Whiteboard videos promote engagement and information retention of your audience. They synchronize narration and hand-drawn images to boost your audience’s ability to recall your message. At the same time, motion and surprise capture and keep their attention on the right points at the right moments.
There’s more to our successful videos than the visuals, however: there’s the all-important script. The script contains your message, and drives your video’s pacing and visual storytelling.
How should you go about writing a script for a whiteboard video?
Step 1: Determine the Length of your Video
Your first step should be a clarifying one. Ask yourself: how long is the video going to be? With a duration in mind, you’ll have a frame of reference for the amount of information you’ll be able to cover. Consider this, and decide how many points you’d like to discuss.
Beware of adding too many points to your script, even if you have the time to discuss them; more points means less time discussing each point, and can potentially dilute the impact of your most important point. Jake Kilroy advocates for a one-message script with good reason. The more of your video’s time and energy go into that point, the more it’s likely to resonate with viewers.
If you have multiple messages, prioritize them in order of importance. Then determine the order in which they’ll appear in your script. Pay attention to your ordering in terms of retention—the audience will have a better chance of retaining a point if it’s introduced early (and revisited), rather than added in the closing seconds of the video.
Now, having identified your main point and the order you’ll present your points, you’re ready to start outlining your script.
Step 2: Outline Your Script
Think first about your introduction. You want an attention-grabbing, interesting hook for your video—something that will give the whiteboard artists good ideas for accompanying images, and get your audience on board.
There are a multitude of approaches to introductions, but the one I unofficially call the “In this story together” technique combines several approaches into one effective attention-getter. Start by introducing a story, and make yourself and the audience your characters.
Our brains are voracious consumers of visual storytelling, and by including yourself and your client into the story, you’ve made it relatable and made yourself a partner of your client.
Of course, a story needs conflict. Conflict engages viewers, pushes the narrative forward, and creates an emotional response. The conflict in your script is called a pain point. A pain point is a problem or lack that your audience is suffering from that your video will address.
So, all pieces assembled, an “In this story together” introduction could sound like this: “We’ve all been there—you’re out with friends, when your phone runs out of battery. Not having a working phone can be tough. But with SuperCellJuice batteries, it doesn’t have to be.”
With your introduction outlined, you can move on to the substantive part of your script. As you start writing your points, try not to get stuck on minutiae. You’re still outlining, so you don’t need exact wording yet. And if writer’s block strikes in the middle of Point A, try writing for Point B, and sequence them later. Be sure, though that each point gets a proportionate amount of attention (again, more for more important points) and that you include all of your most significant facts.
Once you’ve completed your outline through your main points, it’s time to plan your conclusion. Here, be sure to include a call to action. This element is crucial to your script, as your message won’t affect much change if the audience doesn’t know what to do with it. Include a request for contact, a location to volunteer, or a similarly actionable piece of information. Whiteboard video allows for a high level of information retention, so mobilize your audience.
The First Draft
With your outline complete, you’re ready to write the first draft of your script. Take the information from your outline and flesh it out, taking care with word choice and word count. Try to say things simply, without too much flowery language or technical jargon. Remember, you’re writing to explain and be understood.
Personable writing can make a significant difference in your video’s perception. A conversational tone puts you and your audience on the same level, and increases their trust and receptiveness to your message. Just be careful not to take familiarity to an inappropriate level with too much slang, presumptive language, or risqué phrasing. Your audience wants you to meet them where they are, but too much familiarity can be off-putting and alienating.
As you write, never forget about the artist that will be drawing on the whiteboard as your script is voiced. Think about the language you’re using, and think about the images it might inspire an artist to draw. This doesn’t mean you should delete every sentence that you can’t imagine with an accompanying image; one of the biggest strengths of whiteboard artists is their creativity, and ability to conceptualize images to support tough sentences.
What this writing-with-drawings-in-mind does mean is be aware of how your words might be leading the artists in specific directions. If you look at a paragraph and realize you’ve used the word “penguin” seven times, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll be seeing some penguin imagery.
You may be okay with that. Maybe your video is titled “Penguin Habitat Conservation”—then you’re fine. But if you’re writing about something else, you might want to get rid of some of those “penguins.”
Finally, a few things to avoid.
Don’t waste words writing where the drawings can do the work.
You don’t need to say “This is Caitlin. Caitlin is a young woman who uses a wheelchair to get around. Today, Caitlin needs to go to the grocery store.”
Just write “Caitlin needs to go the grocery store,” and the artists will draw a young woman in a wheelchair, and a grocery store.
Use caution when employing metaphors.
Sometimes, metaphors are effective at helping an audience learn. In every day conversation, we’re used to explaining business, politics, war, and more with metaphor. In whiteboard video scripting, though, it’s a high-risk approach that can limit an artist’s ability to work with your script.
Even if the metaphor makes sense (say, your business is a shark, since it has to keep moving, etc.), it has to persist throughout the video. After all, if your business is a shark, your audience will be confused if they see it as a building or a car.
Worse, if your script has multiple metaphors, they might end up clashing. You don’t want your script to end up dumping a shark on the scales of justice while the iron’s hot, after all.
Script writing for whiteboard video is about optimizing your word use to make sure that your points are well-discussed, in a logical order, while remembering the role of the artist and avoiding pitfalls.
A good introduction, conversational yet appropriate discussion of points, and clear call to action comprise the path to a successful whiteboard video script.