If you're in a technical field, such as chemistry, engineering or software development, you're likely often faced with having to describe technical information to a diverse audience. While many people are comfortable with technical information, many are not. And in this case, you wind up facing the dreaded "glazed eye" syndrome, in which you struggle to keep your listeners engaged.
The first thing any communicator needs to do is to think about who his or her audience will be. Technical subject matter experts may need to communicate with three types of audiences. The first is a technically oriented audience, but one that doesn't necessarily include specialists in the same field. Examples include technical review boards and institutional review boards.
The second audience type includes managers who may have some technical knowledge, but who are really focused on the bottom line. The members of this group are business people at heart who are concerned about profit and loss.
The third type of audience is the general public, laypeople with little or no technical expertise, who can be easily overwhelmed if the speaker goes into too much detail.
Even though these audiences are quite different, the biggest barrier to clear communication is the same for all three: the deep knowledge of the expert. This knowledge can manifest itself in different ways. For example, when speaking to a technically oriented, but non-specialist audience, speakers often focus too much on process. Speakers may miss the mark with the second type of audience -- the managers -- by not getting to the bottom line. In the third case, they frequently overwhelm the audience with hard-to-understand technical details.
However, such barriers can be overcome by following five key principles:
- Creating an effective strategy
- Formulating a compelling introduction
- Sequencing ideas for communication flow
- Using story-telling techniques
- Employing metaphors to convey complex ideas
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