Book – The Art of Explanation

explanationThis is one of the books, where every idea seem to whisper “take me to a meeting tomorrow…  your meeting will be much better.”  Ah, dear idea, you are right!  I should take you to a meeting tomorrow – and, definitely, my chances of seeing a favorable result of the meeting will be much higher 😉

The author suggests to concentrate on the “Forrest” before starting to talk about the “trees,” to explain major concepts before diving into specific points.  (Hm…  European educational system I experienced as a child was based on this principle – and math was considered easy while history was considered hard 🙂 ).

Another interesting point (which does not come with any educational system, I guess) is the nature of the question “What is it?”  The question is not “What is it?” but “How can it help me?”  A person who is asking “What is RSS?” does not want to know how RSS functions, but rather how useful can it be for his or her life.

Why is it difficult to explain basic things?  The curse of knowledge…  (Ubiquitous tune tapping experiment) – a new person joining the company often does not hear the tune of company culture and process, but just “tap.. tap… tap.”

In most situations requiring explanations, the target audience is somewhere in the range of understanding the topic.  Low understanding is A, and high understanding is Z, and the range of the understanding can be represented by an alphabet.  The goal of the explanation is to move the people at A further to the direction of Z; we can not start explaining from L if majority of the target audience understand the problem somewhere around C.


How to move your audience from A to Z?

1. Agreement

Statement that is obvious for the audience (we can all agree that gas prices are rising)

2. Context

Moving the points we agreed upon into specific context (more of your hard-earned income is going to pay for transportation)

3. Story

A person who is experiencing a change in perception (Met Sally, she is tired to pay for gas and looked for alternatives; look what she found…)

4. Connections

Analogies and ideas that people already understand (Sally could see that taking a bus was like multitasking – she could commute and work at the same time)

5. Description “how” – Sally saved $20 a week

6. Conclusion – summary – next step  (next time gas prices increase, remember…)

The author’s company Common Craft produced a very interesting collection of “explanation videos” that explain complex topics in a very understandable terms.

Explanation of social media on a ice-cream analogy


Augmented reality explanation

Content Strategy Meetup – How to write a great conference proposal

confabExcellent event for Content Strategy Meetup!  Kristina Halvorson and Tenessa Gemelke from Brain Traffic shared their perspective on conference submissions…  and an author-signed book “Content Strategy for the Web” – which I was intending to read for a couple of years and finally will 🙂

Speaking at conferences is a pleasure in itself and it can give an opportunity to attend the conference (speakers usually get a free ticket) – the topic is very useful for a modern marketer.  Ha – I will see what will happen with my latest conference proposal soon 😉

General recommendations for the conference proposals:

  • Be helpful

Suggest the topic that can genuinely help people.  would the information from your presentation help a person justify conference attendance to his or her boss?

If somebody asking you questions in your industry about a specific topic – it might be a good topic to address.

Start with people’s pain points and offer specific “how to.”

  • Be honest

“If you just want a free ticket…  you still need something to tell 😉

  • Be memorable

How can you stand out during the presentation – or during the presentation proposal?

  • Be brave

It is completely OK to be rejected 🙂   Experienced speakers can be rejected because of many reasons other than their own characteristics (topic, combination of topics in the conference already, etc.).

In general…  “pretend you are a person”

If the conference attendees required to provide a video; provide any video demonstrating that you are an engaging person – the objective is to see your personality and ability to communicate rather than any specific topic.

General speaking advice:

  • Number of slides – whatever is comfortable for the speaker’s style.  A successful hour-long presentation can have anywhere from 20 to 120 slides.  They need to make sense…
  • slidesharePresenting and sharing the presentation on SlideShare are completely different.  Sometimes, speakers try to create a presentation with too much words – suitable for SlideShare, but inadequate for the presenting to an audience.  Solution: target each audience separately: either create two different presentations or transcribe (add voice over) to the one for the Slide Share.
  • Webinars: when speaking at the webinar, think about communicating to one person – as this is the experience of your audience – one person sitting in front on the computer screen.  Webinars are more challenging as you can not see your audience reaction (I definitely noticed that!  🙂 ).

Local-affiliated conferences for interested speakers:

Books to check

book-showShow and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations
by Dan Roam




Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
by Nancy Duarte