Are you a video creator stuck with your script writing process?
When you’re just getting started, it can take time to develop a video script writing strategy. But there are ways to improve your process.
Script writing is an essential part of video production. It can feel like a struggle to write a script (especially if you’re not a writer!). However, having a great script can not only result in better videos but a more streamlined production process too.
In this post, TechSmith’s Video Producer, Andy Owen, and Global Content Manager, Justin Simon, give their tips on how to write a video script. They share their advice for your video script writing process and tell you why you should never “skip the script”.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post. To listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
How to start video script writing
Justin relies on a tried and tested video script writing method. He uses his blog writing experience to create templates that he replicates for every video. This includes an outline and three basic questions, framing who the video is for.
“We ask questions like, who’s the audience? Why do they care about the video you’re going to make? And, what and how can they apply it? And so those are just three very basic questions to ask yourself even before you start writing your script.” – Justin
These questions aim to position you, the scriptwriter, where you can understand your audience and how you can help them accomplish their task. Justin notes that you can use this template from various perspectives, for example, sales or onboarding, and get very different results, as the questions help you discern how your audience and their needs change.
Justin builds on his outline until he’s got all of his thoughts for the video down on paper. This removes the ‘fear of the blank page’ and makes it far less intimidating to write a full video script. You can flesh out the script around your existing thoughts.
Andy, on the other hand, opts for a different method, favoring speech over writing.
Why you should write how you speak
Andy and Justin both strongly advise reading any scripts aloud to check if they sound like something you’d say. If not, you might fall into the trap of sounding forced and unnatural. As a video producer, Andy’s had plenty of experience with distracting script-reading.
“We have all heard an unnatural script. And it’s terrible. It distracts us from the point of the video, because now instead of actually focusing on the content, we’re focusing on the poor writing.” – Andy
Justin’s top tip is to use Google Docs’ talk to text feature to transcribe your ideas, rather than write them down. This way, you can instantly integrate your tone of voice and style into your script. You can then clean up the text into a useable script.
If you’re writing a script for someone else, then bear in mind that you might not be able to script their tone of voice accurately. Leave space for the performer to edit phrases or ensure that you have enough time to review the script with them so you can make any necessary changes.
Why your video script’s introduction is crucial
Andy uses a standard script template for his video introductions, and there are some great reasons why. Firstly, it helps him get into the topic quickly, which means he has to spend less time writing a tricky introduction. But secondly, by talking about the topic straight away, users quickly know what information they’ll get if they continue watching.
Justin states that he spends 90% of his video script writing time working on the introduction alone. He argues it’s potentially the most important part of the entire video.
“The first 15 seconds of your video, you’re going to either keep people interested enough to move on, or they’re going to bail because you didn’t hook them. So you have to be really, really clear. And that’s where, especially in the intro, clarity will trump trying to be clever.” – Justin
Both Andy and Justin believe that the most successful introductions cut the fluff and get straight to the point. When you’re creating instructional content, your audience is looking for someone to help them solve a problem. So telling users what they’re going to learn in the first few seconds helps them decide whether they need to stick around or not.
How to marry the script with your visuals
When writing a script for video, you should always consider how the words will work with what’s on the screen. While Andy believes that “silence can kill” a video, and so the script should be your priority, it’s also important to remember what your audience will be looking at.
Andy uses simple techniques to keep visuals at the forefront of his planning. He suggests that while you can opt for a thorough process, such as storyboarding, you can also make short notes in the sidebars about what to include on screen as you speak.
Matching the audio with the visuals is key to a successful video, so Andy suggests running through the workflow while you’re writing the script to make sure that you get every step correct. This will also help you adjust your timings, so you won’t have to edit as much.
“Walking through the process you plan on showing on screen while you’re scripting helps immensely because you can see, ‘Oh, I missed that’ […] There’s a whole process that I forgot about because it’s just become such a habit – you forget that there’s seven steps, not five.” – Andy
Why you shouldn’t skip the script
Recording a video without a script is possible but not advised.
Andy has tried it multiple times, and each time he’s struggled to stick to the topic. He much prefers using a script, even if it’s an outline, and a teleprompter to make sure that he stays on message for the recording’s entirety.
“Having a script as someone who’s directing video really helps me focus on the message and know what my stakeholders are trying to get out of this video. And honestly, it helps the person on camera too.” – Andy
But a script doesn’t mean that you have to leave your personality behind. Your personality doesn’t have to be written into a script because you’ll perform it in your own way, and your audience will notice that. If you give a script to two different people, they’ll perform it differently. That’s where the performer’s personality can shine through.
When a script goes beyond video
Andy and Justin are currently working on what they call “complementary content”. Recreating existing blog content into videos, so users can decide how they want to consume information. Justin notes how using existing content helped to speed up the video script writing process.
“We were able to take the basic headlines and things like that out of our blog posts and turn those into the sections for our videos. Where it got more complicated was – a blog post can be, you know, upwards of 2000 words, and our scripts have to be much more defined.” – Justin
Andy added that creating new video content from these older blogs also gave them a great opportunity to update their content. They could update the blog with relevant information and produce a video to help guide users through newer process.
Justin highlights that while recreating a blog as a video is a great process for speeding up your script writing, you can also script an original video and repurpose it into a blog. This optimizes your content creation workflow, as you can create twice the amount of content from one asset. Justin notes that you can also take screenshots from the video recording as supporting images for the article.
“If I am looking for a very, you know, definite quick answer, I might just skim through some text in some bullet points that show me how to do a process. Whereas if I’m have a little bit more time, and I want to actually see the process hands on, I might get more out of a video.” – Justin
But repurposing doesn’t only apply to blogs and videos. You could start with a live stream, and edit it into an evergreen video. Use the audio to make a podcast, take quotes to make graphics, and share those on social media. There are many opportunities to re-use a script to create more content, and you can design a workflow strategy that can help you do that.
Andy and Justin’s final words of video script writing advice
Andy’s advice to speed up script writing process is not to get bogged down in saying something original or thought-provoking. In fact, both Andy and Justin agree that your video will help people better if the script is more pragmatic.
“Get over yourself. That’s my own advice to me, get over myself, and realize that this topic has been covered before, no one needs to hear my deep thoughts, really, they need to get into the topic, and then learn how to do A, B, and C.”– Andy
Meanwhile, Justin returns to the script’s importance and suggests that while video script writing might feel like a long and arduous process, it makes the workflow far more manageable and accurate from start to finish.
“Don’t skip the script. […] If it’s something you want to be a little bit more long lasting, don’t skimp on writing your script. It’ll make everything following your script writing go that much faster.” – Justin
To find out more about script writing and discover other resources for creating captivating video, check out the TechSmith Academy.