Join Bill Shander for an in-depth discussion in this video Meeting today's critical communications challenges, part of Data Visualization for Data Analysts.
- Reaching an audience with your message has always been challenging. But today's communicator faces more challenges than ever. Most people aren't really fully conscious of these challenges when they're communicating, but they nearly all really pretty obvious. Most business people, analysts, consultant, scientist, people whose "real job" isn't communicating often take them for granted which is why they struggle to connect with an audience when they're sharing a report during a meeting or sharing scientific data-driven results. The first one I'll mention is the one that most people really don't think about enough and that's your audience.
If you're communicating to an audience of laypeople, you don't want to use to much jargon, right? You want to simplify your language, use more images and conceptual drawings, label and annunciate everything so nothing is left for chance or misinterpretation. I often talk about it as being more about channeling your audience than really knowing them. You need to really try to embody their spirit, think of how they think. Listen to yourself or read your report and try to imagine what they would be thinking if they were consuming your content. If you do this in full awareness, you'll always create better content.
To focus on just visual communications, I would simply say that the less professional and experienced your audience, the more visual you should be. It's really that simple. And by the same token, the more expert your audience, the less you have to worry about hand-holding and dumbing down your content but you still have to communicate visually for all the reasons we're going to discuss later in this course. One of the biggest challenges we face as communicators today is information overload. There's a famous quote from Eric Schmidt from a couple of years ago where he said that "We generate more data now in two days "than was generated from the dawn of time up until 2003".
2003, well into the .com boom, right? we're not talking about 1980. So you think about this, this is a big deal, right? We are inundated with information, this is not news to anybody, but there was a study done at Northwestern University that actually said "Information overload is a myth". We may feel overloaded at times but in reality, as people, as an audience, we're not overloaded, we actually like the information we're getting, we're just, sort of, selective about it and we're careful about it. Another challenge we face is what's called the Galilean Model of the Web.
My friend Drew came up with this. The idea is that, especially in communicating things online, your website is not the center of universe, right? This is not the pre-Galilean Model. The center of the universe for the web is search, it's Google, right? And it's all these other platforms, YouTube and Facebook and Twitter where all the conversations are happening about different topics. Your website, where your posting content now is, sort of, off to the side, right? You're not the center of the universe. You have to get your content to where the audience is. You have to create nuggets of content that can be found in those areas.
It's also really important to understand that your audience has short attention spans, right? Mostly because of those prior to issues we discussed, right? The information overload and the Galilean Model, everyone is multitasking. They demand to be entertained, they have to be lured into longer-form content. By the way, my clients, a lot of whom are consultants and people who work with data all the time, they argue that they're different and that their audience is different. They say that their audience is paying them tons of money for their expertise and their data and they are paying attention.
I would say yeah, sort of. But what's the first thing they do in a meeting? They start thumbing through the presentation and try to jump right to the good stuff, right? just like anyone else does. They're impatient to get to the meat, just like everybody else. Your audience maybe, sort of, different but, really, they're mostly just like everybody else. One of the main solutions to address these challenges is something that I developed that I call the 4 x 4 model for Knowledge Content. I'm just going to explain it briefly here. The idea is that if you create content in levels, and the point of levels is to step people into content, to get them to self-select based on their interest in the subject matter then you'll always have better results.
The main idea is this, you create what I call Water Cooler moments, the short-form content, the attention-grabber at the top of the funnel, if we want to look at it that way. Those are images and tweets and 30-second videos, really short from stuff, just to grab attention. Kind of, like on, you know, Monday morning we might be talking about the New England Patriots at the Water Cooler and if there are six or seven people standing around the Water Cooler, five of them couldn't care less about the Patriots and maybe they don't even like the Patriots, but they, kind of, like football so they going to hang around a little bit.
But two or three people who really love football might go to The Cafe, they'll go to the next level. they'll, sort of, self-select based on their interest in the content area, they'll have a longer conversation. On line, that's a blog post, it's a short article, it's a three to five-minute video. They've self-selected based on their interest in the subject matter and they'll have longer conversation, and two of those people at The Cafe, they're total statistics nerds, they love football, and they want to go to The Research Library, the next level down. They're the ones who will read the hundred-page PDF of information, right? They'll go into long-form content mode, and the rest of the people who abandoned you, abandoned the conversation earlier, that's okay, they're not your audience.
Finally, we have what I call The Lab. Those are the interactive data experiences which is, you know, a lot of things we're talking about today, right? How to create interactive data experiences as well as static ones, to really get people to play with the data themselves. You can't just drop somebody into a hundred-page PDF or into an interactive experience without, sort of, setting it up with great Water Cooler moments and Cafe content. The second four in the 4 x 4 are those four key components you want to build into all of your content at all the levels, Visualization, Storytelling, Interactivity and Shareability. We're not here, really, to talk about most of those today, we're focusing on Visualization obviously but these models are really good framework for how to think about creating contents to reach audiences which is what you're doing, when you're doing the work you do.
You have to, kind of, think of it like dating. You know, you have to get hold of the hold up, right? You have to douse yourself in Old Spice or Chanel No. 5, you have to trim your moustache or shave your legs and, you know, really become the king of the disco, really boogie. You got to try meet that special someone, you can't hide in your room wishing they'll appear in some virtual reality or, you know, magical reality, at least not yet. This picture reminds me of an important point that I made earlier, you never want to forget your audience, you need to know what they find attractive. This look might have worked in a certain place, in a certain time, but it won't always work, right? You want to dress up your content, you want to deliver it in chugs, focusing your audience and how they think, in short, think like a communicator when you're communicating because make no mistake, you are always communicating.
- Why visual communications matter, and how they work
- Communicating via story
- Communicating with color
- Using legends and sources
- Sketching and wireframing
- Rethinking slides, charts, and diagrams
- Rethinking your templates and brand guidelines