Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To Create An Explanation Whiteboard Video Tutorial: Key Principles And Approach

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How do you create a professionally-looking explanation video that illustrates in simple words what your company does and how it solves its customers problems? Given the wide number of options on the market, the little time available to choose and the little familiarity a new client may have with your business and the services it provides, if you cannot explain rapidly and in simple words what you and your company do, you may be definitely leaving lots of business on the table.

Photo credit: mbbirdy

On the other hand, putting together a simple video explanation, that helps your company explain in simple terms what may otherwise require lots of writing, is increasingly a better way to go than publishing long, heavy and difficult to understand texts.

As humans we relate more easily and immediately with someone that has an interesting story to tell, rather than to a set of ten pages of content to read. And if the story-teller, has the ability to orchestrate his explanation with appropriate tools, and some simple tactics, the results can be far more effective than what you have been used to.

In this guide to the creation of an explanatory whiteboard video, Dr. Matthew Dunn, co-founder of SayItVisually illustrates what are the key steps you need to make to obtain some tangible results.

Here is his simple seven-steps strategy, that you can immediately put to use.


Like UPS & The White House: Shoot Your Own Explanation Video in 7 Steps


by Matthew Dunn
Chief Explainer, Say It Visually!

Video is fast becoming mainstream for business communication. With bandwidth and screens everywhere, and reading time scarce, the engaging and rich toolset of video offers the greatest communication punch - better search results, engagement, recall and more.

Amazing production tools are widely available, with capabilities that studios used to dream about. Explaining your business clearly is a constant challenge and video is one of the most effective tools at hand.

Power tools don't confer craftsmanship, though; soundtracks and special effects alone won't explain your business. "Looks slick, doesn't say much" doesn't say these days.

This article outlines seven key steps to follow to create an explanation video for your business. It's an approach that builds on effective communication principles - storytelling, visual communication and objective-driven design. It steers you away from "looks slick" to "I get it." Hey, organizations like the White House and UPS have done it - you'll be keeping some good company.

Despite the simplicity, you'll probably skim this article and say "this is too much work." OK, but think how valuable a concise explanation will be. People search, skim and skip through web pages in less than a minute, but they'll give video material three minutes on average.

You can get across a great deal in two-three minutes with the techniques laid out here. Just follow the steps and no skipping:


1) Write Down Exactly What You're Going to Explain, to Whom, and Why


  • Define these for yourself in two pages or less, in writing. You know too much about your business.
  • Prioritize and edit the list of concepts that you have to convey to be successful, and make a valiant stab at defining your target audience.
  • If it doesn't fit in 2 pages, rewrite until it does; your two-page blueprint will guide the next 6 steps.


2) Collect the War Stories & Find the Key Conflict


The best way to engage people and stick in their memory is to tell them a story. Stories are compact, powerful and memorable; jargon and tech-blather aren't.

Your best story-source is probably the "war stories" that bounce around within your company. They stick around precisely because they capture the people and problems your business exists to address. Somewhere in those war stories are the conflicts your target audience will identify with.

  • Pick the best story, change the names and write it down.
  • If it's more than 500 words, rewrite. "This guy had this problem. He was not happy. We solved it. He's happier." Sanity-check it against your blueprint.


3) Draw One Simple Picture


You may say "I can't draw", or "our business is too complex", but both are inaccurate. The simplest box-and-lines scribbles turn abstract points into meaningful relationships and improve recall.

People retain about 10% of verbal-only and closer to 50% from a words-and-pictures explanation.

My view, backed by a lot of boring research, is that one picture is actually far superior to many pictures.

K.I.S.S. and save the napkin. (Cocktail napkins have changed the course of history - search "Laffer Curve Napkin" if you doubt.)


4) Try it, Live


  • Buy coffee for a business acquaintance and ask them for 10 minutes of their incredibly keen insight.
  • Draw a not-quite-complete version of your simple picture in advance.
  • Then just tell them the story, and fill in the picture as you go.
  • Get their feedback on the spot and again the next day; check it against your two-page blueprint.
    This has multiple benefits, including caffeine. You'll rehearse without knowing it (good). You'll get instant verbal and non-verbal feedback, and a sense of what's "sticking."
  • Try it on a few different people.


