How to Explain Complex Ideas

Emily Triplett Lentz

Emily Triplett Lentz

How do you explain a complex idea — simply and so anyone can understand it? While you'll find plenty of existing resources on how to break down complex concepts in a way your audience can understand, it's harder to come by advice about which channel is best for communicating your message in the first place.

Should you record all your thoughts in a long document that you then distribute and ask everyone to read? Put a slide deck together and call a meeting to present it to everyone involved? Send a multi-paragraph email with several attachments for review? 

When your message is an important one, it’s easy to overthink how you’ll communicate it to others.

Further Reading

The Best Way to Break Down Complex Ideas So Anyone Can Understand Them — The Muse

How to Explain Complex Ideas (Like Tech) to Those Who Don’t Understand — Lifehacker

10 ways to explain things more effectively — TechRepublic

Why video is ideal for explaining complex ideas

Recording a video message is often the best way to explain yourself. It not only saves you time, it’ll ensure your recipients absorb the material you’re sharing with them.

By recording your screen and your voice (or your face — which we recommend!) at the same time, you get to walk your recipient through your entire process. Because they get to watch and listen at the same time, versus having to consume a wall of text, they’ll remain engaged and be likelier to absorb all the information you need them to.

6 examples of complex concepts explained via video

1. Helping users follow technical instructions

Allen Gaudinier is a Technical Support Engineer at Loom, who often creates video messages to communicate with users who need to take several steps to solve their problem — it’s faster and clearer than writing them all out.

‍With this loom, Allen helped a customer fix an issue with embedding a video on their website.

“When we create a Loom to communicate with users,” Allen says, “they feel it's more personal, as well as easier to follow technical instruction.”

He also creates videos for our own internal articles, to walk Loommates through the steps they need to take to perform their jobs effectively.

2. Reporting an issue

Recording a Loom works wonders for QA — as we’ve seen, it’s much easier to “show and tell” someone what’s broken, or what you’d like to see changed. 

Pedro Valle used Loom to alert Twitter for Business that a particular CTA was down. They fixed the issue in minutes (and they even sent him a thank-you note)!

3. Sharing useful content with a niche audience

CPA Akshay Shrimanker is a tech startup accountant. He used Loom to to explain the Paycheck Protection Program to Early Stage Tech Founders:

Shay drills down into the nuances of this program in a way that serves his core audience — an excellent example of using Loom to create valuable content!

4. Adding context to Pull Requests in Github

“Loom is extremely helpful explaining complicated Pull Requests in Github,” says Geoff Lawson, a Senior Software Engineer at Loom. “I can easily explain the reason for a change, or explain the complexity for some code by dropping the Loom link in the Pull Request's description. This saves time by providing context and clarity, resulting in less back and forth questioning during the review process. It also provides a great historical context for code decisions.”

In this Github issue, Geoff included a link to a Loom in the “Screenshots” field to help illustrate a problem he was experiencing with Electron, the framework Loom’s desktop version is built in. This way, others on the same open source project could see and understand the issue.

5. Giving a product demo

Seekwell’s product allows users to run and send SQL queries to Google Sheets, Slack, or email. “We have a pretty minimal UI, which can make it complex to get started,” says Mike Ritchie, the company's Co-founder and CEO.

‍Ritchie sent this quick, informal demo to a Seekwell customer to get them up and running with their product.

We’re big fans of using Loom for product demos ourselves. Especially now, sales teams will benefit from adapting their traditional approaches, and differentiating themselves with prospective customers. 

6. Delivering remote lectures

Loom is free for teachers and students, and especially in the era of COVID-19, educators all over the globe have been using it to deliver lessons to their classes.

Jason Ramasami is an educator and visual storyteller who used Loom to record this introduction to Buddhism for his students.

Give it a shot

Recording a video message is a highly efficient, effective and expressive way to get information across. And unlike many meetings or presentations, the video lives on — it can be referenced again and again, by anyone who needs to see it, at whichever time is most convenient for them.

The next time you need to explain something with a complexity level beyond a few lines of text, try recording a loom video!

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Emily Triplett Lentz

Written by Emily Triplett Lentz

Emily heads up the Content team at Loom.

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