How long should your video be? 135 words.

According to a widely cited new study, humans’ “concentrated attention span” shrank from 12 seconds in 2004 to only eight seconds today. Shorter than a goldfish’s.

Does this mean corporate videos should be eight seconds long? No, but you’d better believe they should be as fast, interesting and short as they possibly can.

What’s short? Under sixty seconds unless there’s a very good reason. It sounds ridiculously short, but you would be surprised how much you can cram into one minute. For example:

 

But how long is one minute?

When you’re writing to hit a certain duration, you could waste your life timing it with a stopwatch OR you could just use this helpful tip: 135 words per minute. We recently calculated this number to make our own writing process more efficient. We transcribed ten finished business videos to work out how many words of audible dialogue and narration were heard in the final cut. The result? These videos totalled 2200 words over 16.3 minutes, for a total of 134.9 words per minute. So let’s call it 135.

(FYI natural speech was fastest at 159 words per minute, and voiceover narration was slowest at 118 words per minute. We only included corporate videos and not narrative content, because suspenseful narrative videos like this comedy piece for Yamaha were skewing the data).

 

Short is harder than long.

Writing a script is hard enough when you think it can be several paragraphs long, but when you have to break it down to only 135 words, it actually gets even tougher.

Pulling copy straight from websites or brochures (as many clients do) is tempting, but it is likely to fill a whole page (about 400 words) before you know it. Writing for the page is different to writing for video. Video uses short sentences and often strange grammar; it’s more like a haiku than a novel. So be ruthless. Cull. Capture just the most basic essence of the product or service.

It helps when writing to realise that detail is not the point. Detail is not one of video’s great strengths. Energy and emotion are the strengths of video. Good videos can create an emotional connection with viewers, and emotional connection = marketing gold. Videos don’t exist to give viewers all the info, they exist to make viewers excited enough to seek it out themselves.

 

Bonus tip:

One way we get around the 135 word limit is to use on-screen text titles wisely. If you have certain information that you really want in the video but it doesn’t necessarily need to be spoken as dialogue, it might be better expressed in on-screen text, which is a way to “cheat” more total information into your video. You can see this in the opening moments of our video for Arxxus: David verbally says just “bundle of hours”, and an on-screen infographic provides far more detail without him having to say it aloud.