Video script writing 101: Basics, examples, and templates

You’ve seen the stats. It’s no secret that video is one of the most powerful marketing methods available. Video gets more engagement and drives more growth than any other type of media.

However, you’ll only reap the benefits of video marketing if your videos are at least decently produced. That doesn’t mean every video needs a Hollywood budget, but you do need to put some time into planning your video and writing a video script. Leave the spontaneous selfie-cam footage to Facebook Live and Instagram stories.

The good news is that writing a video script is easier than it seems. If you don’t have time to craft a super-amazing script, you can even work from one of our video script templates and end up with a fantastic video. Your audience will never know.

Of course, you don’t have to use video script templates. We’ll cover the basics and give some examples to help you write decent video scripts, with or without a template.

How to write a video script: The basics

Before we go anywhere with video, let’s be clear about this: keep it simple. As you plan your video and write your script, it’s super easy to start throwing all sorts of cool ideas out. After all, you can do anything in a video, right?

With an unlimited budget, sure. But we’re willing to bet your budget is limited. So keep your videos as simple as possible. You’d be surprised how much work it takes to produce very minimal on-screen effects.

With all that in mind, start planning your script. Some writers call this “prewriting”.

Identify your audience

This is a staple in any sort of marketing or copywriting. You need to address a very specific customer with your content, otherwise it won’t resonate. It can be tempting to make it as broad as possible in order to address every potential customer. Avoid this temptation. Something that’s for everybody appeals to nobody.

If you need help identifying who you want to reach, go through the exercises on this worksheet from digitalmarketer.com.

Quick pro tip: If you want to make your video funny, make sure you very carefully assess your audience and your product. Some audiences don’t want to be amused when they’re learning about your brand. If you go for the funny angle and your joke falls flat, the reaction from your viewers will be negative, whereas if you take a straightforward approach, nobody expects to be amused and won’t be disappointed when they don’t laugh.

Choose a goal

Next you need to know what the point of the video is. This will depend on where your audience will see the video, what stage of the marketing funnel the video will be used at, and what you want viewers to do after they watch the video. If you’ve read our Facebook Video Marketing Handbook, you know that not every video needs a call to action. In some cases, having viewers watch till the end is a perfectly viable goal.

Facebook Video Marketing

Data-driven methods for profitable campaigns

Read more

But if you want viewers to do something specific after seeing the video, you’ll need a call to action. Just make sure your call to action aligns with the purpose of the video. Have a look at this video for FreshBooks. The purpose of the video is quite clear, even if it’s not explicitly stated.

Freshbooks Customer Testimonial

Choose a central character

If your video features too many people, it will be difficult to follow and the focus will stray from the main point. Identifying the primary character does two things:

  1. It simplifies and focuses your video.
  2. It pushes you toward creating a story (if your video needs it).

Some videos, like a product overview, have very little story in them. However, it’s still best if a single person does most of the talking. If you’re producing a video with a narrative arc, it’s best to focus on the main character.

In either case, you need to know who’s going to be on screen most of the time. If you need two or more people in the video, choose one person to show for a majority of the screen time.

Bonus tip: If you can, use the same person as the spokesperson in all your videos. This creates continuity and familiarity in your video content. That’s why brands often create characters that almost function as mascots, like Flo from Progressive.

Fluent in Insurance, also check out Maid for Us

Identify the point of the video

This boils down to a very simple exercise: tell someone why they should watch this video in one sentence.

When you start writing your script, put the answer to this question as close to the beginning as possible. Let viewers know what they’re going to get right up front, and you’ll retain more viewers.

As a bonus, identifying the point of the video will also tell you what sort of video you need.

Writing your video script: The fun part

If your planning is good, the writing will be fairly easy. You’ve already created your map. Just follow it!

Write out visual and audio elements

This is super important if you’re doing any sort of voiceover with visuals that cut to different shots. But even if your video is a single shot of someone talking, write the visual and audio aspects into your script.

The script is a set of directions for whoever is shooting the video, and you want the video team to know, without a doubt, what’s supposed to be happening with both the visual and audio elements.

A simple table with two columns is an easy way to format your script. It’s easy to read and see how the video will look and sound. This is a brief two-column video script example:

Add as many boxes as you need to cover all the shots in your video.

Write your script, then trim to fit

Depending on the sort of video you’re making, you may need to cram everything into 15 or 30 seconds, or you could have a full three minutes or more to work with.

Either way, plan for 125 to 150 words of dialogue per minute.

