Movie directors often solely focus on how to shoot and cut great video, what with their savvy camera tricks and editing techniques. Inbound marketers, on the other hand, focus not only on the importance of how to generate top-notch video, but also why developing great videos is vital to their marketing efforts.
Most marketers wear a lot of hats, though, and let’s just say that of all the hats worn, the videographer hat is not typically their primary one. That’s because creating video -- much less creating great video -- can be scary, especially if you’re new to it. And if you’re a newbie, you may overlook how important the planning stage of video production is -- the part where you really solidify your video concept, goal(s), and script.
So that’s what we’re going to iron out here: how to write an effective video script to ensure the best possible video emerges from your editing software and onto your publishing platform of choice.
3 Keys to Writing a Solid Video Script
1) Start concepting with a brief.
A brief? Really? Yes -- really. Although it might seem like this is an easy step to skip, it’s not worth it.
Creating a brief allows you and your team to document the answers to really important project questions so everyone involved in creating the video can get on the same page. And that’s ideal, because you know what’s the worst? When you’re three-quarters of the way through the editing process and your boss or colleague wants to completely redo that whole shot where you demonstrate how your gizmo solves global warming.
When pesky predicaments like this one try to stand in the way of progress, you can just refer back to that questionnaire containing the goals and project plan your team mapped out together, and say, “No way, José. That’s not what we agreed to.”
And boom. You can move on.
Focus on your goals, topic, and takeaways when developing your brief.
A brief doesn't have to be fancy, nor does it have to follow a specific formula, but there are several key questions every questionnaire should include to craft an effective video script.
What’s the goal of this video? Why are we making the video in the first place?
Who are we making this video for?
What’s our narrow video topic? (The more specific, the better. For example, if you’re in the house painting business, you might choose a topic like “buying the right paint brush”).
What are the takeaways of the video? What should viewers learn from watching it?
What’s our call-to-action? What do we want viewers to do after they’ve finished watching the video?
You can easily create a brief in Microsoft Word or a Google Doc to serve as a living, breathing template that you revise over time.
Different video projects may require your team to think through different things before you get scripting and shooting, so you may find that you add or subtract certain questions to your brief as you become more experienced with video creation.
2) Write your script.
Once you’ve picked a topic, it's time to write that script.
Just like the brief, the video script doesn’t have to be fancy. You’re not trying to submit this script for any awards or hang it in the hallway. It’s purpose is strictly functional. A good script makes it easy for the people on camera to get their message across while sounding and acting natural.
Write in plain, conversational English.
Writing a script is not the same as writing a college paper or marketing research report. You want to write the script how you want the video subject to speak. On camera, saying, “I’m gonna create a video after reading this blog post” will read much better than “I am going to create a video after reading this blog post.”
Make it thorough.
A script doesn’t just include dialogue. If your video will require multiple shots, characters, or scenes, include these details. Be sure to include any necessary information about the set or stage actions, such as a wardrobe change.
Basically, you want the script to be thorough enough that you could hand it off to someone else to shoot.
Differentiate the main narrative from B-Roll, text overlays, and voiceover using different formatting or callouts.
If your video will transition from a the subject speaking the primary narrative to a close up shot of your product with a text overlay, you’ll want to call that out in your script so anyone who reads it knows what’s supposed to be read on screen versus incorporated in the editing process.
Take a look at how the folks over at Wistia did that in the video script for Wistia's Scripting Tips below. Text overlay is called out with a big, bold “TEXT,” audio is called out in all caps (REWIND SOUND), and B-roll or additional details are called out in italics (with glasses on). (Note: It might help to watch the video first for the excerpt of this script to make sense).
Script every word.
It’s understandable to think you can just jot down the main bullet points for a script and then just wing it on camera, especially if you know your subject matter. This approach makes it tough to communicate a message as clearly and concisely as possible (which you should aim to do in every video you create), and it usually results in a lot of re-dos.
So, we suggest scripting every last word. Trust us -- doing this will keep you organized during filming and save you loads of time later.
Make it brief.
Shorter videos are better than long videos, and to make short videos, you need a short script. Don't write a script any longer than two pages. If you can keep it to one page, even better. It's also worth doing two to three rounds of edits solely focused on cutting all unnecessary fat.
The result is a video that's succinct, engaging, and allows for a simple editing process.
Use Google Docs.
Our friends over at Wistia recommend using Google Docs so that your team can collaborate on the script. The cool part about using Google Docs for scripting: Your revision history is always there for you in case you need to revert to a previous version, and your teammates can use the comments feature to add their two cents without changing the actual script copy.
We recommend letting one person take the lead in writing it, and then inviting others to use the comment feature to add their thoughts and suggestions later on.
Use this script template.
Have your script ready? Neat. Now it's time to ...
3) Do a table read.
Now that you know how to write a script, it’s time for a table read -- the part where you practice bringing that script to life on camera.
Why practice? Because some words look great on paper, but once you read them aloud, they just don’t sound right. The table read is where you really get to fine-tune the tone and nix anything that sounds too proper, too improper, too robotic, or otherwise inappropriate for the message you aim to convey.
Watch the awesome video on how to do a table read, brought to you by our buddies over at Wistia.
Oh, and one last tip ...
When it’s time to shoot, use a laptop and a chair as a teleprompter.
Just as you don’t need a fancy script, you don’t need a fancy teleprompter to remember your lines. But you do need help remembering your lines. You can actually just use two things you already have -- a chair and a laptop -- to keep your lines handy as you’re shooting.
Are there other tips you have for video marketers when it comes to putting together a great script? Share your advice with us below!