Audience, the Struggle for the Highly Technical

Over the past decade or so I have been working in various highly technical environments as a network and systems engineer.  During this time I have often struggled with how to effectively communicate to a diverse audience where technical people are mixed in with the “less than technical”.

 

I am lucky enough to have a blend of personality and technical ability that some of those I have worked with seem to lack.  Because of this I am frequently assigned tasks that require me to communicate with senior management and other groups, both internal and external.  Often this requires that I find a way to communicate highly technical information to non-technical people.  At first, I had a tendency to assume that there was a baseline of knowledge in the audience that would allow me to speak to them as if I were speaking to a technical peer.  Obviously, this approach failed and I had to devise a new strategy that wouldn’t alienate those who were stronger in business and lacked technical understanding.  My next approach involved a lot of analogies and “dumbing things down” a bit.  This approach was failed and I not only made the technical members of the audience bored I also made the non-technical members feel like I was talking to them the way they talk to their children.

 

More recently I think I have found a way to live in the grey area between “baby talk” and “tech jargon” that seems to be more effective.  While I present technical information I try to pause and make statements like “is everyone on the same page” or “do we understand …” When possible I also try to make sure that everyone is visually engaged and not drifting off.  Presenting or publishing for a diverse audience is always be a struggle for me and something that I will always have to work hard to improve on.

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2 thoughts on “Audience, the Struggle for the Highly Technical

  1. I often ask my audiences “Does that make sense?” It seems to work well to make sure everyone is on the same page. Just be sure to give them some time to answer. Good tips.

  2. It sounds like you’ve found your way after a rocky start.

    I hope you’re open to some editing comments since you’re a writer.

    1) “This approach was failed and I not only made the technical members of the audience bored I also made the non-technical members feel like I was talking to them the way they talk to their children.” –> The word “was” isn’t necessary in this sentence and there should be a comma after the word “bored”.

    2) You sometimes use the Oxford comma and sometimes you don’t. You should be consistent either way.

    3) “Presenting or publishing for a diverse audience is always be a struggle for me and something that I will always have to work hard to improve on.” –> The word “is” should be “will”.

    I don’t think it’s true that it will always be a struggle for you since you’ve already shown that you can learn. If you continue to do that, you will become an expert one day.

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