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Should You Script YouTube Videos?

When it comes to writing and producing YouTube videos, there is a lot of debate as to whether or not you should create a script. Some believe that if you are not developing scripts for your YouTube videos, then you are not being as efficient as possible. Others, however, find that scripts create restrictions on your authenticity and creativity.

Different Levels of Scripting

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to scripts. There are different categories of scriptwriting. [1] They include:

  1. No script – This is what many reaction vloggers and interview-based YouTubers do. They tend to go with the flow and avoid having any script or production outline.
  2. Outline script – Some prefer to have a basic idea of what they are going to say and do during their video. People who are not as confident in winging their material may include some specifics such as intros, outros, or planned shoutouts along with looser, general ideas that allow for some creative expression and improv.
  3. Strict script – Many factual channels, how-to’s, or educational YouTube videos follow a heavy script. This includes many details and specific wording that is to be said during the recording. This is also a great way to keep things consistent when there are multiple individuals involved in a project.

Today, there are 2 billion YouTube users worldwide with 400 hours of video content being uploaded every minute! [2] The diversity of content across the platform shows there are countless styles of video production. The “right” way to approach it is very dependent on the individual YouTuber’s preferences. Let us take a deeper look into the pros and cons of having scripted versus unscripted YouTube videos.

Scripted YouTube Videos

Almost all of the media content we consume, including movies, news programs, TV shows and radio shows have scripts. There are a variety of types of scripting that content creators can adopt. Scripts can be extremely detailed, including speaking lines, exact visual cues and timed actions. They can also be structured as a simple storyboard that includes a general direction you would like to take for your talking points and visuals. This keeps your focus inline and helps the overall flow of the YouTube video.

In the words of Compose.ly, [3]

“Scripts eliminate the guesswork associated with creating effective videos. They also help you form and deliver a cohesive story, one that supports your video marketing strategy. Lastly, scripts save you the time (and hassle) of rerecording content as you try to find the right words, gesticulation, pitch, and tone of voice.”

It seems as though a majority of successful YouTubers and content strategists agree that scripts of some sort are the best way to go about creating effective content. So, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

It makes things easier on filming day

This may be the most convincing reason to create a script for your upcoming YouTube videos. Heading into a recording session with a plan of what you are going to say and do helps to shorten the amount of work you need to do the day of. It is also a lot easier to edit your content ahead of time than it is while recording.

Additionally, when you create a templated script, you are creating an outline of what components will be involved in your future videos. This helps you avoid having to start from scratch every time it is time to record.

Improves your delivery

When preparing a script beforehand, you can easily arrange your ideas so that they flow effectively when delivering the content. It will also help with timing! You can practice and perfect a steady pace of video narrative that works for you. This keeps your videos easy to follow and assures they are not too rushed or dragged out.

Creates consistency between your videos

Consistency and “branding” are the keys to success for many YouTube sensations. Scripts help create uniformity between your videos, helping your followers know what to expect in each new release. Even if your content varies from video to video, having a scripted flow will help your audience follow along. Every television show follows some sort of format and viewers expect it. Treat your YouTube channel as a television show… it will make your content stand out from other channels whose delivery is all over the map.

Case Study: Buffer

Buffer, a social media management company, used to have videos that were created and uploaded without much planning and scripting ahead of time. They had a wide range of topics they wanted to discuss without a precise script. Due to the extreme inconsistency between videos, their team found they were struggling with overall engagement and audience retention. Their delivery proved to be too random, and the quality of their content was suffering from their “freestyle” way of recording. Granted, there are some people who love impromptu delivery, but Buffer’s audience was not resonating with the style.

So, they tested out a new strategy. Buffer began building out a templated script that outlined 3 – 4 key points that they wanted to cover in their video. It resulted in a cleaner, crisper video and helped boost their watch time by 61%! [4]

Cons

It can feel inauthentic

If you are not confident with your delivery, your script may sound robotic or impersonal. If you are not used to reading off a script on camera, it can be very obvious that you are looking at a paper or a teleprompter of some sort. There are also times where your writing may sound great on paper, but when spoken aloud, it sounds forced.

Preparation takes longer

Writing a 2 – 3 page script can take some time, especially if you are new to writing them. There will be times when you spend hours coming up with a perfect outline just for it to be moved to the recycle bin when you are finished. This can be a big hurdle for a lot of YouTubers.

Unscripted YouTube Videos

There are some vloggers and experienced reaction-based YouTubers that nix the idea of a script to make their content more genuine and emotional. Typically, these creators do a lot of what we like to call, “talking off the cuff.” You may decide that you want your content style to just go-with-the-flow and live your best unscripted life. There is nothing wrong with that approach if you can do it right, but here are some considerations.

Pros

Your voice is more authentic

Not having any sort of script or template allows for a storyline to unfold more organically. For example, interviews tend to be more honest, and reaction videos may appear more authentic. When you are not trying to fit your content into a specific mold or criteria, it allows for more creative freedom.

You can mix up your style

Without a template to follow, your videos can become a more journalistic, documentary-style film. You may also find that interesting footage is captured that otherwise would not be filmed as it does not “fit the criteria” of what you normally include into your videos.

Case study: Gamer Videos

A great example of content creators who do not normally follow a script are gaming YouTubers. Their videos are focused on video games, helping their audience improve their skills and provide reaction entertainment to their gaming-focused viewers.

The “Let’s Play Video” format is commonly used by gaming Youtubers. [5] This is where they record their screen while playing a game and provide additional commentary. Their commentary is related to the game they are playing while providing feedback and suggestions in real-time.

Cons

Editing times

As a result of your diverse footage recording, you may have to spend a significantly longer time editing your videos than if you were sticking to a script. Recording without a script often leads to more outtakes and errors, which causes more footage to be cut from the final production.

Filler words

If you are talking without a script, you may find yourself “ahh”-ing and “umm”-ing your way through your video. Filler words are not necessarily bad, but too many can cause the audience to grow impatient.

Missing Points

There is also the possibility that you will forget some important points or completely blank out mid-thought. If you have ever done this in the midst of an otherwise perfect video recording, you know how frustrating that can be!

Rambling off topic

Similar to forgetting what you were saying, you may run into the potential issue of rambling on and losing sight of the topic at hand. This could result in an unnecessarily long video with little focus. Unfortunately, this could take a toll on your engagement performance if it turns your audience off.

Saying something you regret

It is possible that your foot may end up in your mouth if you go unscripted. We have all been there. Sometimes your words do not come out right and you end up saying something incorrect or offensive. You may not catch your slip up until it comes time to edit, and this could result in unusable footage!

Conclusion

It seems that the decision to have scripted or unscripted YouTube videos depends on a lot of the creator’s content niche, audience, and personal preference. Do you create scripts for your YouTube channel? Have you found better success? Comment below!

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