Ten tips for talking technical to non-techies

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Albert Einstein

einstein statue in park

Our recent blog post –
Twenty skills needed by a field service engineer. What are your top 3?
received a lot of feedback and comment.
One skill which many engineers put in their top three was the ability to simplify technical data for non-technical clients or colleagues. Like a lot of things, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Even engineers who work on similar technologies may use different terms or acronyms to explain the same concepts.
Lots of engineers imagine they are explaining to a child. This can be useful, but in 2022 it may be better to imagine you are explaining to the oldest person you know as they have spent most of their life without technology.

What else can you do? Here are ten ways you can increase your chances of being understood, the next time you need to explain a complex technical situation, challenge or task.

Ten tips

  1. If you use jargon, explain it first
  2. Make it clear that you like questions
  3. Don’t assume what your customer knows, ask and check
  4. Ask yourself what your customer needs to know (and doesn’t need to know)
  5. Point or gesture as you explain
  1. Give the overview before you go into detail and the specifics of today’s issue
  2. Don’t be afraid of basic language as long as it is clear
  3. Use analogies and stories to illustrate your explanations
  4. Don’t dump huge amounts of data as part of your explanation
  5. Simplify, simplify, simplify

Every time you explain something, I hope you can walk away feeling that you have left the job completed and a clear message about your work.

Al Bates and Carl Tope advise on how to handle on-site communication challenges

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