TBV Insights

Explainer video production questions for subject matter experts

Knowledge transfer is the aim of most of the videos we make. When you begin an explainer video production project, the “knowledge” you want your prospect to take on board resides in the minds of subject matter experts — salespeople, product managers, marketers and engineers. Some subject matter experts (e.g., salespeople) are invested in the success of the video. Others may resent having to invest their valuable time in a marketing initiative that’s not central to their real job.

We like to keep our “interviews” short, informal and conversational because what we’re really trying to discover is, not how a solution works, but how it’s best explained. Here are a few questions you can ask your SMEs that will help make the knowledge transfer go smoothly.

What do people have the most trouble understanding about your solution?

This question helps to focus the conversation on learning needs and away from video content. It can help in structuring the explainer video production content, too.

What do you think should be the three most important takeaways from this video?

You may think this is something marketing should have determined before embarking on a video project in the first place — and that may be the case. Nonetheless, when we have more than one SME in the conversation, this question can surface some highly productive arguments. If you’re using a whiteboard (real or online), you can stop and ask the SMEs to write down their answers. Comparing the differing priorities can be very instructive for everyone — not least, the people responsible for writing the script.

What most surprises people about your solution?

A surprising first line like “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,” plunges you into a memorable story (Orwell, 1984). You may not surprise your audience in the opening scene of your video, but it’s good to keep in mind that people are more likely to remember something that surprises them than something they were expecting.

Can you draw me a picture? or show me a diagram?

Video is a visual medium. Nuff said.

Could you explain that in different words or with a different scenario?

Subject matter experts usually have several ways of explaining things — you’re trying to come up with the best one. Even if you think you’ve understood the first explanation, it’s a good idea to consider alternative approaches — your SME may help you come up with one that is especially well suited to explainer video production visual storytelling.

Isn’t that a claim your competitors make for their solution?

Clearly, you want to stay away from a video that says the same thing your competitors’ videos say. Viewers don’t always differentiate clearly among competing solutions. This helps you focus on the real points of differentiation.

What can we say about your solution that the competition can’t claim for theirs?

This is a particularly good one to ask salespeople, as they’re usually on top of claims made by the competition. The answer also comes back in the form: “They say they do this, but they don’t.”

Would it be fair to say . . . ?

In conducting an SME interview, we find that it helps to paraphrase repeatedly. When you reframe what you think you understand “in other words,” it helps the SME understand whether or not the explanation is working — and what important points may be getting left out.


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