TechSmith Program Meeting Recap: Using Visuals in our Communication

by Tom Glennan

Do you know what search engine is the second largest after Google? Or how to use visuals and images to “flip” your documentation for meetings? Or even what Snagit and Camtasia are (and why you should know)? These and many other useful skills and tips were revealed and discussed at the October 14th program meeting, “Leverage the Power of Image and Video in Your Communication,” which was presented by Andrea Perry and Matt Pierce of TechSmith Corporation in Okemos, Michigan.

The meeting was held at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor and was very well attended by STC/SM members and other technical communication professionals and students. Matt began the meeting with his list of “15 uses for visuals” (including videos). He then provided a bonus by extending his list to include a total of ten more uses, with a few additional items volunteered by audience members. Included among Matt’s suggested uses for visuals and videos were some of the more common, such as supporting textual information, creating short “how to” clips, and usability testing “on the cheap.” But there were other uses that Matt covered which might not be so obvious, such as creating videos in anticipation of frequently asked questions (FAQs), video voice mail, and (my personal favorite) personalizing tech support answers for audiences that might not be technology or product savvy. The credibility and persuasiveness of the message were also mentioned by audience members as potential benefits of using images. Matt also cautioned, however, that not every situation calls for or benefits from videos or visuals, so the author or message creator needs to keep in mind the purpose and audience for the message when considering the use of images.

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techsmith-1Andrea then did an excellent job of conducting a “live” demonstration of the use of Snagit, a screen shot program created and distributed by TechSmith that captures video display and audio output. She showed the audience specific features and tools offered by Snagit, including quick styles, cut-out tools, frame capture, MP4 recordings, and a “blur” feature that hides bits on on-screen information when needed. This review of features was followed by many questions and comments from the audience regarding their own use of Snagit in their professional documentation and communications, covering tools such as how to create and use trays to making visuals, and using Snagit to grab a URL from the web to document the source of information used in an article. One demonstration that caught everyone’s attention and imagination was the use of the “connect mobile service” feature to wirelessly import video images from a mobile device to a laptop.

Andrea and Matt did a great job of explaining and demonstrating how to use videos and visuals, and products like Snagit, to increase the effectiveness and breadth of our technical communication products and services. And for those who have read this far, the second most popular search engine behind Google is…YouTube! Given the message we heard at this program meeting, that should come as no surprise.