The format you use will depend on the type of video you’re scriptwriting for. In reality, there are many ways you can approach a short video. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Here are two of our favorite examples.
Explainer Video Format
Explainer videos are used to highlight a product, service, business idea, or even an organization’s mission — in a succinct and compelling way. Explainer vidoes are about communicating the most information, in the shortest amount of time, all the while keeping the audience engaged.
They typically follow a format like this:
Step 1: Highlight the Problem:
The first step is to draw attention to the problem that the product or service resolves. Even if your audience is already aware that there is a problem, it’s extremely important that you remind them of it, or further contextualize why it’s a persistent issue.
Step 2: Introduce the Solution:
Once your audience fully grasps the nature of the problem, it’s time to present the solution — you, duh! This is a short, necessary step, before you segway into step 3.
Step 3: Show how the product or service works
In this portion of your video script, your job is to explain the nature of your product or service, and how viewers can actually use it to solve their problem. Depending on your video’s end goal (and the nature of your product or service) you may spend a significant amount of time on this section, or you may want to offer a quick, punchy overview, and direct the viewer to the place where they can experience it in action.
Step 4: Call to Action
Ah…the all important call to action! If you fail to tell your viewer’s what to do next, what was the point of everything before it?
What is the specific action you want your viewer to take next? Do you want them to visit a website? Call a phone number? Download an app? Whatever it is, help them understand exactly what they need to do next.
So why are Explainer Videos Effective?
While it’s definitely possible to build emotion into an explainer video, the main reason they are effective is because they are crystal clear, and they apply the logical, decision making areas of our brains.
In other words, they offer concise, step-by-step logic, which is extremely easy to follow. Couple that logic with extremely compelling videos, and you’ve got yourself an excellent explainer video!
Video Storytelling Format
Sometimes, the purpose of a short video isn’t to market a product or service; but to tell a story. This is especially common in the case of mission driven organizations, such as nonprofits and NGO’s. Other times, the explainer video style is simply too rigid, and a more flexible video script is needed.
In situations like these, organizations can use common storytelling plots — or motifs — to inspire viewers and communicate messages.
These include motifs like “the hero’s journey” — in which a protagonist faces a series of challenges that must be overcome, before climbing to the top of a metaphorical mountain and accomplishing a goal.
When you place your message into a plot that people already identify with — even if subconsciously — you allow them to “put themselves into the shoes” of your characters, greatly enhancing the probability that your message will resonate with them on an emotional level.
So why are Storytelling Videos Effective?
Storytelling videos work well not because they are logical, but because they are emotional. Studies on memory formation show that memories “stick” much more effectively when they are based in an emotional experience.
The key thing to remember is that emotional states aren’t just some wishy washy idea. They occur in the context of neurochemicals. Like oxytocin (the love hormone), cortisol (the “stress” hormone), and dopamine the (“happiness” hormone). More on this in the next section!
The more emotion is attached to a compelling story that viewers can connect to, the more likely it will resonate with them on an emotional level, and the more likely the message will stick.
To explore how this works, let’s look at one of the most famous storytelling motifs – “The Hero’s Journey.”
The Hero’s Journey
When we hear a great story — particularly one based around a hero character that we can relate to — studies on brain activity tell us that we literally views ourselves as participants, rather than observers in a story. This creates an enhanced state of empathy for a hero character, and our brain releases oxytocin — the love hormone. More than just love, oxytocin is also involved in forging trust. Viewers experiencing higher levels of trust tend to be more engaged and understanding.
Then, throughout the hero’s journey, she faces obstacles she must find a way to overcome. It is stressful and difficult! These anxiety inducing subplots cause our brain to release cortisol.
In the end, our hero overcomes her obstacles and our brain releases dopamine – aka the happiness hormone.
Granted, this is a simplified view of the science. The important thing to know is that memories are much stickier, and experiences are much more meaningful when they are doused in emotion. A good video script writer understands this.
Alas, there is one more piece to the puzzle.
In the case of storytelling for a video, oftentimes, an unresolved problem remains. For example — let’s say your video aims to increase awareness about childhood illiteracy in a developing country. If the video simply ends without instruction, the viewer will be left thinking, “well, that’s all very sad. Wish there were something I could do about it.”
If you’ve done everything well up to this point, but you fail to “close the deal” with a call to action, the only thing you will have accomplished is allowing your viewer feel proud of themselves for feeling empathy.
Bravo to you. Hooray to the viewer.
Except…not really…because your viewer feeling proud isn’t helping the children who need to learn how to read!
The unresolved problem must open the door for action.
Tell the viewer how they can help. What tangible steps can they take to make the situation better?