Scripting effective video scenarios

In this day and age, we see videos played out to introduce learners to the learning objectives of the course, to show them a simulated problem-solving scenario that they can identify with, or even to relate previous learner experience.

Used well, video can be a valuable addition to your course; used badly, it will have heavily impacted on your resources to no discernable advantage and, worst of all, could alienate the learner. After all, who wants to watch a video that gives the same tired clichés the learner has probably encountered X times in Y years?

To steer clear of this, there are three concepts that I believe are fundamental to scripting an effective video scenario:

Content

Catherine Blanchard, Camilla Weich and Stephanie Dedhar have all mentioned in previous blogs the importance of making your content relevant to your audience. Video scripts are no exception. Make sure that the content of your conversation is succinct – don’t try and force in fictional discussion that isn’t relevant to the scenario. For example:

Subject A: “Hey, did you and Toni go to the cinema last night?
Subject B: “Yeah, but all we could talk about was due diligence procedure”

As you can see, the script doesn’t flow and seems quite unnatural. Not that I’m saying talking about due diligence in your spare time would be unnatural, but it isn’t necessarily something you would bring up in a conversation with a colleague within the context of the conversation. Instead, keep it focused on business and the learning objectives:

Subject A: “Hey, have you had time to look at the due diligence guidelines?”
Subject B: “Yeah, I tried having a read last night, but I got really confused”

This admission from subject B can then be used as motivation for subject A to give a definition of due diligence. Subject B also seems more human, and the learner may also sympathise with the confusion. It’s less false, concentrates on the course objective and flows better than the first example.

Character

Character is perhaps the area that those new to script-writing will find the hardest. Again, the key to integrating them into the fabric of your course is to make your characters relevant, enhancing (and I apologise, as I’m about to use a clunky neologism that makes me cringe) the “believability” of your fictional scenario. Think about the target audience – information such as targeted learner age and the diversity of the business. With this information, you’ll be better equipped to create believable, plausible characters that the learner can identify with.

Conversation

If you can accurately capture the tone of the business and successfully replicate how the learner interacts with colleagues on a day-to-day basis, then you should find that the learner immediately finds the video more engaging. Proceed with caution though – if you get too bogged down in trying to recreate the vernacular of the business, then you’ll only highlight the falsity of your video. To put it another way, you wouldn’t try and have a conversation with a cockney by constructing a whole sentence with rhyming slang. But drop in the odd colloquial phrase here and you’ll find your video interaction becomes more than just Robin Hood (good).

There is no generic formula for scripting an effective video scenario, no magic words that will work in every case – but if you make these three concepts integral to your script and execute them well, then you’ll find your video content doesn’t fade into the background of your course.

Got any ideas of your own about what makes a script effective? Maybe you’ve seen a really good video interaction – what was it that made it great? Likewise, what is it that you feel contributes to making a bad script? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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About the author

Nick Baum - Instructional designer and Project lead

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