I was recently honored to appear on The Forge, a series of video interviews from the folks at TechSmith, makers of Camtasia and Snagit, among other products. We focus a bit on Common Craft history, lessons from the Art of Explanation and the best explainers out there. (17:33)
My session will be on Monday the 6th from 3:30 to 4:30 on The Art of Explanation.
Professional communicators explain ideas every day, but we rarely take a step back and think about the skill of explanation and what it can mean to our audience. Lee LeFever, the author of The Art of Explanation, will help you take a fresh look at what makes explanations work, how to plan an explanation and use media to make your explanations remarkable.
My session at Webvisions will be at 3:30 on Friday May 24th.
The biggest barrier to people adopting your product or idea may not be design, engineering, price point or UX, but a lack of understanding. If you can’t explain your product or service, or why anyone should care, they won’t be motivated to take the next step.
Attendees will learn battle-tested explanation strategies from Lee LeFever, founder of Common Craft and author of The Art of Explanation. He will help you rethink how you communicate complex subjects and learn to solve explanation problems.
Amplify is "Australia leading platform for discussing business innovation with the world's boldest speakers." Sachi and I will be doing a couple of workshops and I will be speaking about The Art of Explanation and focusing on the potential for organizations to rethink how they explain complex products and services.
Fireworks Factory is a unique conference put on by our friends at Capulet Communications that's billed as "An invite-only conference for smart Web marketers" I'll be doing a talk focused on The Art of Explanation and how marketers can prepare for increasing demand for clear, understandable communications and explanations.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a book coming out in October and it will contain QR codes. The big idea is to give readers of The Art of Explanation an easy way to watch the videos we use as examples in the book. Scan the code with a smartphone --> watch a video. It’s easier than typing a long URL. Of course, we made a video explaining QR codes, if you’d like to learn more.
The QR code in the photo above is from a previous draft and not a trackable version.
There will be 16 QR codes throughout The Art of Explanation. Using these codes in a book is an experiment and like any good experiment, we need ways to measure if and how they are used. We want to know, via our analytics program, anonymous data like:
How many total visits came from the book this month?
What videos from the book are being watched the most?
What do visitors from the book do after they watch the video?
What devices do people use to watch videos from the book?
My goal is to explain why this makes sense. Fair warning - It's a little more technical than you're used to seeing here. Let’s start with the basic ideas:
Google Analytics essentially measures clicks. When you click a URL and visit commoncraft.com, I see the click in Google Analytics, along with every other visit. Together, these anonymous clicks provide very useful information about traffic to our website.
QR codes often use URLs. When you scan a QR code to visit our website, the QR code tells your device what URL to use. Instead of clicking, you are scanning. In Google Analytics, I have no default way of knowing if a link was clicked on a computer or scanned via a QR code. I need a way to see only the scans and measure them. This will help us see the how the QR codes are being used. To do that we need to create special URLs that are trackable and link them to our QR codes.
Thankfully, there is a way to make them trackable by creating a URL that includes information that Google Analytics can use to show us useful information.
The URL is longer, but it’s OK, because the visitor is scanning a code to use it. If you look closely, you’ll see these parts of the URL:
Source = book
Medium = qrcode
Campaign = social-media (the specific video page)
By using these URLs for the QR codes, we can give Google Analytics information that helps us measure the use of QR codes in the book. All we have to do is use this URL when we create a QR code. It will be really interesting and I plan to report what we see.
Below I'm using a single scene from this video to highlight an important element of explanation: building and sustaining confidence.
NOTE: If you're interested in learning in-depth about the skill of explanation and how to make Common Craft Style videos, check out our online courses at the Explainer Academy.
A quick point about intent. This video is not entitled “Private Equity Explained” or “Private Equity Made Easy”. Further, the target audience for the video is not stated, so I acknowledge that the intent may not be explanation or for a general audience.
First, I think it’s nicely presented. The illustrations work well with the voice-over and it has a friendly, approachable feel. And I think it does a reasonable job of explaining the basic ideas behind private equity from the perspective of the industry.
However, when I watch the video I see language that represents a risk. I’m a big believer in the idea that explanations should build and sustain confidence for the audience. Anything that takes away confidence erodes the power of the explanation.
The first big and potentially powerful point in the video is this:
Private Equity firms partner with investors like public and private pension funds, university endowments and charitable foundations to buy companies...
If you work in finance, this may make perfect sense to you and seem simple. But I doubt that the average person, whom I believe is the target for this video, will get it. Understanding what each of these investors are and do can be intimidating. Like so many explanations, it depends on assumptions. Let’s take a look:
The question is “What is Private Equity” and the first point they make is about “private equity firms partner with...”. Assumption(1): People know that private equity is something that a “firm” does. Assumption (2) People know what it means to “partner” with an investor.
The firms “partner with investors like public and private pension funds, university endowments and charitable foundations.” Assumption (1): People know what those things are. Assumption (2): People know that pension funds, endowments and foundations can be investors.
These assumptions don’t necessarily compromise the video, but they offer the audience a good reason to lose confidence.
Further, the point on investment partners is a distraction that was likely included to promote a message of positivity (private equity helps things that do good). Aren’t the investment partners a detail that can be covered later?
If I had to rethink the beginning of the video, I’d zoom-out, talk about the big picture and discuss the various needs at work, without all the details:
On one side, there are investors that have money and need a way to make more. On the other, there are companies that need money and have the potential to grow. In the middle are private equity firms, which use the money from investors to buy companies, turn them around and sell them to at a profit.
It’s a very simplified view but one that focuses on the big, high level concept. Of course it’s not bulletproof, but it builds a foundation that may help the audience feel more confident in understanding the big ideas *first* and the smaller ones later - and that’s what matters.