LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

September 2022
Volume 18, Issue 9

These are monthly tips on boosting business and professional results.

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Below find this month’s newsletter, hot off the press!

  • Special Message: Tips on Designing Focused Conversations that Produce Potent Results
  • Feature Article: Seven Ways to Use Information Design to Create Remarkable
    Audience Experiences (Part 2)

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Note from the Author

We’re Raising the Bar for Content Creation!

A palette of colorful paints

In my August newsletter, we initiated an invigorating investigation into the colorful subject of information design, the art and science of creating content, such as for training, business, technical, marketing, and educational purposes.

Many people tend to view the various disciplines involved in content creation as having relatively routine objectives, goals, processes, and methods.

But we know better, don’t we? What those folks might be missing is the notion that designing information is not simply about communicating ideas. It’s also about engaging people and helping them perform or respond to a call to action.

So, why don’t we measure the output of information design not just in words, pages, and screens, but also in terms of the doing and acting that results from using it? If you agree, then how results-producing is your content? For example, does it:

  • Help readers scan, skip, and retrieve exactly what they need to know?
  • Enable trainees to apply what they’ve learned in real-world situations?
  • Reduce support calls because customers can use systems, services, products, or devices without running into problems?

If so, that’s a great start! I have more valuable tips to share in today’s feature article, and next month’s newsletter will explore yet another important set.

Please enjoy this second installment, and be sure to share your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Tips on Designing Focused Conversations that
Produce Potent Results

Designing the Conversation by Russ Unger, Brad Nunnally, and Dan WillisWhen you speak in front of an audience, are you often in the position of engaging the participants in a dialog? For example, are you typically seeking input on a design, planning a project, running a focus group, or conducting usability testing?

Whenever you need to give a presentation and also orchestrate a discussion of some kind, this book can help you in several key areas: Designing the Conversation: Techniques for Successful Facilitation, by Russ Unger, Brad Nunnally, and Dan Willis.

The wide-ranging topics can help you:

  • Bring together diverse project teams, stakeholders, and clients
  • Create meeting agendas and plan to engage different personality types
  • Prepare, practice, and deliver high-stakes presentations
  • Manage workshops, brainstorming sessions, interviews, and focus groups
  • Facilitate activities related to presentations, virtual seminars, and lectures
  • Manage Q & A from audiences of all sizes

The interesting perspectives provided by the three authors — plus numerous guest experts — offer a rich palette of ideas and approaches. There is something for nearly every occasion that can help us engage in productive conversations in a variety of settings.

Feature Article

Seven Ways to Use Information Design to
Create Remarkable Audience Experiences (Part 2)

by Adele Sommers

In Part 1 of this series, we began exploring the “secret sauce” behind designing riveting audience interactions. Perhaps you’re an instructional designer, technical communicator, business writer, interface designer, Web developer, or multimedia content creator. Regardless of your role, your mission is to produce remarkable experiences that galvanize the attention of your users, readers, visitors, viewers, customers, or learners — and inspire them to take appropriate action!

Drawing depicting "Information Design = User Experiences" You might be producing a Web site, publication, training course, marketing message, multimedia production, or some other content. In any situation, you can engineer success by making your material clear, memorable, and easy to use.

Part 1 explored the first three of seven tips for supporting your audiences when you want them to understand, learn, and do:

A. Lay a Foundation for Clear Understanding

Tip #1: Use persona profiles to understand what makes your audience tick
Tip #2: Structure information to help people scan, skip, and retrieve what matters
Tip #3: Strive to limit audience overload, especially in training and presentations

This next set of tips pertains to a deeper layer of audience success — how to anticipate what your audience members might be doing or encountering at any given moment when using what you produce. Once you’ve really thought this through, you can fine-tune what you’ve created to help users achieve their real-world goals more easily, while helping them avoid annoyances, hassles, and even catastrophes!

B. Help Your Audiences Do What They Really Need to Do

Tip #4: Research your audience’s “circumstances of use”

What are circumstances of use? They’re when, where, and how your audiences use your information, systems, Web sites, products, or services.

Many times, we assume that customers, readers, learners, and visitors interact with our “stuff” in perfectly simple, mundane ways. When that’s not the case, it can be aggravating to devastating if our offerings can’t or won’t respond appropriately. For example...

Woman checking her mobile device

Routine circumstances involve the range of normal or typical modes in which customers consume what you offer, such as at home, in the office, at school, while exercising, or on the go. These uses frequently occur in perfectly sunny, non-stressful conditions, with plenty of access to customer support in case anything goes wrong.

Non-routine circumstances, on the other hand, are atypical, unusual, or even extreme conditions under which people might need to engage with your products, services, systems, or information, including:

  • Risky or incomplete states, such as when outside of wi-fi range; during power outages; without sufficient tools, training, or resources; or wrestling with a substandard system infrastructure.
  • Man reading a map on a deserted roadStressful or isolated conditions, such as during off-hours, in stormy weather, or in remote locations.

    In those situations, your customers might be working late at night, on a holiday, or weekend; or traveling (or lost!) somewhere in the field.

    That’s when it may be impossible to contact customer support to ask for help if anything has failed.

So, can your offerings pass the “midnight test”? In suboptimal circumstances, how would your products and services react? Would they be able to complete the action flawlessly, or, almost as ideally, explain to your customers how to stop the action intelligently and harmlessly, as well as what to do next?

Each of these scenarios is a “use case” that begs you to imagine its ramifications and solve it before your customer’s next emergency occurs!

Tip #5: Eliminate all unneeded tasks; test everything for ease of use

Man looking frustrated
Have you ever thought about how we all, as consumers, expect things to work exactly as advertised?

Yet we find many products, manuals, and services that don’t help us at all. Instead, they introduce complex requirements and burdens of their own.

Some things are so ridiculously difficult to fathom that they can actually prevent us from doing what we were trying to do when we turned to them for help in the first place! And we might find little aid in the related documentation.

So, be aware that your customers, too, can become terribly frustrated by make-work tasks, such as:

  • Hunting endlessly for information

  • Performing quirky installation procedures

  • Laboring through confusing setup or assembly instructions

  • Guessing how to complete convoluted configuration and maintenance tasks
  • Troubleshooting bugs and problems still lurking in the product — and then
  • Waiting on hold for a customer support rep, only to be redirected back to Square One!

That’s why you’ll want to avoid introducing mind-numbing consumer “hassles” into your own products, devices, services, Web sites, systems, and manuals. To do this, use the following six ease-of-use tips:

  1. Aim to support your customers primary goals for doing their real jobs.

  2. Woman happily using her laptopDesign your offerings as simply as possible, without creating any confusion or busywork.

  3. Guide people through exploring more complex features when they’re ready.

  4. Make all elements of your publication, product, or system fully compatible and consistent.

  5. Make sure the system or item is simple to use from your customers’ point of view, such as by repeatedly testing the structure, layout, and interface design with representative users.

  6. Make sure the system is straightforward to maintain and test from your own point of view. Avoid becoming “booby-trapped” by products or systems that become so complex that you can no longer determine whether they function correctly!

In Conclusion...

Your audience’s success depends to a large extent on how carefully you consider usability and their circumstances of use. Eliminate headaches, heartaches, and hassles by using these tips, and stay tuned for Part 3!

Copyright 2022 Adele Sommers

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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