How to Write a Killer Explainer Video Script

A video has the power to tell a convincing story about your business in 60-seconds. But before you even think about the cutesy illustration and animation, you need to pour everything you have into developing a killer script. A well-written, engaging script is the foundation for a successful explainer video. Without the right foundation, the rest of the creation process is in vain.

So what can you do to make sure your video is a killer and not merely a nap inducer? It starts with proper preparation - knowing your audience, your message and your call-to-action is essential. Beyond that, here are 7 tips to help you write a better script.

1. Keep the script short. The length of your script will depend on your audience. A captive audience in an auditorium endures about six to eight minutes before beginning to drift. An Internet surfer popping by your website tends to check out after two to four minutes depending on how compelling your material is and whether or not she needs your product.

2. Put your message in the first 30 seconds.  Reduce the message of your entire video to one sentence and get that sentence somewhere in the first 30 seconds of the script. This tells the audience what to pay attention to in the video.

3. Speak directly to the audience. The easiest way to speak to an audience is to use personal pronouns like “you” and “your”. Another way to engage your audience is to show them things they care deeply about. While you may be proud of your second quarter earnings, what they care about is whether you can help them improve their own bottom line. Don’t waste time telling your audience what they already know. Focus instead on what they need to know about you that will bring them to trust you and to take the action you want them to take.  Don’t talk down to your audience or over their heads. Make friends with them and they will be far more likely to give you a chance to sell them something.

4. Find the right tone. Have a mental picture of your customer in mind when selecting the tone of your video. Write a one sentence summary describing why you are making the video and what you want the viewer to do at the end of it. This will suggest a tone for your finished video. You may decide you want a talking head in an office, a brief classroom style presentation, a light hearted romp, a bold outdoorsy documentary or a colorful animated review.

If you have story-driven characters, imagine real people as mental place-holders. It’s much easier to write realistic dialogue if you are writing for someone whose habits and mannerisms you know well. The tone you choose for your video will then drive your choice of setting, narrator or cast, tempo, pace and type of dialogue for the script.

5. Tell a story. Most explainer video scripts present a problem (Bob is tired), introduce a solution (Bob drinks organic, sugar-free, calorie-free, nutrition-free energy drink), explain how it works (OrganiBrew is all natural...blah blah blah), and drive viewers to action (buy OrganiBrew at your local gas station).

Dry facts, statistics and definitions are okay in the classroom, but unless your video is for students imprisoned in a classroom, avoid lifeless content whenever possible. Instead, use the power of the screen to show your audience actual people your company has helped, or benefits your services have bestowed on your customers. Human beings create stories about themselves to help them define who they are. The better you tell stories about yourself, the more likely your viewers are going to understand what your company is offering and what it can do for them.

6. Use humor wisely. Humor is a great tool for story-telling so long as the humor supports your message. Make sure your attempts at humor fit seamlessly within the story you’re trying to tell, and keep in mind that misplaced or poorly timed humor can be distracting and may actually put off potential customers.

*Tip: You can try to include written humor in your script, but sometimes it’s more effective to introduce humor as part of the on-screen animation.

explainer video script humor

7. Pace yourself. Keep dialogue to between 125 and 150 words a minute.  And while you might be able to speak 200 or more words per minute on your own, keep in mind that the voiceover needs time to breathe, allowing viewers to absorb what you’re saying (this is especially true if the content is particularly dense or technical in nature). Machine gun fire dialogue quickly overwhelms viewers, causing abandonment, and decreased comprehension.  

When producing an explainer video, don’t skimp on the script. Take the time necessary to do it right. Get feedback from friends and co-workers, and make sure it’s engaging and easy to understand. In case you need more pointers, please check out the additional resources below, and feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments!

Additional Resources:

By Andrew Follett, the Founder and CEO at Video Brewery. He lives in Chicago with his wife Hannah and enjoys travel, hockey, sailing, and maintaining his 300 acre ant farm (okay, not really). You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.