Fluffy scripts. Who needs them?
How do you turn theories into engaging content? When you’ve no idea how they work in real-life?
Want to get to the nub of the matter? And create workable scripts?
Help experts bring lofty ideas down to earth. Here’s how.
Problem script: Too abstract
Why it happens
When experts talk together they speak in the abstract. Here’s an example.
Skilled chess players talk about strategies together. They don’t talk about moving bishops diagonally; they take how each piece moves for granted. In other words, they talk in the abstract and dispense with concrete details that spell out the logic. But everyone knows what they mean.
Experts can talk in this kind of short hand because they share the same knowledge and experience. But the rest of us need a translation.
Problem script cure
i) Prime your expert – the rest of us need a translation
This is hard for experts to grasp. So an analogy helps. Explain that ‘speaking abstract’ is like designers talking about a machine … with only the blueprint for reference.
Designers know how the machine works. So they can visualise the blueprint in 3D – how the bits fit together and move. But for the rest of us the blueprint is just a load of lines on paper. We need concrete details to make sense of it and bring it to life.
So explain they can’t write in the same way they talk to their peers. Because it sounds like gobbledegook to everyone else.
ii) Guide experts to make it real
Prompt them to give examples, analogies and metaphors to pinpoint precisely what they mean. So you uncover the concrete details they take for granted. And so don’t say.
Here’s an example of the power of examples – see what I did there?
When armoured tank designers use abstract words like performance, safety and functionality it’s a short-cut. Because they know how these concepts save lives in the real world. There’s no need to spell it out.
But these words – performance, safety and functionality – leave people guessing. Because they mean different things depending on the context. So ask for examples to reveal what the expert means.
As it turns out, this is what performance, safety and functionality mean to ergonomic experts designing tanks.
We design the constricted tank space – seats, controls, displays – so if it’s hit by the enemy there’s enough room to drag soldiers out. Because if they can’t get out, they’d probably die.
Suddenly, performance, safety and functionality come to life. They mean something we can relate to.
So ask questions like these to make the abstract real.
- When do people need this …?
- How exactly do they use this …?
- What happens when…?
- What, specifically…?
- What’s the root cause of all this?
You understand how theories/concepts work in real-life from the off. So you can get on with turning them into engaging content.
Build strong client relationships
Do these conversations sound like hard work? More pain than their worth?
Perhaps you feel irritated? Or maybe stupid, when experts are surprised you don’t get it?
(It’s not personal. Many experts forget what it feels like to be a beginner. So there’s an empathy gap.)
But they’re worth the effort. Because when you get these conversations right you:
- Limit the frustration – on all sides – of batting the script to and fro.
- Avoid costly rewrites. So the client gets better value for money.
And the net result? Working with experts this way helps build positive, long-lasting client relationships.
Here’s how to avoid two more problem expert-scripts.