Whether you’re in the C-suite or the marketing department, you stand a good chance of finding a video production project on your to-do list. Maybe it’s a training program. Maybe it’s a consumer education module or a product introduction clip. Maybe it’s just a clever social media post. Whatever it is, it starts with the audio script—and you’re on the job.
Audio scripts can be intimidating at first. They’re very different documents than, say, blog posts, but don’t worry. We reached out to script-writing experts from across the business world to get the details of the craft. They delivered, providing advice anyone can use to write an effective script for virtually any type of content.
So if a sudden script-writing assignment lands on your desk—whether you know how to write an audio script or not—follow these tips. Then you just have to find the right voice actor. (Or do you? We’ll talk about other production options at the end of this post.)
Tips for Every Stage of the Audio Script-Writing Process
The script-writing process can get complicated, but taking a broad view, it breaks down into just three stages: research, writing, and revision. Here are a few tips for each:
1. Gathering material.
Business content creators are in luck: You’re surrounded by subject matter experts. They’ll provide the insights your script needs. “For marketing videos, write a script based on an interview with an expert,” says Kerri Feazell, CEO of Concurrent Productions, and an experienced script writer for B2B brand videos. “It will likely uncover the answers in a more natural way—and you’ll discover things that might surprise you.”
If you’re making an educational video, the process is similar, but you want the opposite of an expert. “Have someone in your target audience ask you questions about the topic,” Feazell says. “This will help you make sure you share the knowledge people actually want to know.”
Of course, you’ll also need to come up with the answers to the questions you uncover in your interview. Then you’re back to the experts. The point is, don’t rely on the internet alone to gather your material. Talk to someone who knows the subject well and bring your audience bold, new ideas.
2. Writing the first draft.
Easier said than done, right? But with interview transcripts in hand, you have a treasure chest of ideas to draw from. Trust the material, and keep a few things in mind as you sit down to write your script.
The first question is how to format your document. The audio script template you use will depend on the nature of the project. If it’s a single-actor voice-over for a video, you can write the script without fancy script-writing software or a complicated template—though page numbers and phonetic spelling for proper nouns, acronyms, and jargon will certainly help the recording session go smoother. So will indications of pauses, like ellipses.
“One of my best pro tips is to drop in lots of ellipses,” says John Ross, chief marketing officer at Test Prep Insight and an experienced script writer in the edtech field. “It looks funny, but it really helps with knowing where you need a long pause or break between sentences. Cadence is big in audio, and knowing when to speed up and slow down can have a major impact.”
If you’re adding audio to a succession of slides, as in a training module, build a template that smooths the way for post production staff. Script writers who work with slides tend to pre-label audio files within the script. They separate scripts into two columns, one with a clip file name that identifies the accompanying slide, and another for the voice-over text. That keeps audio files organized from the start—something your post production team will appreciate.
Writing Style Tips
As you write, remember that the final product will be speech, not words on the page. Adjust your style accordingly. “Most of us write using a formal style with long sentences, but we don’t speak that way, and it’s difficult for an audience to grasp,” says Diane Gayeski, a professor of strategic communication at Ithaca College, who teaches corporate video, e-learning, and instructional design. (Gayeski also produces corporate training packages through her firm, Gayeski Analytics.)
“Don’t be afraid to use short phrases instead of sentences,” Gayeski says. “Include in your script the actions, voice inflections, or movements that you’d like the actors to incorporate. As you write parts of the script, say the sentences out loud and see if they can easily be read and understood.”
Considering the Interaction Between the Voice-Over and Visuals
Voice overs accompany visual content, which means you have two ways to convey your information. That creates a risk of redundancy. “Don’t say it if you can show it,” Gayeski says. “If you’re using video or illustrations, just point out in the audio what the viewers are seeing. And the reverse holds true—don’t write out on the screen what the narrator is saying. For instance, don’t have the narrator just read off a PowerPoint slide or graphic. Instead, use the visual channel to illustrate or highlight just a few key words.” So it helps to have an idea of the visuals that will appear alongside your words. Plan for the two channels to support one another as you write your script.
Once you have a first draft completed, you can move ahead to the review phase.
3. Revising your draft based on third-party reviews.
You probably won’t get your audio script right the first time—few writers do! You need to bring in other perspectives; in short, you need editors (or at least reviewers). The editing process for audio scripts involves cutting, clarifying, and rewriting, says Feazell.
“Have someone who is not in your business read the script and ask them these questions:
- Where did you get bored? (Cut it.)
- Where were you confused? (Clarify it.)
- Where did you have questions? (Rewrite to answer.)
Using this process, your script will be more effective and will provide more value to your business and audience,” Feazell says.
Harrison Baron, CEO and founder of Growth Generators, writes audio scripts for inbound marketing content. Baron recommends broadening your field of reviewers as much as possible. “No matter how good a writer you are, you should never think there isn’t room for improvement,” Baron says. “Be open to input from anyone, including your clients.”
Whoever you get to review the script, after a few rounds of edits, your draft will be much improved. Then it’s ready for production.
From Audio Script to Audio Recording
Traditionally, producing a voice-over recording meant hiring an artist, booking studio time, running the sessions, and editing the final recordings. That’s still the case for a lot of corporate video work, and it’s often a good solution. But traditional voice recordings introduce some challenges, especially in the context of business video content:
- Voice recordings add considerably to the cost of a project, including wages for actors and studio engineers, but also studio rental time and editing fees.
- If your content is for an international audience, you’ll need to hire a separate voice actor for each language you cover. This adds to cost and complexity.
- Voice recordings are static. To update your content, you’ll have to start the recording process over again—and your original voice actor may not be available for follow-up sessions.
Content creators have a powerful tool to remove these barriers: text-to-speech (TTS), software that performs your audio script with a synthetic voice. Thanks to advances in machine learning technology, these voices are getting closer and closer to the real thing. In fact, use of TTS is already taking over in the e-learning industry, where it’s been on the rise for some time now. A 2010 survey of e-learning producers who use TTS showed some of the reasons why:
“The TTS technology…allowed us to create e-learning material in about half the time as human voice-over,” wrote one respondent. “The maintenance of the e-learning material takes 75% less time than maintaining material with human voice-over.”
That was more than 10 years ago, and since then, TTS technology has advanced considerably. ReadSpeaker AI remains at the forefront of these advances. Our team of speech scientists and AI researchers use proprietary deep neural networks (DNNs) to create ever-more-lifelike synthetic voices, including emotional inflection, variable speaking styles, and multilingual speech. We specialize in crafting unique, custom TTS voices for leading brands—giving you a consistent and recognizable brand voice across all your content and conversational AI interactions.
Now that you know how to write an audio script, start thinking about improving production with a warm, natural, and brand-specific TTS voice from ReadSpeaker AI. Sound interesting? Reach out to learn more.