I guess by now most of us are aware that the web2.0 is becoming increasingly visual. Information is shared as stories in the form of pictures, videos, infographics, cartoons, animations, wordles, drawings or combinations of these (like in Glogster and Storify).
Make your own photo slideshow at Animoto.
Old-fashioned people like myself who are still more focused on writing learn to be concise and provide ideas and information hidden in numbered lists (10 tips, 5 tools, etc). OK, maybe I haven’t learned that lesson yet, but others have.
All this, because we find that our target groups prefer to receive and share knowledge and ideas in visuals rather than long texts.
But it is not just a matter of following your target groups. And it shouldn’t be.
Try presenting your ideas, information or questions visually. You will see that it is not quite as easy as tapping your keyboard for a few hours to write a text.
- You have to have a very clear idea of what the point is that you want to make.
- You have to make sure that it in fact is one point and that this is the main point, too.
- You have to consider carefully how to present it. Can people get the point through a collection of photos? Is it suitable for an infographic? Would a cartoon fit better? Or is a story in film the best way to get the idea across?
All these forms and tools have limitations. Not many people will watch a video to the end if it’s more than 5 minutes – and that is probably long by today’s standards already as most videos seem to last 1-2 minutes nowadays. A cartoon of 3 pictures is more powerful than a cartoon of 3 pages. Infographics call for clear data or at least a comparison between two situations. A pinboard of 100 photos may not be as attractive as one of only 10.
So after you have defined your message and chosen a tool, you will likely find that the message is still too wide for the tool you have selected. And you will have to specify your message once more.
In all, this process might initially take much more time than simply producing a 5 pager. Especially if you take into account time needed to get the feel of a tool. Most tools are pretty user-friendly but that doesn’t mean that you will not meet with any hitches or that you will immediately be able to make the most of the tool. It takes some practice to use a tool effectively.
However, all this is not a waste of your precious time. Far from it, in my experience. In fact I would say that the fastest way of truly learning about something is trying to present the topic through a visual tool. You will soon learn what is the gem inside and what is just background noise. Summarising your idea in 3 cartoon pictures will bring out the core of the message. Telling your story about a project that lasted a year in a one minute video (OK, perhaps you could be allowed up to 5 minutes) will help you focus on the main impact of that project. Preparing that video with a small group will make the whole group think long and hard about common lessons learned and how to show these to an audience that was not part of the whole year’s process.
Whereas in reports (to donors for instance) people tend to elaborate at length about the things they did, visual tools will force them to focus on the harvest of those activities rather than the activities themselves. For instance, instead of showing 10 trainings that to an outsider will look all the same and will be boring at that, you will look for the one participant who actually used something he or she got from the trainings on the job and ask them to tell or show how that made a difference. And there you are: much more interesting for others compared to reading about 10 trainings x 8 sessions and how they were conducted. And much more to the point as well.
If you are really interested in learning and in letting others learn as well – go visual!