normal for you to write words out however they make the most sense to you in the script you will be reading from. There are teleprompter apps and even tripods for iPads if you're shooting video on the street for your website and need to read from your script. While it's fine to spell things differently to help you out, just make sure to still READ and internalize what you're saying when you're saying it so you don't have any awkward Anchor Man moments...ESPECIALLY if it's live streamed. A basic example of writing a word out phonetically here that I hope no one has ever actually had to use but gets my point across is "tie-land" instead of "Thailand." That would definitely not be the correct pronunciation if someone who doesn't know their geography very well pronounced the "th" like it's pronounced in a word like "the." :(

Many people tense up when they get in front of a camera so making the script as error-proof as possible with tricks like these helps.

6) Smile While You Talk

One last tip is smiling when you talk, which is an old business phone trick as well. Try saying "I'm so excited" without smiling and then say "I'm so excited" while you're smiling. Can you tell the difference in energy levels that come across? The same thing goes for if you're talking about something sad, frustrating, or any other emotion. Be sure to put that emotion on your face to really feel what you're saying and have that come across in the audio, whether your face is being shown or not.

Those are my basic tips for helping your next (or first?) script stay focused, hold people's attention, and not be totally lame. Video is such a great way to connect with your prospects or clients in many different ways, from showing them how to use a product or service, explaining why they should care about it, or even just connecting by having fun with it on social media and being human about it. Hey, even Instagram has video now.

The most important thing to keep in mind out of all of this is your video is definitely NOT going to get views if you don't create it. So try to be strategic about it and do the best you can to not make the world's worst videos, but just start. Just like anything, you will get better as you go. And if there's anything my team and partners can do to help to attract and convert more leads for your business, just let us know! You can also check out one of my favorite animated video partners' recent blogs about How to Create a Video That Doesn't Suck.

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Topics: video, inbound marketing

Written by Jackie Clews-Connors

Jackie is the Founder & CEO of Digital Marketing Direction, an inbound marketing agency in Dallas. She loves great content, meeting new people, and good Texas BBQ.