From ? to ! in 60 seconds

I recently discovered a series of brilliant videos by content marketing site Copyblogger. Each vid explains a content marketing concept with great clarity.

And in less than 60 seconds.

Take a look at this for instance - on "content marketing" itself:

Clear and succinct, isn't it? In 60 seconds, the "?" in the viewer's mind becomes a "!" as they grasp an idea for the first time.

This contrasts sharply with how TERRIBLE most people are at explaining difficult concepts, struggling for hours only to turn "?" into "???"

So what do these videos do differently? (Besides the cute animation, I mean)

Here's what: Most of them follow a simple two-point structure:

  1. Define the concept in 1-2 brief and clear sentences
  2. Give an example or a walkthrough

That's it.

Sometimes they add a 3rd point, like implications, but the first two - definition + example - are key.

Go back and watch the content marketing video, and you'll see the two steps:

  1. Definition: "Content marketing is creating and sharing free and valuable content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers... you educate, entertain & inform so people like & trust you."
  2. Give an example: Red Bull, and

This two-step structure is even clearer in this video on the USP:

This one added a third point - implication - to make 3 points:

  1. Definition: "a remarkable benefit that your competitors do not offer." 
  2. Example: FedEx's USP - reliable overnight delivery
  3. Implication: the USP will become the theme of your content marketing

It was so well edited, it took a mere 45 seconds.

You can easily apply this to other concepts, such as... the Internet of Things (IoT):

  1. Definition: "IoT is internet between all the gadgets and objects around us, so they can talk to each other and perform tasks they couldn't do alone."
  2. Example: "For instance, your air conditioner talks to the computer to monitor electricity prices, while also talking to sensors in the house to keep track of temperature & humidity, to keep you comfy at the lowest cost."
  3. Implication: "When the stuff we own can work in concert, they can make our lives more convenient and comfortable than ever."

That takes 60 seconds -- IF you talk like a sloth.

But... isn't the animation key?

The visual support given by the animation absolutely helps. But guess what? Most of us don't talk while drawing professional cartoons. Most of the time it comes down to our words, and our words alone.

And if your words are a MESS, animation just turns that into animated MESS.

So no, you gotta get your verbal explanation in order. No way around that.

A great example is indispensable

Having a great example that your audience can relate to might be even more important than giving a clear definition.

It's no surprise that the weakest video in the series, BY FAR, was the one without any concrete examples.

Judge for yourself:

I'm willing to bet that you still don't have a clear idea what cornerstone content is.

Is it your Q&A page? Your most popular blog posts? Your mission statement? Your annual report? All of the above? It's anyone's guess.

The video would've been far stronger had it:

  • Defined cornerstone content in 15-20 seconds, then...
  • Given us an example of a well-known website with a brilliant set of cornerstone content that people go back to, again and again.

Why should you care about all this?

First, the amount of info and complexity we deal with is going WAY UP.

Second, the amount of time we have to make sense of it all is going DOWN.

This mean that the ability to explain succinctly has become more valuable than ever.

And because most people are awful at it, mastering the skill of explanation instantly gives you a huge advantage (and makes you seem super intelligent).

So remember the two steps:

  1. Define the idea briefly and clearly
  2. Give an example that's concrete - as close to the listeners' lives as possible

And enjoy the look on your colleagues' and friends' faces as "?" turns into "!"

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