A video script is more than narration; it also sets the style and direction for the entire presentation and orchestrates the other elements of the production. The script should provide information to the production team that will guide them as they:

  • Record the video
  • Create the graphics
  • Create the desired mood
  • Pace the introduction of these elements
  • Communicate the desired messages via words, images, and sounds—this is of greatest importance

(Editor’s Note: Be sure to include information about captioning for the hearing-impaired and others who would benefit from the additional channel!)

Often, trainers and communications personnel who develop videos for their organizations have difficulty starting or finalizing a script because they haven’t considered these and other factors. To make the path toward your completed script smoother, you should consider five ways to avoid potential pitfalls that could otherwise prove hazardous to your production.

  1. Be sure all the stakeholders in your script understand its purpose. Managers of departments that will use the video, along with top company leadership, should understand your reasoning for the script’s proposed verbal style, as well as audio and visual elements, and how they all combine to reinforce specific messaging that the final product is to communicate. During the script-review process, emphasize that the final deliverable is visual, and that it is vital to take time to visualize the script as a series of mixed-media moments—not just words. This can be difficult with reviewers who are busy, senior—or both. But it is important. 
  2. Write how people speak, not how they write. A video script is meant to be heard, and the style of narration, demonstration, or conversation that the scriptwriter chooses can determine whether the target audience will be engaged and will absorb the message. Be sure you know your audience, and use language and terms that they readily understand, as well as a style that feels comfortable to them.
  3. Time your script sections accurately. The various portions of your script should be balanced so that, for example, your clever introduction doesn’t consume two-thirds of the time available for the video—requiring you to cut short the key messages. Further, you should know how each section contributes to the length of the entire video so that you provide a bit more time for those segments requiring demonstrations or more detailed explanations. Time narrated portions of the script at 150 words per minute. That’s the approximate rate that a news anchor speaks.
  4. Write to your budget. If your resources are very tight, don’t include expensive effects, props, or locations in your script. You’ll deplete your budget on these elements and may not have enough left for the voice-over talent or editing services you want to use. On the other hand, ensure that you budget enough for the elements that are essential to the script. These may include music that sets a mood or pace for the script, stock photos or video clips, and sometimes, a shooting schedule that needs to be extended to accommodate the schedules and locations of those interviewed for gathering sound bites. You may also need a buffer to protect against the unforeseen, such as bad weather or a sudden schedule change on the part of key in-house talent, such as executives appearing on camera.
  5. To simplify the process or simply cut costs, consider the option of an animated video. Demonstrating the inner workings of technology or demonstrating a global process can be difficult (impossible?) to stage for the camera. To help visualize such difficult subjects, or reduce the costs of crews, materials and travel, consider using animation. There are production companies specializing in animated videos, as well as do-it-yourself online animated video-creation platforms that provide huge collections of characters, backgrounds, props, and actions along with simple tools. Importing narration or dialogue into these tools is easy.
Keep in mind that you should determine all these decisions in relation to the target audience and learning objectives. Development and production are a series of judgment calls about how best to deliver the message in a way that is clear and effective.