Somewhere I read once: “Without constraints, innovation diffuses in every direction.” The constraints when trying to solve a problem through innovative solutions might be the budget or the time you have to solve the problem, or the people and resources you have to work with. These kinds of constraints force your mental and creative energy to focus within a set of boundaries, channeling that energy to have its greatest effect. Think of creative energy as a finite resource. If there are no constraints, we spend that energy jumping from thing to thing, never gaining traction in any single direction.
This principle applies to script writing for product videos as well. I’m going to give you three constraints that will help your video scripts consistently turn out better.
Constraint #1: Limit Your Word Count
When writing a product video script, the constraint that will help you most is to limit your word count. “But my product is so awesome and big and complicated!” you might say. “How can I choose a limit when there is so much to explain?” And that’s where the problem lies: we believe we need to explain too much, when in reality, in demo videos, less is more. Have you ever noticed that some movie trailers (e.g. Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace and the more recent The Hobbit prequel) are actually more intriguing and exciting than the movie itself? That’s because a trailer forces a time constraint. That constraint might be stated something like: “We have to tell the main problem of the story and hint at potential outcomes in 2 minutes or less.” The constraint forces tight editing and pacing which the full length movie often doesn’t (good screenplay writers and directors will force the constraints for the whole movie production because they understand this principle).
In general, the rule of thumb is: keep the video short! 140-150 words comes out to about one minute of narration. Where possible, keep your product demo videos to two minutes or less.
You’ll find this to be difficult, but the constraint forces you to be more concise, focus on your main message and benefits and avoid distracting detours. As we’ve written scripts, we’ve invariably found that when forced into a shorter constraint the resulting video has better pacing (meaning it is more engaging and interesting) and conveys the main message more effectively.
Constraint #2: Adopt a Consistent Script Writing Methodology
Writing for training purposes is different than writing for sales and marketing purposes. You should know your objective and use a proven approach to achieve that objective. Too often we just start writing because we know a lot about the subject, have demoed our product hundreds of times, and whatever we write will be good enough, right? The result is that every video is as different from the other as your mood or creativity varies from day to day. Adopting a methodology or ‘pattern’ will help your viewers absorb your content quickly as they move from video to video as well as help you write effectively.
Constraint #3: Pick a Point of View
Should your script start with, “This is Bob, and he has such and such problem” (third person) or “Are you facing such and such problem?” (second person) or “I bet you have this problem and I’m going to show you what I do when I run into this problem” (first person). (As a side note, notice in all cases I’m started with the problem…part of the methodology). Writing from first, second, or third person perspective can be equally effective, but whatever you choose, stick with it. Don’t switch mid-stream: “Bob has this problem. See how this solution helps you?” Instead, “Bob has this problem. This is how the solution helped Bob solve it.” Or “Do you have this problem? If so, here’s how the solution will help you solve it.” Notice in both examples, the point of view is consistent. Keeping the point of view consistent keeps your viewers from getting confused.
Embracing Constraints Increases Chances for Success
Embracing constraints can be difficult. Script writing may take a little longer. But the result will be bring you exponential returns.
As one example,without limiting word count your pacing becomes boring, you go off on topics that are really not needed, you may even lose your viewer completely because of disinterest, and your post-production takes longer forcing your budgets to be higher. If you take the time you can reap the opposite: engaging content that keeps you viewers watching and a it’s less expensive.
What other constraints do you try to live by in product video script writing?