All great stories start with a strong opening line in the first few words. It might be the opening words of a book, film or even a song. Whatever the medium, the opening words or dialogue play a vital role in drawing the audience in so they keep, reading, watching or listening.
The epic series ‘Star Wars’ opens with the narrative: “In a galaxy far far away….”
“In a galaxy far far away….”
The viewer is taken deep into their imagination wondering “What’s about to unfold?” “What’s this story about?”
The 1994 film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ opens up with a murder scene. A few minutes later, the first dialogue spoken after the murder has happened is:
“Mr Dufrense, describe the confrontation you had with your wife the night she was murdered.”
Having seen the murder scene, this opening line keeps you glued to the screen waiting and longing to hear what Andy Dufrense has to say about what happened on the night of the murder.
The difference with films, songs and even books is that there are other factors which entice the audience to watch, read, or listen to the song on repeat. For example, a famous author’s book will sell out immediately because of how much it was promoted before it was released. Critics will have given their honest reviews. Fans will be raving about the latest blockbuster featuring their favourite leading actors.
Even so, the opening words of the video’s script matters – just like it does in films and books.
The video’s script tells a story. How can you seize your learners’ attention through the video’s script so they keep watching?
Here are six tried and tested approaches that have worked extremely well for the animated videos we have created.
Imagine is one of my favourite words. The word ‘imagine’ on its own has special qualities. It’s a word that engages you the moment you utter it. Start your video script with the word ‘Imagine…’and see where it takes the script. For example:
Imagine you are the Finance Minister of a country and responsible for running the economy. You’re about to make a speech about the latest fiscal and monetary decisions you’ve made. What will you tell your audience?
This was the start of a video script for a complex economics topic. It absorbs you from the outset and the scenario places the learner in the imagined scenario to get them thinking.
2. Think + 1 or 2 Personal Questions
This approach gets your learner thinking about the situation immediately. Make the questions personal so your learners instantly relate to the question and hold the questions in their mind as they continue to watch the video. For example in an animated video about managing job appraisals, we wrote the script to start like this:
“Think back to your last appraisal. Do you think it was fair?”
3. Questions Learners’ Experience
How about starting your script immediately with two or three opening questions which ask learners about their own experience on the video’s topic? These questions, then flow into the video’s key story. For example, the script below was about how groups are formed. The opening questions are asked. The rest of the video explains stages of how groups formed, whilst learners reflect on their own experience of working in groups.
“Have you ever been involved in working in a group? How do you feel the group worked together?
Ask your learners what they would do in a situation using the “If…” approach. Starting the script in this way has a reflective impact on your learners. It gets them wondering about the question they’re being asked. It gives them opportunity to check what they already know, or don’t know, about the video’s topic. For example:
“If someone asked you what causes inflation – what would you tell them?“
The video then guides learners through the causes of inflation in an easy to understand visual way. A complex topic, explained simply.
5. Question Best Practice
Have you got a learning point where you need to teach your learners about best practice approaches? Then, start a script by acknowledging the best practice and then question why that’s good practice. For example, the script below was about good leadership skills. This opening line concedes that the majority of people may have come across a good leader but asks why they were good a leader.
“Most of us can think of examples of a good boss, but what made them a good leader?”
6. Introduce A Character and Situation
Using characters in animated videos work extremely well. Build a story around the character and allow learners see what happens to the character. Like all good stories, start your script by introducing the character and its’ situation. For example, the script below used the well-known STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach of storytelling. Once the situation is presented, the video moves on to TAR (Task, Action, Result) .
This is Paradise Café, a popular beach front restaurant. The owner, Tomas, has grown the restaurant from a small ice cream kiosk….to a 100 seat restaurant. Recently the business’ profits have declined considerably. But why?
What Did You Learn From This Post?
All these methods share one thing in common. At some point they’re asking questions. Remember Who, What, When, How, Where and Why. Use at least one of these in your script, if not more. They’ll capture your learner’s interest at the start. Then use the rest of the script to answer the questions to retain their interest.
This article was first written for the eLearning industry.
Image: Julia Tim/Shutterstock Image ID: 496650973