How to write your own explainer demo video

The following is a guest post by Dan Nelken. Dan is a creative director and writer at Grumo Media with over 10 years of experience working for some of the largest advertising agencies in Canada. You can follow him on Twitter at @dannelken.

Occasionally, we have clients who come to us with their own scripts. Almost every time the script either has to be re-written or we decline the opportunity. This isn’t because we’re stubborn or because these people can’t write.

In fact, some of them can probably write the pants off of us. The problem is animated demo videos require a very specialized form of writing.

So, if your budget doesn’t allow you to pay a studio like us, or one of our big, bad competitors, don’t worry, there is still hope.

Here are ten tips that address some of the funky things we see in scripts:

1. Tell a story.

What’s in a story? Well, a beginning, middle and an end:

a) The Beginning: Your main character has a problem. Her/His life sucks in some
way and your product/service will be the answer to this problem. (make it snappy,
no longer than 2-3 sentences)

b) The Middle: Your product/service introduced and explained. It’s challenging
but try and get one or two smiles in this section – even teenie tiny ones. This is the
biggest and often the driest section so try and make it a wee bit interesting. You can
do it!

c) The End: Wrap up your story. Now the main character has her life sorted and he/
she is so happy it hurts.

2. Don’t get too caught up in the story or entertainment

Your goal is to tell people about your product, not write knee slappers. Sure it’s fun, but it’s not the task at hand. Use the story structure to tell people about your product in an interesting way. Don’t use your product to tell an interesting story.

3. Only tell people the amazing things about your product

Try to not tell everything. Make the video exciting and enticing. Make viewers think, “Holy crapola, I have to get this right now!” The more you try and cram in there, the less impactful and watchable your video becomes. Get them excited with the video and then bore them with details afterward.

4. Be conversational

Animation is child-like and friendly by nature.
Your writing should be the same. I’m not 100% sure but I think it was Elbert Hubbard who said, “A good writer doesn’t write so nobody understands. A good writer writes so everybody understands.” High-five, Elbert (unless that wasn’t you).

5. Err on the side of shorter

For a 60-second script you are looking at about 190 words max.
Get the script written and then edit. Don’t do a word count until after your first draft. You should aim to tell your story in 60 seconds and only if necessary expand to a 90-second. Also, read the script aloud when you time it. This helps to hear the flow and it helps for timing. And don’t read fast to keep it within 60 seconds. That’s just weird.

6. Visuals take time

Keep that in mind when you’re writing.
Some people will write a line that takes about 2 seconds to be read but they have an 8-minute series of visuals they want to show in that time.

7. Keep the visuals simple

If you don’t have the budget to hire someone else to write your script you probably don’t have the budget to pay an animator to make you a Pixar short film. Only have 1 or 2 characters. Have limited movements and detail in each scene.

8. Adjectives are your sweetest friend

Use super descriptive words whenever possible. It will give the sexy animator options when coming up with award-winning visual ideas. You get the gigantic idea.

9. Wrap it up tightly

The end of your script should culminate with your story coming full circle and then a call to action. So, your main character’s problems are solved and he/she will live happily ever after. Your call to action, or CTA as we call it in the biz, is next. ie. “Quit being a donkey. Visit our website and register today!” If you HAVE TO cram in more detail, do not add it on the back-end. Your video should end in a smooth, appealing fashion.

10. Get Feedback

And get feedback from people who will be honest and tell you if your script sucks.
When it comes to business and creativity, these honest people are like gold. Their feedback may make you cry a little but it will help more than your super nice and flattering friends. You’re not seeking praise at this stage. You should be seeking people who will be critical and try and help you make this the best possible script. After all, this is your business and you want to be a zillionaire, don’t you?

And that’s all there is to it. Well, there is a lot more to it but 10 seemed like a nice round number.

Now quit being a donkey and submit a comment below!

Related posts:
The Art of Feedback by Grumo
Why every website needs a great explanatory video
Step by step guide to produce a promo video
How to create an Awesome demo video
How much a typical promo video costs?
What makes a demo video great

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7 thoughts on “How to write your own explainer demo video

  1. Barb Tyson Reply

    “How to write your own explainer video” was incredibly informative and also very entertaining. Story structure – yup – a must. Dan is an amazing writer. I think also, a gifted teacher. People – Listen up!

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