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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s awesome: animation video in proposals

Nowadays, calls for project funding go out to literally every research institution in the world, are shared through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and one call might result into over a hundred proposals.

How do you make your proposal stand out, how do you convince the donor of your capacity and research design and above all, how to create the winning proposal!?

One of the tools CIAT has been trying recently is combining word and images; moving images in this case. If you manage to get the essence of a ten-page proposal in a three-minute video, surely your message will be much stronger and will do a better job at convincing time-constrained potential funders.

As Andrew Jarvis, leader of the Decision and Policy Analysis research area at CIAT, puts it: “They say a photo speaks a thousand words.  Add some more zero’s to that in the case of an animated video”.

An example of a proposal where an animated presentation played a big role was for the Grand Challenge program by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Creativity and innovation were keywords in this call, which made it an ideal situation for accompanying CIAT’s proposal with an animated presentation. In only 4 minutes were we able to explain our complex idea, and with great success for we did get awarded the grant.

However, when using animated presentations there are various things to take in account:

scientistFirst of all, not every proposal might lend itself for moving images, happy music and symbolic movements. It is key to understand the tone of the call and decide whether or not it would be appropriate.

Furthermore, don’t underestimate the time necessary to find the language, symbols and metaphors that appropriately depict your work and are universally understood but yet sound and true to your research.

Simplicity is the strength of animated presentations, so make short movies that get to the point almost right away.

Consider the balance between phrases necessary to explain images and filling entire slides with words. Sometimes writing down some phrases is inevitable, for example when writing down the research question of main objective. This needs to be clear; black on white and written down. However, writing down your sub-objectives might be too much text and get confusing or boring for the viewer.

Consider the speed of the animated presentation. The golden rule is: always make it just a bit slower than you think is a right speed. When designing the presentation, you are completely enrolled in the topic, have thought many times about the images and words, and therefore ‘scan’ through the slide. However, someone completely new to the topic might need more time to absorb the information in the slide. Strike the right balance! Too slow and the viewer may get bored; too fast and s/he may miss something important! Ask your colleagues’ opinion. What you don’t want is the viewer clicking on the fatal red cross in the right upper corner of the player before the video is through.

Taking into account these golden tips, animated presentations can make you stand out: be creative and transparent, use the right symbolism and tone; and above all, make sure your message is clear and consider how it will be received by the donor.

We have used Powtoon for certain of our animated presentations (www.powtoon.com). Others possible tools available out there include Prezi, GoAnimate and Moovly.

That said, bring on the creativity!

More information:

Some of the videos used in past proposals will be listed here:

Manon Koningstein is a research associate and communications specialist working with the research team on Gender & Climate Change at the Decision and Policy Analysis area of CIAT and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

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