Script Writing for the Screen

With more events being transitioned to an online format every day, quality script writing is now more important than ever. The screen is the new stage, and with this scenery change comes a different writing and communication style as well. Whether for keynotes, kickoffs, or really any type of live online presentation, content delivery needs to be adapted to yield the best results. Instead of being in a large room filled with hundreds or even thousands of other attendees, your audiences are now most likely sitting by themselves with only their laptops in front of them. The content writing strategies you use to earn and keep their undivided attention is critical to program success—so we’ve outlined our top tips:

One on one

It’s important that the presenter understands that unlike speaking in front of a large group where you need to be aware of the size of the audience and venue, people are watching the presentation on a screen, and most likely alone. If your content allows it, formatting delivery in the style of an interview, or having the speaker address a small studio audience can help them give their best presentation.

Small screen, big picture

On a stage in a live setting, the presenter must be aware of physical space, body language and movement – it’s all part of communicating effectively. But in a video presentation, the producer and editor select the shots that best communicate key content and what’s most important, directing the audience on how to watch. This allows the presenter to be more focused on tone and delivery of content and message. In this way, the production team becomes just as important as the speaker themselves in effectively delivering the message, and the team must be unified in their techniques.

Conversation, not keynote

Writing for the spoken word is very different than writing for print. And writing for video is closer to writing dialogue than writing a speech for a large, in-person audience. Think about a more relaxed intimate conversational approach.

  • “Personalize” the script to make it feel more comfortable for both the presenter and viewer.
  • Short, simple sentences make it easier for the viewer to follow and comprehend information.
  • Generally, people tend to be more colloquial when speaking and communicate in phrases, not long, grammatically correct sentences.
  • Pauses are helpful. Use ellipses and even over-punctuate to help indicate pacing. (This is especially useful if reading from a Teleprompter or cue cards and for rehearsal.)
  • Underlining key words or phrases for emphasis or inflection helps communicate what’s most important and underscores how you want the audience to “hear” it. (Teleprompter or cue cards.)
  • Read your script out loud for clarity, pacing and time.
  • Repeating or rephrasing something important can be useful for emphasis and clarity.
Hooks & teasers

Audiences have been trained how to watch television, especially programs with a familiar anchor person or host. There are common, conversational phrases that help set up what’s about to be said, or signal what’s important, or transition from one topic or segment to another, or to summarize/close a presentation. Here are a few suggestions and examples to give you an idea how you might think about the style of your script and where the presentation fits into the overall program.

Open with a question, challenge, or reflective thought:

  • “Have you ever…?”
  • “This is a bit unusual, but…”
  • “What should we…?”
  • “Can we…?”
  • “There are times when…”

Acknowledge present circumstance:

  • “The last few weeks have been…”
  • “I know how you feel, we all feel the same way…”
  • “Dealing with uncertainty can be…”

Leads, set-ups, and recaps (use names if appropriate):

  • “Here’s what we can expect…”
  • “Let’s take a look at…”
  • “You want to know…”
  • “Coming up…”
  • “Later in the program, (name) will… But first…”
  • “So where does that leave us…?”
  • “Let me be clear…”
  • “What’s most important…”
  • “That’s it from here… Back to you, (name)…”
Personal and professional

Video in this familiar format is very effective for communicating and retaining information. Comfortable for both the presenter and audience, it can be inspiring and motivating as well when it has a positive and confident tone.

In uncertain times, people want to feel confident in their leaders. For viewers invited into this close-up, personalized conversation, there is an anticipation of authenticity, of an honest straightforward exchange. For the presenter, it’s an opportunity to connect on a personal, emotional level to build confidence and trust.

A simple, focused script for this format can have a powerful impact.