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Story Matters Even for Explainer Videos

Great explainer videos, like great films, start with a compelling story. Everyone seems to agree with that statement, and yet I’m often surprised at how many people we talk to gloss over the script as if it's the easy part. If writing a great story were easy, everyone would do it. The reality is that making things simple, concise, and memorable—not to mention fun and engaging—is a lot harder than it sounds.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - Albert Einstein

Below are some of the "best practices" we've learned after years of making explainer videos. Take Time to Research and Write

You can’t write about what you don’t understand. Writing a great explainer video script means truly understanding what you’re explaining. Explaining something clearly isn’t as easy as it sounds. It's probably going to require more than simply filling out a questionnaire. Plan to take the time needed to do it right. If the first draft doesn’t work as well as you’d like, keep working on it until you’re satisfied. Your viewers will thank you for taking the time to do it right.

Be Clear About Your Goals

Make sure you understand what you want to achieve with your video. Is it meant to be purely educational or do you want viewers to do something after they watch it? Most people don't need a "viral video," they need a video that will impact their intended audience. 

Understand Your Audience

Different audiences expect different things. Are you speaking to technical experts or generalists? What motivates them to watch your video? What stresses do they face in their lives? You’re probably not going to want to write a script targeted at transportation company CEO’s the same way you’d write one focused on college students. If you don’t know who you're trying to reach, it’s going to be hard to write a script that will resonate with them.

Tell Them Why

One of the first things an effective explainer video typically does is tell the audience why they’re watching. Sometimes this can be direct, other times it can be more subtle. Don’t make the audience wonder why they’re watching or what the explainer video is about. That's a sure fire way to lose them. Make sure there’s a hook, whether implicit or explicit, that promises something right up front. 

Show Don’t Tell

There’s nothing more frustrating for me as a viewer of explainer videos than to feel like someone turned a boring PowerPoint presentation into a slightly less boring video. Don’t just list the benefits of a project. Show me the benefits and what they look like in real life. After all, that’s where we humans have to live—in the real world. Make sure the real-life benefits of the product or service are clear.

Think Emotions

We humans sometimes delude ourselves into thinking that logic dictates our decisions. The reality is that emotions are paramount, as recent neuroscience research has shown (watch the TED talk below). While it’s important that your explainer video makes sense in a logical way, it’s more important that it connects emotionally with the viewer. If you want the audience to do something after the video is done, you need to make them feel like you understand them or have a solution that will make their lives better. Think deeply about the emotional payoff for your customers. Why are they really buying your product or service? In your script, look for ways to show how they’ll feel during or after they’ve used your product or service. If your product makes things more efficient, for example, think about what it really does. Perhaps it's about giving people freedom and time to live the life they want. Always look a layer beyond the obvious motivator. Remember, unless you’re a computer, you probably care about more than just numbers. 


Think Visually Too

When done properly, video leverages the audience's visual and auditory senses—not to mention their emotions, as we've already discussed. Because visual learning is so important for most viewers, it should be considered at the outset of the writing process and not simply appended later. This is another reason it’s important to find a writer who's an expert in thinking visually as well as writing clearly. Your script and visuals should go together seamlessly. If your visuals are an afterthought, it's likely to show.

Get Distance

When you understand a product or service inside and out, it’s often extremely difficult to imagine what it’s like to hear about it the first time. Sometimes the smartest people are the worst at explaining things because they can't imagine what it's like to hear about it as a layman. This is why it’s usually helpful to use an outside writer who can bring a fresh perspective. Combining your substantive expertise with their story know-how is a key to creating a script that works. If your budget is limited and you have to write the script yourself, at the very least, find friends or family who can give you an honest outsider's perspective. 

The above list isn't exhaustive by any means, but hopefully it will give you a few thing to think about before you decide to embark on creating your next explainer video. If story is as important to you as it is to us, give Wienot Films a call. We'd love to learn about your goals and help tell your story. Thanks for reading!

#bestpractices #emotions #lessonslearned #script #story #tips #writing

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