The subtle art of communicating complex concepts with animation
If you really think about it, a college professor teaching medicine and a comedian aren’t so different from each other. Both are standing in front of an audience, fishing for attention while holding back the desire to yell at the rude guy in the back. But comedians have an advantage – their stories are really simple and anyone can understand them.
Professors, or doctors and businessmen, are all on a quest to explain abstract and complex concepts that take a high comprehension level and background knowledge to understand. If you’re one of them, fear not my friend, because today I will give you some tips to make your job a whole lot easier.
The subtle art of explaining complex concepts with animation
Different branches of psychology have devised many models to justify the brain’s strengths and weaknesses. According to NLP (Neuro-linguistics programming) theories, people have 3 preferred information processing methods – some “see” the world (The Visuals), some “hear” the world (The Auditories), and the rest “feel” the world (The Kinesthetics). Stimulating the audience’s senses with visual or audio effects is like a mental lubricant, it makes the learning process a lot easier and smoother. This consequently maximizes the viewers’ experience and helps them retain information a lot longer.
When dealing with advanced or specialized information, you need all the help you can get to achieve this feat. Today’s your lucky day, because animation can offer you the best of 3 worlds!
And here are 10 tips on how to utilize animation to spice up your complex presentation.
Don’t use too much text
Your audience can read faster than what can be talked in the animation. And since you already have a narrator, why waste time with a bundle of text on your video? The viewer will have finished reading what’s on the screen before the narrator can, and that leaves them with time to spare, silently waiting for the narrator to move on to the next topic.
Moreover, a wordy frame isn’t captivating. Unfortunately, not a lot of people like reading anymore, so what’s the point of trying to stuff hundreds of words inside their heads? Instead, keep information in the form of one-liners, keywords or photos. You know the rule of thumb for every storyteller: show, don’t tell. So don’t waste your time and everyone else’s time typing a 1000-word prose into the video.
Utilize icons and pictures.
Instead of text, use icons and pictures instead. This appeals to those who learn primarily through observing, through a process of stripping information down to the core and visualizing that essence with colorful symbols and photos. But it’s also advisable that you don’t overdo it. A video that’s too radiant might be distracting not only to the Visuals but also the others, rendering itself counter-effective.
This is extremely important when you need to explain abstract concepts. If your audience is ready to listen to complex concepts, they are definitely able to associate the icons and pictures with the metaphors you’re presenting. For example: if you’re talking about love (which we all know is a super obscure, undefined force), sprinkle some hearts and people hugging each other in there.
Feature distinctive voice overs
Don’t just hire a business-like voice like many corporates, they are too generic and too often are associated with unwanted ads people have to watch daily.
Opt for voices that are somewhat exotic and emotional instead. If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional, why not teach yourself how to talk so people will listen? And if you need inspiration, listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and ask yourself how on Earth can he be so enthralling while talking about astrophysics.
Include engaging music and sound effects
This is simple, you want your animated video to be lively and not dry. Adding sound effects create a stimulating experience for your viewers, reeling them in instead of letting them drift away in boredom. In most cases, you’re better off choosing upbeat music and funny sound effects, but of course, it should depend on your situation and the vibe you’re trying to give off. You may like to view our guide for free instructional music here!
Your animated characters are not subject to the laws of physics like us. They can do anything you want them to do, including what you only wish you could do in real life. For example, with topics like medicine and construction when you need to explain what happens inside your body on a microscopic level or the buildings of sewers, you can introduce animated humans into such settings. They won’t complain, trust me.
But the most important point is animated characters can express feelings better than real people. They can turn their faces red when angry, or literally give that puppy look and a disgusted glance just seconds later. And because of this, animated characters can convey feelings of the most extreme level, consequently capturing the audience’s attention as if they were watching a Hollywood movie. This works wonders if there are a good number of Kinesthetics in your audience.
That said, use a plot if possible
While we’re on the topic of introducing characters for emotional values, why not write a whole story or film plot? Humans have always been storytellers, ever since we were living in caves. And since you’re informing your audience of new and complicated ideas, a good solution is to sandwich it with something they’re already familiar with – stories.
Animation and storytelling go hand in hand, fusing together to make the best catalyst for emotions, reeling everyone in with funny, sad, triggering images, you name it. Even the toughest Kinesthetics will have their pickles tickled.
Keep it short
Unless your audience are doctors or businessmen intensively focused on learning the topic, your best bet is that their attention rate will decrease slowly and slowly until you surpass that 10 minute mark.
And let’s not ignore the obvious fact that you’ll be wasting a lot of time making a long animation. So do yourself and the organization a favor, keep it short, preferably 3-5 minutes.
Leave out the jargon
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Einstein.
If you’re not talking to your colleagues – those who you discuss with everyday – stay away from technical terms. What you’re trying to accomplish here is explaining complex concepts, remember? What good does it do if you’re only adding more complicated stuff in? So when you write the script for the narrator, try to keep the language as simple as middle school reading level.
Engage your audience with activities
In case your video cannot be shortened, give them intermissions or activities to loosen their minds and refresh their focus. Let the narrator interrupt the video and lead them into some fun activities, preferably something they can do without leaving their seats, you don’t want to cause too much chaos.
An example is creating an immersive experience by having the narrator telling the audience to close their eyes and imagine or think about the topic of the video. This changes the setting and therefore, spikes their attention.
Break the video into small, manageable parts
Animation is essentially a manifestation of a presentation, so there’s no reason why we can’t apply the rules. Create outlines or indexes and cue the start of every session. When dealing with difficult information, everyone appreciates a good overview of the lecture.
And too often, the viewers have a preferred session in mind, and they wait for the video to quickly get to that part. So what you shouldn’t do is run the animation for 10 minutes as a whole. Instead, break it down; for example, what are you talking about from 00:00 to 01:00? What about from 01:00 to 03:30? By doing that, you are constantly keeping the audience on edge and listening attentively.
I know this is a total cliché, but the tools you have don’t matter as much as how you use them. There’s a plethora of animation styles to go with, be it a simple whiteboard video or a 3D one, what matters is how you shape the content to suit your audience. Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to explain something complicated, and you’ll do just fine.
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