Are you talking the same language?

At a recent networking event I was given a really powerful example of how getting your message across clearly makes it so much more memorable, and how using the ‘wrong’ language can just lead to confusion…

The event was held at Rolls Royce in Derby by the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) and included a detailed tour of their Heritage Centre. This featured a vast array of jet engines, ship’s diesel engines and electronic devices from the very beginning of the technology until now and even featured a Vulcan Nuclear missile! The tour was initially guided by an ex-engineer of Rolls Royce who was clearly an expert in jet engine technology (and its history), but I had trouble keeping up and by the end my brain was a bit fried…

It’s not you it’s me…

The problem was that naturally the event attracted engineers and the majority of the assembled crowd were indeed engineers from a wide variety of disciplines so the talk was aimed at them. So for the first hour or so the guide would say things like: “…well of course as you ALL know, in a low-pressure environment the thrust coefficient delta matrix alignment vector moves logarithmically around the cosine heat influction plasma drag gradient in a pre-defined wave vortex, and predictably the level of perma-thrust available…” or something like that anyway. The problem is of course I can’t actually remember what he said really, because 99.9% of it went completely over my head. Now this is fine as I clearly wasn’t the target audience, but what was interesting is when the guide was called away temporarily…

Now I get it!

Another member of the team stepped in and continued the tour and his approach was quite different. He kept the technical jargon to a minimum and talked enthusiastically about how important each of the inventions was in general, and then he came up with this analogy that I still remember now (and probably always will):

What you’ve got to remember about the engines you’ve seen (referring to the latest Airbus engine) is that they take a squash court sized amount of air into the engine every second, and in the second chamber compress it to the size of a phone box. THEN, it gets pushed to the last chamber where it is further compressed to the size of a shoe box, before igniting it and expelling it out the back…

This simple description meant more to me than the previous hour or so of explanations. This is not a criticism of the first guide by the way, it is simply that the second guide talked ‘my language’. Undoubtably it was way too simplified for some of the assembled experts, but I think as a quick analogy it would hopefully resonate with a lot of people, experts or not.

Whose your audience?

The key thing is that the language, whether deliberate or not, was appropriate to me and therefore engaged me and left me with an explanation that I will probably never forget. We naturally gravitate towards ‘jargon’ because to us the words associated with our specialism aren’t jargon at all, they are simply ‘normal’. Therefore it can be difficult to step back and look at your communications from the outside, but it is absolutely worth doing. And it is not just about the verbal communication you use on the phone, at meetings or on video podcasts, nor is it restricted to the words you use in your printed marketing material, or on your website. Although these are of course vitally important. It also extends to the visual…

Look at it this way.

Presenting detailed, complicated, or technical information about your business can be a challenge and there is the danger of showing (and saying) too much, but you can help your audience absorb the information much easier by:

  1. Making good use of space. Don’t cram all of your content into one page, give it room to ‘breathe’ by breaking it up into sections and/or spreading across several pages. This way your audience will be more likely to take an interest in the first place
  2. Create a ‘visual hierarchy’: Use headlines and sub-headers to break up the content further to allow the reader to scan the content more effectively to find what they want
  3. Put some key points in boxes that are separate from the main text. Or use bullets like these ones – they make information easier to access
  4. Use graphs, imagery, icons and other graphics to illustrate key points, they can generally do the work of several sentences of explanatory text.
  5. Consider using infographics to explain concepts or present information instead of paragraphs of information, they are easier to digest and they are more memorable

If you would like advice on how best to present your information for your latest project we’d be happy to help you, so why not give us a call? We’d be happy to have a free no-obligation chat with you to help you speak the right language (verbal, written and visual).

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