You vs. Me
We were recently working on an Explainer video for a client. After numerous rounds of back and forth to get the technical details accurate while still keeping to a limited running time, we next had to make the script interesting and engaging. After all, that’s the whole point of an Explainer video!
We decided to turn the very technical, boring script into a first-person narrative, along the lines of “I’m supposed to do something as part of my job and I’ve been pushing it off because it’s a big pain; here’s why. Then, I found this great solution that has made my life so much easier AND is ensuring that this important task gets done.” The client wrote back that they loved the script, but were wondering if it should be in second person – “YOU” – instead of the first person “I” that we had used. Our answer: A resounding “no!”
Here’s why: It's a human psychology issue. When we say "you," it comes across as a lecture/instruction. The impression it creates is "I know better than you what you need. Listen to my authority... even though I'm trying to sell you something. Just trust me, even though you don't really know me. I'm smarter than you." Some of this is subconscious, of course, but it's the tone of the message. It has become completely taboo with Millennials, who hate this implication, but even with a slightly older generation, it pushes people away.
Now, when you speak as if it's a first-person "testimonial," even though clearly it's a pitch, the listener’s mind relaxes and says "Yeah, he's got my problem. He knows my stress because we're in the same boat." The defenses come down as the "hero" of the story gets exactly what he needs, and the viewer wants to be just like him, in better shape after dealing with the challenge. Also, by making it sound like a testimonial by a third party, the speaker is offering validation that seems to be from outside the company (yes, alas, we allow our minds to play this game!). And finally, even if the story isn’t a perfect match with the viewer’s, there’s some forgiveness on the part of the listener because it’s presented as a personal anecdote.
In addition, not only is the narrative more engaging in first person, so is the tone of the voiceover. It opens up the narrator’s range to get more intense/emotional than would a more neutral narrator. It’s the difference between having a more formal “from-above,” announcer-type of sound versus a more relaxed, friendly, collegial sound.
At RapidFire Consulting and Video, our solution for almost 50% of our videos is to use the first person point of view. This isn’t to say that using first person is a perfect fit for every script…sometimes it’s not a person-centric story or elements that come into play aren’t necessarily available for the customer to see or explain from his perspective. And sometimes it just feels…wrong. But keep it as a first direction to go as you begin to craft an effective video story.