How to write a video script

How to write a video script that makes an impact on your audience

There are many guides about writing for the web and writing to an online audience, but very few talk about how to write a video script, and fewer still about how to write a video script that will appeal to a specific audience.

This article on writing a video script to make the maximum impact on your audience has been the result of years of experience as a professional script writer, for agencies, digital businesses and various clients.

Duration of the video – an important factor

The first thing that has to be ascertained is how long you want your video to be. Typically a video should not be beyond 3-4 minutes. The reason being that beyond that duration most audiences lose interest. In fact, the ideal length is around 1 minute and thirty seconds.

Once you have the duration fixed then use the thumb rule of two words per second. So if the video is going to be of 90 seconds, you can have about 180 words of voice over. If you are unfamiliar with the term voice over, it means the person who speaks during the video, it could be a separate anchor who is not seen but only speaks during the video or the person on video who is speaking.

Now, this 180 words is the total words that should be spoken in the video including different people speaking and sound bites from interviews etc.

Another important factor to consider is how much time the introduction part and the ending will be taking. Typically the introduction part takes around 7 seconds. In this portion, the logo unit of the brand or service appears and the title of the video appears. The ending also takes around 7 seconds, where we end with the logo and any contact information, website etc. These two durations of 7 seconds can increase or decrease as per the needs of your video. For example, some videos start with just one line of text and in that case, the intro will not be more than 3 seconds.

The important thing is to reduce the time for the intro and ending of the total speaking time in the video. So, in this case, our voice over duration will be 90 -14 = 76 seconds. Thus the number of words will be around 152.

What is the audience and who is the one representative person we are making the video for

This is more important than you think because it will make all the difference to the way the video is made – depending on who the audience is. For example, if we make a video for C-level executives and the same video for college going students, then the way it will be made and conveyed will be totally different. Let’s go a little deeper into this scenario. Imagine we are making a video of using solar energy in one’s home.

The video made for C-level executives will have lots of data, numbers and experts speaking about how it saves money and is good for the environment, and feature other top C-level executives who have already gone in for solar.

On the other hand, the video aimed at college students will talk about all the cool things that happen when you use solar energy in your home. Also looking at the audience strategically, it won’t be the college going students who will eventually buy into solar energy for the home, but their parents. Thus, the video will try and make college going students buy into solar energy so that they can, in turn, initiate a discussion with their parents, who will take the final decision. This video would have younger people featured and talk about how this positively impacts the world, and how they can do some cool experiments with solar, such as creating perpetually running solar toys etc. The whole tone of the video would be younger and more emotional, there would be numbers but not the way they would be there for C-level executives.

So now you can see that the way a video is made is very dependent on the final target audience.

Another important tip here would be to create a detailed persona of one representative person from the target audience. For example, if the message of the video is about a brand of washing machines, then the target audience will be women who are married and maybe have children. The ideal thing to do would be to create a detailed persona of this one woman.

Here is how you can do that.

Let us take a fictional name for the woman. Let’s call her Linda. Linda lives in New York, she is a working mother. She is separated from her husband and is raising one young boy. She works in a digital publishing company as a graphic designer. She works five days a week and leaves her son at a day care when she goes to the office. She watches reality shows on TV, and goes out occasionally with her friends, taking her son along. She doesn’t have too much time on her hands and needs a good washing machine. She earns enough to afford a good washing machine but she has to be convinced of its use and the reason for the slightly higher price. She is also quite fashion conscious, so the looks of the washing machine are important for her. She lives in a two-bedroom apartment and would be keeping the washing machine in a place that would be visible to guests so it has to be of a good brand and good looking.

Can you see, how this persona can help us shape the video? Just by creating this one small paragraph about her, we know that the washing machine needs to look good. Also, that she would like to save time, so a fully automatic front loading washing machine would be a good model to target at her.

If you make a more detailed persona with things like what she reads, where she goes out to eat, what her friends are like, what other brands she goes in for, what her daily schedule is and anything else at all, imagine how much more useful it will be.

The actual scripting of the video – imagine your target audience is sitting in front of you and you have 90 seconds

Now comes the toughest part, actually writing out the script of the video. Well, I have found after years of writing scripts that the best way to go about it, is to imagine that the target audience is sitting in front of you, and you have a microphone, a projector and ninety seconds to tell the audience the story.

However, before you go about telling the story, you need to get one single line in place. That is known as the creative brief for the video. This is one line that summarises exactly what the audience should feel or take away after watching the video. Let us continue with the washing machine example.

Here is what the one line brief can be:

“I can save a lot of time and effort with this washing machine and I can also wash the most expensive and delicate clothes without worrying about them getting damaged.” – this is what the woman watching the video should take away, after watching it.

Or here is another one:

“This washing machine is so awesome that all my friends will be jealous of me, and also. I will end up getting more time than anyone else to do the things I like”.

Or a simpler and more focused one:

“My children need more of my time, not my dirty linen”.

The last one is more powerful because it is based on some kind of an insight and is very single minded. It tells the woman that she is wasting valuable time in washing clothes, that she can spend with her children.  However, any one of these could be a good creative brief for the washing machine video.

Once you have this single line brief in place then it’s time to imagine yourself in front of your audience, talking to them and showing them a video to convince them. The best way to do this is to do it the first time round, without worrying about the time limit. Just let yourself go and write down everything that you think you need to say and show.

Now, start taking away anything that can be done away with. Start shortening sentences, removing repetitions, removing extra words, removing excess explanations, removing information that is not directly aligned with the one line brief.

After 3-4 edits, you will have completed the first draft script for the video. You should let this sit with you for some time, maybe half a day or even a whole day. Then look at it afresh, and you will realise what it is missing or what needs to be changed, and you can make a second draft. This can be the final draft or you can go one step further and relook at it again.

This is how you can create a video script that will actually make an impact on your target audience. Go ahead give it a try today. If you do not succeed on the first attempt you will on the next.

Author Bio:
Sumit is an editor in a popular shopping website where lakhs of Indian shoppers come to find the best products in every category of shopping. He is an avid writer and is very interested in the electronics and appliances category, and has written for many websites across categories and geographies. 

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