Two Simple Tools for Creating More Impactful Content

Two Simple Tools for Creating Impactful Content

What does your content process look like? Far too many people jump directly into their content creation tool of choice and just start spraying stuff all over the place…but some of the most important work should happen before you even think about creating content. Here are a few tips I’ve put together after years of designing learning programs, presentations, eLearning, workshops, etc.

Get to know your audience

The first step: thoughtful consideration. Who will be attending?

Learn as much as you can about your audience. This will give you insight and context to focus your message, tailor your design and customize your delivery for a memorable, impactful experience.

To help you get started, check out these considerations from Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate. The more of these you can answer, the better.

Always consider who is on the receiving end! Even if you are working with content you’ve delivered many times, different audiences deserve different considerations.

For example:

How would you present retirement planning to millennials?

How would you present retirement planning to mid-career professionals?

A thoughtful approach leads to sharing knowledge on this topic differently for these two audiences.

Of course, you’ll rarely, if ever, know everything there is to know about an audience. Don’t sweat it – just learn as much as you can. Any insights you glean will help you align with your audience and make your message resonate more powerfully.

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”  – Mark Twain

Less really is more

The dreaded data dump: no one wants to sit through anything that overloads them with information overload. Even the greatest topics will fall short if the audience doesn’t understand the key messages.

Overloading your audience with too much information leads to LESS understanding – not more!

Your goal is for people to remember a key message and act on it. When you cram too much information into the heads of your audience, the result is often a colossal waste of time for everyone. How can anyone do what you want, if they don’t remember what it is?

The challenge is significant. According to a study by Dr. Carmen Simon, a typical audience forgets up to 90 percent of what you tell them. And, as if that’s not bad enough, the 10 percent that one person remembers is a different 10 percent from what the next guy does.

Contrary to what many people think, our brains do not work like video recorders. Just because you say something doesn’t mean people will remember it – not even close! To create a memorable experience you’ve got to know how memory works.

Your audience should walk away able to answer these two questions:

  • What key points do you want them to remember? (Not too many! 3 is a good number to aim for)
  • What do you want them to do?

If people walk away from their experience with the correct answers to these questions, you’re well on your way to success.

One of my favorite ways to flesh out these main points and supporting details is Cliff Atkinson’s super helpful Beyond Bullet Points story template.

Unlike PowerPoint and other similar templates, this one is based on brain science to help you get your message through and move your audience to action (while helping you cut out any extraneous content along the way):

Seriously: don’t skip the pre-work

For many designers, the urge to skip these steps and skip straight into the content building process can be very tempting. But don’t do it! With a little bit of consideration up front, you’ll create a stronger message and improve your odds for success.

I’ve shared two of my favorite “pre-work” resources that have been helpful for me and there are a lot of other great options out there. How do you manage these “up-front” steps in your content creation process? What have you found to be most helpful in your work?

Published by Mike Taylor

Born with a life-long passion for learning, I have the great fortune to work at the intersection of learning, design, technology & collaboration.

4 thoughts on “Two Simple Tools for Creating More Impactful Content

  1. Sometimes, the ID Pro’s judgment is all there is. What if the ID does not have the requisite prior knowledge to make a decision on the few key points that matter the most? I suggest interviewing stakeholders to evaluate the importance, learning difficulty, frequency of use, and prior knowledge of the content for the target audience. Then, you have a basis for culling your content to the high priority material that will make a real performance difference.


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