Voice-Over Scripts That Really Speak to Your Audience: The Do’s and Don’ts of Corporate Narration
April 7, 2015
Who says there is no art in corporate? Like short films, skits, and webisodes, corporate videos also have characters, visuals, and an underlying message. Whether its purpose is to train, recruit, launch a new product, spread awareness, present an idea, or merely inform, an effective promotional video combines great visuals with a clear, concise narration to successfully connect with its audience.
Here are some DO’s and DON’TS with regards to narrating your corporate videos:
DO consider your audience
The first question to ask yourself is, “who will be watching?” If you are creating a PSA on “bullying in the playground,” then you are targeting children between the ages of 5 and 11. In this case, visuals are priority. You may even consider animation with no more than two sentences of narration; or, perhaps none at all, since children tend to be very visual learners. On the other hand, if your video were targeting the parents on the topic of bullying, your narration may run through the entire length of the video.
Knowing your audience will also help in terms of language. Are you appealing to scholars? Preteens? Retirees? It makes a world of difference. For an academic, you may begin by stating a fact or statistic, whereas for a teen, you may begin with a question. An audience hates to feel talked down to, so language is important to get right.
DO time yourself
How do you figure out how long the narration will run? Here is a rough estimate at a normal speaking rate – and this does NOT include pauses and silences for visual impact. Many clients try to pack in too many words. They forget we are not writing for radio. Narration is important, but equally or often more so, so are the images. So, how many words can your one-minute video have?
20 words = 10 seconds;
40 words = 20 seconds;
50-65 words = 30 seconds;
100-130 words = 60 seconds.
DON’T think “textbook”
Have you ever listened to a lecture on a mundane topic and realized that by the end of it, you haven’t retained a single thing? Granted, there are great lecturers out there, but that’s likely due to their interesting visuals and ability to get their point across quickly. Writing to be read aloud is different from writing a silent text. Try reading it to someone – is it easy to read? To understand? Are the sentences run-ons? Break them down. Keep your narration succinct; you don’t need transition sentences, examples, or extensive description. Convey your message in short form, and let the visuals do the rest. The last thing you want is to put your audience to sleep.
If there is no going around the length of the script, then make it into a style that is engaging. Think creatively. After all, creating corporate videos is an art. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of digging deeper and unscrambling the letters: C-O-R-P-O-R-A–T-E -> A–R–T.
DO convey tone through voice
What kind of message are you communicating? Is it a serious one? Is it informative, with a twist of humour? Maybe sarcastic? Whatever the case, voice and delivery is crucial. For instructional, educational, and presentation videos, your voiceover should remain neutral. This doesn’t mean the narration is monotonous – on the contrary; find a voice that is both attractive and clear, and an artist that understands your message. If the narration is convincing, then your audience will be all ears. Don’t hold back on instructing your voice artist. The more they understand, they more likely their tone will match the video’s.
DON’T forget the power of visuals
A narrative is meant to engage, interest, and depending on the subject matter, also entertain an audience. It’s an effective tool, but remember that a picture speaks a thousand words. So why not use both to your advantage?
Consider the YouTube channel, CGP Grey. The producer creates dozens of short explainer videos that touch upon an impressive variety of human-interest topics, such as clarifying the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England (which got over 7 million views). CGP Grey has close to 2 million subscribers. Why? Yes, his subject matters are intriguing, but it is in also largely due to the way his visuals and narrative complement each other. Check out this promo video, another example of fantastic use of narrative and visuals.
On the other hand, there are instances where having the narration down to a bare minimum is the best way to send your message across. Don’t underestimate the power of silence – it is important to let the visuals speak for themselves sometimes and yes, it IS possible to say too much! Scenes should also begin and end with a couple of seconds of silence. Take a look at how strong the message is here, and not one-word is spoken.
Try a small test-audience; if the message is clear, then your job is done. If your audience is waiting for the punch line, then let them hear it.
– Katrina Tortorici