Say it once, say it well. Using the right media for the right message.

You can tell a story in many different ways, but it’s important to adapt what you say to fit the media you’ve chosen to tell it in.

Printed workbooks or downloads suit text and tables, illustrative graphics and so forth. Text on screen is ok, but you don’t want too much of it, and tables need to be kept small. Lists of bullet points are ok in either, but no good when you’re scripting for audio or video. It doesn’t work to have a character on screen talking through ‘the seven key secrets of success’. Nobody can remember the first one by the time you’ve got to the third. The format simply doesn’t suit lists.

When you’re scripting for video, it’s important to choose the right style; formal and authoritative is fine, but it distances the character from the viewer. Colloquial and conversational is more empathetic and likeable, but may be less authoritative. Conversational scripts can work well, but conversational text on the page can look sloppy. “We are” or “we’re” can be the least of your problems.

Facts and figures can work well in text, but when presented by someone on screen can be just meaningless streams of figures, although a few key figures can strengthen an otherwise weak script. Forty percent of people who read this should agree.

So there are challenges in choosing ‘tone of voice’ for each of the media we use, but there are also challenges in terms of choosing what we want to say with each, to ensure we achieve variety across a range of media. An easy mistake to make is to try to say everything with every media available to us. If something is important to a business, it’s often put in the introductory text, on every download, throughout each script, but then it ends up being repeated everywhere. Now, reinforcement is a good thing, but as consumers of media, we’re not naive. If something is repeated too much, we just turn off. There’s a real trend in TV documentaries these days, especially the ones on commercial channels with breaks, to start each new section by repeating half of what they said before, complete with repeated footage. Why? I’ve just seen it?

Better to choose a ‘purpose’ for each of the different media that you’re using. For example, use video to introduce a theory, animations to explain it and text bullets to summarise it. Maybe use e-earning with a ‘formal’ voice, but be unafraid to use podcasts that are conversational to complement them. Maybe use video to show key sponsors and individuals , but use audio for interviews with real people, or even go one step further and use downloads to show creatively presented short versions of the learning – the whole story on one page. Not every media needs to cover everything in full depth.

This week i’ve been working on some training for a Financial Service product. It’s a fairly dry subject, but we’re looking to cover the basics in around half an hour. We’ve got a range of sources to use for the writing, ranging from the Policy Document, which runs to dozens of pages listing every detail, through to various legal and compliance experts (who can run a conversation to dozens of minutes around every detail!).

It’s being done as a very quick and simple solution, using text and graphics, with very little interactivity, audio or video, so all in all, a fairly flat affair.

Quite a lot of conversations have gone like this:
lets give an overview of the product that’s quite short and then say ‘you can find the full details listed in the Policy Document, which you can download here‘”.
No, we need to list all the features out here in the e-learning
But it’s unreadable if you do that
Well, they need to know it all
Yes, but it’s all there in the Policy document. If you put it all on screen, why not just put the policy document on screen
We can’t do that. Nobody ever reads it…

And so the circular argument goes on. People engage with engaging media, the challenge is to ensure we give every element we use, some thing to say in it’s own voice.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Media, Scripting, Text, Video, Voice, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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