You probably took great care in choosing the actors, voice-over artists, and presenters to make your video successful, but to really get the most out of videos you have to start with a great script.
As an actress, voice-over artist, presenter, and copywriter I have a unique perspective. While some scripts are truly brilliant, many are overly complicated, jargon-heavy, or simply try to do too much.
By following a few simple rules you can write scripts that will allow your talent to get your message across more clearly, concisely, and creatively. You also can avoid costly delays in the recording studio or on set, while getting the best performance possible.
Write to be heard, not seen
In general, the way we speak is less formal than how we write. A conversational tone in your writing means it’s easier for your talent to make the script sound natural – and make your video more engaging.
Keep sentences short. Focus on one thought.
Short, concise sentences make it easier for your talent to emphasize key points. It also makes it easier for your audience to grasp them.
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Use simple words. Avoid jargon.
Choose words like “best” instead of “optimum” or “do” instead of “accomplish.” If you need help with this, the Plain English Campaign’s A-Z of Alternative Words is a great resource. If you must use jargon, stick to the necessary or commonly used terms within your audience’s field. Research shows even a technical audience appreciates a message that’s clear and straightforward.
Unless it’s essential for your voice-over artist or presenter to use more formal speech, use contractions whenever you can. For example, use “let’s start” instead of “let us start.”
Avoid tongue twisters.
Reword phrases that are likely to trip up your talent (and require more takes). In a recent casting I had to say: “… the great Games Maximus gaming experience.” I managed to get the words out, but the script could have been written in a much simpler, less tongue-twisting way.
Read it out loud. Have someone read it to you.
There is only one way to know if your copy works for the ear – read it out loud. And I don’t mean mumbling over your laptop. Read it with the dynamics and pace you’ll want your talent to use when delivering it.
As writers, we can easily become overfamiliar with our own words. This is one of the reasons having someone else read your script to you can be so helpful. If you can’t easily pick out the main points, your audience won’t be able to either.
Also, make sure to time your script, especially if you’re crafting it for a specific length of time. It’s much easier to trim the script before you’re on set and the performers have learned their lines.
Get the best out of your talent
All of the actors, voice-over artists, and presenters I know have one thing in common – we want to do a good job. We want happy clients who are pleased with our performance. Here are some things you can do to help us out.
Know what you want.
Often clients are unsure of exactly what kind of delivery or tone they want from a performer. As you write, ask yourself if you want the delivery to be friendly and conversational or something more authoritative and serious? The clearer you are about what you want, the more likely it is that you’ll get it.
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Get the script to your talent as soon as possible.
On more than one occasion I haven’t seen the script before I walked into the recording booth or as it scrolled down the teleprompter. While most talent can do a cold read in these situations, you’ll get a much better performance if your talent has time to find the natural cadence and flow of the script before the recording starts.
It’s also normal for your talent to be a bit nervous. The more time they have to prepare, the better for everyone. This said, don’t give the talent the script until it’s locked down or as close to final as possible. It’s difficult to remember new lines or changes to lines after you’ve rehearsed them to the point where they’ve become natural.
Use a teleprompter for presenters.
There seems to be a common misconception that the delivery sounds more natural if the talent memorizes the script as opposed to using a teleprompter. This certainly isn’t true for me, or for any of the other presenters I’ve asked.
Using a teleprompter allows the talent to focus efforts on getting the right intonation rather than just remembering the words. You’ll save yourself time (and therefore money) by using this simple, inexpensive tool. You’ll also eliminate hours of stress and preparation for your talent, making everybody happier.
If you want more information on how to get the most out of your voice-over recording sessions, check out this series of online videos from Voiceover Soho that I helped create, which expounds on the tips I’ve shared here.
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Want to further your video education? Check out this free on-demand webinar, Create Binge-Worthy Video Content in 8 Simple Steps, in the CMI library.
Cover image by Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com