Engaging Your Audience

Team Meeting

Team Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Engaging your audience is critical for designing effective documentation, videos or online training.  With needs analysis, you can build the right tools at the right time, saving hundreds of hours of rework or waste.

Here is a recent example. Not long ago, I was told by a leader in product development to build an internal training video on a new software feature in our software-as-a-service or SaaS offering. We had added the feature to stay competitive, and we were charging clients an extra fee for it.

I know video projects can easily take 50 to 75 hours. So, I set out to engage and meet the end users of the video. I found the product owner plus team leads in implementation, sales and support teams. I asked “Are you interested in a video on this topic?”

I found out there was only one client purchasing the new feature, a pilot client. A handful of people were engaged with the pilot client, including the product owner who already knew a great deal about the new feature. Within the largest teams, the implementation and support teams, the team leads told me this feature was simply too new to learn because it was not being used by the majority of clients.

I also knew from my own experience working in software companies that a new feature is subject to change, just like the first model of a car rolling off the factory line. Based on the pilot client’s feedback, the feature itself could be very different in a few months, both in workflow and appearance. Building a video too early might mean hours of redoing and adding content later.

In this case, instead of making a video, we simply made sure all product documentation was in place for our teams. The marketing team assembled a short slide deck to help our sales team explain and sell the new feature.

Then we waited for client adoption. I always keep proposal backlogs, and I kept checking back every month to gauge client interest on this feature. Once the pilot client had successfully implemented the feature plus a number of clients were starting to buy it, it was time to start making the video. I engaged the pilot team plus the product owner, and we made sure the original release documentation was updated based on what we learned in the pilot. I then produced, released, and advertised the new feature video with many successful views, because it was the right tool at the right time.

Building a piece of documentation, a video, or an online training course is often done without a direct connection to the audience. This may seem like an easy way to do the job. We just go build it, and keep our fingers crossed that someone uses it. I have seen this pattern over and over in different jobs, similar situations.

However, there is a great deal of risk in this method, and often many hours wasted. What if we spend 50-100 hours to build something too soon, and then we have to rebuild it again in a few months? What if the new feature cannot be sold for a year or is sold to only a few, reducing the value of the product documentation, video or course?

Engaging your audience and asking a few more questions before you start a large project is the smart and efficient way to go.

 

A Research Paper for the Portfolio

Employers want proof. So you say you are a writer? What have you published?

Most of my professional writing cannot be published on my website. My work is often sold directly by my employers or restricted to inside publication.

If you have that problem too, take a closer look at opportunities to write elsewhere. For example, I write research papers often for college courses.

Today I posted this research paper on the ADDIE and Kirkpatrick training models for my portfolio:

A Training Models study

I wrote this paper for a short cram course entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” based on the popular work of Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Yes, I will “Sharpen the Saw” often. I am a life-long learner.

What do you do to prove what you’ve done? How can you capture and show someone your greatest achievements?

Creating a Portfolio

Employers want proof. It is not all applications and interviews. When you finally have someone’s attention, job hunting is about what you have done.

Handing someone an entire book won’t work either. You have to scrub it, strip it down and make it digestible. Think short and sweet. A few minutes will be all the time you have to make your point.

Good news! Creating a portfolio does not mean spending a lot of money. I have created everything here with tools I already own or by using free evaluation software. YouTube, WordPress and SlideShare host my content for free. What you will spend is time. It’s worth it.

Today I’m celebrating as I post this portfolio piece. On to the next one!

A technical writing project describing online banking software through flow charts, test scripts and detailed instructions.

What do you do to prove what you’ve done? How can you capture and show someone your greatest achievements?