Connecting with the audience

Geeks have the knowledge to change the world – but only with the right communication skills

Albert Einstein Explaining difficult conceptsMost of the time, expertise is of neutral value unless you are able to communicate what you know to decision makers and colleagues in a way that they can use. It is the ability to persuade, argue, influence, explain and even inspire others into action that creates value from your expertise. For every idea which is misrepresented or undersold, value, opportunity (and money) is lost.

Whether we like it or not there is a recognised psychological effect known as Fundamental Attribution Error, where humans tend to make sweeping judgements about a person’s personality and competence based upon the ‘thin slices’ of information we have available. If you’re a great presenter, your audience is likely to assume you’re great at your job (and vice versa).

More simply, most people will only know what you do based upon what they see of you explaining it. Think of presentations as a game of ‘snakes and ladders’. Standing up to speak at a high profile event is an opportunity to shoot up in everybody’s estimation.  But it’s also a chance to slide if you’re not very good.

Being able to articulate fully and usefully what you know will prove your value and promote your cause, whatever it is.

Communications teacher, Melissa Marshall, believes that the future depends on the innovations of scientists, engineers and technical experts, and is passionate about helping them effectively tell the story of their work. She says:

“Science not communicated is science not done.”

I’d have to agree. It’s worth having strong presentation skills that you can apply to every presentation where your audience will be judging you and your capabilities on the basis of that single effort.

We talk elsewhere about our unique approach, the Fit Focus Flair model, but here are a few quick reminders about what it means to geeks and their messages:

1) Why is it relevant?

Great things happen when you put your audience first. Your audience is your greatest asset. Make it relevant to them and they will take notice of you.

  • What do they want/need to know?
  • What don’t they want/need to know?

2) Beware of jargon

  • What is the very least that you can say on the subject in the simplest way and the shortest possible time?
  • Which 5% of everything you could tell them about your subject, do you want them to remember most?
  • How can you deliver this message in the shortest possible time?

Making ideas accessible does not mean dumbing down but you do have to assume the audience have no prior knowledge of the subject you’re discussing.

No less a man than Einstein said:

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

But he also said:

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

(So hats off to you when you crack it…)

3) Use Image, Analogy and Fascinating Facts to make your message come alive

  • Make the presentation of this message as clear, logical and simple as possible – and as memorable as possible. Because that’s the whole point.

Too many bullets points, too much text and the language area of our brains will be overwhelmed. Appeal to our other senses and you create a deeper sense of understanding.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Watch Melissa’s brief TED talk, Talk Nerdy to Me! below:

 

Rosie Hoyland
Rosie is a writer and content creator and has worked for many years as a print and digital designer for The Message Business. When she’s not creating fantastic resources for our trainers and clients, she shares her presentation design wisdom here on the blog and over at Presentation Guru.
Rosie Hoyland
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