Show or Tell: Should I Use Text or Video?

Show or Tell – Should I use text or video?

The debate between show or tell has existed since prehistoric times. But how do you know which one to choose?

Let me explain. Imagine someone rushing down the street, completely lost and running late for a special showing of Jurassic Park. He stops and asks you for directions to the movie theater. In this situation, you have two options: tell him, explaining the directions, or show him, opening Google Maps on your phone, complete with exact street names and distances—and even push the directions to his smartphone.


Which option is better?

This is a dilemma trainers face when trying to get their message out to an audience. Do they tell their message, leaving it open to interpretation, or do they show the audience exactly what they want them to see?

So how do you decide which is better: text or video?

Let’s go back to our lost moviegoer. If you know that the movie theater is around the corner, it’s easy enough to tell him to make a left at the end of the street. But if the theater is across town, it is more helpful to pull up the map so that he can see an exact representation of the directions. It takes more time and effort to pull up the map, but there won’t be any room for the moviegoer to misinterpret the information.

In the end, the answer to this debate comes down to this: What’s going to be easiest for your audience within the time they’re willing to commit.

The way to answer that question is to ask, what is the purpose of this content? Is your content meant to explain an easy-to-understand or concrete subject? Then it may be best to use text and pictures for a quick and easily understood answer. However, if you’re explaining a more abstract subject or looking to show every detail of your product, then it could be best to give them an exact, uncompromised look at the product or service.

For the latter, the better medium is almost always video.