11 Tips for Writing the Perfect Explainer Video Script
Explainer videos are a great way to highlight your flagship products and services. But before you can create the perfect explainer video, you’ll need the perfect explainer video script. It’s not an impossible task, even if you’ve never done it before. Follow our eleven expert tips below to craft the right script for your explainer video.
Tip #1: Plan Your Explainer Video Script
Before you start writing your explainer video script, it’s a good idea to create a short written creative brief for your project. Think about the following questions:
- What problem does your product or service solve?
- How does it solve the problem?
- What are the alternatives to this solution?
- How is your solution different from/better than alternate solutions?
- What’s the one key thing you want people to do after viewing?
Your answers to these questions form the outline of your script.
Next, you may want to craft an “elevator speech” version of your video message — i.e., a shortened summary you could deliver on a quick elevator ride. This helps trim your message down to the most compelling basics.
Tip #2: Build Your Script Around the Right Structure
There’s a really good reason hit movies utilize a three-act structural template: It works. It even works for two-minute explainer video scripts, believe it or not.
- Act 1: Show your viewer what the problem is
- Act 2: Explain how your product or service solves that problem
- Act 3: Explain why the viewer should choose your product or service instead of someone else’s
This simple, three-act structure helps you frame your script into useful sections, which makes writing the script easier. Another aspect of movie making that you can borrow is protagonist (the hero) vs. antagonist (the villain). Your protagonist is the stand-in for your viewer, who is your ideal targeted prospect and the person who needs your product or service. Your antagonist is a stand-in for the problem you solve and serves as a foil to the protagonist.
Tip #3: Use That Structure to Tell a Great Story
Storytelling is all the rage in content and video marketing these days — and for good reason. Within the constraints of your three-act structure, tell a compelling story. Use real people and their actual experiences, as much as possible. Data can help support your story, but use it sparingly. It’s the story that grabs the viewer and evokes the all-important emotional reaction.
Tip #4: Consider Accompanying Visuals & Music As You Write
While a script is all about words, a video is so much more. As you write your script, give thought to the accompanying visuals and non-verbal sounds (music, etc.). Some experts in writing short video scripts suggest adopting a three-column table for your script document. Use one column for the script, one for non-verbal sounds, and one for the visuals of that moment.
Nonverbal cues can also signal shifts between each of your acts. For example, when you’re presenting the problem, the music can echo the mood with a downbeat, tense, or minor-key passage. And when you present the solution, the music could reflect this by being upbeat, cheerful, and hopeful. These kinds of nonverbal cues help reinforce the words of your script and evoke the right response from your viewers.
Tip #5: Focus Tightly on What You’re Explaining
Remember above all, your explainer video must explain your product or service. That means the focus of your video, as well as the bulk of your script, should focus on the explanation itself. However, the best way to highlight your explanation is ironically not to start out with the explanation. Instead, call attention to the meat of your script by crafting a great hook.
Novelists and screenwriters use hooks to grab the audience’s attention right out of the gate. The eye-popping first line, the intriguing first scene that sets up the movie’s dramatic conflict, the unexpected pairing of elements that makes you wonder and want to “stay tuned”… that’s a hook. So hook your viewers first, then you can inform them.
Tip #6: Adopt the Right Tone and Language
Use your viewer or buyer personas in writing your script. Talk directly to them in the language that most resonates with them. Speak to your audience directly using second person pronouns (you and your). Also, keep it simple and clear, without dumbing it down or being patronizing. Use short sentences, simpler words, and an informal style.
Tip #7: Inject Emotion Into Your Explainer Video Script
Quiz time: Let’s say there’s a horrible natural disaster in some distant corner of the world. Which scenario below would be more likely to get you to open up your wallet and give to the relief fund?
A: A report on the nightly news mentioning all the relevant statistics: how much damage in dollars, how many lives lost, how many homes destroyed, etc.; or
B: A personal interview with a survivor on a telethon, in which the survivor tells the story of how the disaster destroyed her home, separated her from her loved ones, and forced her to rely on her wits to survive until help arrived.
If you’re like the vast majority of us, it’s the second scenario that’s more personally compelling and persuasive. Why? Well, a few things are at work here, but primarily, it’s the power of a story that evokes an emotional response. That emotion can be inspiration, anguish, empathy, energy, humor, or even anger when appropriate (think fundraising for a righteous cause). If you choose to use humor, do so sparingly. It’s easy to miss the mark with humor. If you get it wrong, you can turn off large portions of your audience. Give cutting, snarky sarcasm a pass. You don’t want to offend your audience.
Tip #8: Write the First Draft Without Editing
When you begin writing your script, ignore every restriction and constraint. Simply write. Resist the urge to edit as you go. Give yourself permission to write the worst script ever, if need be. Later, you can go back and revise. But focusing on simply getting a draft down — even if it’s awful — will help you hammer out some kind of flow. You can always go back and perfect it later. As you’re writing, it helps to focus on the benefits of your product or service, instead of the features. The old copywriting adage “sell the sizzle, not the steak” applies here. Of course, animated explainer videos are about providing information — not selling directly. The sales will come if you nail the explainer video script!
Tip #9:Watch Your Pacing and Length
A range of 125 to 180 words per minute is probably ideal for both comprehension and retention. If you aim for about 160 words per minute, and keep your animated video short, you’re looking at anywhere from 240 words (for a 90 second explainer video) to 320 words (for a 2-minute video).
That might not sound like enough time, but it really is — or should be. If you cannot explain your product or service adequately in two minutes, including a short call to action, that’s a sign you need to go back to the drawing board. Target your product more tightly and get clearer on the specific problem it solves. Write for the human voice that will be speaking the script, and the human ear listening to it. Simplify your word choices and arrangement. The Hemingway app can help you here, by pinpointing unnecessary words you can eliminate.
Once you have a working draft, record yourself reading the script out loud. Listen for problem areas — tongue-twisters, overly long sentences, and other errors that can clutter up your script.
Tip #10: Don’t Forget the Call to Action
Create a succinct call to action to tell your viewers what to do next. Only include a single call to action. If you ask your audience to do more than a single thing, you risk diluting the power of each call to action. Moreover, your audience will simply end up feeling confused.
Finally, keep your call to action short. Ten seconds can be enough if it’s strong and compelling. Keep your language here straightforward and clear, with specific instructions. Instead of “subscribe for more information,” tell your viewers exactly where the subscribe button is and what information you’re talking about.
One Last Tip for the Ideal Explainer Video Script
If this is your first explainer video, or if writing isn’t your strength, consider outsourcing the explainer video script to a professional. It’s often helpful for an objective “outsider” to write your explainer scripts in particular. That’s because the outsider perspective is essential to successfully reach your prospects, all of whom are outsiders, too. If you’d rather leave it to the professionals, drop us a line. We’ll get in touch promptly to discuss your explainer video project.