In developing marketing videos, we usually start with a script — that is, words on paper. This is a sensible and congenial way for technology marketers to work, since most of us spend a lot more time dealing with text in various forms than the do with video. Better-written scripts help assure better video narrations. But the spoken words of a video script needs to be looked at differently from the way you look at written text. On the page, human expressiveness doesn’t look like corporate messaging. It’s easy to overlook how every single spoken word will increase the length of the video. If they’re the right words, spoken persuasively, they’ll also add to the video’s meaning and its success. Wasted words add length, even as they subtract from the message.
1. Count the words
Every word adds to the length of a video. That’s why it’s so critical to make every word count. “All the logistics” takes up about 1 second.
Many smart people who write well have trouble converting the number of words they write to the length of time needed to say the same words aloud. If your aim is to write a video that’s 60 seconds long, your first draft should contain about 125 words.
Yes, you can say more words than that in 60 seconds. I, myself, normally speak about three words per second when reading aloud. But if you listened to me — or James Earl Jones, or Scarlett Johansen, or anyone else — rattle on about a technology solution at 180 words per minute — well, you wouldn’t listen. No one would.
Sentences need rhythm. Viewers need time to absorb what is being spoken and the visual storytelling. If you want to keep your message short and understandable, you need to be an implacable word counter from the get-go.
2. Talk the talk
Another consideration marketers are apt to overlook is that the narrator needs to talk the way people talk. Industry jargon may be a big plus. On the other hand, marketing-speak,
Catching up with Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” podcast from WNYC recently, I was surprised to hear, in a very good interview with the affable Julianne Moore, that some directors (she mentioned David Cronenberg and Woody Allen) rarely say anything to the actors on set. Instead of trying to share a vision with actors, they concentrate on how to direct the audience’s vision. You can take this direction to make your explainer videos explain better.
How to avoid confusing the viewer
The visual conventions used to tell your technology story on a flat rectangular screen — camera moves, edits, composition — are ways of telling stories that audiences understand from a century of motion picture watching. You understand them too, even if you can’t distinguish a pan from a zoom.
Inspect every frame of your video for elements that are distracting or confusing. When something is in motion, that’s where the viewer will look, so make sure the thing in motion is what you want the viewer to look at. Along the same lines, viewers should be able to follow the plot and understand the message with the sound turned off. That will tell you whether the graphics and animation are pulling their weight, or merely decorating the text. You don’t want to pay for video that’s not working.
Everything else is data-driven these days. Shouldn’t software demos have plenty of data, too.
A recent BtoB Magazine article showed that 47% of B2B marketers favor product demos as a lead generation strategy. This may be effective in generating leads — but what about conversions? B2B story telling videos or software demos? Where should your organization be investing your marketing budget?
Through our work with 100 or so technology companies like BMC, Brocade Networks, UPS Logistics, Sterling Commerce (an IBM Company), Taleo (an Oracle Company), we have seen a lot of software demos can only be characterized as lame.