Scripting Content Marketing Videos (Or Why You Should Never Use A Teleprompter)

You know what's tricky? Scripting product explainer videos in which the amateur performers seem neither robotic, nor like grinning infomercial maniacs.

In 2014, when I first scripted the videos for TOP Nutritionals' line of green superfood powders, I definitely erred on the side of robotic...if the robot were also a scientist and newscaster.

These videos were made for retail store staff, with the idea that they would grab some popcorn, settle in their favourite chair and cozy up for a night of entertaining excerpts from periodic journals. You can immediately see the problem here. 

Yes, that's me! The one with the pained expression of sincerity. Just to be clear, performing is not one of my services, but in the course of writing about the product, I became the person who now speaks about the product, too. 

The key lesson here is to never, ever use teleprompters. Having one lets you write copy that no human would naturally deliver in an uninterrupted flow. And let's face it: teleprompter scripts put people to sleep.

Having learned that the typical attention span is at most two minutes, we produced a new series of training videos this year.

In the brief, the client pointed to TED Talks and Google's professionally produced how-to videos as examples of what we might pull off this time. You know, spontaneous, charismatic, marked by witty dialogue and engaging hand gestures. 

I said, listen, 'spontaneous' is much harder than you'd think. Looking 'natural' is a lot of work. Also, I'm no comedian. We had a little chat about expectations, and then I tried my best to deliver everything but the on-purpose laughs.

The difference between the 2014 and 2016 training videos came down to two things:

1) I brought in a colleague for that casual banter;

2) I edited and re-edited the script until it was simple enough to memorize.

Here's the result.

Maria Roldan and Anna O'Byrne talk about Top Nutritionals' newest line of products, SuperLeaf Moringa. We tell the story of Dale and Linda Bolton and how they discovered Moringa oleifera in Africa through the not-for-profit they founded, Organics 4 Orphans.

Kudos to Maria for stepping in with a script delivered only the day before filming. In fact, we were adapting it the very day of the shoot. Not ideal. 

I'd recommend a dry run a few days before the actual shoot, to naturalize the script and to smooth out the transitions, or handoffs, from one speaker to the other. Therein lies the hardest part...it's where we invariably stumbled.

Which is why, when it came time to film the deep science modules, we each tackled a topic solo. But, again, without a teleprompter, so the results were markedly less boring.

I'd go so far as to say that even though the flow of words was less eloquent than in 2014, a little more stilted and uneven, it's nevertheless a better result. The audience should get the feeling that we're talking directly to them, like we would one-on-one, and those natural conversations are always a bit flawed.

If you're interested in branded video production, check out this earlier post on a series of social videos I worked on with the same videographer.  

If you have any questions on your own video projects, whether from a copywriting or a content marketing perspective, drop me line.

Anna O'Byrne

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