How to Write an Awesome Script (Fast) With Dana Haines

How to Write an Awesome Script (Fast) With Dana Haines

There are many different ways to write a script but having an efficient process to go from the blank page to a completed video is the key to faster scriptwriting. 

Dana Haines is a multifunctional content creator, specializing in video development and scriptwriting. She believes that you can optimize your video production by following a workflow for your scriptwriting process, making it smoother and faster, leaving you more time to make more videos. 

When you’re working with SMEs to create a great video, there can be a lot of hold-up in the production process, and the scriptwriting part can heavily influence the amount of time it takes to see a video from conception to completion. In this post, Dana shares her best advice for creating a scriptwriting process that can reduce the number of revisions and create more effective videos.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, listen to the podcast episode below, or read on for more…

Create a scriptwriting questionnaire

The revision process is by far one of the most difficult parts of scriptwriting. Deciding what information to leave in or take out is tricky, but even more so when you’re not the SME.

Dana emphasized the importance of having a questionnaire that SME’s can answer to get only the best, most relevant information on the video topic. This will help to clarify areas that even the SME might not know to be clear on.

Having a set questionnaire helps you save time on each project, as you will only need to tweak questions to make it specific to different projects, and remind both yourself and the SMEs what exactly needs defining and where. Dana believes that getting her SME to define the subject is the most important part of her questionnaire.

“SMEs come to you and […] they have everything, they have all these things that they want to include, but also sometimes I have found that they are not prescriptive on the parts that actually matter the most. […] My questionnaire that I have digs down into all of this stuff, all of sudden I’m able to take three sentences and condense it down to one, so not only is the script shorter […] it’s more powerful just because each sentence is packed full of content.” 

How to Write an Awesome Script (Fast) With Dana Haines

Remember that your words matter, and how you phrase sentences or questions can have a huge impact on what responses you get. Never be afraid to edit your questions and see which versions get better responses from your interviewees.

How to encourage SMEs to engage with the content creation process 

Relying on SMEs to help with the script’s content can inevitably delay the video production process. However, Dana has learned a few tricks to get her interviewees to engage with her questionnaire.

Focus on your SME and why they need this content, is it because this video can help them with their job? Do they have customers waiting on the content? Motivating your interviewee by reminding them about the content’s value is a great way to get them back on track and give more helpful answers to your questionnaire. 

How to turn your questionnaire into a script

First, ask what the purpose of the video is. Are you persuading, informing, or entertaining?

With screencasting, video creators are often informing. So, the next step is to focus on what you want your outcomes to be while you’re scriptwriting. Think about what you’re seeking to teach and what result will this have for your business.

“I realize that the person watching this video is an actual human, with an actual career and their own goals and dreams […] so I want the videos that I make to be a small blip on their radar to get them to rock stardom, to get them to that promotion, to get them to wherever they are going, I think that’s important.” 

Dana’s advice for when you’re both interviewing and writing the script is to have not only the SME top of mind but also the customer. What do you want the customer to read, and how can you make the SME’s words fit that? 

“The customer has to be in mind the whole time, so I’m visualizing what I want them to see rather than what the SME’s words are.”

The five most powerful sentences in your script

After you’ve decided the video’s purpose and outcomes, you can begin work on the five pillars of the script. These are five key statements that will give your audience a roadmap to understanding the product, solution and applying it to their situation.

These five key sentences are:

  • The definition statement – what is the product or solution and what does it do?
  • The value statement – what affect will this product or solution have for a customer?
  • The outcome statement – will this product or solution change anything greater than just solving a customer’s problem?
  • The baton statement – can the customer continue to receive value from this product/solution?
  • The execution statement ­– what’s the call to action for the person viewing this video? 

These are the most powerful areas of your script and your video. They’ll lend themselves very well to repurposing afterward and are the parts that your audience might need to see twice to engage with your content.

How long your script should be

A set number of questions allows you to control the amount of content you have. If you have too much content, your video will become much longer, and too little, then you’ll have a video that’s too short. But by having a controlled amount of content, it will be easier to manage your video length.

For the screen recorded videos Dana produces, her optimal video length is just over three minutes, which equates to a finished script of 26 sentences – although Dana’s preferred script length is 22 sentences, just under the three-minute mark.

Ultimately, video length will always depend on the type of video and the needs of the audience. Script and video length go hand in hand. So, if your videos need to be longer, you’ll need a longer script and vice versa. Dana also stresses that if there’s a person in the video, it will be more entertaining to watch, so it can be longer than three minutes.

How to Write an Awesome Script (Fast) With Dana Haines

When to record and why you need a fast revision process

When Dana completely understands the content and is happy with her script, one of her top time-saving tips is to record the video without sending the scripts for revisions. This can be a risk, and while it doesn’t always pay off, it could mean a far quicker production process if all the video stakeholders are happy with the result.

Your revision process should be quick so, if this is the method you choose, you can edit your narration or recorded video content without too much hassle. In fact, Dana believes that if your revision process isn’t quick, then you need to rethink that too.

Time-saving tips for scriptwriting

While storytelling can be great for engaging an audience, it also takes a lot of time to craft well, especially if your video topic doesn’t lend itself to it. 

There’s less demand for a storytelling angle in informative content, so save yourself the time and effort. You’re not writing a novel – focus on the information that needs to be included first.

Dana’s final tip for faster scriptwriting is an actionable one: memorize the 100 most commonly used English words.

Having a bank of words to continuously draw from can help make sentences easier to form, and while you can change your scripts to bring individuality to them, having a formula for sentence structure will undoubtedly speed up your writing and overall video production process.

Want to learn more about the process of creating tutorial videos? Download our FREE Infographic – “The Process of Creating Tutorial Videos.”

Discover more about how to optimize your scriptwriting and video production process by visiting the TechSmith Academy

For more expert advice and tips visit TechSmith Academy on YouTube or listen to the Podcast.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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