Speaking in bytes…but do they understand?

These days, there is a considerable quantity of technology talking around us. The other day, I was in a Christmas party and I realized that most of the people there would know what a Gigabyte, a pixel or WI-FI are. Conversations on such terms, which were considered technical just a few years ago, are common in our daily routine.

But despite this popularization, there is still a considerable mass of population with limited knowledge of technology. Therefore, it is key not to assume that everyone can always follow our discourse. Presenting a product to a client, discussing with the leadership possible courses of action in a technical decision, or training users into a new system or technology are situations where the communication can be the critical fact between success and failure.

In some cases, it can be challenging adapting the speech while communicating the technical concepts. If in our daily work we are sunk deep in our technology wording it can get difficult to differentiate the specialized language from the simpler language that most of the people can follow.


Practice is basic in easing the language adaptation, but let me explain the main tips that work for me when facing the communication challenge:

Though it seems pretty obvious, the first step is assessing the technical knowledge of the person or people you are talking to. Learn about their most used gadgets, systems or programs, and how do they use them. Be careful when asking not to sound condescending, but interested in their background. Questions like “are you familiar with the use of this tool?”, or “what are the programs that you use in your work day?“ can go a long way determining the technical words that the interlocutor might be familiar with.

Also, listen to the audience, check the terms they use when asking questions or making statements and try to use them when building the answers. Be ready to ask for a broader explanation if you are unsure on how they understand a specific term.

Finally, make sure to explain functionalities, not technical features. Use pros and cons analysis to make a point where the features are key. Remember to state pros and cons in a way that the interlocutor can understand the differences between the proposed options – for example, don’t just say a feature is better, but explain the benefits that the person will be able to experience or measure.

I have the firm belief that the days of “sounding smart” by being unintelligible are far past us. My personal point of view is that being clear and adjusting the speech is part of the added value you can bring to your company and product.

And you, have you ever felt misunderstood when trying to explain a technical concept? What are your tips to adequate your speech to your audience?

Source: http://www.anywherexchange.com/2013/08/project-management-swing-tree.html