But when you start writing, focus on saying everything you want to say. Once you’ve got all the dialogue written, check your word count, then start axing and rewording until it fits your time limit.

This method makes your script clear and concise. It forces you to keep only the dialogue you need.

Here are a few brief tips for writing dialogue:

  • Speak directly to the audience. Use “you” and talk to your viewers. It’s more personable, and people prefer being spoken to rather than being spoken at.

  • Write it the way you would say it. Your audience isn’t going to read your script. So write what you would actually say, not what looks best on paper.

  • Read your script out loud. This is the only way to find out if your dialogue sounds natural. If you make changes, read it out loud again.

Once the dialogue is clean, you’ll know roughly how much footage you need to shoot and what shots you need. If you’re using a voiceover, be sure to shoot some extra footage to account for pauses in the dialogue and visuals that don’t make the cut.

Shoot your video, but stick to the script (mostly)

This is technically not part of writing the script. But it’s related to writing your script. It boils down to one question: why bother writing the script if you’re not going to follow it? That’s like paying an architect to draw a floor plan, then just building your house all willy-nilly.

Once you start filming, follow your script as much as possible. Some minor changes are fine, and professional actors or voice actors can contribute some flair. Or, if you find you don’t have the resources to do what you planned, you may need to make changes or go back and rewrite the script.

But avoid making major changes to the script on the fly just because you think of something cool. Ad hoc changes and ad-libbing rarely turn out for the best. Explosions are cool, but don’t blow everything up just to have some fun.

Writing the right script

Marketing videos accomplish two things:

  1. They educate viewers.
  2. They persuade viewers.

Some videos only do one of the two and some do both, but we’re going to split the various types into one of these two categories to keep things simple.

Educational videos: Presentation and explainer video scripts (with templates)

Presentation and explainer videos fall into the educational category.

These videos are usually for:

  • Demonstrating how to do something.
  • Explaining how your product or service works.
  • Introducing what your brand does.

The keys to success with educational videos are brevity and visuals.

Concise information is easier to remember. That’s why phone numbers are seven digits long. So keep your video short and break it up into manageable blocks of information to help viewers retain what you’ve shown them.

Also, include relevant visuals to show and tell the viewer what you’re explaining, which will increase retention even more. Here’s an excellent explainer video from Mint:

Mint.com “Financial Life”

It’s short (1:32), the visuals are relevant, and the dialogue is broken up into separate statements.

This explainer video from Dollar Shave Club is legendary:

Watch this one more than once, because it’s hilarious. But once you stop spitting coffee, notice how the dialogue is broken up into 10-15 second chunks, which are separated by funny visuals. Distinct, memorable blocks of information.

And just for giggles, here are some more great videos to get you inspired.

IT-Man
HubSpot Inbound Marketing

To help you create your own explainer or presentation video, Biteable offer video templates you can edit yourself. Here are a couple of examples:

If you want a text script template, we’ve got you covered there too. Here’s an explainer script text template.

Persuasive videos: Promotional and commercial video scripts (with templates)

Promotional and commercial videos are for getting people to do things. The action you’re after isn’t always an immediate purchase. You could use a persuasive video to get people to consume additional promotional content.

But, most often, promotional and commercial videos are for:

  • Showing the benefits and features of your product or service.
  • Demonstrating what separates your brand from competitors.
  • Showcasing how your product or service will improve your customer’s life.

Customers will often view these videos on social media or in a sidebar on a website. Getting to the point and keeping it short are non-negotiable. A call to action is mandatory as well.

These videos usually get watched with the sound off, so write your script and plan your visuals to work without sound. Including subtitles is also a good idea.

You might be thinking “great! I’ll save myself time and create a video with no dialogue!” That’s a perfectly good idea, but even if your video has no dialogue, don’t skip the script. Write a script for the visuals so you have a plan to work from.

Here are some examples of commercial videos that work well on multiple platforms:

Open Up With Oreo
Speak ASL? – Burger King
Ignore This (Beatbox Version) – Qualcomm Korea

Notice how short these are. Also note that all of them are consumable without sound. But the main takeaway from these videos is that you need to get attention, deliver your message, and get out before your viewer swipes you off their screen.

We know that can be challenging, so we created a starter pack of video template collections you can use and edit yourself:

Or, if you need help with scriptwriting, we’ve got a simple text template to get you started, click this link to check out our promo video script text template.

So you’ve got the knowledge. You’ve got the templates. You’ve got the video editor and you’ve got the power. Now go forth and make some awesome videos.