Product managers must be effective communicators. We have ideas and product concepts to share, but the best idea will fall flat if not properly explained in terms our audience understands and appreciates. Further, if the idea is complicated, we have to find ways to make it easy to understand.
This is the world that my guest, Lee LeFever operates in. He is the author of The Art of Explanation – Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand.
In this interview, Lee shares the 3-step approach to explaining any product idea – the 3Ps of…
- packaging, and
Lee has also made a free eCourse available for learning how to share your ideas in ways that audiences fall in love with them. The free eCourse is called Explainer’s Secret Weapon.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- Product managers always need to explain ideas clearly, but there are two times that are most challenging and most important – explaining a new product concept to stakeholders, especially those who fund projects, and explaining a new product to customers. Is your framework applicable to both situations? Absolutely because they both require you to think really hard about your audience and empathize with them. That’s what I mean by thinking hard about your audience – empathy is something that has to be part of your process because explanations live or die based on how they’re perceived by your audience. Put yourself in their shoes and think, how is this going to sound to them. The problem is, when we’re busy, when we’re under pressure, when we have deadlines, that sometimes falls by the wayside and we revert back to the language that worked for us in other settings. I think you’ve really got to get out of your head and into somebody else’s head to make communication effective.
- Let’s discuss the three components of your framework – the 3 P’s: Plan, Package, Present. What steps do product managers take to plan for such a communication? Planning is thinking about a situation and asking questions about what you are communicating. Sure, you’ll consider if the information is factually correct, that it is the right information to communicate, this it is branded correctly, etc. But there’s a question that is THE question… is this understandable? Are you using familiar language that people are going to actually be able to understand? That’s the real message of the plan part of developing explanation is making understanding a priority and being very intentional about that. To plan correctly, consider these three guidelines:
- Anticipate needs of the audience
- Focus on the purpose you wish to achieve
- Ask if your message is understandable to the audience
- What is involved in the second P, Package? Packaging is the process of looking at the facts and the information you want to communicate and then figuring out a way or thinking through how to put that information into a world the audience will understand. An example that I use for this is superstitions and fables. Fables are a great example. Sometimes I say, “do you really think it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, or is it really just not a good idea?” I think it’s really just not a good idea, but it doesn’t work just to tell someone they shouldn’t walk under a ladder. You have to repackage it and turn it into something that’s actually useful for them. I think there’s a lot of ways to repackage ideas, but the things that are most effective is to look at the facts you’re trying to communicate and ask what’s the context? Is there a story that you can tell or an anecdote that you can use to explain these facts more effectively, or is there an analogy or connection that you can make to existing knowledge that they have, that gives those facts more meaning to them? These are all things that take the facts and put them in a different form so that they’re more understandable. Consider these guidelines for packaging…
- Consider fables and well-known sayings
- Identify the context and use story to explain facts
- Relate your message to the familiar
- The final P is Present. What does that involve? It’s finding opportunities to move beyond documents and presentations with too many bullet points to count and thinking about how to use visuals, drawings, models, or whatever it is, to make your explanations more compelling and more interesting to connect with your audience. Use these guidelines for presenting…
- Use of visual media – make your message more compelling and interesting
- Present in a way that allows the audience to see and hear at same time
- Lee’s book, The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand
- Common Craft, Lee’s company that makes ready-made videos and visuals to enhance your messages
- Lee’s free eCourse, Explainer’s Secret Weapon
“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
Listen Now to the Interview
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