How to breathe life into dry script content
Uninspiring elearning script? Never fear, Tanya Chopp has some good ideas.
There are so many elements that busy instructional designers have to pull together to create a rich and memorable learning experience - but don’t let your elearning script get lost in the mix. Whether your carefully scripted words will be brought to life through voiceover or manifest into compelling subtitles, a good script needs to engage the learner and foster retention.
In other words? A boring script just won’t cut it.
Let’s walk through four ways that you can weave a thread of entertainment through the meticulous but important details - and make your elearning script come to life.
Opt for storytelling over fact-blasting
Research suggests that we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact that’s wrapped in a story. Stories activate our emotions, put facts into context, add interest, spark curiosity, and make the content real .
As you’re writing the script, to help get yourself in the right mental space for storytelling, try thinking beyond ‘what’ your audience needs to know, to why they need to know it. For example: imagine your training goal is to impart knowledge on the latest legislative changes impacting the personal protective equipment that must be worn on the job.
Why did this come into effect? What had to happen in that industry, or in the workplace, in order for the legislation to have been changed? This thinking will help reveal a bigger story. Think of what it would mean for your central character (your learner) if safety protocol was followed vs. if it wasn’t.
Try thinking beyond ‘what’ your audience needs to know, to why they need to know it.
On one branch is not ‘just’ a safe worker and a safe environment - but a family that gets to enjoy a full life with their loved one by their side. On the other branch is a situation in which a person, a family, and even a community - is altered forever.
Grab them with what they care about, illustrate impact with a story, and you’ll automatically keep your learner engaged while making your content more memorable too.
Use an active voice
What bodes well for marketers bodes well for scriptwriters too. Many marketing copywriters are champions of using the ‘active voice’ because this style of writing allows audiences to picture themselves as part of the story. The active voice is engaged in the present and avoids words like ‘was.’
For example, ‘It was decided by the legislative assembly that the law was antiquated,’ has a very different feel from, ‘The legislative assembly struck down the antiquated law.’ An active voice evokes the sensation of action and fosters learner engagement too.
To spot the passive voice , you can use this trick by Crazy Egg: try inserting the words ‘by zombies’ after the verb. If the sentence still makes sense, it’s passive. If not, then it is active. E.g. ‘The decision was made [by zombies] to go to Toronto,’ v.s. ‘They made [by zombies] the decision to go to Toronto.’
Create conversational style scripts
One of the things that makes a script feel ‘hokey’ is phrasing that feels forced. To avoid stiff prose, imagine that you’re a lecturer at the front of a classroom. How would you deliver the lesson in your own voice?
Don’t judge or self-edit for facts at first - just let the content flow, and write it out as you would explain it to another person. Afterwards, go back to correct the terms, facts, and words (Note: at this stage, watch for jargon and remove it too).
Additionally, if you’d like to double check that your material sounds conversational and authentic, simply read the script out loud after editing.
When you have several characters and dialogue, it can be especially interesting to host a table read with a willing colleague or two (the more the merrier - and, when it comes to participant selection, the less familiar with the content, the better).
When the material is spoken out loud, assess where the stumbling points are. Where do you pause? Where does your colleague’s expression change from confident to bewildered? Chances are that those phrases - while they may make sense on paper - don’t flow as well when said out loud. This is a good opportunity to rephrase, update the script, and move on.
Don’t forget about the power of humour
Sometimes the training material is serious and humour would not be appropriate to insert. However, in other instances, a little bit of humour can go a long way.
As an example from the world of marketing, take Pepto Bismol’s recent commercial campaign. Instead of shying away from the embarrassing conditions that Pepto Bismol treats, the brand embraced the symptoms instead - with hilarious and memorable results.
Their official jingle featuring ‘nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea,’ and the corresponding dance carried out by the actors is more than easy to recall - it’ll get stuck in your head. What does this mean for elearning material?
Don’t shy away from using humour to create a memorable experience. You’d never want to make a mockery out of any sombre subject. However, some topics - even uncomfortable ones - are open to more comedic angles.
Delivering elearning material effectively can change, and even save, lives. But the million dollar question is and always will be, ‘how do you keep learners engaged, so that they retain critical information?’ Hopefully, these script writing tips will help to inspire you on your journey to educate the world.
About the author
Tanya Chopp is the Content Marketing Manager at Voices.com.
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