If you’re a start-up, you’re going to need to make an explainer video. It’s 2017, people only want to learn about new things via video. Who can blame them? It often proves a lot easier to get your head around what a business or product does when it’s explained in a video.

Like everything, there’s a knack to making an explainer video. In these times of short attention spans, they’ve got to be short and engaging, but they’ve also got to do justice to the thing or business you’re trying to explain.

If the end product outstays its welcome or only serves to confuse the viewer, you risk losing that prospect forever – they shouldn’t have to work to understand what it is you’re trying to explain and nor will they.

So, there’s a lot resting on your explainer video. Arguably the most important part of any explainer video is the script.

The script is where you decide what benefits to the customer you’re going to push; what story you’re going to tell; what tone you’re going to adopt; how you’re going to finish with a flourish. Better get it right, then…

We’ve been finding ourselves writing more and more explainer video scripts recently. Here are five rules we’ve found will apply, every time, when writing an explainer video that sells.

1. Scrutinise every line

Your standard explainer video is 60 seconds long, which means you only have 160 words and 180 words to play with. Trust us, they’ll soon add up as you make your way through the script. If you try to pack too many words into the 60 seconds, your video will suffer. It will lead to a hurried voiceover which viewers will struggle to follow.

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That’s why you need to scrutinise every single line. It’s not often you’ll be encouraged to cut corners, but if you can get across what you’re trying to say in as few words as possible, you’ll be on to a winner.

2. Don’t leave all the good stuff to the end

It’s crucial that you hook the reader at your earliest possible opportunity. Now, it’s not in keeping with the format of explainer videos to be too forceful – they’re more about guiding you through why and what’s important. So, all those shock-tactic tropes are no good here.

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Our experience tells us that you should boil down what it is the video is trying to say into one line, and deliver that line in the first seconds of the script. If you wait until the end to trot it out, you run the risk of viewers switching off before they hear it.

3. See it from the viewer’s perspective

We get it, the thing that you’re selling is your baby. Everything holds value; there are no chinks in its armour. However, you’ve got to see it from the viewer’s perspective. They don’t have the any affiliation with what it is you’re selling. Having clicked to view the video, you can assume they’re intrigued, but they will be quick to abandon if they feel like they’re wasting their time.

Do they care about the background of your business right now? No. Do they want to know how they’ll benefit from investing their time and money? Absolutely. Focus on the thing you’re trying to sell – all other information can live in a separate piece of content.

4. Write for someone specifically

Get the tone wrong and your entire video gets written off. Too dull and your viewers will simply switch off; too wooden and your video might descend into a comic piece. Here’s how not to do a convincing video:

If you have story-driven characters, the dialogue in your script has to be realistic – one of the hardest things to do as a writer. If your video is going to have a voiceover, the tone needs to stray away from being patronising. We find that if you write for someone specifically, the tone immediately becomes more natural. Personas at the ready, then, if they still apply…

5. Don’t be afraid to use humour

It’s rare to see humour used in an explainer video. That’s not all that surprising, really, as poorly timed humour can turn viewers off completely and make the entire thing feel cheap and trifling.

However, if you can use humour wisely, applying it to support your message without resorting to the lowest common denominator of humour, it can prove to be a great tool for making your video engaging and memorable.

Instead of making the script overtly humorous, consider setting up some funny on-screen animation with your script. It’s often much easier and more effective to use physical comedy than some clunky wordplay.

It’s for that reason that we use GIFs in our blog posts, like this one:

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So, see how you get on applying these five rules. If you still feel like your script is not doing your business or product justice, feel free to get in contact!

Ben Hollom

March 8, 2017