Getting the Point Across in a Hurry
Today’s Brew: I’m not sure coffee is going to cut it today.
Sure, I did get to go to the beach with Johnny Depp this summer (but it was Revere Beach and he was in costume as Whitey Bulger), but for the most part, my job isn’t that glamorous. I do a lot of corporate work, and my job is to make sure CEOs don’t get shiny when they sit in front of a green screen and read from a Teleprompter.
One of my regular clients asked me to do one of these jobs over the weekend. I actually like corporate work. The productions are usually small, everyone is nice, and the hours aren’t crazy long. Since this one was for a medical company, I got to do some wound and bruise work (Yesssssssss!).
When the spokeswoman began to read the copy from the Prompter, the director stopped her.
“We need to fix this,” she said.
Once the script was read out loud, the problems came to light. There were many repeated words, and three sentences were being used when one would have got the message across. It had a sing-songy rhythm. This was a sales video aimed towards medical professionals. Busy people who don’t have time to waste. Every word needs to do a job, and do it quickly.
As they started to work through the script, I asked if I could join in. The director knew that I wrote, and was happy for the help. We all worked together, eliminating redundancy, unnecessary backstory, and weak wording. One sentence read “Blah blah product is unique.”
Unique means nothing. You could put any adjective at the end of that sentence and it would have as much meaning as unique.
Show me why it’s unique.
We took that word out, and went straight to the features that made this product unique. “Blah blah product does this and doesn’t do this.” Take away: this product is unique.
Some voice-overs were meant to compliment power point presentations. We gave the words purpose, didn’t repeat the information the viewer could see, and didn’t complicate things.
By doing all of this, we cut the length of the video significantly. Not only did we save people time, but we ensured that the viewer would actually make it to the end of the video, taking away the message the company meant to convey, and hopefully be excited about the product.
This all made me think a lot about Pitch Wars. (waves to anyone who is considering entering.) You’re selling your story. You’re pitching mentors, and once you’re published, you need to sell readers on your book and then keep them reading.
You get so close to your own work, and it can be hard to see clutter and confusion on your own. These things will help make sure everything works:
- Read your work out loud to someone else. Have them listen for clarity.
- Make sure you have a variety of sentence lengths.
- Give every word power. Eliminate weak words that tell or aren’t specific.
- Once you use a descriptive word in a scene, try not to use it again.
- Get to the point. Give backstory only when needed. Keep description lean.