Do you have something that you want to communicate to a large audience?
Is that audience made up of a variety of people, only some of whom are in your field?
Do you find that it is sometimes difficult to get them to listen long enough to hear the whole idea and understand the complexities and nuances within your idea?
If so, then welcome to the world of communication.
One of the memes I hear a lot coming from people with technical backgrounds is that they don’t want to have to “dumb down” their work so that the masses can understand them. Naturally, the concern is that by making it too simple one loses sight of the complexity of the idea. In other words, by playing to the common denominator, the idea becomes just common.
Why would we assume, however, that our audience is dumb? What if they were smart as us, but they didn’t have the background or years of research that we have in the field? What if we treated our audiences with respect?
The answer is simple. If you treat your audience with respect (much like a very good teacher would treat a class with respect and not talk down to them), they will be more willing to learn what you have to say. They might even offer new ways for you to say it so that you learn something about how your idea or product can reach people.
If you are interested in reaching a larger audience and aren’t sure where to start, try these three steps.
1. What’s the gist?: If your audience could only walk away with understanding one thing, what would it be? What could they do with that one thing? Remember that it isn’t the whole idea. It just has to be the heart of it.
2. Kill the jargon: No matter how important it might make you feel or how necessary it might seem at times, jargon is often an easy way to alienate your audience. Practice saying it as simply and as short as you can. And then try to make it shorter. You can always expand later.
3. Slides as support, not as script: Please, please, please don’t use your slides as your script. Keep your slides simple and clean so that they can punctuate the story that you are telling. The visual image is a great way to show what you mean and to create emphasis. Otherwise it is like reading your talk on the screen, which is deadly dull and confusing.
This is a start, but it can’t be successful if you don’t begin with a sincere respect for your audience’s intelligence. As long as your idea is solid and excites you, the only thing standing between it and your audience is you.