Lifelong learning ensures quality and personal development. In order to support this, the tekom trade association is committed to promoting and strengthening professionalization and further education in technical communication (tcworld GmbH, 2018).
For this purpose, the trade association organizes numerous congresses and conferences, including the annual conference 2018, which took place from 13thto 15th November in the ICS International Congress Center Stuttgart.
We were on site with our own workshop, which we were allowed to hold twice for full number of participants - Tuesday and Wednesday. The participants were about 98% technical editors. No wonder, tekom is the trade association for this professional group.
But it is not as uniform as it first seems. Because the professional field of the technical editor is very broad. In this way, he writes the associated information products at every stage of the product life cycle. These are for example information concepts, release documents, sales documents, and much more. (tcworld GmbH, 2013)
How to increase productivity in dialogue
To be able to produce such documents, the technical editor must first talk to the client, but also to developers, product managers, marketing experts and other stakeholders. He must ask for the goals and wishes, special features and other necessary information. He has to enter into dialogue several times.
However, misunderstandings often arise in the dialogue. The reason is quite simple: every person has pictures in their minds when they talk about something. These pictures correspond to the own individual experiences and knowledge. When talking, these pictures are encrypted and transmitted to the interlocutor in the form of words and sentences. He receives them and must decipher them, transform them back into a picture. But his experience and knowledge are different from those of the other one.
For both the pictures are clear and it cannot look different. Therefore, misunderstandings stand out very late. The later, the more expensive it gets.
This can be avoided with the Visual Selling® method. Because now it is recorded during the conversation, what was understood. Differences become immediately visible and can be corrected. At the same time, the recipient does not need to spend the resources to get an own idea of the discussion. This saves time and money.
For technical editors, this is particularly interesting in the order clarification. Here many conflicts arise and there is a high potential for error. Because the client has a very clear idea of his wishes, but also of the product. The technical writer must first find out about them and process them in a way that makes them understandable to others.
Here, the Visual Selling® Discovery Punch helps, as a procedural model, which builds on the concept of logical levels of Dilts (Dilts, 2000, S. 667ff). He supports with appropriate questions about the context, the activities, the values, the identity and the desire. In this way, the problem of the client can be precisely identified and thus solved better and with higher quality.
Visual Selling® Discovery Punch - Interactive Experience in the Workshop
But other topics can also be clearly and simply discussed with the questions, supported by the visualization of the answers. How exactly this works, the participants of the two workshops learned at the tekom annual meeting. It was very interactive.
Right at the beginning we did the test: "Draw a tree!". In fact, mainly deciduous trees were drawn. But also conifers were there and some participants had recorded both. Everyone hears the word "tree", everyone knows immediately what it is and yet the pictures are different. If it had not been recorded, everyone would probably have thought they were talking about exactly the same object, the tree.
That such misunderstandings occur more frequently, the more complex the topic is, becomes clear quickly. To avoid this, it is therefore always recommended to ask questions. Are we talking about the same thing? - is the goal. But what should be asked if everything seems to be clear?
The visualization makes it visible. If you are not talking about the same thing, the result is an image that does not match the image of one of the conversation partners. This can then be corrected immediately. In addition, the visualization helps to find suitable questions. On the one hand, within picture it can be linked at certain points, on the other hand, only what is meaningful can be drawn. Word envelopes or unclear terms cannot be visualized.
It is even easier with a questioning technique, the Visual Selling® Discovery Punch (see Fig. 5). With him you can shimmy through the levels, like to jump once and reach your goal safely.
- Context: When will the product be used? Who uses it? How is it used? How does it look like? What are the weaknesses? Where do problems / risks occur? What should be considered? ... With these and other questions you get a picture of the context. Let describe it as accurately as possible. Find out as much as possible. The context will help you later in the product description, but also in finding solutions and presenting the solution.
- Activities: What activities are being performed? What is done in a particular situation? Which activities lead to which problems? This information also helps later in the documentation. Always focus on just one situation / problem. Question these as closely as possible. This is the only way to make your documentation understandable to the target audience.
- Values: What values are behind the product, behind the company? Which values are important to your conversation partner? What values might conflict with a product? What values does the target group have? Do you have problems using it? Because certain situations do not have to be immediately critical or problematic. Only when they conflict with values do they create problems. Ask the values with why, for what reason, wherefore.
- Identity: Now comes the question of identity. As who sees the target group itself? Are they innovative, creative, artists, ...? As who are they seen by others? Who would they like to be? To whom does the product help? The identity determines how the reader wants to be addressed. Thus, it significantly influences the text of the documentation.
- Desire: What is the situation in a perfect world, in which there are no limits, for the target group or your conversation partner? How is it in the ideal way? How should it be? Let your client or your opposite dream. Have the idea described as accurately as possible and ask again and again until an exact picture is drawn. The desire is the ideal image of the product and its application, which motivates the future user and perhaps also leads to the purchase decision.
After the theoretical introduction, the participants were asked, again. In groups of two, they practiced the discovery punch while simultaneously visualized what they were asking. They created great pictures, but also many aha moments. This became clear in the evaluation of the exercise. “What was going well?“, was the key question.
Only by visualizing, the topic became clear. A different understanding was quickly recognized and could be corrected. It also made it much easier to ask questions because the pictures made gaps, missing information visible. In addition, the interviewee could be given more appreciation, the participants said. It became clear that the questioner really listened and was interested in the subject of the other.
As the last workshop of the day the participant had a nice ending and were able to take many new insights for their daily work.
What experiences do you have with the Visual Selling® method? Do you have further ideas? Then write in the comment.
Dilts, R. B. (2000). Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding.Scotts Valley: NLP University Press.
tcworld GmbH. (2013). Technischer Redakteur. Abgerufen am November 2018 von Gesellschaft für technische Kommunikation - tekom Deutschland e.V.: https://www.tekom.de/beruf-bildung/technischer-redakteur.html
tcworld GmbH. (2018). tekom Programm 2018. tekom Jahrestagung 2018.Stuttgart: tcworld GmbH.