5) Record, Repeat


This is the point where most people start making excuses and reaching for the digital effects, but here's the tip that will take at least some of the anxiety out.

Just do what you did over coffee.

  • Tell your story to someone, live, and have them (or a friendly third party) shoot the video as you go.
  • You may have to repeat it a few times, but you won't be worried about whether you got the details and lines right.
  • Just tell them the story and connect the dots on your picture.


6) Edit Ruthlessly


With footage in-hand, there are desktop tools (Windows MovieMaker, Apple iMovie) or web-based tools (Animoto, Toufee) for easy editing. Check your decisions (and temptation to use eye-candy) against your written blueprint as you go. Good editing (in any medium) makes things simpler, shorter and better.

Some editing tools upload directly to YouTube and such, but make sure you export and save a high-res master copy (Quicktime MOV or MPEG-4 recommended.) You're not quite done yet, though.


7) Distribute, Tag, Seed


You need to help people find and see your explanation video. YouTube isn't the only video platform, but it does have dominant market share.

The minimal distribution strategy I would recommend is this. Upload your video to YouTube. Invest serious thought and research into the subject line (short & promising), description (short) and "tags" (keywords, basically) because they'll determine your search results. Don't just take the default "thumbnail" (preview image) - pick the best one-frame snapshot you can, or craft a graphic and upload it as a thumbnail.

You can embed the YouTube version on your own web site, but YouTube is blocked at some larger companies.

If your target audience includes large-corp viewers, use a professional video-hosting service to embed the video on your site. BitsOnTheRun and Wistia are both cost-effective for this.

Then, 'seed' exposure. Identify bloggers that your prospects might follow and share the YouTube link with them early.

Embed it on your company Facebook page, on everyone's personal LinkedIn and news wall.

Put the link (or a thumbnail image) in everyone's email signature.

Monitor the YouTube stats weekly, and build on the things that work.

Don't forget to show it inside the company - you may be surprised at the discussions it sparks.


Seem too simple? Take a look at - particularly the Startup America explanation. It's not elaborate, but it's clear and effective. (I think they could be seeding it more effectively, but Austan hasn't called me for advice - yet.)

Tell a story, draw a picture, and give your viewers ideas or insights that are useful even if they don't do business with you. Social-media dynamics move content toward interested audiences - the very people you want to reach. If you can't explain your business to them, who will?


Bare-Bones Video Gear Checklist


  • HD video camera ($99)
  • 4GB SD card from your sock drawer (free)
  • Tripod ($30) - put the camera at eye level
  • External lavalier microphone if your camera permits ($20)
  • Natural Light (free)
  • Shoot in 1080p / 30fps or 720p / 30fps (in case you hire a professional editor, or want to re-use footage later.)

Originally written by Matthew Dunn for the Say It Visually!, and first published as a PDF on April 13th, 2011 as "Like UPS & The White House: Shoot Your Own Explanation Video in 7 Step" - Republished with explicit permission from the author.

About Matthew Dunn


Matthew Dunn is co-founder of Say It Visually! He holds a PhD in Digital Media and an MFA in Directing. His career has included acting, directing, teaching, nearly a decade at Microsoft, Fortune 1000 Senior VP & CIO, tech startup CEO, and non-profit Executive Director. He writes, speaks, invents (12 patents) and is secretly learning to draw.

Photo credits:
Like UPS & The White House: Shoot Your Own Explanation Video in 7 Steps - Techno
Write Down Exactly What You're Going to Explain, to Whom, and Why - Dmitriy Shironosov
Collect the War Stories & Find the Key Conflict - Janaka Dharmasena
Draw One Simple Picture - Jesper Noer
Try it, Live - Yuri Arcurs
Record, Repeat - Brian Weed
Edit Ruthlessly - Magix
Distribute, Tag, Seed - mipan
Bare-Bones Video Gear Checklist - Eduard Härkönen

Matthew Dunn -
Reference: Say It Visually
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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, May 3 2011, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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