Creating an entry point for complicated topics

At the end of last week I reached out directly to the members of my email list to learn some of the things that they’re struggling with right now.  I had a great response and received some nice detailed replies, which I really appreciate.

What did I learn?  Most of you are not really focused on the web or tech right now.  It also appears that my cartoons are more important to you than I give them credit.

For many of you, the cartoons are not just diversions but tools.  Tools that you use to introduce complicated concepts to different audiences.

When I talk about my cartoons off the web, I call them entry points.  You can take just about any tough concept and introduce it with a cartoon.  The format is straightforward and forces you to strip away a good bit of jargon.  You end up with a doorway to a deeper discussion.

Don’t worry if you’re not a cartoonist, there are other things you can use as entry points, I’ll discuss further.

In this post:

  • I talk about how your audience is likely a bit stressed out and overwhelmed;
  • mention how we speak different languages;
  • talk about creating entry points;
  • and explain why any entry point should be backed up with expertise.

Not unmotivated, just stressed out and overwhelmed.

In my deductive presentation post, I made a mistake. I referred to your audience on the web as unmotivated.

Your audience is not unmotivated, they wouldn’t even be attempting to read your stuff if they were unmotivated. But if your audience is anything like my audience, you can just replace the word “unmotivated” with “stressed out and a little overwhelmed.”

When I reached out to my email audience asking for their struggles, one of the things I heard over and over again was how there is way too much to do but not enough time. And this from those who actually made the time to respond.

My stress level went up just reading the responses.

We are in an age of information overload, it’s time to stop ignoring it.

Person talking to someone sitting very still in a chair.  "Since you appear to be in some type of stress induced coma, should I just assume you don't want to start a blog?"

We speak very different languages.

Like it or not, you’re full of jargon. We are all full of jargon, this includes your audience.

It’s hard to connect when you don’t know your audience’s blah blah blahs as well as your own.

This is the other thing I heard over and over again. How it’s a struggle to communicate concepts in a way that sticks and resonates. How they were struggling because someone else failed to communicate concepts in a way that sticks and resonates.

Much of my audience is here because the cartoons help.  They use them in lectures, presentations, guides, and books to introduce and explain concepts. And they want more.

Two people, each saying blah blah blah but in different shapes.

Creating entry points.

A cartoon can be an entry point. A story can be an entry point. A blog post can be an entry point. An animation can be an entry point. An Ignite presentation can be an entry point. An infographic can be an entry point. An interactive data visualization can be an entry point. A TED talk can be an entry point.

Entry points create opportunities to bring those outside of your field into the discussion. The formats work to distill points and help to strip away the academic speak, techno babble, and other types of jargon.

Entry points are critical in the interdisciplinary world we live in. They’re also more interesting and fun, making discussion more appealing to those who know the stuff but are too stressed out and overwhelmed to be made to work for it.

I’m going to create more entry points. For my own work, and for your work too.

Two people standing by a tower.  One saying, "I don't think I'd mind the ivory tower, if it just had a door."

Back up your entry points with expertise.

If you don’t provide a mechanism to go beyond the entry point, it’s not an entry point. Instead, it’s an oversimplified interpretation.

Entry points spark discussion, but when that discussion starts, you, the expert, need to take charge. This could be leading a larger discussion. It could be a Q&A or webinar.

Entry points can also spark interest, and when an audience is interested, you need to follow up with more depth. This could be a formal report. It could be a longer presentation or a journal article. It could be a book. It could be a blog, backing up the entry point slowly over time, post by post.

Entry points are the start, you need to provide the finish.

I think I’ve done an ok job with the entry points but not as well with the follow through. Time to make a change.

Rochelle Zorzi and Dayna Albert reached out to me about creating a cartoon to help communicate a central concept for Evaluations that Make a Difference.  It seemed like a good time for an animation, so we worked together to create one.  If the request was something that would just end with the animation, I would not have done it.  But I know it will be backed up with expertise.

My next move.

I’ve decided not to wait too long before releasing the thing I’ve been working on. It’s kind of hard to explain too much without giving it all away, so I won’t. You’ll learn soon enough.

Let’s just say, I think I have something that is going to work for most of you. More cartoons, animations, and other entry points on concepts where there is an audience need. Plus a mechanism for deeper discussions and ongoing learning in the topic areas where I have expertise (social media, data collection, analysis and visualization).

Join my email list if you want to stay updated or leave a comment if you would like to continue the discussion.

2 Comments

  1. karen on January 22, 2014 at 12:14 am

    On point as usual Chris, can’t wait to see what you have in store!

    -Karen



    • Chris Lysy on January 22, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Thanks Karen, hope I don’t disappoint 🙂