(c) 2012 by Tom King
- Keep it short. If you have a captive audience, say at a fair or workshop, six to eight minutes is about maximum. On a website on the other hand, keep your time to less than half that. In the editing process keep trimming the video till it stops just before you lose your audience’s attention.
- Put the important stuff first if you don’t want your audience to miss it. Try to get your message spelled out in the first 30 seconds of the script.
- Make your video personal and specific to the audience. They have to feel like you’re talking straight to them. If they don’t, their attention will drift.
- Watch the pacing. Don’t use more than 125 to 150 words of dialogue in a minute and don’t keep up that pace for more than a minute at a stretch. Create a conscious rhythmic interplay between dialogue and action that keeps re-engaging the viewer every 30 to 60 seconds all the way to the end of the video.
- Be careful with humor. It should support the story. Unless humor supports your message, it becomes a distraction and poorly executed can lose you your audience.
- Use screen-writing software. These handy programs run anywhere from free to several hundred dollars and help you format your script as you go so that you can focus on creating screen directions and dialogue rather than how far to indent and formatting cues.
- Tell a story. Avoid the temptation to rely too heavily on bullet point slides in an explainer video. People think in stories with an arresting beginning, some conflict in the middle and a satisfying resolution.
- Don’t hammer the viewer with statistics and dry factoids. Tell the story of your product or service. Statistics and facts are only useful when they support the story-telling.
- Show how your company makes its customers’ lives better or their jobs easier or their bottom lines healthier. Don’t just tell the viewer you can help. Show them using powerful stories.
- End your video with a clear resolution and an unmistakable call to action.
- Test your video. Movie companies spend a lot of time testing the endings to their films. They want people to leave the theater satisfied with the ending so they’ll encourage others to buy tickets. In the same way you should audience test your video to see if people understand the message you were trying to get across and respond to your call to action. Ask the audience what they liked and what they didn’t like and take careful notes.
- Rewrite and reshoot. If audience testing reveals the audience didn’t understand your message, if they didn’t like the ending or if they didn’t respond to your call to action fix it.
The video that we made from my first promotional screen-writing effort won gold awards at two international film festivals in the promotional film category. The judges said the film stood out in the category because of its emphasis on story-telling rather than the mere recitation of statistics and facts. The advice I got when I wrote my first script was the same that’s given here. Good luck with your video.